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Study Groups

Soapstone offers a program of six study groups each year on women writers. People of all genders and identities are welcome. Scholarships are available.

To register for a study group send an email to soapstonewriting@gmail.com, and once you receive a reply saying there is room in the group, we'll ask for payment through Zelle, or, if you prefer, a check made out to Soapstone, 622 SE 29th Avenue, Portland, OR 97214.


Summer/Fall 2024

Reading Contemporary Poetry
Led by Dorianne Laux and Joseph Millar 
Four sessions, 3 hours each, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. PST
Saturday, August 3: Dorianne Laux on Belle Waring, Anne Marie Macari and Deborah Digges
Saturday, August 10: Joseph Millar on Ruth Stone and Sharon Olds
Saturday, August 17: Joseph Millar on Ruth Stone and Sharon Olds
Saturday, August 24: Dorianne Laux on Susanne Cleary, Mary Campbell, Phillils Levin
via Zoom
$75, scholarships available
Limited to 16 participants (waiting list only)

In alternating weeks, we will share and discuss a host of women poets such as the great Sharon Olds and Ruth Stone, as well as poets you may not yet be familiar with such as Belle Waring, Deborah Digges, and Suzanne Cleary, among others. All of these poets have something to say, and to teach us about life and the art of poetry. We will delve deeply into particular poems looking at themes, subjects, craft, and voice. Two or three books will be required (TBA). PDFs will be provided for poems not in the assigned books.   

Dorianne Laux’s poetry collections include the Pulitzer Prize finalist Only As the Day Is Long. She received the Paterson Poetry Prize and is a founding faculty member of Pacific University's low-residency MFA program. She lives in Richmond, California. Her new poetry collection, Life on Earth is just out. “With this spellbinding seventh collection...Laux...brings to life the simple pleasures and small agonies of human existence...[she] makes the quotidian feel monumental in a way that is uniquely her own.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Joseph Millar is the author of Overtime, Fortune, Blue Rust, Kingdom, and Dark Harvest. His work has won a Pushcart Prize and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. He teaches 


Reading Patricia Smith’s Blood Dazzler, led by Ellen Waterston
Reading Patricia Smith’s Blood Dazzler led by Ellen Waterston
Six Saturday mornings 10am – noon PST
September 7 through 28, October 5 and 19
Via Zoom
$75, scholarship available
Limited to 16 participants

Patricia Smith’s BLOOD DAZZLER, a 2008 National Book Award finalist in poetry, chronicles Hurricane Katrina making landfall in New Orleans in 2005. The call to action this verse novel issues is as urgent and pertinent as ever, regardless of which social, political or environmental frontier the reader inhabits. That summons is written with innovation and skill. Indeed, I would say she has redefined the territory poetry can claim.

Join me in exploring how Smith blurs the distinctions between poetry and prose, fiction and nonfiction in crafting the distinctive voice she is known for. You don’t have to be a dedicated poetry reader to easily engage with the characters and personified perspectives Smith illuminates in BLOOD DAZZLER. We’ll examine together her mastery of language, storytelling skills, and the wide variety of verse forms she enlists to power this extraordinary narrative. We’ll explore how Smith puts prose on notice with her innovative use of language. And we’ll enjoy ourselves—her writing bursts with energy, rhythm and color, her words leap from the page, burrow in our hearts, inspire our resolve. There’s no turning away.

In case you didn’t notice, I’m a fan. BLOOD DAZZLER and its author, Patricia Smith, have inspired me for years. I look forward to delving into these poems with you.

Patricia Smith is the award-winning author of eight critically-acclaimed books of poetry, including, most recently, Unshuttered (Triquarterly Books, 2023). Her books have won the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, the NAACP Image Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and she was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. That’s just for starters. Smith is a Guggenheim fellow, a National Endowment for the Arts grant recipient, a finalist for the Neustadt Prize, a two-time winner of the Pushcart Prize, and a four-time individual champion of the National Poetry Slam, the most successful poet in the competition’s history. She is a professor in the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University and a former Distinguished Professor for the City University of New York.

