SwampFire Retreat for Artists and Writers


10th annual retreat, 14-16 July 2017

As in 2016, this year's retreat included a dozen participants. The weather was again perfect, mild by both day and night. Just beyond the 4 Corners Gallery grounds we enjoyed viewing a ripened wheat field . . . a wonder that it had not yet been cut.

The Friday and Saturday evening critique sessions were very productive, and the food . . . oh, the food that participants brought and shared was wonderful, a feast of salads inspired by recipes from around the world, brats, collard greens, sweet potatoes baked in the campfire and other Thanksgiving dishes. And of course we toasted marshmallows and enjoyed s'mores under the stars.

Steve Smith in his element. His thoughts on SwampFire:

Every year is different. This year I actually wrote more than other years, but it wasn’t sharable. I’ve been playing with personal erotica for a friend of mine, and it’s been interesting because it’s the first time I’ve actually opened up to almost anyone. I’m very guarded and keep things close to the chest. What was an interesting observation to me was Dawn’s ability in the “Persimmons” piece she read to open up very deeply, but a different kind of depth, understandable in a different way.

It’s the interaction between the people that matters. I miss Rachel so much. I miss MC. For the first ten minutes that first hug is so comforting to me. For me to be able to facilitate a place where such comfort can happen, to be able to share what I’m so lucky to have, it’s important. I grew up very poor. My mother was very good in that you share what you have. It makes me sweep the floor to get ready . . .

Mey Hasbrook's 2017 photos: Near the ripened wheat

Mey Hasbrook

Sunrise upon the wheat
field rolling golden
pair of deer traverse
leaping between pauses

A woodchuck peers
with white-rimmed nose
briefly obscured
then bounding brush

Another morning golden
two pair of heron fly
we humans gaze above
we are mesmerized

June bug and firefly
wooly caterpillar and woodpecker
commonplace beauties
as we converge another year

Thank you for the fire
thank you for the fun
thank you for co-creating Beauty
glowing gift that follows us home.

Jennifer Repka

I didn’t know what to expect when I was invited. What awaited me and what the experience, these were two separate ideas in my mind. Would I be surrounded by students? Would I be subjected to a summer camp schedule? The answers were yes and no. Everyone is a student, but they are free to learn. What they do during their time here is up to them. Their whims a muse. What awaited me was freedom, and what that freedom contained was creativity. I am very happy to have come and shared my art and humor. If able, I would like to return. Please keep following your whims.

Marcy Bauman

Thanks for the support and suggestions! This 72 hours of living-as-a-writer will sustain me for months.

Andrea England

SwampFire inventory 2017

The deer huff at our interference
Beyonce has her twins: Sir and Rumi (a girl)!
Raccoon click at cantaloupe rinds
Dawn didn’t drop any bratwurst
S’mores! Marcy’s Turkish potato salad
The stars busk all night to diminish.

Joyce Meier

Such a wonderful gathering! Talk about art, poetry, writing, processes, processing. So much to absorb—and such great inspiration too.
All best,
P.S. Thanks to MC and Dawn for making this such an open, generative space! And Steve for hosting so generously.

Lenore Doctor

Vulnerable Me

Alas, I’m muddled in my head
Amidst the intellectual talk
Should I have stayed at home instead
Of camping where I have to walk

My writing’s simple, old and terse
No obscure allusions, compact prose
There’s no real reason for my verse
Nor camping causing “cilly” toes

Community of writers, poets
Kindred souls who cook good food
Critics, potters, all who know it
Make a team to form, exude

I’m old and write whatever moves me
Be careful when you light into me.

Rachel Baker

2017 — Tenth SwampFire!

This has been truly a rejuvenating weekend! The company is, as always, enjoyable, and the conversations push boundaries, whether we’re offering critique on a piece or sharing life experiences. I didn’t write much, but being here was what I needed to inspire me into another year of creativity.

Becky Miller

SwampFire 2017 — 10th gathering

I’m here. I’m here and I wanted to be here. I do not feel the weight of opinions or conceptions. Instead, I feel appreciation and joy, gratitude at how the steadiness and happiness that is visible can actually stem from within me, to you, to everyone. I was silent and I spoke. I read and I responded, but all that matters is that I’m here. I’m here and I am me.

Linda Bale

Many memories made

Many memories held
in the heart

So close

So far apart

Dawn Comer

So GladJuly 16, 2017

I am so glad for SwampFire!
For ten years — TEN! — of gatherings.
These gifts.
This grace.
So glad for the flow of words.
On page.
Around circle.
Among friends.
So glad for a place to share and
stretch and grow
In myself.

Walking a wheat field.
Breaking bread with my tribe.
So glad that SwampFire too
stretches and grows.
Being always in this moment.
This moment being always in motion.
Honoring all that has come before.
Expectant for the next year
while holding no expectation.
So glad. So very, very glad.

Mary Catherine Harper

SwampFire keeps getting better and better. I feel such gratitude for all the artists who come to share their time, their insights, their joyful creativity.

Thank you, SwampFire Tribe.

Thank you, Dragonfly and Deer, for sharing your home with all of us two-legged critters.

Steve Smith

. . . There are benefits beyond the interactions. It’s kind of a cleansing every year. Not just physically. It helps me clear out my head. I’m so isolated as an artist without Doug Fiely around. It’s a very good insight for me to see the creative process in a different way. I’m dreadfully missing teaching. I miss encouraging students to grow. That’s what the night circle is for . . .when some kind of language comes, this is cool. That’s what I miss about teaching.


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