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Obsessed Much? Write about It with Han VanderHart

DURHAM—Poet Han VanderHart will lead the poetry session “Dealing with Ghosts” at the North Carolina Writers’ Network 2021 Fall Conference, November 19-21, at the Sheraton Imperial Hotel in Durham/RTP.

Conference registration is open.

Han VanderHart lives in Durham, under the pines. She has poetry and essays published in The Boston Globe, Kenyon Review, The American Poetry Review, The Rumpus, AGNI, and elsewhere. She is the reviews editor at EcoTheo Review, the editor at Moist Poetry Journal, and the author of the chapbook Hands Like Birds (Ethel Zine Press, 2019) and the poetry collection What Pecan Light (Bull City Press, 2021).

This year, NCWN is asking authors for “one good piece of advice,” either something they were once told that they never forgot, or something they wished they could go back and tell their younger selves. Han offers: 

“Listen to your obsessions. This is a version of Verlyn Klinkenborg’s ‘notice what you notice’ (brilliant advice). So, to use Klinkenborg’s language, I might revise ‘listen to your obsessions’ to ‘notice the things you keep noticing’ or ‘notice the things that interest you deeply.’ Give your attention permission to plunge, to dive, to play in knowing and discovery. The best writing is more about questions than answers.

What is it that haunts your poetry? “Dealing with Ghosts” is concerned with how to write into ghostly presence and ghostly absence in your work—how to approach the spectral histories of your writing. We will look at who and what are treated as ghosts in American poetry—specifically focusing on examples from C.D. Wright and Deborah Luster’s collaborative One Big Self, Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, Aracelis Girmay’s The Black Maria, and Muriel Rukeyser’s The Book of the Dead. We will also write responsively to a ghostly prompt together, and discuss practical resources (cemeteries, genealogy, family oral traditions) for engaging your ghosts.

Fall Conference attracts hundreds of writers from around the country and provides a weekend full of activities that include lunch and dinner banquets with readings, keynotes, tracks in several genres, open mic sessions, and the opportunity for one-on-one manuscript critiques with editors or agents. North Carolina Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green will give the Keynote Address. Additional poetry sessions will be led by Tyree Daye, Dasan Ahanu, Mimi Herman, and Fred Joiner.

Register here.

The nonprofit North Carolina Writers’ Network is the state’s oldest and largest literary arts services organization devoted to all writers, in all genres, at all stages of development. For additional information, visit