Know Thyself: Poetry of Personal Witness
Those silent places we inhabit are places where we can learn to better listen—to self and to others. In this workshop we turn within, using poetry to cultivate greater attention and embodiment. You will incorporate meditation into your writing process. You will be provided with essays and talks by such writers and thinkers as Audre Lorde, Laraine Herring, and Rev. angel Kyodo williams Sensei on topics ranging from writing with the breath to the transformation of silence to the power of radical love.
Such texts will spark our discussions and offer opportunities for you to engage routes of critical personal inquiry, helping you to find source material for your poems. Examples from contemporary poets delving into their own subjectivity will model for you ways to begin and language that is emotionally rich and speaks distinctly of one’s life.
In a workshop about witnessing and transformation, I’m interested in having you shift the grammar of your lives to the anagrammatical. So based on our theme for the week, anagrams will be provided as prompts. Anagrammatical words are fascinating because they teach us to see how letters can be rearranged to give us another word and therefore another meaning. This can help you create different associations, alert you to memories you may have redacted, and alter how you’ve perceived events that have shaped you.
This workshop is perfect for beginners and advanced writers wanting to find fresh ways to write about experiences that have impacted you deeply but you’ve avoided, and memoir writers who want to write across genres to emotionally access memorable events that you find difficult to render in prose.
Cave Canem graduate fellow Arisa White received her MFA from UMass, Amherst, and is the author of You’re the Most Beautiful Thing That Happened, Black Pearl, A Penny Saved, Hurrah’s Nest, and Post Pardon. With funding from the City of Oakland, Post Pardon was adapted into an opera. Hurrah's Nest won the 2012 San Francisco Book Festival Award and was nominated for a 44th NAACP Image Award, the 82nd California Book Awards, and the 2013 Wheatley Book Awards. Her latest collection You’re the Most Beautiful Thing That Happened is a finalist for a 29th Lambda Literary Award. She teaches in the low-residency BFA program at Goddard College, is on the board of directors for Nomadic Press, and is a distinguished visiting writer in residence at Saint Mary’s College of California.
Arisa is the creator of the Beautiful Things Projects, which is a series of poetic collaborations with queer/POC artists, community organizations, and businesses that spotlight the narratives and experiences of queer people of color. She has received residencies, fellowships, or scholarships from Headlands Center for the Arts, Port Townsend Writers’ Conference, Rose O’Neill Literary House, Squaw Valley Community of Writers, Hedgebrook, Atlantic Center for the Arts, Prague Summer Program, Fine Arts Work Center, and Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. A recipient of an Investing in Artist Grant from the Center for Cultural Innovation, her poetry has been widely published and is featured on the recording WORD with the Jessica Jones Quartet.