I am writing in reference to the recently completed Wellspring of Imagination, a young poets’ intensive-saturation writers conference which took place in the Hocking Hills of Ohio. My premise and thesis in this letter is that this is a completely unique conference and experience for young writers: there is nothing like this in the United States.
former Poet Laureate of Utah
I've gone to the two Wellspring Events, the most recent one just wrapped up and cannot speak too highly of this program and the opportunity it presents to high schoolers who are into poetry and want to learn more. It truly is a fabulous program. Being down there at Hocking Hills Park Lodge for the wrap-up event, attended not only by the participants and the poets who worked with them, but their English teachers and their parents and siblings was the most powerful manifestation of the tremendous value of this amazing program. As some of you may know more than others, I'm not usually overly effusive, though when I see something that is truly worthwhile, I am unabashedly supportive and enthusiastic -- this program has my utter support based on first-hand experience of at least some of it.
Dr. Anna Soter, retired professor Ohio State University
I've convinced myself, (with your help, Alan) that the real "writing journey" will never end. Imagination doesn't stop outside the Hocking Hills. I'm staying positive about that idea, because all of the amazing writers and poets I met gave me the best outlook about my self worth; I have a gift, everyone has a gift.
At Wellspring, I was mentored by the most intelligent and talented poets I have ever met. Not only are they exceptional writers, they are hilarious, kind, and passionate about their art work. Listening to Dave read poetry was a treat we got to enjoy throughout the entire program. Alison and Rosemerry helped me transform my mediocre poem in a matter of hours with great advice and insight. Alan told wonderful stories and led us with striking passion for creativity and imagination. Working with all the adults involved was truly a blessing and I am thrilled to stay in touch with them.
If you are a student who is considering Wellspring and have any hesitation about attending, please, look past any worries that you may have and allow yourself to be vulnerable to such wonderful people. It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had the opportunity to enjoy. I wish I could go back every year for the rest of my life.
My biggest takeaway from Wellspring is the philosophy that everyone has a gift, even if they haven’t found it yet; there is a difference between gifts and talents, in our lives, we all have a duty to find our gifts, and give them to the world— I’ll remember this for the rest of my life.
I found that of all the different kinds of people in the world, the ones that bond through mutual appreciation of great writing and poetry tend to be the best kinds. I found that great writing itself comes from so many different kinds of backgrounds and experiences as evidenced by the fantastic lines that my fellow Wellspring attendees were able to conjure. I found respect in the level of maturity we could discuss topics like race, cultural sensitivity, spirituality, and morality but also found relief in the silliness we could endure in our shared cabins and long walks. Within the three days that I had with our mentors I was reminded that kindness and wisdom serve to strengthen all the wonderful things about writing and their poetry reflected that.
It’s very easy for young people to fall into the idea that our natural gifts are measured by the metrics readily provided by school, on a sliding scale of grades. I had, without realizing it, subscribed to that oppressive notion. As dramatic as it may sound, Wellspring changed the way I see my purpose in the world. Every element was there: an encouraging yet challenging environment, the inspiring beauty of the natural world, wonderful mentors, a supportive community, (exceptional food!), and peers growing in inspiration with me.
Every component of Wellspring has been integral to my development as a poet and a person. I have learned how to share my poetry with others, whether performing it in front of an audience, sharing it in text form, or discussing it with peers. I have learned poetic techniques, been exposed to fantastic new ideas, and consistently been encouraged to continue writing. I can’t imagine where I would be without Wellspring, Dave, Alan, and everyone else involved!"
Alan Cohen has put together a gem of a program. I can only commend him for his vision and drive to make this happen because I know that his efforts will continue to produce poetic fruits for a long time, including mine!
I found my writing to be impacted more and more by what I learned at wellsprings. As a writer, it is an amazing thing to watch as your own work grows and reaches new horizons that you thought you could never achieve. Wellsprings took up three days that I could never get back, and not once have I regretted going. I could only wish to go back and relive those days again. The things I learned at wellsprings will stay with me for the rest of my life and I have never been so grateful.
I had a fantastic time at Wellspring. I’d been looking forward to it eagerly, and I was not disappointed. It was such a change of pace from my normal hectic life. I had time to sit with my thoughts and to explore my writing. I had hours and hours to mull over detail and to muse about word choice. I was so happy that the other poets were so receptive, kind, and real. I continue to email with my mentor, which has grown into a wonderful relationship. Wellspring reminded me how important it is for me to write; it gives me so much and centers me.
