“Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)”
— Walt Whitman
In this generative, exploratory poetry course, we will be looking at the poetic tool of persona — adopting either the voice of another person or a highly curated version of one’s self as a way to express, complicate and explore the narrative and the lyric. To those new to persona, this space is a place to explore characters in poetry, be those characters fictional, historical, or familial. We will read poems by Ann Carson, Gwendolyn Brooks, John Berryman, Patricia Smith, Terrance Hayes, Frank O’Hara, Tyehimba Jess, Frank Bidart and more, moving between the 20th and 21st century to see how current events become interwoven with the domestic and personal when we think bigger, stranger or simply different than what a reader might expect when reading our bios. To those already consciously working with persona, we will look at how story arcs can be built across a series of poems. Everyone in this course will be encouraged to create a chapbook manuscript of their own and explore publication opportunities for both series of poems and singular works. The focus of this class will be creating new, exciting writing, then sharing that writing both with one another and out into the wider world.
CAIT WEISS ORCUTT’s work has appeared in Boston Review, Chautauqua, FIELD, The Academy of American Poets and more. Her poems have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Best New Poets and Best of the Net, and her manuscript VALLEYSPEAK (Zone 3, 2017) won Zone 3 Press’ First Book Award, judged by Douglas Kearney. Cait has an MFA from The Ohio State and is currently getting her Ph.D. in Poetry from the University of Houston while working on a Creative Non Fiction side project. She teaches creative writing at UH, Grackle and Grackle, Inprint, WITS, the Salvation Army, the Menil Collection, and the Jewish Community Center. She is the recipient of an Inprint C. Glenn Cambor/MD Anderson Foundation Fellowship.