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Of Paul’s workshop facilitation and commitment to poetry, here’s what some have said about the experience:

“Over the past decade or so, no one has done more for poetry in the Pacific Northwest than has Paul Nelson. He has sponsored and hosted free public readings and workshops while bringing to Seattle notable poets like Wanda Coleman, Nate Mackey, Michael McClure, Brenda Hillman, George Bowering and other leading figures in the world of Organic Poetry. He is as fine an interviewer of poets as anyone working today, coming to each interview thoroughly informed but retaining great flexibility, letting the various threads intertwine. These interviews, combined with lengthy scholarship, have produced a number of remarkable essays and, ultimately, his manuscript American Prophets…”

Sam Hamill, Poet, Translator, Founder of Copper Canyon Press

What timely alchemy is this? Poetics as Cosmology with readings from Brenda Hillman’s In a Few Minutes Before Later got me writing again. For five weeks, I’ve been breathing in from an open field and exhaling without the usual constrictions of thought and form. Paul Nelson throws the raw materials in a pot: a group of new and seasoned writers, all things organic and serial, and then stirs in various prompts and excitements. There’s a whole lot of heart, mind, and soul scholarship on offer here. Paul is the real deal.

– Lorin Medley
Comox, BC
Feb, 2023

Poetics as Cosmology (Intro to Spontaneous Composition) I really appreciate how you encouraged us to experiment and incorporate more spontaneity into our writing  and made the class a safe place to share the results. I loved your urging us to be weird! And to make the deepest gesture possible.  If I had to choose one word to characterize the class’s impact on me. I’d say liberating. (And that’s a great thing to receive from a 5-week class.)

– Nancy Hausauer
Tacoma, WA
Nov 23, 2022

I think you can take a lot of credit for the fact that people were inspired to do great work in the class.  There is something about the model that really works.  You give people inspiring prompts and fire them up.  But the group is not a “class” really. And that is good. In a class people are children. And that is sort of paralyzing. It is more of an organic community — of equals — so people are constantly getting inspired by each other.  It is supportive, not competitive, and non-hierarchical. And you have an amazing capacity to listen to each person.  I enjoy the workshops and the “family” but — most important — I keep coming back because the classes — and the rich poetry community you have created — keep me writing. 

—Ann Graham Walker
Nanoose Bay, BC

Oct 7, 2022

You did it again! Such erudition and systematic knowledge of your field. You opened my eyes on Charles Olson’s “open field of energy”  and miraculously related it to the philosophical work of Alfred North Whitehead. Such knowledge is not easy to come by.

You also did a fabulous exercise on the generation of poems that knocks out the ever-babbling conscious mind. Poetry comes from a deeper place. Thanks, Paul, for making our day brighter at the Alaska House and the gift of poetry! Can’t wait until the next session!

— Koon Woon

I am still feeling the pleasure and joy from attending Paul’s workshop in Poetics as Cosmology.  He created the conditions for support, safety and community among the participants, provided context and inspiration for the poetry we would write, and then provided an exercise for communal writing that was playful, helpful in moving through stuckness, and fresh and surprising in its results. As a new writer, I felt at ease and supported by the process. Thank you Paul.

— Best Wishes,  Virginia Johnson

Oct 8, 2022

Paul gives a great gift to the community to share his vast store of knowledge and experience about the making of the modern poetic landscape and ways to explore the terrain. From Ezra Pound, Charles Olson, Black Mountain and beyond to some of the many poets Nelson has interviewed in person over the course of the years including icons like Allen Ginsberg and Michael McClure, Paul guides on a journey of encounter with the contemporary thinking behind poetry as cosmology. Paul Nelson’s workshops are a worthwhile and enjoyable way to enrich one’s experience of and appreciation for that to which we affix the name poetry.