Award winning author and poet Ellen Waterston has published four poetry and three literary nonfiction titles, including, most recently, Walking the High Desert. She is founder of the Writing Ranch which, since 2000, has conducted workshops for established and emerging writers, and of the annual Waterston Desert Writing Prize, established in 2014 and adopted in 2019 as a program of the High Desert Museum. Based in Bend, she serves on the faculty of OSU-Cascades’ MFA in Creative Writing. In March and April of 2024 respectively, she was awarded Soapstone’s Bread and Roses Award and Oregon’s Literary Arts Holbrook Award for her work as an author and literary arts advocate.


Reading Marie Howe, led by Andrea Hollander
Five Saturday mornings: 9:30 am to noon (PST)
November 2, 9, 16, 23, 30
via Zoom
$75, scholarships available
Limited to 16 participants

Marie Howe is the author of five full-length poetry collections, including the recent New and Selected Poems (W. W. Norton, 2024), our required text for the study group. Since the 1980s, Howe’s poems have been widely published in such magazines and journals as Poetry, The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, New England Review, Ploughshares, Tikkun, and Harvard Review. Her first full-length collection, The Good Thief, was selected for the 1987 National Poetry Series. Her third, The Kingdom of Ordinary Time (2009), wasa finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and her fourth, Magdalena (2017), was long-listed for the National Book Award.

Born in Rochester, New York, in 1950, Howe attended Sacred Heart Convent School, received her undergraduate degree at Univeristy of Windsor in Canada, and worked as both a teacher and a newspaper reporter before earning her MFA in poetry from Colombia University in 1983. Five years later, Stanley Kunitz selected her for the Lavan Younger Poets Award from the Academy of American Poets. Other honors include grants from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the Bunting Institute, and the National Endowment for the Arts. She currently teaches at both New York University and Sarah Lawrence College and lives in New York City. In 2018 she was elected as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. 

I’ve been reading Marie Howe’s poems since I met her in 1990 at the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, to which I won a scholarship and she a fellowship. I continue to be drawn to her poems in part for her ability to find the extraordinary within the ordinary. She writes in a concise, easily accessible, colloquial language that on the surface may seem unremarkable, though as I absorb her words, I find them springing to life within me and not letting go.

I look forward to reading and discussing the poems in her New & Selected more or less chronologically so that we might together discover not only the poems’ essential qualities, but also the mechanisms within this poet’s ability to contribute so fully to the way readers experience her work.

Each Saturday of our 5-week Marie Howe Study Group, I will open our Zoom window at 9:20 (ten minutes early) in order to give all of us a chance to test our equipment and solve any technical problems. In this way we will be able to begin the day’s discussion on time at 9:30. We’ll take a short break (6- 8 minutes) about halfway through each session. About one week prior to the first session, I will send all participants a printable reading schedule, so everyone will know what to read in preparation for each of our discussions.

Andrea Hollander s sixth full-length poetry collection is And Now, Nowhere But Here (Terrapin Books, 2023). Her work has published widely, including a feature in The New York Times Magazine. Her many honors include two Pushcart Prizes (poetry and literary nonfiction) and two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. After she retired from her 22 years as the Writer-in-Residence at Lyon College, she moved to Portland, Oregon, where she taught for both Mountain Writers and The Attic Institute for Arts and Letters, until 2016, when she fell and severely injured her back. The following year she founded The Ambassador Writing Seminars, which she conducted in her home until the arrival in our country of COVID; now she teaches via Zoom. Hollander led previous study groups for Soapstone on the poetry of Ellen Bryant Voigt, Linda Pastan, Natasha Trethewey, and Maxine Kumin (the latter with Judith Barrington).


For a list of past study groups go to Previous Study Groups