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Blogging offers a forum for writing about the many interesting things that happen, it hardly needs mentioning. An enlightening moment in a workshop, a sudden insight on how a favorite poet went about constructing images, an article from another literary tradition that calls for a response.

These come from outside, and still I need a correlative internal excitement for the blog to get written. That might come while backpacking, or in conversation with a friend, or waking at 5am with thoughts stirring in my head, some response I had no idea was brewing. Sometimes a half dozen events happen in a row, and I blog half of these. Sometimes several months go by and there are no posts.

“Sudden Wind and Moonlight” is the general file for literary and personal events, high points of a reading and even dreams or thoughts about my creative process. “Writing Highway 395” focuses on the beauty of the east side of the Sierra and the inspirational times we have there. “Writing Occupy” at first kept pace with the movement and notices now that Occupy activity is spotted around the country. Insights in the blog, in the best of all possible worlds, would add to this transformative movement.

Clive’s work


What I set out to do, as a poet, started changing within a couple of years. My neo-Beat poetry begged to be expanded beyond its hip ethos, then my political family background came to the fore and asked that I write in an open form and communicate more clearly, next my interest in the sonnet captivated me, combined with a deepening meditation practice.

These and similar changes kept me learning and growing through the later 1900s and into the twenty teens. Along the way I began writing fiction, essays, and plays. Among the many changes, among the minor and the sweeping changes, the most transformative event was happening on the Chalcedony poems.

These affirm the considerations that emerge as consistent through all my work. They also give me confidence in my voice, which comes through most strongly in those poems, and has migrated into the rest of my work. What are these considerations? An interest in consciousness, in passion, in the body, in being as complete a being in life as I can, as if I am called upon to be a guide.

This role asks an honesty and an authenticity I aspire to constantly.



Poems are a way of identifying what’s happening, often in conversation with oneself, or with others. What do you hold dear, what needs to be said this moment? Our observations, for me, seemed the first accurate ones ever, as we shed the trance of World War II and the 1950s. Interesting to be young and growing, in consonance with the culture’s evolution, wherever that growth has taken us.

Writing poetry is a journey into form and into unknowable material. Guides are Olson’s “The line is a score of your personal breath” and Creeley’s “Form is never more than an expression of content,” plus the visual improvisations of John Wieners and Ginsberg’s broad sprawl. Exactly how does one best express what’s crucial?

Beginning a poem begins a new and ageless journey. If the journey is not pristine, we’re not tuned in. My background contains strong tugs toward Wieners’ exact statement of feeling, van Buskirk’s personal, apocalyptic vision, then the social power of Bob Dylan, feminism, radical politics, meditation, sonnets, and spoken word, alongside study of Eliot, the Greeks, Shakespeare, the anthologies. Chalcedony’s voice, a woman’s, somehow grounded me and inspired a rediscovery of passion. I started using the form of early poems and speaking in a more authentic voice, whether female or male.

The honesty, passion, and justice of the Beats, responsibility in answering a general need for authenticity, along with an unswerving focus on the topic and how to present it without distractions. These values seem undying to me. The image itself, the emotion itself, and the evolution embedded in them. How to follow it.

UC Extension

Exploring Creative Writing

This ten-week course through the UC Berkeley Extension for beginning writers helps you assess your potential, identify your strengths, and learn valuable writing techniques. Class exercises and weekly writing assignments help you discover your talents in a variety of forms: short fictional scenes, short story, poetry, and journalistic writing. A supportive atmosphere enables you to see how others respond to your writing. On completion, you should have a clearer sense of your writing strengths and directions to take for more advanced courses.

“Exploring Your Creative Writing Potential” was a remarkable experience. Over the summer I watched the group of us – beginning writers to experienced, ages ranging from early twenties through mid-seventies – transform in confidence, creativity, and authentic expression. Clive’s technique of identifying writers’ strengths and building on them created an environment of trust and enthusiasm that nourished us all.  It was an experience that will enrich my writing for life.”  – Sally Bolger, 2012

The next session starts on Tuesday, February 5, ends April 9, 2019, 6:30 – 9:30, UC Berkeley Extension Golden Bear Center, 1995 University Ave, Conference Room 2.

$: 640 UC Berkeley Extension English X438-Section 023 Enroll here

Required textbook for the class: Let the Crazy Child Write!

Contact Clive at (510) 508-5149 if you have questions about this class.

Developing Your Creative Writing

Gain confidence in your creative writing abilities before joining a more focused group. If you’ve completed Exploring Creative Writing ENGLISH X438 or an equivalent course, or you’ve learned creative writing techniques on your own, then you’re ready for the next step. Strengthen your foundation in the basics for all genres, stories, poems, essays, novels, memoirs or blogs, and prepare for an intermediate or an advanced class.

The next session TBD
$: 640 UC Berkeley Extension: EDP:X438-016 Enroll here

Required textbook for the class:  Let the Crazy Child Write!

Contact Clive if you have questions about this class.


