University of Iowa

Identity Poetics: Writing the Self in Politically Charged Times

Weeklong July 14 to July 19 2019

One of the most exciting, crucial currents in poetry today is the ascendancy of identity poetics: that is, poems that explore, in boundless ways, a speaker’s individual self as a political site, diversely inhabited, self-mapped, and always moving toward discovery. In this workshop, built on mutual respect and the belief that each of us owns our unique story, “political” is not a term of party allegiances in turbulent times; rather, it is an inclusive term acknowledging that all poems arise out of their particular cultural and historical moment. The goals for this workshop, then, are for each participant to write 4-5 new poems that implicitly or explicitly situate the “personal” experience of self (real and/or imagined) against a public backdrop of profound American change; to investigate how formal invention, particularly self-interruption and interrogation, can keep a poem from calcifying into fixed ideas; to learn revision strategies that break a stalled-out draft wide open, inviting real revelations for writer and reader; finally, to discuss what it means to write poetry in this post-subtle era of bluster and cant. Ultimately, participants will write complex, unruly poems that move well beyond autobiography toward the possibility of community, poems that begin to register what it means to be a citizen of the 21st century. Assigned reading will include a diverse list of poems by Sax, Akbar, Lockwood, McCrae, Ford, Vuong, Conoley, Xie, Long Soldier, etc. Exercises will be given to jump-start poems from a variety of access points. In addition to our daily workshop session critiquing newly generated poems, the week will also include one-on-one conferences with me.


In this workshop we will generate new writing through guided exercises and prompts; provide feedback on writing you bring from home; provide feedback on writing you produce in our week.

Hybrid Forms