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The writer's craft


It certainly was gratifying to see Steven Rydman, a finalist in Metro Times’ 2000 Summer Fiction Issue and recipient of a guest enrollment for last year’s Walloon Writers’ Retreat, submitting more fine poems for the 2001 contest. Rydman spent four days at the end of last September, along with other aspiring creative writers, in workshops with such renowned authors as Joyce Maynard, Keith Taylor and Michael Moore. In Rydman’s own words, “It was a weekend about everyone working together on our writing … an intimate group in a really good space.”

After all that poetic communication, boating on Walloon Lake (at Michigania in the Lower Peninsula), eating delicious organic food and enjoying the privacy of his cabin-workspace, Rydman drove back to Detroit with the seeds of a new poem sprouting in his mind: “It began in my head on the drive home.” The finished version gives such a vivid picture of the retreat experience that we thought you’d want to read it:

At Walloon

Our green thoughts turned

By day, we were lakes,
splashing like summer children, clumsy in our first bathing

By night, we were moons,
guiding, pulling each other’s tides,
striking together our words like flints, making sparks,
then retreating to bed,
a little burnt, a little better from it.

After, we left, traveled home,
feeling the leaves still turning inside us,
waiting to see which shade of sienna, which spark, which burn,
would swim to our surface, tug our waves,

make us write it down,
add to the still simmering glow
of that late September weekend

One of Rydman’s mentors at Walloon, poet Maria Mazziotti Gillan, asked him to submit work to the Allen Ginsberg Literary Awards contest of the Paterson Literary Review. When he did, he received its Commendation Award and has been invited to read his poems this December at the Poetry Center at Passaic Community College in New Jersey. What a wild chain of events! Does something like this happen to all Walloon residents? Hardly, but the possibilities for exchange and inspiration are clearly there.

The Third Annual Walloon Writers’ Retreat takes place Sept. 27-30, and brings back Maynard and Moore, along with Richard Tillinghast, M.L. Liebler, Dorianne Laux, Terry Wooten and many other excellent writers. Metro Times’ guest at the retreat this year will be Shelley Keller, whose story “Across the Moat” appeared in the online version of our 2001 Summer Fiction Issue. She’ll get the same red-carpet treatment that Rydman got last year, but she’ll also share in an experience open to anyone motivated enough to contact Walloon director John D. Lamb at 248-589-3913 (visit, e-mail Single-occupancy rate for three nights is $525, and for two nights is $455, both of which include all workshops and meals. The events, which include readings, panel discussions and personal conferences, are produced by Springfed Arts, “a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the craft of writing, be it prose or song, the performance of works, be it spoken or sung.”

Craft anyone?

The Hot & the Bothered was written and edited by George Tysh. E-mail at

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