Poetry and the town of La Conner have a long history. For the past two decades, the Skagit River Poetry Festival has brought some of the world’s finest poets to this quiet town in May for four days of workshops, readings and conversations about poetry.

Recently, I discovered that La Conner is also home to an annual writing retreat for women called “Poets on the Coast” hosted by Kelli Russell Agodon and Susan Rich. Feeling nostalgic for the festival buzz and a little stagnant in my own writing (I am a new mom with limited writing time these days) I signed up to participate this past September.


Kelli Russell Agodon (left) and Susan Rich (right)

The retreat is designed for writers of all levels and has been offered for several years. As I arrived to the opening reception it quickly became clear that there were many returning participants as well as some newbies to the group, like myself.

The atmosphere was welcoming and jovial and I was introduced to several women right away that spanned in age from 20 to 70-something. During the reception each poet was asked to share a poem. I was immediately struck by the depth and breadth of writers in the room and was excited to be surrounded by so many poetry lovers!

Agodon and Rich are beautiful poets themselves and also great advocates of literary citizenship, a topic we discussed at the retreat. In addition to their multiple books of poetry, Rich created and hosts WordsWest, a reading series in West Seattle and Agodon is co-founder and editor of Two Sylvias Press which also offers regular, online writing retreats and resources for poets.


In the second day of the retreat we dove into generative exercises that proved to be quite fruitful. Both Rich and Agodon are extremely generous with their ideas and support and as a group we explored a range of writing prompts that were original, exciting and, at least in my case, effective. I walked away from the day with four solid poem drafts, which I did not expect.

Both poets also offer a master class as well as one-on-one consultations during the retreat. While I was not able to participate in the last day due to previous commitments, the other participants had the opportunity to review each other’s poems in a smaller workshop session.


Poets on the Coast is held at The Country Inn in La Conner

The retreat celebrates the resources of the town as well. Many of the poets visited the current exhibit at the Museum of Northwest Art (MONA) and wrote ekphrastic poetry in response to the artwork. Education Director for MONA, Jasmine Valandani, publishes the collection of poems each year on their website. You can enjoy the 2016 poems here.

The next Skagit River Poetry Festival is in 2018, but until then it is refreshing to see the town of La Conner come alive with this dynamic group of poets. Agodon and Rich are passionate teachers and the familial atmosphere of this retreat allows for many opportunities to write and enliven your writing practice.

If you are interested in participating registration for 2017 is now open.

By Jessica Gigot