10-Week Workshops: Poetry, prose, plays, nonfiction

Bring copies of your work in progress – journal, story, poem, novel, play or essay. Read it aloud and take notes as the workshop quotes your own most powerful lines back to you. This not only supports your strengths, it immerses the workshop more deeply in your piece. As one person repeats an image, I hear it again, review my own reaction, and sink closer to your intent. The syngenetic (having the same origin) workshop furthers your work with feedback from the same place – as much as possible – as the primary impulse of your writing.

We’ll next ask a question like, “How does this character help the piece?” “What is the piece about?” “What is the function of that image?” and address the structure of your piece. You will pick up one or two rewrite suggestions – which you are free to apply, ignore, or use in a later piece. The workshop will quickly tune into your strengths and weaknesses, and you will find that your writing skills improve dramatically.

Workshops meet in Temescal District, Oakland

Fee: $400
Also included in these sessions are one-day workshops,
10am to 5pm Saturdays.

Monday workshops take place 7:00 to 10:00pm.

Wednesday workshops take place 7:00 to 10:00pm.


We encourage participants to bring their writing, including prose, to Poetry Saloons (drunk on poetry!)
472 44th Street, Oakland
6:00pm potluck, 7:30pm reading
Every second Friday of the month.

Contact Clive to join one of these classes.


Targeted workshops

Structure of Large Work

If you think you might write a novel or a screenplay, or if you’ve begun working on one, or if you’ve finished a first draft, this workshop is for you.

We’ll read The Writers Journey by Christopher Vogel, The Screenwriters Workbook by Syd Field, and refer to Theory of Fiction by Henry James. Each session I’ll give a short talk on a topic, followed by a discussion. Then we’ll proceed with a syngenetic workshop, looking especially at how well our work incorporates the week’s topic. Bring in copies of up to ten pages, double-spaced.

The first five topics, from a folder of many topics, are below. In the second half of the series we’ll choose topics according to what we need..

  • Whose Story is It? – identify and define the main characters, including strengths and flaws.
  • What’s at Stake? – some gripping problem, as family, identity, fortune, love, life, death.
  • Plot Works through Character – the characters need to change as the problem evolves.
  • Sequence of Challenges – the hurdles faced should follow each other in an organic way.
  • Subplot – a second story should be an enhancement or a counterpoint to the main story.

Fridays, 10:00am-1:00pm, starting November 14th.
Limited to six writers. Fee: $400 for ten sessions.
Contact Clive at (510)508-5149 for current series.
For a commentary on the class, see the blog entry Structure of Large Work.

The Novel’s Arc

In this workshop we’ll address the main issue that eludes us in our weekly classes: How well does your novel work as a whole? We’ll read one of our novels, meet for two hours and track how the essential components are developed throughout the novel. So far, in our other group, we’ve been able to give a comprehensive picture both of how well the novel is working and what it needs to arrive at a higher level, all in a single meeting. The next month we’ll do the same with another novel.

Some of the questions we’ll ask: Does your theme grab the reader’s attention from the start? Is the voice consistent, and do the visuals create a powerful movie? Does the plot keep the reader turning the pages? Do your characters develop in a compelling manner? Does dialogue move the plot forward and deepen your characters, while it’s both engaging and seems real? Does the pacing work in concert with the plot? Is the resolution satisfying?

Notice we won’t make any marketing decisions about the book (as, more sex, or more violence, or less of either) but only say honestly how we, as conscious, sentient beings, respond to the book.

Contact Clive at (510)508-5149 to join.

Fee: $500


  1. You have at least draft number one of a novel complete, with line editing already done.
  2. You can print out five copies of your novel.
  3. You subscribe to the notion that reading and discussing three peers’ novels will aid your understanding of your own novel.
  4. You commit to reading a novel once a month.

Short Story Workshops

We’ll examine elements of the short story and see how they are employed in examples of very short stories. These three to four page stories cover six minutes to six months of time. The various strategies used are fascinating. We’ll do a draft of at least one story on the first day of this two day workshop (two consecutive Saturdays). On the following Saturday, we’ll see how well the story elements are working in your draft. After these two days, you should take off with your short story writing skills.

We are careful to establish a warm and inviting atmosphere where even the rawest and shyest of writers can flourish and feel proud of what they accomplish. I expect, as usual, eight or ten people (including some of brave beginners), much exciting writing, and fun to boot.

Cost: $150.00

Contact Clive if you want to join or set one up.

One-day Crazy Child workshops


Note: this workshop is included if you’re in a 10-week workshop or in a novel workshop. Note also that the nonprofit WordSwell will accept teachers-in-training at a reduced fee.

We’ll establish an inviting atmosphere, one so comfortable even the shyest writers can flourish and feel proud of what they accomplish. As usual, I expect eight or ten people, much exciting writing, and fun to boot. Fee: $80 (no one will be turned away for lack of funds).

This workshop will help you get started on creative writing of any sort — poems, stories, personal essays, plays, novels. The history and underpinnings of what we do is spelled out in Let the Crazy Child Write! (New World Library, 1998) or, briefly, in “Preface” and “Chapter One” at the website http://matsonpoet.com.

