In the wake of ongoing cultural, political and environmental state of emergency and human tragedy, what will our new poems look like, and what will they be made of? Bhanu Kapil in Ban en Banlieue writes of creating a “literature that is not made of literature”. Will language itself have to be put back together again from the debris of experience? How do we write from the midst of unfolding tragedy? What will this new emergent poetics look like? To whom and where will the poets turn to adequately encapsulate this moment without the privilege of “recollection” and in the absence of hindsight? We will consider some of these questions as our guiding theme and orient the mood of our poems responding to the collective grief of the year that has gone by and one that is still unfolding in front of us. In simple terms, we will try to cobble together a new language from a “diverse range of available things” for writing through and about living in this time. Above all, this will be a workshop-focused class where we will write in class, critique each other’s work every week and briefly open each class with discussion of a poem by living poets who have forged a new language through the extremities of experience like Raul Zurita, Forrest Gander, Bhanu Kapil, Joyelle McSweeney, and Najwan Darwish.
Rohan Chhetri, recipient of a 2021 PEN/Heim Grant for translation, is the author of Slow Startle and the forthcoming Lost, Hurt, or in Transit Beautiful (Tupelo Press/HarperCollinsIN). His poems have appeared in The Paris Review, AGNI, Revue Europe, and New England Review, and have been translated into Greek and French.