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. 

Our offerings are for writers, poets, readers and others who study the written word. We learned from our two years of offerings from the Virtual Valley that opportunities like this can be crucial for participants who aren’t in an academic setting, and who can’t make a week-long trip to the Sierra whether because of mobility, financial, employment, or familial constraints. We see The Writers’ Annex as a bridge for them.


That Poetry, By Which I Lived: A Short Course on the Poetry of Galway Kinnell, led by Major Jackson

Online Tuesdays & Thursdays, November 30 to December 14, 2023

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.

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Past Courses:

A Short Course: CD Wright – An American Original

Online-Thursdays, August 31-September 28, 2023

C.D.Wright’s poetry is some of the most beloved and legendary work of our literary era. She was a uniquely original writer but she was also part of— and helped to form— a vast unfolding literary community from the 1980s until her untimely death in 2016, traditions that included Elliptical, Documentary, Southern, Experimental, and Narrative Poetries; in addition, she was a master of the short lyric and the long poem. Aside from the visceral pleasures of reading her work, what do we have to learn from a writer with such a wide range of approaches to the poem? And how did she come to be the expansive writer we know? Poets Forrest Gander and Brenda Hillman will guide participants through an overview of Wright’s extraordinary writing. The course will be designed for those who know Wright’s work already, as well as for those encountering her poetry for the first time.

This course will take place on Vimeo.

Dates/Times:  Thursdays: August 31-September 28  4:00-6:00 PM (Pacific) on Zoom


Comet of Stillness: A Short Course on the poetry of W.S. Merwin

Online Sundays, January 22 to Febuary 19, 2023: 4-6PM PST

W.S. Merwin’s poetry was visionary, ecological, anti-war, and humanist, and exhibits a clarity and strangeness that continues to exert a profound influence on contemporary American poetry. The goal of these five sessions is to dive deeply into this extraordinary poet and his body of work. Across five sessions, poets Victoria Chang and Matthew Zapruder will facilitate close-readings of key poems, and will situate the poems, and the poet, in their historical contexts. The course will explore Merwin’s formal innovations, his thematic concerns, and his development as a poet from his earliest work to his final poems. Chang and Zapruder will introduce, and talk with, key figures from his literary life, including Merwin’s long-time editor at Copper Canyon Press, Michael Wiegers.

In addition to course meetings, Chang and Zapruder will provide additional reading materials. Each session will begin with an hour of discussion, including background and close readings, followed by a ten-minute break. The session will then reconvene for a second hour in which Chang and Zapruder will discuss thoughts from the chat, answer questions, and offer further insights. Each session will end with an optional poetry writing prompt based on Merwin’s poetry.

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A Short Course in “The Waste Land”

Online-Thursdays,September 1-29,2022

“The Waste Land” by T.S. Eliot, published in 1922, is widely regarded as one of the most influential, powerful— and at times one of the most controversial—modernist poems of the twentieth century. The poem’s collaged, fragmentary style, its frequent shifts among speakers, its use of literary allusions and its storied “difficulty” gave new meaning to literary engagement when the poem reached its first readers. 

To celebrate the centenary of the iconic 434-line poem, Community of Writers staff poets Robert Hass and Brenda Hillman will guide readers through an examination and a meditative reading of the five parts of  “The Waste Land” on five consecutive Thursdays of September, focusing on one part per session, tracing the poem’s memorable imagery and references in an investigation of its themes and legendary lines. In this time of climate change, pandemic and global despair, special attention will be paid to the way the poem is still relevant as it addresses urban environmental anxiety and the human condition, perhaps with an eye to finding how its techniques and phrases might deliver an odd comfort and energy for our time.

This course will take place on Zoom or a similar platform.

Dates/Times:  Thursdays in September, 2022  4:00-6:00 PM (Pacific) on Zoom

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A Short Course: The Poetry & Poetics of Lucille Clifton

Online Thursdays, April 21-May 12, 2022 

Lucille Clifton’s legacy as a poet, writer, and educator is far reaching and fundamental to the poetics of the 20th century and today. Championed by such giants as Robert Hayden, Toni Morrison, and Carolyn Kizer early in her career, Clifton became one of the major American poets of the last part of the 20th century.

This short course in Clifton’s work will examine the major themes and qualities of her poetry. No background in poetry is necessary to learn and enjoy the majestic poetic work of Lucille Clifton.

Kazim Ali studied with her at the Community of Writers in the summer of 1998, and has published several critical essays on her work. He remained friends with her the rest of her life. She is one of two people on the planet who are allowed to call him “Kaz.”

 This short, online course is for anyone who has an interest in reading or writing poetry.  All are welcome.

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A Short Course: Reading Milosz

The Writers’ Annex is please to present our first short course called “Reading Milosz” by Robert Hass. Czeslaw Milosz, Nobel Laureate, generally regarded as one of the great poets of the twentieth century, produced a large and various body of work.  Milosz’s  friend and neighbor, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Robert Hass, worked with him for more than twenty-five years on the translation of his poems, many of which can be found in the anthology Czesław Miłosz, New and Collected Poems, a compilation that takes us across much of the intense life of the European twentieth century, in a poetry that uses ceaselessly inventive techniques and approaches to a range of subjects. The conversation promises to be rich and enlightening with Hass as our guide.

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