Holly Wren Spaulding

I grew up among a community of socially engaged artists, activists and craftspeople whose free-ranging creativity, commitment to sustainability, involvement in homesteading, music making, physical labor, and storytelling, marked me from a young age . Instead of televisions, my siblings and I immersed ourselves in books and the wild outdoors. In this setting, the seeds of poetry and art, were fostered from the beginning.

These days, I bring ideas, conversations and creative support to individuals and small groups interested in finding and making meaning in their lives and in their art. I teach online poetry classes and real life workshops, facilitate creative retreats, and cultivate structures and relationships where a spirit of mindfulness and solidarity supports our collective, ongoing efforts as writers, artists, cultural workers and human beings.

At the heart of this work is my commitment to sharing useful practices and good ideas that empower each one of us to thrive amidst the many social, technological and existential pressures of our time.


I’m passionate about defending imagination’s rightful place in the lives of 21st century humans.

Background: I teach creative writing through Poetry Forge (Massachusetts) and at the Interlochen College of Creative Arts (northern Michigan). I’m the founder of LIFE/form and Co-director, with my husband, author Matt Rigney, of STORYhouse, a communications firm specializing in the art of narrative.

For five years I worked as part of a small team of filmmakers to produce the award-winning documentary, Flow  (Dir. Irena Salina, 2008), about the global water crisis and how ordinary citizens are defending our water commons from corporate take-ver. My work appears in the book We Are Everywhere (2006), from Verso Press. My collection of poems, The Grass Impossibly (2008) was awarded publication by Michigan Writers Cooperative Press.

I’ve conducted trainings in consensus decision-making and direct action, built independent media infrastructures for print, radio, and web, and written for The Nation, The Ecologist, New Internationalist and other publications.

I am a former director of the Leelanau Young Writers Program at Leelanau School, former member of the Creative Writing Faculty at Northwestern Michigan College, and co-founder of the Live Poets Society. Until 2012, I served on the board of Michigan Writers, Inc. and was Senior Editor at Dunes Review. 

Education: I studied creative writing and book-publishing and editing at the University of Michigan, Trinity College (Dublin, Ireland) and Interlochen Arts Academy. My articles, essays and poems have appeared widely, most recently Michigan Quarterly Review, The Nation, Witness, Reed Magazine, Scintilla, Dunes Review and Wake.

I often collaborate with other artists and recently performed in the nation’s first civic production of Martha Graham’s dance drama, American Document (Dir. Gretchen Eichberger), as well as in LORE, a multimedia exhibition and installation featuring poetry, film, dance, and music by Michigan women artists. I performed as a voice in Chaotic Harmony (Directed by Gretchen Eichberger and Anne-Marie Oomen), a dance-poem about the life and environmental art of Gwen Frostic, set to text adapted by Anne-Marie Oomen, with music by the indy band Breathe Owl Breathe.
Accomplishments: As co-founder and media spokesperson for Sweetwater Alliance, a Michigan coalition dedicated to the protection of essential freshwater resources, I helped spearhead statewide support for a precedent-setting legal case against a multi-billion-dollar global corporation, and expanded the organization to six chapters with thousands of supporters. I researched, synthesized and disseminated information on the ecological impacts of water diversions and traveled to international summits and conferences in more than seven countries, where I presented on grassroots organizing strategies. I also collaborated with diverse constituents to educate the public on the threats of water privatization using everything from independent media, to street theater, to popular education through skill-shares and workshops.
I enjoy teaching for other organizations, and often travel to do so. Look for my workshops and classes through Glen Arbor Art Association, The Old Art Building (Leland, MI), The Oliver Art Center (Frankfort, MI), Interlochen College of Creative Arts (Interlochen, MI) and White Square Fine Books & Art (Easthampton, MA).

Selected Awards and Recognition:

* Faculty Excellence Award, Northwestern Michigan College
* 5 Avery Hopwood Awards, University of Michigan
* 2 Pushcart Nominations
* Best of the Web’ nomination
* Shaman Drum Poetry Prize
* Environmental Journalist of the Year Award, NMEAC
* The CuChulainn to Kavanaugh Award for Poetry (Northern Ireland)
* Rotary International Fellowship to Ireland
* Congress-Bundestag Scholarship to Germany
* Residencies and Fellowships to Blue Mountain Center, Mesa Refuge, The Jean Noble Parsons Center for the Study of Art & Science and The Hill House (I.S.L.A.N.D.)