Conference Workshops


Poetry Out Loud: Techniques for Reading Poetry in Community”

The reading of a poem can be a pleasant experience for a gathered group…or it can change the air in the room. Come and consider ways of reading poems, or any text, aloud and more effectively.

Multi-media performance artist, Kenyon Adams (also known as little ray) has been the recipient of a National Young Arts Foundation Award and was named a White House Presidential Scholar in the Arts. Kenyon has performed widely as an actor, singer and performance artist, and has contributed art and dialogue to the National Arts Policy Roundtable, The Center for Faith & Work, Marquand Chapel, the Festival of Faith & Music, the Jubilee Conference on Faith & Vocation and the Butts Foundation Leadership Initiative. He studied Religion & the Arts at Yale Divinity School and the Yale Institute of Sacred Music where he served as Artist in Residence for the 2015-16 Academic year, and is currently the Arts Initiative Director at Grace Farms Foundation.




“Reading & Writing Poetry” 

During the first half of this session, participants will read and discuss a selection of poems about faith, paying particular attention to matters of craft.  In the second half, participants will be given writing prompts  that allow them to begin poems of their own and discuss them with the group, modeling a poetry workshop that could be replicated in a congregation.

Danielle Chapman teaches creative writing, with a focus on poetry writing, at Yale.  Her poems have been published in magazines such as The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, and The Harvard Review.  Her debut collection of poems, Delinquent Palaces, was published last spring.




“Words and Music: The Poetry of Songwriting” 

Sometimes a poem is enhanced by a musical setting; occasionally a songwriter is hailed as a poet. But more often, there are distinct features of language that work in song. This workshop sets out to identify what makes for good songwriting language, and its usefulness for choosing and writing songs for church use. 

Rev. Dr. Maggi Dawn is the Dean of Marquand Chapel at Yale Divinity School, and Associate Professor of Theology and Literature. Her courses at Yale include songwriting, performative theology, and poetry for ministry. She has five books in publication, and is currently working on a memoir of worship. 




“Poetry and Belief”

What does it mean to believe in a work of literature, and how does belief in a poem or novel relate to religious belief? This workshop will consider these challenging questions through poems that bring such issues into focus.

Anthony Domestico is an assistant professor of literature at Purchase College, SUNY. He is the literary columnist for Commonweal and has a book, Poetry and Theology in the Modernist Period​, forthcoming from Johns Hopkins University Press.




“Gerard Manley Hopkins and Three Franciscan Themes”

The workshop will look at three ways in which Hopkins has been influenced by the Franciscan tradition in theology, mediated by Bonaventure and Duns Scotus.  We will look at the Franciscans  and Hopkins on the uniqueness of the individual, on the primacy of love and will, and on the power of suffering.

John Hare is the Noah Porter Professor of Philosophical Theology, Yale University.  He is the author of numerous significant works in philosophy of religion, including The Moral Gap (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), and the recent God’s Command (Oxford University Press 2015).



“Performing the Psalms”

The Psalter is a collection of poems at the heart of the Hebrew Bible. How might they be given more honor and attention in worship than they customarily are? The workshop will move from textual analysis (literary and theological) to questions of performance, either by a single reader or with a division of parts to make for an ensemble. 

Karin Coonrod is a lecturer of Shakespeare to the directing students at YSD. Her own work involves adapting non-dramatic texts for the stage (Flannery O’Connor, Gertrude Stein, Walt Whitman, etc) as well as re-imagining dramatic texts for this time.  Artistic Director of Compagnia de’ Colombari, she most recently directed the company in The Merchant of Venice in the Jewish Ghetto of Venice to mark the commemorations of the 500th year of the founding of the Ghetto and the 400th of Shakespeare’s death. 

Peter Hawkins is Professor of Religion and Literature at YDS. His work has focused on Dante but he is also interested in biblical reception history, having taught numerous courses on ‘performance of text.’ His latest book is Long Story Short: the Bible and the American Short Story.



 “ ‘all that beauty comes home’: Teaching Faith through Verse”

Biblical commentaries, study guides, and the like are valuable tools when teaching faith … can a well-crafted, insightful, engaging poem be one as well? This workshop will explore what it looks like to read and study poetry as a means of spiritual formation through close readings of outstanding works of contemporary poetry.

David Mahan is Executive Director of the Rivendell Institute at Yale, and a Lecturer in Religion and Literature at the Institute of Sacred Music, Yale Divinity School. He has taught extensively on reading literature theologically, and is the author of An Unexpected Light: Theology and Witness in the Poetry and Thought of Charles Williams, Micheal O’Siadhail, & Geoffrey Hill.




“Poetry in Public Spaces: Using Poetry to Build New Communities”

This workshop will explore ways for organizations to make poetry accessible to public audiences. Using programmatic examples such as pop-up readings, book groups, public reading series, poetry programs for children, guerrilla poetry, and the use of poetry libraries, we will consider ways to expose new groups of people to the gifts of poetry, and discuss the possibility of using poetry to break down barriers among diverse communities.

Kayla Beth Moore holds an MAR in Religion and Literature from Yale Divinity School. She is the Library and Resources Manager at Grace Farms in New Canaan, CT, where she runs a lending library and bookstore and manages literary and educational programming. 




“Poetry As a Spiritual Discipline:  Learning from Gregory Nazianzen”

After his downfall in 381 as archbishop of the imperial capital at Constantinople, Gregory Nazianzen returned to ministry in his small hometown in rural Cappadocia.  At the same time, he returned to writing poetry.  In this workshop we will reflect on poetry as a practice of the spiritual life with Gregory as our example and guide.

Charles “Austin” Rivera is a PhD student in the Religious Studies department at Yale in the Ancient Christianity subfield.  His research focuses on the intersection of poetry and theology in the Church Fathers.  Austin is a provisional elder in the Great Plains conference of the United Methodist Church.




“Nature Poetry: an Opening to Spiritual Experience and Sacramental Awareness”

In this workshop, we explore together a few nature poems which articulate our often felt but wordless experiences of God in and through nature. They point us toward a deeper appropriation of our own experiences and may also themselves deliver us into new experiences of God as they freshly open us to the numinous and the sacramentality of the creation.

Prof. Janet Ruffing is Professor in the Practice of Spirituality and Ministerial Leadership at Yale Divinity School and Professor Emerita at Fordham University where she chaired a concentration in Spirituality and Spiritual Direction. She was an English Teacher in secondary schools before she earned her PhD in Christian Spirituality in 1986 from the GTU in Berkeley. Poetry has always been an important part of her life.




“Poetry and Light; Poetry in Space”

In this workshop we will look at various poems that place light in the center of the reflection as a way to communicate beyond our normal experience: sometimes as a spiritual reflection, sometimes as a memory, sometimes as a way of seeing.  We will also look at a few poems that use the page as a visual mode of communication where the reading is also seeing.

James Shivers, PhD, teaches in West Hartford at Hall High School. He also teaches pre-service teachers at UCONN.  While at Yale as a Visiting Fellow in American Studies, he focused on visual poetics and American poetic avant-gardes.  He works closely with the education department at YCBA on visual literacy and has taught at their summer institute, Expanding Literacies, Extending Classrooms. He is also a poet, painter and learning enthusiast.



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