Ribbon Cutting at the Barn


The Poetry Barn’s ribbon-cutting was filled with excitement and verse. From fire spinners to an open mic, the intimacy and breadth of the Poetry Barn was on display the entire night. The opening of the lending library was an exclamation point at the end of an already thriving artist community. As a space, the Barn has come together as a perfect place to retreat and write. I have spent time surrounded by it’s books pondering my own creativity and have come away inspired. The Poetry Barn is aesthetically beautiful, from the new art installation to the stacks, and the ribbon cutting was nothing short of a testament to the commitment of those involved with the community. Well-attended with an open mic full-to-the-brim, the ribbon-cutting was a celebration of the wonder that Lissa Kiernan has created. Poets spoke to the setting sun as it foreshadowed the fiery night. As those who attended took a moment of silence to watch the purple evening, it seemed that the Barn had become the catalyst of inspiration. Then the reading continued into the night. Fire twirled as people dispersed. Lingering conversation around a bonfire, and a powerful place for words was solidified. 

—Ryan Clinesmith

Dharma Bums: Hiking & Haiku

John Stevenson and poets

John Stevenson and poets

A half dozen poets hike up a mountain. While it may sound vaguely like the set-up of a bad joke, it turned out to be the start of a joyful weekend. The intention was to hike up Phoenicia’s challenging Tanbark Trail together, in pursuit of inspiration and in homage to Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums. But as one might expect from a group of creatives, many of us chose to follow our own path. Some looped west to Phoenicia Overlook (1,140 feet), others trekked west to Grand View Ledge (1260 feet), more than one of us slipped on a wet rock or leaf and landed on our behinds.

Trail guide Will Nixon helped us identify Doll’s Eyes and striped maples. Haiku author John Stevenson, former president of the Haiku Society of America and current managing editor of The Heron's Nest, announced his first haiku within five minutes, and went on to pen two dozen more. 

The following day, John helped us polish our proto-haiku before leading us in a renga, a form of collaborative linked verse which evolved into haiku as we know it today. The result:

Unmatched Socks

Ashokan shore--
gathering the first
colored leaves

I slip on a wet one
and break the ice

the morning begins
with cold coffee
and a warm radio

old ragweed rattles
into a snowy sky

facing the window
I remember your breath
in my ear

shadows map
those precious wrinkles   

an insect explores
the inside
of a tulip

the motorcyclists
have stopped for burgers

a side of fries (lk)
new leaves (ms)
evening stillness (as)



js: John Stevenson
lk: Lissa Kiernan
at: Anique Taylor
sp: Sue Petrie
ms: Mary Stevens
wn: Will Nixon
as: Alana Sherman


The Tyranny of Silence

Doug Anderson (bottom left, top right) Jay Wenk (bottom right)

Doug Anderson (bottom left, top right) Jay Wenk (bottom right)

Flower Power: The Poetry of War and Healing, a workshop at the Poetry Barn led by Doug Anderson, who has written about his experiences in the Vietnam War in both poetry (The Moon Reflected Fire, winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award) and nonfiction (Keep Your Head Down: Vietnam, the Sixties, and a Journey of Self-Discovery), at once placed me in a rightfully uncomfortable space while freeing me from the idea that I could not engage with the subject matter. Doug and workshop participant Jay Wenk, a veteran of WWII who liberated three concentration camps including Dachau, discussed with each other the necessity of silence in combat.

The necessity of silence in the face of ambush or patrol. The sacrifice of rubber bands in gas masks to keep dog tags from jingling. The need to keep canteens full or empty so as to have no sloshing. Among these details came the commonality of war, and I noticed, as I was reading Timothy Snyder’s On Tyranny, that silence seems always to be a prerequisite for totalitarianism and the violence it is associated with. Whether this is the silence of equipment on the battlefield or silence among civilians. The idea that in silence we “obey in advance” seemed to underline the lessons of Doug Anderson’s workshop—at least for a civilian.

This workshop transcended a didacticism which might have accompanied a workshop meant to teach those unfamiliar with combat. Instead I came away with an awareness of the interconnectivity between social norms and violence. Especially in our current culture of defamation and pre authoritarian culture, workshops like Flower Power: The Poetry of War and Healing become links between history and the present, and foreshadow what the present might render in the future.

In many ways this was the most striking workshop I have attended at the Poetry Barn, for the generative poetry we shared, and for the lessons and connections I came away with. Ultimately, I boil down my experience in this workshop to this: Beware of silence and write on!

Ryan Clinesmith

Bookish Goodness at the Catskill Interpretive Center

Poetry Barn's table at the Catskill Interpretive Center Book Fair

Poetry Barn's table at the Catskill Interpretive Center Book Fair

The Second Annual Catskill Interpretive Center Book Fair, a working collaboration between the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development, Writers in the Mountains and Poetry Barn, was a wonderful convergence of literature and nature. Though the wind played a few tricks on exhibitors while setting up their tables, the weather gods, overall, were kind to us, delivering clear blue skies, plenty of sun, and mild temperatures.

