H A R R Y  G R I S W O L D: Poet, Photographer, and Author of Two Poetry Books

Workshop: The Pleasures of Poetry

I had been writing and publishing for 30 years when I was lucky enough to find Harry’s group. Working with him and the other poets in the group has helped take my work to a new level.


Overview: A Few Words From Harry

The workshop started meeting at its present location in February, 2002. The schedule has always revolved around a 10-12 week session, in the spring and again in the fall of each year.

We meet on Tuesdays at noon and continue until we drop or the clock strikes three, whichever comes first. The main components are reading poems by established poets and reading each others’ poems. First-reading reactions to new poems are offered around the table and then we bring back more thoughtful written comments the following week.

We usually read anthologies during a term, an assigned amount each week for discussion, but sometimes we have gone more in-depth and have read collections by up to three poets at a time. In the spring term of 2012, for instance, we read recent volumes by Claudia Emerson, Sharon Olds, and Billy Collins. Sharon’s upstart nephews, Matthew and Michael Dickman, have also been on our list.

Memorable anthologies have included American Poetry Now, edited by Ed Ochester (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007), and our most recent one, From the Fishouse, edited by Dungy, O’Donnell, and Thompson (Persea Books, 2009).

Some people have come into the workshop as newbies, completely unaware of what poetry is really about. Others have come with MFA degrees in search of a new focus. The challenge in this diversity slowly works out because trying to write is a mysterious equalizer, and after a time we are all on the same path of wondering how the mystical making of poems out of nothing happens. The roster of attendees changes over time although a couple of people who came in on day one are still there—and getting their books published now.

We put together a public reading of recent work at the end of each term. The way people rise to the occasion and present exciting, moving readings always amazes and thrills me. It’s never less than a great event.

Without a comfortable place to meet, none of these accomplishments would happen. So we owe much to our generous hosts who continue to offer their library as a meeting place. Many thanks to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of San Dieguito. Under their minister, Rev. David Miller, they never interfere, censor, or ask for anything more than a voluntary contribution each term. Many thanks. It certainly works for us.

After veering away from my writing for a number of years, I entered “The Pleasures of Poetry” workshop to see if I still had the ability to find pleasure in writing. Deciding to concentrate on poetry this time around, over these past eight years, Harry and his Tuesday gatherings have helped me once again discover my passion. His leadership and dedication to the art of poetry and to those of us in his workshop have been an ongoing gift for which I am most grateful.


My experience in Harry’s workshop has been beyond any expectations I may have held from other workshops I attended. In the “Pleasures of Poetry,” Harry opened the doors to fresh new ways of thinking and writing poetry. I was given permission to be as “out there” as I hungered to be and as a result I was also able to reign in and write with precision. Each week he gives the group his full attention and expects the members to listen, read and participate. I am very pleased with my growth as a poet and my association and friendship with all our members.


I love Harry’s workshop. It is demanding and a bit intimidating, given the quality of the poetry that shows up around the table. But Harry creates a warm, collegial atmosphere. He’s a patient, perceptive teacher as well as a remarkable poet, and my own poetry has improved as a result.


As one of the charter members of “Pleasures of Poetry,” I have been blessed with Harry Griswold’s leadership for 13 years. Needless to say, he has inspired and guided me from day one and I continue to grow as we read more and more poetry, write poems each week and critique others’ poems. All of this makes us all better poets. Harry continues to encourage us to take risks and stretch our voices. The workshop is appropriately named—it continues to provide pleasure after pleasure.... Thank you, Harry!

—R. T.

The workshop under Harry’s leadership is a special group of poets who respect, trust and value each other. Harry directs us in the craft and in the study of countless poets. All my poems have benefitted from the honest but kind critiques of the group. We laugh a lot too.


For details and/or to enroll in the next workshop, please email Harry:

hgriswold [at] idyllwildarts [dot] org

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