Holly Wren Spaulding

I work to defend imagination’s rightful place in the lives of 21st century humans.

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.

At the heart of all my projects, whether as a teacher, mentor, writer or collaborator, is a commitment to sharing useful practices, concrete skills, and good ideas that empower each one of us to thrive amidst the many social, technological and existential pressures of our time.

“In human society, art has several definite purposes, and it has served them in every culture going back as far as traces of humankind can be found. Poetry, by showing us that other human beings can feel exactly as we do, educates our sense of empathy and teaches us to live in society. . . An artist always bears witness to the world, and that act of witness has the potential of endlessly increasing the reader’s, viewer’s, or listener’s own sense of the world.”—Stephen Dobyns in Next Word, Better Word: The Craft of Writing Poetry


Photo by Gary Howe

I teach writing workshops at Poetry Forge (Easthampton, MA) and Interlochen College of Creative Arts (Interlochen, MI); facilitate poetry apprenticeships via correspondence; host creative retreats for writers, artists and creative entrepreneurs; and cultivate spaces and relationships where a spirit of mindfulness and solidarity supports our efforts as writers, cultural workers and human beings.

Background: I grew up within 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 as a member of the creative class before I knew that there was another way to be or live. In this setting, the seeds of poetry were fostered from the beginning, and my collaborations with others artists and change-makers continue to grow from these roots.


Qualifications: My writing appears in the books We Are Everywhere: The Irresistible Rise of Global Anti-Capitalism (Verso, 2003) and Inventing Arguments (Cengage Learning, 2012) and I’ve published two poetry chapbooks, The Grass Impossibly (Michigan Writers Cooperative Press, 2008) and Pilgrim (Alice Greene & Co., 2014). Twice I’ve been nominated for Pushcart Prizes.

I’m also the founder of LIFE/form and Co-director, with author Matt Rigney, of STORYhouse Partners, a small communications firm specializing in the art of narrative.

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, a creative lab and roundtable for writers. 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 in Michigan Quarterly Review, The Nation, Witness, Reed Magazine, Scintilla, Dunes Review and Wake.

I often collaborate with other artists and in recent years I 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 (Dir. 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 about the threats of water privatization using everything from independent media, to street theater, to popular education through skill-shares and workshops.
ICCA Writers Retreat 250x250I teach for other arts 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) White Square Fine Books & Art (Easthampton, MA) and IS183 (Stockbridge, 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.)