That Poetry, By Which I Lived, a Short Course on the Poetry of Galway Kinnell

The Community of Writers is honored to present a five-week intensive series on the life and work of Galway Kinnell, led by Major Jackson

Galway Kinnell emerged as one of the most important poets of his generation simply for the distinct insistence on the primacy of our human natures, which served as an immense source for his ecological and spiritual imagination. Guided by a rapturous and ecstatic spirit attuned to the consciousness, pleasures, and injustices of his age, his poems exhibit inherent moral and social visions and invite readers to revel in that which binds us to each other and the natural world. We will study a selection of poems by this influential poet whose attitudes toward poetry and life shaped the ethos of the Community of Writers Poetry Program.

Panelists & Guests

Photo grid of Toi Dericotte Nick Flynn Robert Hass Edward Hirsch Tyehimba Jess Sharon Olds Lisa Sewell Poets who are panelists for the Short Course on Galway Kinnell led by Major Jackson from the Community of Writers and the Writers Annex
Photos: Toi Derricotte by Ted Rosenberg; Nick Flynn by Ryan McGinley; Robert Hass by Miriam Berkley; Edward Hirsch by Michael Lionstar; Tyehimba Jess by John Midgley; Sharon Olds by Brett Hall Jones; Lisa Sewell by John Harvey

Toi Derricotte • Nick Flynn • Robert Hass • Edward Hirsch • Tyehimba Jess • Sharon Olds • Lisa Sewell

Learn More about the Special Guests Here

Dates & Times: Online Tuesdays & Thursdays from November 30 to December 14, 2023: 4 pm- 6-pm (Pacific)

  • Thursday, November 30, 2023 
  • Tuesday, December 5, 2023 
  • Thursday, December 7, 2023 
  • Tuesday, December 12, 2023  
  • Thursday, December 14, 2023 

Note: For those who are interested, intimate Zoom discussion groups (Virtual Houses) will meet after each session and on subsequent Saturdays at 10 AM.

What to Expect:

    • Five, two-hour weekly sessions online with assigned reading. The group can be large, depending on the course.

    • In the first 60 or 70 minutes, Jackson will explore and supply background on the previously assigned poems.

    • In the second part, Jackson will address questions and widen the discussion. Participant questions and comments will be submitted in Vimeo’s chat feature.

    • Optional small (8-10 person) discussion groups will be available to those with the energy and interest after the formal session is over. Discussion guides will be provided.
    • These sessions will be recorded, and will be available for later viewing by registered participants for 30 days following the final session.

Course Texts

Participants who don’t own the texts, are asked to purchase them, if possible, before November 30. For this course, our text will be Collected Poems Galway Kinnell (ecco); handouts for each session will be posted online.

A limited number of course texts are available for free for those with financial need. Please contact us if needed.

Course Plan:

  • Session 1 (Nov. 30): Introduction and Early Poems
  • Session 2(Dec. 5):  The Book of Nightmares
  • Session 3 (Dec. 7): Mortal Acts, Mortal Words & The Past
  • Session 4 (Dec. 12): When One Has Lived a Long Time Alone
  • Session 5 (Dec. 14): Strong Is Your Hold (Later Poems) and Kinnell’s Legacy


Major Jackson is the author of six books of poetry, including Razzle Dazzle: New & Selected Poems (2023), The Absurd Man (2020), Roll Deep (2015), Holding Company (2010), Hoops (2006) and Leaving Saturn (2002), which won the Cave Canem Poetry Prize for a first book of poems. His edited volumes include: Best American Poetry 2019, Renga for Obama, and Library of America’s Countee Cullen: Collected Poems. He is also the author of A Beat Beyond: The Selected Prose of Major Jackson edited by Amor Kohli. A recipient of fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Guggenheim Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, Major Jackson has been awarded a Pushcart Prize, a Whiting Writers’ Award, and has been honored by the Pew Fellowship in the Arts and the Witter Bynner Foundation in conjunction with the Library of Congress. He has published poems and essays in American Poetry Review, Kenyon Review, The New Yorker, Orion Magazine, Paris Review, Ploughshares, Poetry, and Poetry London. Major Jackson lives in Nashville, Tennessee where he is the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Chair in the Humanities at Vanderbilt University. He serves as the Poetry Editor of The Harvard Review and host of the podcast The Slowdown.

Galway Kinnell (1927-2014) was a recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and a MacArthur Fellowship, among other honors. He founded and directed the Creative Writing Program at New York University, serving there as Erich Maria Remarque Professor of Creative Writing. He published 18 books of poetry, including Strong Is Your HoldA New Selected PoemsImperfect ThirstWhen One Has Lived a Long Time AloneSelected Poems; and Mortal Acts, Mortal Words, and served as Poet Laureate of Vermont from 1989 to 1993.  He founded the Poetry Program at the Community of Writers on the belief that “when poets gather in a community to write new poems, each poet may well break through old habits and write something stronger and truer than before.” He directed the Program from 1983 until 2003.


  • Tuition is $300.
  • Limited financial aid available. Please contact us if needed.

Supported by APM Studios and the Slowdown Show

Additional support comes from the Vermont Arts Council

Logo for the Vermont Arts Council regarding their support for a short course on the poet Galway Kinnell, led by Major Jackson and presented by the Community of Writers and the Writers' Annex.

The Writers Annex

Online, and year-round, The Writers’ Annex is composed of short courses, seminars, workshops, and more. Our vision is to bring the creative insight and experience of our staff poets and prose writers to our community in all seasons, not just in the summertime, and not just here in our Valley.  Our online offerings will address such topics as eco-poetics, translation, and generative sessions. Some will be one or two days, some will be weekend intensives, and some will meet weekly for a month or two. In addition, we hope these offerings will help offset the tremendous expenses we face as an organization for our traditional in-person events in Olympic Valley.   Join our Mailing ListRegister For That Potry, By Which I Lived
Contact us to learn about how you can view past short courses