Speaking Of and Through: The Poet and the Archive Winter 2022

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Documentary poetry is a mode of reading, a way of beholding, changing, and revealing a text to the world. It asks the question of how to read–and write–history with a poet’s attention to words. Whether using military dictionaries or legal documents, writers have turned to primary sources as a means of speaking of and through the language that can be found around us. Archives need not be reduced to institutions either–they can be diaries, oral interviews, or news article titles. There are stories around us in the language we take for granted every day. The documentary poet writes with them. This class is a hybrid writing workshop and seminar on what is known as documentary poetry, and it will challenge you to gather and write with three kinds of archives: a daily journal, weekly in-class writing assignments, and a final project working with an existing archive of your choice. Each week, we will explore documentary poetry techniques through selections by M. NourbeSe Philip, Robin Coste Lewis, Layli Long Soldier, and Solmaz Sharif, considering their various craft decisions while experimenting together in class. We will also workshop pieces from everyone’s ongoing projects, culminating in a final presentation of each person’s work.
The Class: Format: lecture
Limit: 12
Grading: pass/fail only
Requirements/Evaluation: daily journal--20% In-class writing--20% reading reflections--25% final Project--25% final Presentation--10%
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: preference to students with previous creative writing experience, then seniority
Unit Notes: Yanyi is the author of DREAM OF THE DIVIDED FIELD (One World Random House 2022) and THE YEAR OF BLUE WATER (Yale 2019), winner of the 2018 Yale Series of Younger Poets Prize, a finalist for the 2020 Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Poetry, and one of New York Public Library's Best Poetry Books of 2019. His work has appeared in NPR's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, GRANTA, and A PUBLIC SPACE, among others, and he gives creative writing advice at THE READING.
Materials/Lab Fee: $10

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