School of Guerilla Poetics
w/ Yolanda Wisher
Muriel Rukeyser said that “In school we learn how precious poetry is, how important it is to civilization, but we are not taught how to use it.” This weekend intensive will explore some of the precious and practical uses of poetry beyond the Norton Anthology and MFA. If you are interested in cultivating a public poetry practice in settings like schools and parks, train stations, Laundromats, prisons, and shelters; if you want to work with integrity as a poet with marginalized and vulnerable communities; if you want to respectfully reach and revolutionize communities with poetry through event organizing and digital platforms, this course is for you. Philly iconography—row houses, stoops, and sneakers on telephone lines will frame our study of the poetry reading, the workshop, and the festival as three modes of civic engagement and community organizing. Guest speakers and a course pack of poems and essays rooted in a lineage of “poetry for the people” movements in Philly and beyond will root our conversations. Each class will feature a curated panel discussion with poets who have been active in community spaces and programs in Philadelphia.
Cost: $250 (financial aid available)
Schedule: September 14, 10-4 pm (w/lunch break), September 15 10-4pm (w/lunch break)
6-10 students (need 6 students to run)
Registration: Rolling, by application, closes August 26, 2019
To apply: email a little bit about you to email@example.com. If applying for financial aid, please also fill out this form.
Questions this course will explore:
—How are poets working outside of traditional academic spaces to promote poetry, catalyze it, and widen its audience? What other paths are available to poets besides college/university study and teaching and publication? How are poets both private/public cultural producers and what is their responsibility to the communities they are part of? How can we shape learning experiences and events around poetry that break with elitist assumptions and are inclusive to folks of various educational and cultural backgrounds? As a poet who wants to do more than write, how do you engage others in poetry in a way that centers open interpretation, personal voice, and welcomes lenses of race, gender, sexuality, culture, politics, colonialism, trauma, etc.? What makes poetry readings, workshops, and festivals effective vehicles for community organizing and what are the possibilities and/or limitations of their impact? What does “poetry for the people” look like in 2019 and beyond? What can we learn from radical grassroots movements involving poetry in the past? How can we better acknowledge, resource, and sustain the invisible public labor and contributions of poets?
Experimental and generative, this course will function as kitchen table, lab, and stage, with an emphasis on reflection and collaboration. We will start and end the session with writing in response to creative prompts. Participants will play a role in documenting Philadelphia’s tradition of community poetics for future audiences through their own written reflections on the reading and panels. They will also work in pairs to conduct interviews with one or more of our guest speakers. Our work together will be messy, moving, poignant, tender, powerful, and unfinished. This is a school for the unschooled or the refused to be schooled. All walks of life and levels welcome.
YOLANDA WISHER is the author of Monk Eats an Afro (Hanging Loose Press, 2014) and the co-editor of Peace is a Haiku Song (Philadelphia Mural Arts, 2013). Wisher was named the inaugural Poet Laureate of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania in 1999 and the third Poet Laureate of Philadelphia in 2016. A Pew and Cave Canem Fellow, she has been a Writer in Residence at Hedgebrook and Aspen Words. Wisher taught high school English for a decade, served as Director of Art Education for Philadelphia Mural Arts, and was the 2017-2018 CPCW Fellow in Poetics and Poetic Practice at the University of Pennsylvania. Wisher founded and directed the Germantown Poetry and Outbound Poetry Festivals and currently works as the Curator of Spoken Word at Philadelphia Contemporary. She regularly performs a unique blend of poetry and song with her band The Afroeaters and is part of the first cohort of artists with studios at the Cherry Street Pier on the Delaware River Waterfront.