New 6-Week Online Course | June 14- July 25th, 2017
Hosted by the Transformative Language Arts Network

The Poetics of Witness: Writing Beyond the Self.

Often as writers, we seek to extend our voice beyond the boundaries of self, hoping to capture and translate the texture of life beyond our skin. Inherent in this work is the omnipresent question: how can I, in the body I live in, bring the stories of others to life in a way that authentically captures their culture, offerings, three dimensional representation and unique perspectives?

In The Poetics of Witness workshop we will investigate the power inherent when other people's stories enter our hands, specifically through the lens of news and creative writing. 

We’ll write a poem/short prose piece weekly in response to a world event, or stories that we’ve bore witness to first hand, and present work for feedback and supportive, but probing, commentary. In each session, we’ll also examine work (mostly poetry) by published poets of witness from diverse backgrounds, styles, professional and creative approaches including Carolyn Forche, Juan Felipe Herrera, Elana Bell, Patricia Smith, Denise Levertov, CD Wright, June Jordan, Tarifa Faizullah and John Murillo, among others.

Our goal is to create a space that is both brave and safe enough to question and rub up against the sticky parts of this work: ethics, fears and challenges, with support and warmth.

Session Overview

Week One: Poetry of Witness: history, future & methodology  
Week Two: Translating Our Stories: bearing witness to our own truths
Week Three: Oral History Poems: interviews as poetic source material
Week Four: Persona Poems: inventing characters ethically
Week Five: Manifestos: creating powerful political statements  
Week Six: Odes & Praise Poems: using joy as a tool of illumination

If you’re curious about the act of poetry as witness, click here for a packet of multi-step introductory prompts, reflective questions, stories, poems and resources to help you enter the conversation.