Popular Poets Lisa Russ Spaar, Bianca Spriggs to Present at Women Writers Event

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By Whitney Hale

A duo of popular poets, Lisa Russ Spaar and Bianca Lynne Spriggs, will present workshops on the form as well as a joint reading of their poetry at the 2016 Kentucky Women Writers Conference running Sept. 16-17, in Lexington. The pair's work will also be among the topics of a free poetry workshop presented by the conference June 11, at the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning.

Lisa Russ Spaar, one of three finalists for the 2015 Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching, is the author of many collections of poetry, including "Glass Town," "Blue Venus," "Satin Cash," "Vanitas, Rough" and the forthcoming "Orexia" (Persea, 2017). She is the editor of "Monticello in Mind: Fifty Contemporary Poems on Jefferson," "Acquainted with the Night: Insomnia Poems" and "All that Mighty Heart: London Poems." A collection of her essays, "The Hide-and-Seek Muse: Annotations of Contemporary Poetry," was published by Drunken Boat Media in 2013.

Spaars has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, Rona Jaffe Award, Carole Weinstein Poetry Prize, Library of Virginia Award for Poetry and the 2013-2014 Faculty Award of the Jefferson Scholars Foundation. Her poems have also appeared in the "Best American Poetry" series, Poetry, Boston Review, Blackbird, IMAGE, Paris Review, Ploughshares, Slate, Shenandoah, The Kenyon Review, Virginia Quarterly Review and many other journals and quarterlies, and her commentaries and columns about poetry appear regularly or are forthcoming in The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Review of Books and elsewhere. A professor of English and creative writing at University of Virginia, Spaar has taught at the Palm Beach Poetry Festival, Seattle Pacific University and the Vermont Studio Center.

Spaar will present a poetry workshop at the Kentucky Women Writers Conference titled "'It’s All About That Bass': Creating Depth and Getting Beyond Surfaces, Knee-Jerk Habits, and Mono-Registers in Poems." The session will explore ways to recognize these bad habits and avoid offering just the “melody,” the plot line, the treble or surface of a poem. The workshop will be generative, encouraging its participants to explore and deepen into their obsessions even as they experiment beyond modes, habits and stylistic gestures that may have become knee-jerk or comfortable. 

"All serious writers run the risk of falling into certain familiar, 'successful' sonic, syntactic, thematic, figurative, rhythmic and other gestures that, if we’re not careful, can keep us from fully developing our poems or that allow us to shut our poems down too soon," Spaar said.

Participants in the conference workshop should bring 16 copies of a poem by someone else that they feel works on all registers (story, image, music, structure) as well as 16 copies of a poem of their own that the student feels needs work. Over the course of two sessions, the group will consider what it means to risk making forays outside of their comfort zone as poets. In addition to revising one problem poem, each student will write at least one new poem. The Spaar workshop will run 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Sept. 16 and 17, at the Carnegie Center.

Later that same day, Spaar will join poet and University of Kentucky English doctoral candidate Bianca Lynne Spriggs for a reading for conference participants beginning 4:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16, at the Carnegie Center.

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