An exhibitors’ tent featured books from such regional publishers as Black Dome Press, McPherson & Co., Bushwhack Books, Calling All Poets, Hope Farm Press, Post Traumatic Press, Purple Mountain Press and WoodstockArts—twenty-four booksellers in all!

The number of presenters for the Fair increased from forty last year to more than seventy this year. Writers in the Mountains and Poetry Barn authors read from their works from 11:30-1:00 in Venue B at the fair. Poetry Barn's slate of readers included Simona David, Tina Barry, Soraya Shalforoosh, Ana Silva, Ryan Clinesmith, Marcia Loughran, and Doug Anderson.

The afternoon concluded with a wonderful panel titled “Songwriting in the Catskills,” featuring 2014 Blues Hall of Fame inductee and “folk blues legend” Elly Wininger, songwriter Dave Kearney of Pine Hill, Thunder Ridge fiddler and solo performance artist Dorraine Scofield, and naturalist/musician James Krueger—a fitting coda to a day-long deep immersion in the region’s book and cultural lore.

Along with the book fair the well-appointed Catskill Interpretive Center was open to help visitors plan their next hike, water adventure or tour of the Catskills.

Poetry Barn at the Catskill Interpretive Center Book Fair

Poetry Barn at the Catskill Interpretive Center Book Fair

A remarkable mix of publishers, exhibitors, workshops and authors—including two special guests with books of regional significance—are coming together for the Second Annual Catskill Interpretive Center Book Fair at the Center on Route 28 in Mt. Tremper on Saturday, June 24, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Catskill Interpretive Center Book Fair is a working collaboration between the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development, Writers in the Mountains and Poetry Barn.

Poetry Barn Celebrates 50th Anniversary Of Summer Of Love

Poetry Barn Celebrates 50th Anniversary Of Summer Of Love

“Summer of Love: #PeaceLovePoetry” is a series of poetry events inspired by the underground literary and arts flourish leading up to 1967. From Flower Power: Poetry of War and Healing, to Significant Others: The Women Beats, the fiftieth anniversary of the cultural phenomenon will be explored through the Poetry Barn’s home neighboring Woodstock.“The core values of the movement—compassion, social consciousness, and environmental awareness—are undergoing a resurgence,” observes Poetry Barn’s founding director Lissa Kiernan.

Third Fridays at Woodstock Library

We're excited to announce our second season of "Third Fridays at Woodstock Library." Each third Friday from April - November, we feature readings by notable writers from the area and beyond, then turn over the mic to our talented audience.

Interested in sharing a poem, song, or story during the open mic? Simply choose a slot on the sign-up sheet that will be provided prior to the reading. Readings take place promptly at 6:30 pm; the open-mic begins at 7:30 pm.

Many thanks to Woodstock Library Director Jessica Kerr, Librarian Kim Apolant, and all the members of the library staff for their support and generosity.


April 21: Mike Jurkovic & Robert Burke Warren

May 19: Post Traumatic Press Authors

  • Leslie Gerber - Lies of the Poets and The Edge of Sleep
  • Susan Hoover - The Mathematics of Disengagement
  • Sharon Israel - Voice Lesson
  • Judith Kerman - Postcards from America
  • Alison Koffler - The Others and Animal Trance
  • Gretchen Primack - Kind
  • Walt Nygard - The Summer Joe Joined the Army
  • Dayl Wise - Basic Load

June 16: Warren Wilson MFA Program Alumni

July 21

  • Doug Anderson
  • Matt Spireng

August 18: Stonecoast MFA Program: Faculty & Alumni

September 15: Emerging & Spoken Word Poets

  • Ryan Clinesmith
  • Gabriela Garcia
  • Bad Stanza
  • Xandra Seline
  • Arianna White

November 17



Poetry Barn to Host Gail Straub for Woodstock Bookfest

Gail Straub, best-selling author and co-director, Empowerment Institute

Gail Straub, best-selling author and co-director, Empowerment Institute

We are honored to be chosen as the host for Gail Straub's Woodstock Bookfest one-day intensive workshop: Life Story’s Two Essential Partners: Fact & Imagination.

Gail states of her workshop: "No one can create your story except you. When fact and imagination are in intimate partnership the most transformative and effective writing occurs . . . in a fluid mysterious way that is often astonishing."

Gail Straub is the author of five books including the best selling Empowerment, the award-winning feminist memoir Returning to My Mother’s House, and most recently the fairy tale Réveil . . . and the Old One at the Edge of the World. Currently she is working on a book exploring landscape as a pathway to consciousness. A pioneer in the field of empowerment, she co-directs the Empowerment Institute, a school for transformative social change where over the last three decades she has offered her work to tens of thousands of people worldwide.

2017 marks the 8th annual Woodstock Bookfest, under the directorship of Martha Frankel. From April 27 – April 30, 2017, the event will host a plethora of classes, panels, keynotes, their infamous Story Slam, parties and more, all in the unique surroundings of Woodstock, New York.