CWW Alumni News: Aaron Graham’s Poetry featured in Sequestrum Magazine

The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop is delighted to announce that two recent poems, “Mythos (Deployment)” and “Footfalls” by Aaron Graham, an alum of our Spring in New Orleans Writing Retreat, has been featured in Sequestrum Magazine.  On the poems, Graham writes:

The first thing that actually was able to speak to me, that I was able to relate to after I got out of the Marine Corps was Eliot’s The Waste Land. There was something about the work that spoke to me, that knew me, and that I just inherently understood. “Footfalls” is sort of an attempt to repay the favor in as much as its an attempt to convey some of my experiences with “Burials for the dead” and “Unreal Cities” using a tone and diction that flowed from the intensity of The Waste Land.  Or at least in my mind it did.

I suppose, thematically speaking, “Mythos” is almost a counterpoint to “Footfalls.” It’s really dealing with the notion of this incredible weight of history in the Middle East—really in the land itself in the grains of sand and the Tigress’ silt—possesses. To think the road the unit was patrolling was walked by the Prophet of Islam or that a few miles from the spot I was standing on the Apostle Paul was struck by God on the way to Damascus was—and even still is—jarring. These are still parts of the history/mythology of global society, if not shared then at least something we’re collectively aware of. Yet, being in these places in 2006-08 and viewing the hustle and bustle around me there were times I could not have felt farther away from anything mythological. In fact, I think the thrust of the poem is the encroachment of the quotidian into any grander ideas we have of the world.

In “Mythos (Deployment),” Graham writes:

The epicenter
might be
a minaret
woman’s veil, voices
selling dates,
road-ways tamped
packed with feet
where waiting,
still the magnitude hits.
A thousand years stretch
down this street
this town, the same
ground waked by Paul
blinded he saw
God spoke place.
Words here make
sense only if kept
aside myths
in your head.
Camel rides, bouncing
in a pickup truck bed
as it passes.

To read the Sequestrum interview with Aaron Graham, please visit their site here.  Graham’s poems, “Mythos (Deployment” and “Footfalls” can be found here.

Aaron Graham hails from Glenrock, Wyoming, population 1159, which boasts seven bars, six churches, a single 4-way stop sign and no stoplights. His poetry represents a unique contribution to the arts and stands apart from the work of Brian Turner, Phil Klay, and other war poets in that it represents the experience of an enlisted United States Marine across three deployments and treats the subject matter of that experience on the front lines as a human intelligence operative, Arabic translator, and counterintelligence expert from within that frame, Aaron was recently the ‘Cecilia Baker Memorial Visiting Scholar’ for the 2016 Seaside Writer’s Conference. His chapbook ‘Skyping from a Combat Zone’ was Shortlisted for Tupelo Press’s 2016 Sunken Garden Prize. His first full length collection, “Blood Stripes”, was a finalist for Tupelo’s 2015 Berkshire Poetry Prize, his poem, ‘Olfaction’, won the Seven Hills Literary Journal’s Penumbra Poetry Prize, and ‘PTSD Poem #12’ has been nominated as ‘The Best of the Net’. Aaron founded and currently runs a weekly poetry workshop on writing the military experience for Veterans and their families at the Atlanta VAMC and continues to develop his poetry as a way of connecting with other veterans while finishing his PhD in Literature at Emory University.


CWW Alumni Aaron Graham Selected for the 30/30 Project to Support Tupelo Press

Aaron Graham, an alumni of the 2017 Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Spring in New Orleans Writing Retreat has been chosen for the 30/30 Project to benefit Tupelo Press, a literary non-profit organization. Aaron will join eight other volunteers in writing a poem a day during the month of April while raising donations to support the literary press. Other poets for the project include Alexandra Barylski, Rebecca Raphael, Pamela Murray Winters, and more. You can donate to support your favorite authors here.  To help Aaron reach his $350 goal, donate here.

Aaron Graham is a doctoral candidate at Emory University and is also the poetry editor of Muse /A Literary Journal, and Assistant Poetry Editor for The Tishman Review. He was the 2016 Cecilia Baker Memorial Visiting Fellow for Seaside Writers and a veteran who served both in Afghanistan and Iraq. His work has appeared in SAND, Rising Phoenix, The Taos International Journal of Poetry and Art, The East Bay Review, Zero-Dark-Thirty , Grist, Alternating Current, and more. His work has won numerous awards, including Seven Hills Press’s Penumbra Poetry Prize, Tishman Review‘s 2015 Poetry Contest, and Tethered by Letters’ 2017 Luminaire Award.  His 2017 chapbook, The Hurry Up and the Wait, was shortlisted for Tupelo Press’s Sunken Garden Chapbook Poetry Prize as was his Skyping from a Combat Zone, in 2016. His first full length collection, Blood Stripes, was shortlisted for the 2015 Berkshire Prize, and his “PTSD Poem #12” has been nominated for 2016’s Best of the Net.

