West Hurley’s Poetry Barn gives space to verse

Lissa and Christopher Kiernan.

Lissa Kiernan and Christopher Abramides.

The Poetry Barn, a burgeoning literary arts center in West Hurley, aims to connect and inspire Hudson Valley poets through retreats and writing workshops.

Founder Lissa Kiernan, a Brooklyn-based poet, founded the private online poetry community The Rooster Moans in 2007. After graduating from her MFA program in 2011 and mourning the loss of her writing community, Kiernan decided to transform this community into a co-op, and began recruiting professors and poets to teach online writing workshops.

In 2014, Kiernan sought to take her idea of accessible workshops a step further by giving her online business a physical home — after visiting Woodstock on a vacation with her husband, she thought the Catskill Mountains would be the perfect locale. After collecting $3,000 on Indiegogo, the barn is opening its doors two years later.


The building is two stories high; the second floor serves as a workshop space, while the first is filled with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. Kiernan hopes to transform these now-empty shelves into a library exclusively for books of poetry. She estimates that the building can hold 11,000 volumes.

Surrounded by the Ashokan Reservoir and views of the Catskill and Shawangunk mountains, the five-acre property is a scenic setting in which to take up a pen and write.

“I want to give people an opportunity to connect with their muse,” said Kiernan. “I want to throw a spotlight on what a rich area this is. I love this area and I want to share that love with other people. I’m very interested in connecting the barns’ events to its location, landscape, and the rich history of this remarkable area.”

All events last an entire day, from noon until 5 p.m., and begin with communal poetry readings and group craft discussions for inspiration, followed by a two-hour period to eat a catered lunch and a workshop period.

The Poetry Barn is also announcing its inaugural series, “Last Saturdays at the Barn,” which will take place each last Saturday between May and October and will feature events connecting poetry to the Catskills’ cultural legacy.

Their first workshop this Saturday, May 28 — “Skywriting: Poems and Planes” — celebrates the building’s former incarnation as the Harry Everett Smith Memorial Library. Smith, an avant-garde artist, filmmaker, and collector who was a prominent member of the Beat Movement and a close associate of Allan Ginsberg, donated the largest known paper airplane collection to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum. As homage to his passion, poets will write pieces using the themes of flight and transformation on paper airplane templates. The event is open to all ages; admission is $25 and includes materials and refreshments. Advance registration is required. To register, contact Kiernan at (646) 515-0919 or email her at lissakiernan@gmail.com.

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