In 2005, Professor Richard Kenney gathered a small group of poets and creative writing majors at the Friday Harbor labs in September, when demand for the labs by science majors was the lowest. The experiment of drawing together students and professionals to write in an environment of natural beauty far from the hustle and bustle of city life was a success, and the program has grown in strength every September since. Catherine Wing (M.F.A. ’04) and Cody Walker (Ph.D. ’04) co-directed the program in 2006 and 2007, and Kenney will reclaim the reins in September 2008.
The focus of writing instruction is the natural world and the scientific endeavors at the labs. As Kenney explains, “In Rome, you write about the city, considering the ways of art and history. In Friday Harbor, it’s nature and weather and the ways of the scientist and the naturalist.” One of the highlights of the two-week course is a late-night hike to an historic graveyard on one side of the island where students recite poetry by flashlight. “I've loved teaching at Friday Harbor,” says Walker. “It's been one of the great pleasures of my teaching career. I can't imagine a better setting for a writing workshop: tall trees, water, lots of quiet spots for reading and reflection. I love the chance to slow down a bit, to focus on poetry—to discuss it, to write it—without the constant distractions of phone and e-mail and radio.”