Poetry: What to do with the “I”?
In the middle of the last century, in both prose and poetry, first-person writing emerged as a powerful tool for the progenitors of the feminist/queer and racial equality movements. For these literary figures, writing from the perspective of the “I” was radical; on the page, authors reclaimed their identities, voices, and experience for the sake of announcing the existence of other ways of being—identities formed and communities collected around values that offered alternatives from the white, middle-class, and patriarchal expectations of a changing United States. These works were often simultaneously self-effacing and celebratory of the self in a way that reflected the tensions of living lives on the margins of a fundamentally conservative social world. Though the world has changed, unfortunately, little since these authors rose to prominence, the increasing ubiquity of the poetic and narrative “I” raises questions about its potential (revolutionary) utility. In this cross-genre workshop, students will consider (and reconsider) the instrumentalities of first-person writing. In conversation with work from the likes of authors such as Kathy Acker, Chris Kraus, Audre Lorde, Eileen Myles, Gilles Deleuze, and more, students will generate prose, poetry, and/or hybrid work that de-centers the exceptionalist “I”; in so doing, students will attempt to challenge the capitalist values of individualism, ownership, and saviorism that lay at the root of many historical social problems that still plague our world today.
This workshop-format class will offer students the opportunity to produce writing in response to prompts, readings, and discussion while also providing students the chance to present and receive feedback in conversation with their peers.
About the Instructor: Will Newman
Will Newman is a poet, artist, and educator living in the unceded Lenape territory currently referred to as Philadelphia. Will received their MFA from CUNY-Brooklyn College, their BA from Hamilton College, and their previous writing can be found in The Columbia Journal, The Sonora Review, Fanzine, Prelude, and VICE, among other places. Will is also the managing director of the East Falls Community Garden and teaches high school students English and history. You can find them on the internet @w.m.n.inc and at wmnewmanjr.wixsite.com/uumn.Learn More about Will Newman