Tupelo Press is a literary press that hosts writing conferences, readings, and a teen writer center and publishes essays, poetry, and prose from new and established writers.  You can find out more about the 30/30 Project and read some of Aaron’s daily work here.  A sample of Aaron’s poetry follows below:

Populist Agrarian Mar a Logo Blues

Bernie’s in the basement preaching cost controls on medicine
I’m spiting on the pavement trying to undermine the government.
Fat man in a little coat named Priebus got me laid off.
Paul Ryan say he’s got a plan to pay the nation’s debt off.

Look out Flynn, they gonna learn your sin.
Got a presidential win, now the real work begins.
Sell your souls on Election Day Putin already got away.
Daniel Boon’s in dark a room with a wire tap and Mike Flynn,
saying the cure to all our ills are tariffs and immigration bans.

Better get Dick, get Bill get someone to write a healthcare a bill
Train of thought jumped a rail en route to replace and repeal.
The POTUS tweets because his ego’s frail so public will is gonna fail.
Try hard, leave scared, Sessions will be disbarred
Send out the national guard for the protest on your front yard
down at Mar a Log Steve Bannon’s your Iago

Don’t wanna look dumb
you better hire some
better writers to try
to cover up your scandals
collusion with white vandals
your race relations plan is
Steve Harvey on every channel.

–Aaron Graham

Laissez les bons temps rouler! 🎶 🎉 Join our 24-hour Writing #BakeOff Live on Twitter!

Dear Writers,

Greetings from sultry New Orleans!  Our Spring in New Orleans Writing Retreat kicked off on Thursday evening with writers descending on NOLA from all four corners of North America.  After a lovely orientation, meet and greets, and a discussion of our current writing projects, we were off to dine and wine and roll our sleeves up!  On Friday, after a home-made breakfast, Rita Banerjee kicked off our writing seminars with a class on “Character Development and the Law of Desire.”  From Hamlet to Tennessee Williams to Ben Percy and Siri Hustvedt, Rita and her students investigated what made their narratives and characters really tick, the charge between dynamic and typed, masked characters, and how many names desire could take.  Writing prompts and heated exchanges abounded, followed by a break-out writing session and then a Louisiana lunch.  In the afternoon, Emily Nemens taught a wonderful class on “The Art of Storytelling,” in which she examine the interplay between visual images, sculptures, artifacts, architectures, and the maps of streets and things, with the very process of creating evocative lyrical and narrative writing.  After her seminar and prompts, our writers took a tour on the grand Mississippi, shuttling ourselves against a moody blue sky and scatting waves to the delightful and decadent French Quarter in downtown New Orleans.  There we posed as Americans in Paris in Cafe du Monde, grabbing coffee with chicory, fresh beignets, and swapping techniques about speculative fiction and narrative craft for POC. We followed through, with a walking art and historical tour of New Orleans, in which Emily Nemens guided us to the homes and haunts of literary giants such as Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, and Anne Rice, introduced us to the local visual art scenes and galleries of New Orleans, strolled us past cemeteries and cathedrals, and narrated the history of how sugarcane and slavery had helped build the lofty, neoclassical homes of the Garden District.  After toasts over roti and jerk curry at a wonderful local Caribbean restaurant, we were back home to write and plot and think.

Our second day of classes kicked off with Diana Norma Szokolyai’s class, “Writing in the Lyric Register,” in which she examined the relationship between music, writing, and improvisation.  She discussed how writers quantify the lyric register and gestures of other writers with Kazim Ali’s Anais Nin: An Unprofessional Study, and discussed how writers from the French Troubadours to Maya Sonenberg used the lyric register to structure and charge their creative work.

And in just one hour, we will be launching out 24-hour creative writing bake off with playwright and Princeton Hodder Fellow, Dipika Guha.   Dipika writes, “A bake-off is a playwriting exercise or writerly dare popularized by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Paula Vogel.  The dare is to write a play in a fixed span of time 24 hours in response to a list of shared elements. We will begin with a seminar on Saturday when we’ll visit our playwriting toolbox and look at devices, forms and structures available for our use.  At this meeting we’ll choose six elements to include in our writing drawn from the city of New Orleans, seeking inspiration from its architecture, history and myths. After the seminar you will go away and write until the next evening.  On Sunday over food and drink, we will read your bake-offs together and celebrate your progress. Bake-offs are not critiqued.”