Thanks again for a amazing experience!
‘’Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.’’ says Robert Frost. It’s not an everyday thing to find people with golden hearts who are willing to share their stories and knowledge that led them to the fascinating world of poetry. Not only will they teach you the rules of writing professional poetry, they will give you the absolute right to break every single one of them to create your own. And they will also sacrifice their own time for the sake of planting seeds in your heart and mind that shall grow later into blossoming trees.
I was hesitant at first to come to the retreat, because I had neglected creative writing and my poetry writing for a few months due to the busyness of the school year. I also thought that missing three days of school might not be worth it, but I was so wrong. I learned more about poetry during those three days than I have in my entire life. I loved being exposed to different poets and their writings, as well as having access to professional poets who have such amazing experience and wisdom.
Wellspring not only made me a better writer and poet, but a better person. I have never in my life met a more inspiring group of writers in my life.
My experience at “Wellspring of Imagination” was fantastic. I was extremely nervous to go at first, because I didn’t know anyone, but everyone there, both students and staff, was so incredibly welcoming. I felt immediately at home. I feel like my skill as a writer increased in leaps and bounds every time we gathered in a circle and discussed our works. The stories and poems I heard were all so rich and beautifully nuanced, and I know I will never forget them. I can’t wait to look up all the poets that we learned about, and find more of their works. Though usually terrified of speaking in front of audiences, I truly enjoyed the last night’s performance and think that I have gained confidence in reading poetry aloud, as well as public speaking in general.
Very strong work! Cheers to you, Alan, for doing
this! You are
lighting so many candles and torches.
Naomi Shihab Nye, world renowned poet
Thank you for the poem, the newsletter and the camp. Jason was crushed to be back in the doldrum swing of chilly November but when a classmate inquired about his absences, he effervesced about poetry circles and the irony of being indulged in so many beautiful descriptions of nature while sitting atop a hill in Hocking Hills. He simply loved it.
The camp was an opportunity for me to discover a gift I did not know I had. Going in, poetry was not an active part of my writing life, and I never considered it a talent of mine. I'd written some absolutely dreadful poems in middle school and that was that. Up until that point, I'd written one poem for which I had any affection. I read that poem at the opening of the workshop. From that point on, I was encouraged and instructed by three most talented poets. I have such great respect for them, and I am forever thankful that they nurtured my gift for poetry.
cannot express enough the effect the poetry conference you facilitated had on
Shabach. I will say this. You have seen how he is. He is laid back, yet
expressive at the same time. I want you to know that when we got in the car
after the Poetry reading on Friday, once the doors were shut....Shabach
yelled.....DAD......, I LEARNED SOO MUCH!
Alan, that was the second major benefit to me - that it was educational as well as enjoyable. I can only say....Beyond thanks Alan.....,Beyond thanks.
Parent of a 2012 student
I experienced was sacred (if I may be so bold). There was a moment when I
could feel the merging of intellect, curiosity, and creativity.
I had 2 of my poetry students from last year attend, and they were thrilled they had gone. They said it was super rewarding and both sets of parents told me how happy they were I had suggested this to their children. One father said, "This has been so good for her. You can see the light radiating out of her face."
2012 cooperating teacher
Thank you so much for all you both did to create and run the camp. Daizhonia had a wonderful time. I think this was really healing for her and also a huge growth experience She had never really been away from her little sister before and she had never been in the woods. She also had never performed poetry. So thank you on many levels. The presentation last night was wonderful and the poets you chose were obviously great teachers in addition to being amazing poets and people.
2012 cooperating teacher
made me realize the full velocity of my journey in the workshop being worth it
was when a woman with tears in her eyes approached me and said “Your poem,
young lady, really touched me here” as she placed her hand over her heart and
thanked me. I learned so much through my trip to Geneva Hills, I gained friends
that I will cherish for a lifetime, mentors who are now my friends, and memories
that will last forever. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.
2012 studentHey, Alan, you really have done it this time. That was genius, and I am so glad I got to be even a small part of it. I meant it, that with this poetry camp you get to do what you loved best in teaching — opening young hearts and minds, awakening spirits and bringing art into people's lives. I have no doubt that for these kids, this has already been life–changing. It fills me with hope, and joy, to know that the heart of poetry beats strong in the world still, in so many beautiful young people. And you are doing an incredible thing, honoring and nurturing poets, newborn and fledged, and poetry. Thank you!!
2013 poetry teacher