the University of Pennsylvania and the Kelly Writers House, teaming up with Frost Valley, present
a three-day seminar retreat on modern and contemporary American poetry
at the extraordinarily beautiful Straus Estate at Frost Valley
June 23-25, 2008

You are invited to join University of Pennsylvania's Kelly Professor of English and Faculty Director of the Kelly Writers House, Al Filreis, for a two-night, three-day
the Straus Estate at Frost Valley
workshop retreat on modern poetry in the spectacular setting of the Catskills. The Writers House has again teamed up with Frost Valley, a 6,000-acre conference center in the Catskill Mountain Region of New York State, to offer this exceptional educational getaway. For more information contact Mingo Reynolds or to register, call Carmel Dorn (845) 985-2291 etx. 205 or email

Located in the pristine forests at the base of Slide Mountain, Frost Valley ( features meadows, ponds, cascading waterfalls, and world-renowned trout streams, creating an idyllic background for the study of verse. The Straus Estate at Frost Valley is a lovely renovated home situated in a beautiful field just a few feet from the East Branch of the Neversink River. The cost for the course, lodging in the Straus House, all meals and all recreational activities is just $300 (if you lodge in a double room) or $410 (for a single). The number of participants is limited to 20. For more about Straus, see

Seminar participants arrive Monday morning, June 23, and
April 2002 participants. Click on the picture for a larger view.
depart after lunch on Wednesday, June 25. The program schedule features morning and afternoon sessions on the poetry, in the living room of the Straus House, with plenty of time between sessions, after meals, and evenings for casual conversation and recreation. The grand Straus House deck, right off the dining room, looks directly over the Neversink River. Marked hiking trails depart just a few feet from the front door of the house. Frost Valley's Straus Estate is a stand-alone facility, with its own food service, surrounded by hundreds of acres of forests and fields.

The workshop will feature a discussion of the poetry of erica kaufman, and she will join us for our discussion on June 24.

We will also read and discuss poems by a wide range of modern and contemporary American poets. While this is not a writing workshop per se, participants have the option of doing their own writing in response to the poetry studied.

Each year Professor Filreis teaches this non-credit mini-course pro bono. Frost Valley is a non-profit organization devoted to outdoor education.

About Al Filreis: a specialist in modern and contemporary American poetry and the literary politics of the American 1930s and 1950s, he has published an edition of Wallace Stevens's correspondence with Jose Rodriguez Feo (Secretaries of the Moon, 1986), two books on American poetry, articles on modern poetry and painting and on cold-war literary politics. Stevens and the Actual World was published by Princeton University Press in 1991. Another book, Modernism from Right to Left, was published in 1994 by Cambridge University Press. His new edition of Ira Wolfert's Tucker's People has been published by Illinois. His most recent book, a literary history of the idea of modernism in the American 1950s called Counter-revolution of the Word was released in January, 2008, and is about the conservatives' attempt to destroy the modernist avant-garde in the anticommunist period after World War II. Aside from teaching modern American poetry, he has offered a series of courses on twentieth-century American decades, and another on the literature of the Holocaust. He is a winner of the Lindback Award, and the Ira Abrams Award, and was chosen as the 1999 Pennsylvania Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation. Since 1995 he has been the Faculty Director of the Kelly Writers House on Penn's campus, and since 2003 he has been the director of the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing.

About erica kaufman: erica is the author of several chapbooks including:censory impulse (big game books, 2007), civilization day (open24hours, 2007), and a familiar album (winner of the 2003 New School University Chapbook Contest). erica is also the co-curator/co-publisher of Belladonna*/Belladonna Books, a small press and reading series that promotes the work of women writers who are adventurous, experimental, politically involved, multi-form, multicultural, multi-gendered, impossible to define, delicious to talk about, unpredictable, dangerous with language.

Watch a brief video of the 2006 retreat: video (2:37).

2006 participants (click on the image for a photo)

2004 participants (click on the image for two photos)

2003 participants (click on the image for a larger view)

2002 participants discuss John Ashbery in the field in front of the Straus house

three Some Trees'ers celebrate birthdays together

praise for "Some Trees":

"The three days I spend at Frost Valley in the SomeTrees seminar is the part of my year that integrates the intellectual, the creative and the spiritual parts of my life.We are indeed all engaged in lifelong learning.'--Conni Bille

"The few days at Frost Valley were wonderful for me. I had been feeling overburdened and distracted in general. Those three days were like a different world. I think people become better somehow in that environment. And the opportunity to be there and to concentrate on poetry did create magical moments. On a more practical level, it's hard to believe that there is so much clean air so close to New York. Anyway, even I wrote a poem when I got back, before reverting to my more prosaic self... That you have to read poetry to write it, is true. I immediately understood, on a deeper level, what poets are trying to, and in the case of what we read, did, accomplish."--Liz Seeley

"For me Some Trees is a true retreat. I do not retreat to vegetate in the sun - I don't like the feeling of emptiness when I return to the details of my daily life. I prefer to stretch myself, to test my limits. Sometimes it is to challenge myself physically. Sometimes it is to dig deep into my spirituality. Sometimes it is academic and cerebral. And then there is Some Trees, three days and nights that encompass all of these possibilities in the most enjoyable way. I will not wax poetic about our marvelous leader. Suffice it to say that he has brought us the best poets from whom to learn, given us the loveliest environment for discourse and contemplation, enthusiastically led us outdoors to remind us what a wonderful world this is, and most of all, gathered us together to be enriched by each other. I took some heat for being out of the office for half the week, and it was worth every raised eyebrow."--Carol Clapp

"When I decided to come to the Some Trees poetry retreat, I didn't really come with any expectations at all. However, I am certain that this retreat was a distinct and important three days for everyone who attended. Al Filreis did a terrific and thoughtful job of organizing and planning this event. Everyone was encouraged to participate in all discussions, and Al made sure that everyone felt comfortable and that everyone's voice was heard. I thoroughly enjoyed the serious study of Tom Devaney's poetry and then discussing it with him in the comfort of a living room, in front of a roaring fire. But mainly, I was so impressed with the respect, trust, and honesty fostered among the participants who spanned from graduating Penn in 1949 to preparing to graduate in spring 2006. What a special treat. And what an excellent reflection on the depth of a Penn education."--Emily Missner

"I have attended the Frost Valley poetry retreat now on two occasions and found the experience to be very powerful. For me, it is not specifically the content of what we're learning (though I love reading and writing poetry) as much as the experience of how we learn - the opening up of possibilities. I find in some ways I pass through my adult life uncritically - the Frost Valley experience is so important for me because it forces me to confront myself. In the process of breaking down the poems and discussing them we learn to question ideas and think about how we understand and represent the world. The exercise has been enormously moving and productive for me."--Maggie Katz