We recognize three voices in the writer’s psyche: “Editor,” “Writer,” and “Crazy Child” — or creative unconscious. The Editor is the “should ” voice, as in you should write everything perfectly the first time, you should make money with your writing, you should make no spelling errors. The Writer organizes your writing life, finds blank paper and pens that work, makes time to sit at the computer or go to a coffeehouse with your notebook. The Crazy Child is the urge to write, that itch in your psyche or body that wants to get out into the world. We’ll tell the Editor and Writer to take a walk and let your Crazy Child write whatever it wants.

Our Writers and Editors may be fine at their jobs, but they often get involved too early in our writing. By letting the Crazy Child write whatever it wants, we’ll produce energetic and enlightening rough drafts. These drafts will display our strengths, our passion and our most deeply held beliefs, and they are usually strongly stated. When we repeat your most vivid lines back to you, you’ll discover that you are doing at least one or two things very well. You’ll find your Crazy Child is smarter and far better organized than the Editor and Writer might think.

Any questions? Or you’d like to register, and need directions? Phone 510-508-5149, late afternoon is best, or email clive@matsonpoet.com.


2-Busy-2-Write Writers’ Group

Every other Tuesday.

These mini-Crazy Child Workshops meet at 7-9pm on a Tuesday night for those who are too busy to otherwise do the writing they love. Clive will introduce an exercise and then leave the writers in piece for a whole hour. The second hour is for sharing writers’ work.

The suggested donation is $20 per workshop. (If you bring healthy cookies to share, suggested donation is less.) RSVP to Clive at (510) 508-5149 or email clive@matsonpoet.com.

The Mind-Body Crazy Child One-Day Workshop

We are close to our creative source when the child within speaks its mind and ignores any critical or editorial voices.

In the spirit of the Crazy Child and the Rebel Saint, this workshop will combine Clive’s synergetic teaching style – opening ourselves and writing up to positive group reflection – with Tressa’s meditations that will guide us to a more spacious opening within.  These outer and inner techniques, when combined, are a doorway to creative impulses that are often blocked by the “noise” of everyday life.  Relaxing and quieting the mind, tapping into body sensations (feelings), we are more attuned to what the Crazy Child wants to express through writing.  To Be and Become Writing.

Cost is $85. Contact (415)668-0122.


Tressa Berman, Ph.D. is an anthropologist, author and dharma practitioner.  She has worked with cultural creatives around the world – from the red desert of Australia to the Midnight Sun of northern Norway.  A former student of Zen Master Sasaki Roshi, she was ordained as a lay monk at the San Francisco Zen Center, and is currently in Vipassana training at Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society.


mind body crazy child background art



Do you ever wonder how Sylvia Plath or Dylan Thomas did such remarkable writing? They were so close to their creativity they may simply have recorded the images rising through their minds. In these workshops we call that creative source the “Crazy Child” and we avoid the usual editorial judgments. We let that Child write! No matter if it is stories, poems, a play, songs or an ecstatic essay, the Child’s word will likely contain our most vivid writing. Technically, this kind of writing is proprioceptive ~ dealing with the stories contained in our nervous systems; it is unpredictable and imparts texture, flair and power to language. For beginners, for intermediate writiers and for professionals who want to expand their horizons.

The Syngenetic Workshop

When we share our writing, the workshop will inform us – more quickly than we could discover on our own – exactly what that memorable writing is. The workshops are “syngenetic” – our feedback is designed to mirror to the author what the reader hears. “Syngenetic” means “with a similar origin”; the workshop’s effort is to learn the primary impulse of your writing and help it come to fruition. Positive feedback deepens everyone’s understanding of your words as we hear what others find memorable — and thus gives a valid foundation from which to make comments. Our goal is to offer two or three suggestions for your next revision, or two or three techniques to keep in mind as you continue your writing. These workshops have evolved over the last fifteen years from Peter Elbow’s “teacherless class.”


To register and for information on the Workshops, contact Clive Matson:


Payment accepted through Paypal. Please click on the button below and pay to Clive Matson’s account (associated email address:clive@matsonpoet.com).

Personal coaching


Clive is available for personal, one-on-one coaching. Rates for independent instruction are $50.00 per hour; please contact Clive to discuss. (510-508-5149/clive@matsonpoet.com)

Payment accepted through Paypal. Please click on the button below and pay to Clive Matson’s account (associated email address:clive@matsonpoet.com).

Writing Highway 395

Writing Highway 395

August 10-17, 2019, June Lake, California

Cost: $700 ($50 discount to the first three people who register)

A glorious eight-day camping adventure dedicated to the creative process as nurtured by the mountain air. Intensive focus on your writing, exploring the eastern side of the California Sierra, creating a small and dedicated community with other writers – there’s room for it all in this workshop!

At June Lake, with the snow-clad Sierra as a backdrop among the pines and boulders strewn along the ridges, intrepid writers will create a positive, supportive, dynamic community in the wilderness. As the instructor, Clive will draw on many years’ experience helping writers merge words with the power of their creative unconscious. Writers will sprawl across our campsite with notebooks and laptops and go deep into favorite projects, or ease into discovery of something new, encouraged by the birdsong and sway of the pines.

Information and registration: Writing Highway 395 website

Contact Clive for more information.

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