-By Tyler West
Racial tensions have long been vocalized through poetry—from Paul Lawrence Dunbar’s raw recanting of the brutality of slavery in Sympathy, to the anonymous Japanese-American poet’s penning of That Damned Fence at the Poston Japanese Internment Camp—poetic verse has long given the victims of racial divisions a voice. At a time when racial tensions are again demanding societal introspection, it seems fitting to re-visit the power of poetry to express, interpret and even heal racial divides. With this in mind, we are excited to spread the word that the Library of Congress will explore this very issue during its upcoming panel discussion, “Poetry, Publishing and Race.”
Moderated by Rob Casper, Head of the Poetry and Literature Center at the Library of Congress, the panel discussion will feature five prominent poets: Cathy Hong, a poetry professor at Sarah Lawrence College and Poetry Editor for The New Republic; Don Share, Poetry Editor for The Poetry Foundation; Evie Shockley, a professor of English at Rutgers University and a frequent writer of race and feminist poetry; and Carmen Giménez Smith, Publisher of Noemi Press and Editor-in-chief of Puerto del Soland who writes frequently on Latina identity. If their previous works are any indication, this cadre of accomplished poets will offer a substantive, engaging conversation for listeners. For example, Shockley’s 2012 poetry collection, The New Black, explores the meaning of being Black in today’s America, and Smith’s 2013 Milk and Filth collection is plenteous in allusions to racial and cultural struggles.
“Poetry, Publishing, and Race” will launch with each poet reading one piece that they have written that they believe best evokes the dynamic between race and society. Casper will then guide the conversation into a discussion of the mechanics of the pieces and their abilities to evoke complex racial relationships. According to Casper, the ultimate goal of the evening is to explore “how can poetry speak to race issues in ways that other art forms cannot.” For him, this event marks the culmination of an initiative that began as a magazine project with poets Shockley and Hong (both speaking at the event), but has now expanded into a public discourse. Admitting that he has “never hosted an event with such a personal starting point,” and Capser says he is looking forward to providing this timely discussion for the DC writing community.
“Poetry, Publishing and Race” will be held on
October 18 at 4:00 p.m. in the Mumford Room on
the sixth floor of the James Madison Building.
Address: 101 Independence Ave SE, Washington,