— Denny Stern

“Thanks so much for an engaging workshop – what fun! The best thing about it, to my mind, is your affirmative and humor-graced approach to all. You have a genius for getting people connected and encouraging their work…”

— Margaret Lee, Tulsa, OK
Feb 2021 (Seriality: (A Workshop

Paul E. Nelson’s “Poetics As Cosmology” course begins in a completely astounding way with a poem by Ed Dorn, “My Tribe.” If that is not enough to stop you in your tracks, what follows provides inroads and out roads from this seed sprout, this shake down. While Dorn would be embarrassed to be an initiator of such weight of purpose, he would also be so honored by Nelson leading “Poetics As Cosmology” and its  poetic investigation via the stance of the Black Mountain School with his poem.

Nelson helps all attendees to explore the possibilities of language, and especially the long poem as an embodiment of instruction in one’s own life. Course materials, discussions, and work-in-progress all contribute to a sense of participation in the mysteries of the creative process made real and “organic,” to use Levertov’s term. Knowing that Nelson’s course is dispatched from deep in the Cascadia bio-region makes it even better. How wonderful it is to be a part of this.

– Susan Kay Anderson, Fall 2020 Poetics as Cosmology participant

Paul Nelson’s Poetics as Cosmology course was resonant and revelatory. I appreciated Paul’s high expectations for engagement. The workload was significant, and pushed me to meet the material: to engage with the demanding readings, to write a lot each week, and to make space in my life for artist dates. Paul pushed me to live as an artist: all-in, lit up, senses sharp, aware of life’s richness and magic. The experience felt like much more than a weeks-long, online course. It felt like a door onto something very good.

– Laura King, Fall 2020 Poetics as Cosmology participant

Paul Nelson’s organic poetry workshops are less a class than a journey, leading the participant not only to an ingeniously natural method of writing, but to the living energy of the poem itself. And he does this all with humor, profound inclusion and deep knowledge about organic verse, its origins with the Beats & Black Mountain school and its profound applicability to today’s poets. If you want to learn how to clip the strings of your mental editor and free your lines to run where they really want to, take this course.

– Rob Lewis, Fall 2020 Poetics as Cosmology participant

Expect to be surprised. Paul Nelson is a master at opening doors to fresh perspectives on poetry and your relationship with it. His Poetics As Cosmology workshop was challenging, fun, and inspiring. Paul is practically a living library of modern poetry whose depth of knowledge led me to explore readings and recordings of poets who were new to me as well as some I’d loved and forgotten.

The lessons and writing exercises offered insights into different poetic forms and the opportunity to experiment with them, each exercise like walking down a strange new street.  The first writing exercise, a cover of Ed Dorn’s “My Tribe”, blew the lid off any reluctance I had to explore my own mythology. And that was only the beginning. The discussions and laughter shared with Paul and other participants, and hearing some of their poetry, added an even deeper level of richness to the workshop. I came away more confident and more disciplined in how I work and play with my poetry. Highly recommended.

— Carol Keslar

“In any case I’m writing to let you know that I cannot think of a better fit for this position than Paul. I already knew of his intellectual and spiritual generosity but what he did in my 4 hour grad seminar I have not seen before in my life either as a student or a professor: his passion for poetry, his knowledge, his energy, and his capacity to inspire students are a miracle of modern humanities.”

– Pablo Baler, Cal State University at Los Angeles (pdf)

“Paul is a remarkable teacher. His knowledge extends beyond poetry and poets to music, art. and culture in general. His enthusiasm and energy can transform a group of strangers into something like a community in a matter of minutes.”

– Pamela Alexander, Poet, Associate Professor, Oberlin College, OH

“Paul shared his amazing work with taped interviews and it was a rare treat to hear poets talk about the process of writing. Paul did a great job uniting the ideas and energies of famous poets and showing us how we can dwell in that same creative space. I enjoy attending workshops where I am made to feel like I am part of the wonderful creative force of writers. Paul’s workshop validated my own work and gave me insights into how to bring spontaneous energy into my writing practice. I would like to know about other classes Paul will teach to the public.”

