A Voice of Initiation, Reconciliation, & Gender Intelligence


Teaching of Robert McDowell

Robert McDowell has taught in Bennington College’s MFA program; at the University of Southern Indiana and UC Santa Cruz; and at writers’ conferences such as the Taos Writers’ Conference, Sewanee Writers Conference, Mendocino Coast Writers Conference, and Donegal Festival.

He has led retreats and workshops at Esalen, Kripalu, Pine Manor Retreat Center, West Chester Conference on Form and NarrativeCalifornia Poets-in-the-Schools, and Killybegs Festival in Ireland.

Topics for Seminars, Workshops, & Retreats

Initiation Rites for Boys and Men

This workshop, seminar, or retreat invites boys and men to discover rituals that lead to adulthood and independence. Along the way, participants also experience the healing of old wounds and learn how to build better relationships with mothers, sisters, coworkers, friends, and partners.

Poetry As Spiritual Practice

Based on Robert McDowell’s bestselling book, Robert guides participants in search of their soul poems, helping them discover the core language of their spiritual foundations. This workshop accommodates practitioners of any religion, including none at all.

The Art of Revision

As editor of more than 300 books by winners of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, and NBCC Award as well as books by newcomers and mid-career authors, McDowell shares revision strategies for your work in poetry and prose.

The Voice Celestial

This workshop focuses on the epic poem, The Voice Celestial, by Ernest Holmes, who cofounded the Science of Mind movement with his brother Fenwicke Holmes. We explore the stories, themes, verse structures, and antecedents of this thought-provoking poem and its bedrock role in the science of mind community. You will leave with a deeper understanding of both faith and poetry.

Saint Francis and the Leper: Overcoming Obstacles That Paralyze You

Everyone has a problem, and most of us have many. No matter how positively others may perceive our lives, there is always something. It may be relatively mild like the inability to grasp a particular computer program. It could simply be that you just don’t like golf or tennis or spelunking as much as your partner. Or it might be a darker, corrosive secret you’ve harbored since childhood.

Even the saintly are not immune. As a young monk, Francis of Assisi cloaked a shameful secret that called into question his faith and nearly destroyed him. Only a revelatory moment of extraordinary courage saved Francis from a life of resigned bitterness and oblivion. Like Francis, you, too, can confront your greatest fears—and poetry can help.

The Five Surprises: What Calls You to Transformation

Imagine, in the span of a week, a series of punishing events—a tire blows out at 80 mph, a closet unit collapses, you’re laid off, and your debit card is compromised. How would you react? Is it time to drink the hemlock mixture? Lie down on a busy highway? Curl into the fetal position and sob into your pillow? Or is it a grand occasion for rebirth, a gilded opportunity to change the things in your life that need changing? Are you being punished for your transgressions—or is the world calling you with the good news to wake up. It’s Now, and it’s time to change! When we’re facing occasions that feel like death knells or joyful invitations, the most important thing is what we do with them. Poems have a lot of answers.

Are You Afraid of Poetry?

McDowell shares secrets, prying open our desire to write poetry and overcoming our self-consciousness that gets in the way. This talk/workshop clears obstacles and transforms fear into courageous, joyful action.