Fifteen years ago, Asnuntuck English Professor Emerita Edwina Trentham began working with students in Poetry Magazine Production I and II. They produced the college’s first Freshwater Poetry Journal. The Poetry Magazine Production three-credit classes are limited to five students a semester, and students read from 1,500 to 2,000 poems submitted by poets from throughout the United States and the world. These submissions are discussed in class in order to select seventy to eighty poems for publication in the issue. In addition to selecting poems, laying out and proofreading the journal, writing acceptance and rejection letters, and doing a multitude of administrative tasks, students also write five poems of their own for work-shopping. The students also help to organize four coffee houses a semester and the yearly Freshwater Poetry Festival. Trentham is retiring from Asnuntuck in June, after twenty-five years of full-time teaching and two years of part-time teaching. Freshwater will continue under a new editor, who will also teach the Poetry Magazine Production classes.
The Fifteenth Anniversary Freshwater Poetry Festival, celebrating the Fifteenth Anniversary Issue of Freshwater, will take place on Friday, May 9th and Saturday, May 10th. On Friday night at 7:00 p.m., Asnuntuck student Nicholas Ruel will play the piano in Café II, and his performance will be followed by a reading by the winners of the Twenty-Second Annual Student Poetry Contest, judged by prizewinning poet John Stanizzi. The reading will feature first prize winner, Jay Thumar of MIddletown, who attends Asnuntuck Community College part-time. Noting that Thumar’s winning poem, “I Skulk in November,” called to mind both Whitman and Shakespeare, Stanizzi called the poem a ”beautifully wrought drama of helpfulness and longing.” Stanizzi also admired “Passing Memory,” by second prize winner Tyler Scott, from Central Connecticut State University, saying, “this powerful poem . . . reminds us that we must never forget where and when we have been touched, in our lives, by the light of memory and love and tradition.“ Stanizzi spoke warmly of “Autumn,” by Diana Goulding of Ellington High School, and awarded her poem Third Prize, admiring the way in which she captured “the classic season of maturity and wisdom, the time to harvest and savor what we’ve learned” all in a ”spare and poignant poem.” All three Honorable Mentions selected by the judge are Asnuntuck students. Jamie Crepeau won first Honorable mention for his poem, “Lonely Day,” praised as “a poem of vision, a poem about the patience of hope.” Commenting on Second Honorable Mention Emilea Gartrell’s poem “The Ritual,” Stanizzi noted that the poem’s “strength is that it is familiar and focuses on a fear many of us felt as children” and noted how the richness of her imagery vividly conveyed that familiarity. Finally, Stanizzi described Third Honorable Mention Julia Alexander’s poem, “Denotation,” as “a poem of wisdom, confrontation, and liberation,” noting approvingly that “the poet sends a message loudly and clearly.” The six prizewinning poets will read their winning poems, together with other work they have written.
The reading will be followed by music and a poetry open mic. The reading and coffee house are free and open to the public, and refreshments will be served.
On Saturday, May 5, the Festival begins with registration, coffee, and a welcome at 8:00 a.m., as well as an exercise, “Stations of the Word,” designed by workshop leader, Greg Coleman, which will offer participants a chance to write spontaneously in response to a variety of objects set out in the gymnasium. Running from 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. are three concurrent morning workshops. Teacher, poet, and labyrinth designer, Greg Coleman, will offer a workshop entitled “13 Ways of Looking at Revision.” During this same time period, Nancy Fitz-Hugh Meneely, author of Letter from Italy and member of the Guilford Poets Guild, will offer a workshop entitled “Adopting Another’s Voice: Writing a Persona Poem.” Asnuntuck Professor Emerita, poet, and Founding Editor of Freshwater, Edwina Trentham, will offer the third morning workshop: “Losing Heart, Finding Voice: Writing in Response to Despair.” The morning workshops will be followed by an open poetry mic for workshop participants at 11:30 a.m. and a delicious buffet lunch by Exquisite Events at noon.
The three concurrent afternoon workshops, running from 1:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., will feature Jon Andersen, poet and professor from Quinebaug Valley Community College, author of Stomp and Sing, and editor of Seeds of Fire: Contemporary Poetry from the Other USA, whose workshop is entitled: “Go Deep, Go Long, Go Wide: Ambitious Visions in Poetry.” The second afternoon workshop, “Poetry and the Art of Listening,” will be offered by acclaimed poet Margaret Gibson, author of ten collections of poetry, whose new book, Broken Cup, will be published this Fall. Leader of the third afternoon workshop, “How to End a Poem” is Sue Ellen Thompson, author of four collections of poetry and editor of the Autumn House Anthology, whose fifth book, They, will be published in October.
At 3:45 p.m., Andersen, Gibson, and Thompson will read their poetry in the Strom Conference Room and will sign their books, following the reading. The afternoon reading and book signing are free and open to the public.
Workshops are $25.00 each or two workshops for $45.00. Students and seniors pay $20.00 per workshop or $35.00 for two workshops. The buffet lunch is available for $15.00. Copies of Freshwater 2014: Fifteenth Anniversary Issue, and Freshwater mugs, tote-bags, and tee-shirts, together with books by the poets and a variety of books on writing, will be available for sale throughout the day. CEU’s are available. More information, including detailed descriptions of the workshops, can be found on the Freshwater website, https://asnuntuck.edu/freshwater or contact Edwina Trentham at 860-253-3105 or firstname.lastname@example.org.