– Linda Thompson, Writer, Educator

“Paul Nelson created the best lesson my students have experienced this year. He brought two poets to school who competed in a poetry bout in front of a group of three hundred teenagers here at Eastlake. Afterward Paul, Aundria and David presented a work shop that inspired the students to create their own poetry competition. Three weeks later Paul returned with Andrea to facilitate a bout among twelve students in front of their class mates. The whole thing was electric. There were no grades to motivate the students, but they listened with intensity and respect to each participant’s poetry. Afterward many students came up to me individually to tell me that the experience had been motivating and inspiring. Several students have shown me poems they wrote last night on their own after the bout…”

– Brian Schuessler, Eastlake High School, Sammamish, WA

“…The poets you brought to teach the workshops were inspiring and at the same time encouraging to our audience of all ages and experiences. From the youngest to the oldest, everyone learned and enjoyed. We believe that poetry and the public library belong together and we cannot thank you enough for being willing to bring your team of experts to the University Place Library.”

– Lauren Murphy, Supervising Youth Services Librarian, Pierce County Library System

“Last night was our SPLAB performance at Vashon’s new Youth Council club, the Crux. Wow! It was one of the most amazing, high-energy poetry evenings I’ve ever seen. Paul Nelson energized a diverse audience (ten adults and about 35 teens) and led them through…”– Rayna Holtz, Vashon Island Library

“…Paul, I would like to congratulate you on facilitating this very successful program. The SPLAB! curriculum proved to be very effective with this group and I was truly amazed by the caliber of work produced by these students!…”

– Bonnie Cline, Young Adult Librarian, Auburn Library

“…We first encountered your genius for facilitating meaningful contact with poetry when we participated in the teen Poetry Slam. It was a wonderful, upbeat opportunity for our students to perform their work in a safe, supportive environment, and your tremendous enthusiasm and good cheer made it a complete delight…”

– Cynthia Beebe, Annie Wright School Tacoma, WA

June 18, 2008
Auburn School District
No. 40 915
4th Street NE
Auburn, WA 98002

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing in support of Paul Nelson who is seeking employment with your school district. For the last year, I was Paul’s colleague at the Muckleshoot Tribal College. He worked as an office skills instructor while I worked across the hall as a GED instructor. I had many opportunities to observe his skillful teaching style and inspirational personality, and I was always impressed with his professionalism, expertise, and collegiality.

Paul is an excellent teacher and communicator, and his classroom conduct evidences skills and ease found only in the most experienced instructors. With twenty-six years as a radio broadcaster and over ten years as a poetry instructor, Paul brought a vast and unique array of teaching tools to his office skills position. Paul’s wonderful facility with language, keen awareness of student needs, and ability to make the most mundane office skills a fun learning process are examples of these tools. In addition, he was always prepared if not overprepared.

For all of his classes, which in the last several months were filled over capacity, he prepared PowerPoint presentations as well as online tutorials that were directed to all ability levels and learning styles. That kind of preparation was essential as Paul had students of all ages from vastly different educational backgrounds. Because of his enthusiastic approach, students loved going to Paul’s classes, and they always learned something.

Whenever I observed his classes, the students were always fully engaged and often smiling and laughing. In his tenure at Muckleshoot College, Paul built the office skills program into a popular and successful series of classes, bringing in the most students ever in its history. Some of the reasons for the program’s success include Paul’s flexible scheduling of tutoring and testing sessions, his challenging but fun instruction, his prompt grading of tests and friendly consultations with students, his jovial, yet always professional, manner, and, perhaps, most importantly, his sincere compassion for the Muckleshoot students and the difficulties they face as Native Americans.

Because of his professional, enthusiastic, and friendly demeanor, Paul was an outstanding colleague. In staff meetings, he always articulately reported the news from his program and offered thoughtful insights and analyses for others. He never failed to have a warm greeting in the morning or a friendly farewell in the evening for me and his other colleagues. I am very pleased to wholeheartedly recommend Paul Nelson as an outstanding prospective teacher for your district. I am available anytime during the day to answer any questions you may have. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Todd Johnson
GED Instructor
Muckleshoot Tribal College
(253) 876-2136
(pdf here)