A New York poetry co-op helps aspiring writers

A New York based co-operative is helping established and aspiring writers from all over the world to share in the art of poetry.

A New York based co-operative is helping established and aspiring writers from all over the world to share in the art of poetry.

On World Poetry Day, Co-operative News talked to Lissa Kiernan, founder and Director of a poetry co-operative called The Rooster Moans. The co-op is dedicated to promoting, and inspiring the reading and writing of poetry.

A Brooklyn-based poet, essayist and critic, Lissa founded The Rooster Moans as a private online poetry community back in 2007. 

“I decided to take the site public, as a co-operative in January 2011 when, after graduating from my MFA program, I began to lament the loss of community and the lack of post-graduate continuing education options.”

She started recruiting teaching artists, both emerging and established, to teach on a variety of themes, in accordance with their areas of interest and scholarship.

“In our first year, all but one of our workshops filled to capacity,” she said. 

Co-operation is key to the success of The Rooster Moans. The website became the centre of a cross-cultural network of information sharing on the art of poetry.

It also empowers poets by offering several free workshops each year, and offering a wide range of workshops at a wide range of budgets, starting as low as $50 per workshop.

Through the online platform, teaching artists and students can provide feedback on each other’s work. They are encouraged to post critiques of other members’ poems every week. In this way, explained Lissa, they “are committing to the benefits of working co-operatively”.

They even produced a co-operative poem, to which everyone contributed at the end of one of the workshops.

According to Lissa, more similar co-op initiatives could help to address the lack of post-graduate continuing education options for writers.

“Many people in our community have testified to the hole in their lives that was filled by the presence of The Rooster Moans. More often than not, cost and access were the overriding prohibitive factors, two factors that we’re able to reduce the impact of given our online model and our comparatively low cost of admission,” she said.

She added: “Being a small organisation, it's been challenging to wear so many different hats: administrator, web developer, business person. Occasionally, it's been difficult to find time to write my own poetry. However, myself and several of our teaching artists, particularly our board of advisors – Maureen Alsop, Brenda Mann Hammack, and Susan Yount- attempt to personally take part in as many workshops as possible.”

The Rooster Moans created an online network of artists where there are no hierarchies. 

“It allows the students to see that, regardless of level of experience, we’re all working artists, and that being a published poet doesn’t mean that you don’t still struggle and grapple with your art, and/or obviate the need to revise, revise, revise,” explained Lissa Kiernan.

The motto of The Rooster Moans is “workshops that work”. By co-operating and sharing experience, students and teaching artists share a responsibility in the workshop’s success.

To celebrate World Poetry Month, Rooster Moans is launching a 'non-contest' that stipulates each entry must be accompanied by a recording of the poem. The ‘non-contest’ was announced on World Poetry Day on 21 March and will open for submissions on 1 April, which is the start of National Poetry Month in the US.

“We're calling it a 'non-contest' because we're going to publish every entry that we receive, and allow the entry fee to be payable by donation, asking only that the poets contribute what they feel is fair.”

The poem must include some reference to a “rooster”.

The initiative aims to help poets to publish their work, many struggling to get their poems published for the first time, without regard for cost.

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