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This workshop takes self-described “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet” Audre Lorde’s endlessly illuminating short essay “Poetry Is Not a Luxury” as its starting point for the practices of writing poetry in order to live, and of allowing our daily lives, personal and political, to be guided by poetic vision. As Lorde writes: “For women, then, poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action.” In the midst of the year 2020, a time of survival and change during which many of us are both longing for social transformation and cut off from material life, we will use language and ideas to plant the seeds of new realities. In other words, this is a workshop in visionary poetics. Poetry is the “quality of light” that will allow the bulbs we plant in this moment of rupture and stillness to bloom into “more tangible action.”
Through in-session generative writing, guided visualizations, optional outside readings and writing prompts, and sharing and holding space for the dreams, fears, fantasies, longings, and poems of our fellow participants, we will unleash the potential of Lorde’s revolutionary charge. Other poets and seekers who were Lorde’s contemporaries, including Diane di Prima, June Jordan, Sonia Sanchez, and Starhawk, will serve as additional guides along the way. Their writing will be read through an anti-racist lens that, following Lorde's lead, challenges some of the blind spots of late-20th-century poetry and feminist movements.
After the three initial sessions, the workshop might continue in monthly sessions that follow participants’ interests in these introductory materials.
Becca Klaver (she/her) is a writer, teacher, editor, scholar, and literary collaboration conjurer. She is the author of the poetry collections LA Liminal (Kore Press, 2010), Empire Wasted (Bloof Books, 2016), and Ready for the World (Black Lawrence Press, 2020), as well as several chapbooks. A founding editor of Switchback Books, she is currently co-editing, with Arielle Greenberg, the digital anthology Electric Gurlesque. Born and raised in Milwaukee, WI, Becca attended the University of Southern California (BA), Columbia College Chicago (MFA), and Rutgers University (PhD), where her dissertation investigated how women poets across post-1945 U.S. avant-garde movements—Diane di Prima, Sonia Sanchez, Lyn Hejinian, Bernadette Mayer, and Alice Notley—invented poetic forms and processes that responded to the gendered conditions of everyday life. She is currently the Robert P. Dana Director of the Center for the Literary Arts at Cornell College and lives in Iowa City, where she has taught workshops on advice writing and writing about complicated grief for the Free Generative Workshop, and on magic writing through the Iowa Writers’ House.
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