Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Poetry Deep Like the Rivers: Socially Conscious Poetry with David Salner

New workshop leader David Salner is our guest today. He has worked as an iron ore miner, furnace tender, machinist, and garment worker--and he's a longtime activist in social struggles. He holds an MFA from the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop. His fourth collection, John Henry’s Partner Speaks, was published in 2008, and his poems have appeared in The Iowa Review, North American Review, Threepenny Review, Poetry Daily, Prairie Schooner, and many other journals. He has received grants from the Maryland State Arts Council and the Puffin Foundation.

His workshop, Poetry Deep Like the Rivers: Socially Conscious Poetry, begins October 10.

To me it is a no-brainer that poetry needs a social conscience. First and foremost among art forms, it derives its creative impulse from the lives of ordinary people. It should be a lively art form, based on the good nature and genius of humanity. But the assertion of our humanity in the face of an oppressive society implies resistance. How this is reflected in poetry will be the topic of this workshop. It is a rich topic. There are countless examples of powerful poems taking up the African-American experience, the status of women, war, and working class issues. The environment and gay rights also informs many fine poems. Through the course of this four-session class we will pinpoint the tools that make socially conscious poetry work.

The course is open to non-writers, but about 20 % of it will be based on developing our own socially conscious poetry and workshopping the results. Everyone will have the opportunity to develop poems based on writing exercises and to bring in previously written poems.

Together, we will look at the roots of antiwar poetry in the twentieth century and today’s antiwar poems. We will discuss the irrepressible genius of such divergent poets as Robert Hayden, Dudley Randall, Dorianne Laux, and Shirley Geok-lin Lim. We will watch video clips of Lucille Clifton and Philip Levine and discuss their poetry and their perspectives on poetry. Time will be available for all workshop participants to present their favorite poems for discussion.

By the end of this class, we will have taken up important background questions: Is protest poetry a valid form? How much weight must poets give to the arguments of those who urge art for art’s sake? And what about the controversies stirred up by poets like Allen Ginsberg and Amiri Baraka?

America is a brutal society, where creativity is crushed and hopes imprisoned. Does that mean poetry is impossible in such an environment? Join this workshop and help celebrate the creativity of human resistance!

Note: Copies of the poems we will be studying will be distributed; a class outline will be available at the first session.

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