We welcome all of our writers and readers from around the world to join our 24-hour creative writing bake-off remotely and on-line.  If you would like to participate in our 24-hour bake-off challenge, please tweet to us @CamWritersWkshp with the tag #BakeOff.  The challenge of the Bake-Off is simple: write 1 complete narrative (as a play or screenplay, a short story or novella, a novel if you dare, an essay or collection of essays, or a series of linked poems or collection) in a span of 24 hours.  Your work must have a beginning, middle, and end, and you must complete the challenge with 24 hours.  The clock starts at 1 pm Central Time on Saturday March 25, and ends exactly at 1 pm Central Time on Sunday March 26.  So join us, and tell us about your work and process with the tag #BakeOff at @CamWritersWkshp.  Happy Writing!

Et bon courage, mes amis!

Rita Banerjee
CWW Creative Director
New Orleans – 3.25.17


Happy New Year 2017! -♥️- Cambridge Writers’ Workshop

happynewyear2017-cwwHappy New Year 2017 from the directors, staff, and board of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop!  We hope you’re all as excited for 2017 as we are!  We’re planning a delightful, productive year for our writers and artists with plenty of opportunities to travel, write, practice yoga, and network, and we’re looking forward to seeing you at our retreats, workshops, readings, and literary fest events in 2017!

The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop had a wonderful year in 2016.  Over the last twelve months, we’ve had a chance to hold retreats and readings across America and the world, meet exciting writers and artists, and have found new ways to inspire our own writing.  Our year began with  the 2016 Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference in Los Angeles, California. At AWP 2016, we got a chance to promote CREDO: An Anthology of Manifestos & Sourcebook for Creative Writing, advertise our new literary internships, and discuss our Summer Writing Retreats in Granada, Spain, Barcelona, Spain, and Narbonne, France, as well as our Spring Writing Retreat in Newport, Rhode Island. We also hosted our third AWP event at Sabor y Cultura. At our event, there were featured readings from authors such as Rita BanerjeeJess BurnquistJulialicia CaseAriana KellyGwen E. KirbyKatie KnollEllaraine LockieOndrej PazdirekHeather Aimee O’NeillBrenda Peynado, Esther Pfaff, Jessica PiazzaJonathan ShapiroEmily Skaja, and Emily Smith.

After AWP 2016, we were off to our second annual Spring Writing Retreat in Newport, Rhode Island. We were joined by award-winning and internationally-renowned authors such as Jade SylvanDiana Norma Szokolyai, and CWW yoga instructor Elissa Lewis. The event was a chance for writers to spend a long weekend in historic Newport and near the beach, participating in writing workshops (such as Sylvan’s workshops on “writing yourself naked”) and craft of writing seminars, yoga classes, and cultural tours of the historic Newport village. We live blogged the entire event as well, sharing dozens of photos from our trip while also allowing our writers to share their thoughts on the experience.

During the summer we hosted our Summer in Granada and Summer in Barcelona and Narbonne Writing Retreats. In Barcelona and Narbonne, we explored the cities and all of their historical, literary, and romantic charm. The retreat included craft of writing seminars and creative writing workshops, literary tours of the cities, and one-on-one manuscript consultations. We were also joined by writer and professor Bret Anthony Johnston and literary editor Heidi Pitlor. CWW directors Rita Banerjee and Diana Norma Szokolyai taught workshops on spacial poetics and world building, and also led workshops for participants to share their work and use the Liz Lerman method for critiquing writing. We live blogged our retreat on our website, so be sure to check out the sights and classes from our trip. We were really happy to experience this with all of our participants, who traveled from all over to come write and explore these cities with us.

In Granada, wrote in the city’s winding streets, absorbed its Moorish history, and were inspired by its evocative landscapes. The retreat included craft of writing seminars and writing workshops and yoga classes. We were joined by novelist Alexander Chee and poet and activist Frederick-Douglas Knowles II, who taught classes on historical fiction and hip-hop and poetry, respectively. Rita Banerjee led workshops on narrative stakes and emotion and suspense. We also live blogged this trip, so you can see all the exciting things we did on this trip.

We also hosted creative writing workshops and craft of writing seminars at The Cambridge Center for Adult Education throughout the fall. In addition to Rita Banerjee and Diana Norma Szokolyai, we were joined by Jade Sylvan and Cambridge writer Laura van den Berg for creative writing workshops and craft of writing seminars every other weekend in Cambridge, MA. This is something we hope to repeat this year, and we hope we can bring in new faculty and participants as well.

We hosted a Brooklyn Bookend Reading at Molasses Books during The Brooklyn Book Festival. Some of the writers had emerged onto the literary scene with a bang, while others had recently published their first or second books, and had received prestigious awards in the past. The event featured Stephen AubreyRita BanerjeeMadeleine BarnesEllaraine LockieBen PeaseAnne Malin Ringwalt, Kate McMahon, Emily SmithBianca Stone, and Diana Norma Szokolyai, along with a beautiful interludes of music from accomplished songwriters Erica Buettner and Elizabeth Devlin.

We also hosted a literary crawl event during Lit Crawl NYC 2016. Our Literary Vaudeville event featured performances and readings from Rita Banerjee, Diana Norma Szokolyai, Megan Fernandes, Claire Ince, Emily Smith, Christina M. Rau, and Frederick-Douglass Knowles II.

In 2016, we welcomed our second round of interns to the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop, and these interns include the wonderful AM Ringwalt, Anna-Celestrya Carr, Erynn Porter, and Shannon Sawyer, all of whom have helped the CWW greatly this year. They’ve helped manage our social media and written up posts about our events, shown their talent for graphic design, grant writing, audio/visual media development and corresponding with writers and hosts in French, Spanish, and English, and have provided much valuable assistance on our retreats and literary events this year.  We’re excited to have, on our team, and we can’t wait to show you what they’ve helped us plan for 2016!

* * *

While 2016 proved to be a very exciting year for all of us, our staff is quite ready to move on to our next round of exciting events. The CWW will once again table at AWP in Washington DC from February 8-February 10, 2017, and will be announcing our AWP Reading in downtown Los Angeles shortly!

neworleans2017posterwcThe Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Spring in New Orleans Writing Retreat will take place from March 23-26, 2017, and will coincide with the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival.  Known for its Spanish and French architecture, live jazz, cajun food, and street festivals, New Orleans offers an inspirational and one-of-a-kind environment for creative writers. During the retreat, we will be staying in the lovely Algiers Point neighborhood, just a short ferry ride away from the Historic French Quarter.  Our retreat features multi-genre workshops, as well as craft seminars and time to write.  The faculty includes award-winning writers Dipika Guha, Emily Nemens, Rita Banerjee, and Diana Norma Szokolyai. Genres include playwriting, nonfiction, fiction, and poetry.

portland2017posterThe Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Spring in Portland Writing Retreat will take place from April 22-24, 2017.  While you’re in the home of writers Cheryl Strayed and Ursula K. Le Guin, feel free to go bicycling and explore the terrain, hike, or relax at local cafes for people watching—no matter how you choose to spend your time, this city is full inspiration. We will be staying in the Alberta Arts District during the retreat, an area that is sure to inspire our participants and help them create.  The retreat offers multi-genre workshops, as well as craft seminars and time to write. The faculty includes award-winning writers Adam Reid Sexton, Kerry Cohen, Rita Banerjee, and Diana Norma Szokolyai. Genres include fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

granada2017posterAnd the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Summer in Granada Writing Retreat will take place from August 2-6, 2017.  Located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains in Andalucía, Granada is one of the gems of Spain and has inspired writers from Washington Irving to Salman Rushdie to Ali Smith. Let the old city stimulate your writing with its winding streets, Moorish history, and evocative landscapes.  Work on your existing manuscript, or look to the beauty and warmth of Granada to inspire all-new projects.  During the retreat, we will be staying at the Hotel Guadalupe, just a short walk from the Alhambra.  The retreat offers multi-genre workshops, as well as craft seminars and time to write. The faculty includes award-winning writers Tim Horvath, Alexandria Marzano-LesnevichRita Banerjee, and Diana Norma Szokolyai. Genres include fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

We hope you are all as excited for our 2017 events as we are. If you have any questions we may not have answered, you can email us at, and for inquiries, please email the CWW Directors, Rita Banerjee and Diana Norma Szokolyai, at  You can also follow us on FacebookTumblr, and Twitter for more information and updates on any of these events. We look forward to making 2017 a year full of creativity, writing, and renewal, so join us as we make 2017 rock!

— Alex Carrigan, CWW Managing Intern