Nathan McClain

Assistant Professor of Creative Writing & African American Literary Arts
Nathan McClain
Contact Nathan

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Nathan McClain
Emily Dickinson Hall 27

Nathan McClain, assistant professor of creative writing and African American literary arts, received an M.F.A. in creative writing from Warren Wilson's M.F.A. Program for Writers.

He is the author of Scale (Four Way Books, 2017), a recipient of fellowships from the Sewanee Writers' Conference, The Frost Place, and the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference. Previously, he taught creative writing at Seton Hall, Drew University, and St. Joseph's College, as well as poetry workshops for the Cave Canem Foundation. His poems and prose have recently appeared or are forthcoming in New York Times Magazine, upstreet, American Poets, The Rumpus, and Hunger Mountain, among others.

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Recent and Upcoming Courses

  • There are many "rules" that accompany the writing of poetry-among them, the practice of the poet deploying an "economy of language," or revising one's work to eliminate redundancy, cliche, or weak diction. Economy of language has its place in drafting and revising poetry but isn't the only evidence of a knowledge of craft. Craft can also be displayed in the long poem, which this workshop will consider the long poem. How does the writer sustain the poem's focus, momentum, and direction? How does the writer emphasize "intent" given the expansiveness of the poem? How does the writer negotiate the possibility of excess? More importantly, how does the long poem sustain the reader's attention and engagement? Why go on and on? What's the payoff? Students may consider the work of Rachel Zucker, Ross Gay, Tommy Pico, John Murillo, and Brigit Pegeen Kelly, among others. As workshop courses often fill quickly and have lengthy waitlists, students must attend the first workshop session to secure class enrollment. Keywords:Poetry, workshop, revision, long

  • It was in the midst of grieving the loss of her most beloved fish, Telly, that poet Toi Derricotte wrote, "Joy is an act of resistance." Poet Lucille Clifton closes her oft-anthologized "won't you celebrate with me" with "come celebrate / with me that everyday / something has tried to kill me / and has failed." Both poets understand that we only know joy within the context of sorrow, but they choose to center their joy rather than be present only for Black pain or death. Black people's everyday commitment to locating joy in our lives can often pierce through challenging times and help us think differently about struggle. How might Black joy also be embraced as a philosophy, a poetics of being? Our course will explore that very question. Students should expect to explore and document joy through drafting poems, essayettes, and taking and curating photographs or photo essays. Students should expect to engage with work by Kleavor Cruz, Ross Gay, Zadie Smith, and Mahogany L. Browne, among others Keywords:Joy, poetry, Blackness, delights, Joy, poetry, Blackness, delights, The content of this course deals with issues of race and power. This course could be used to fulfill the Division II Project requirement

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  • Reading can be taught. Revision can be taught. Though perhaps the only sound pedagogical tool for poetry is imitation. Writing can be introduced to people, but ultimately, only poems can teach poetry. Received poetic forms such as sonnets, villanelles, sestinas, pantoums, and ghazals, can understandably appear difficult, daunting even, so, in this workshop, students will extensively read, examine, imitate, and workshop poems that adhere to, as well as rethink or reimagine, common (or niche) received poetic forms and conventions. In what ways do formal poems negotiate the relationship between form and content? When does a particular formal constraint best enact its subject matter? And when should a poet amend or alter a received form? My hope is that this class can be a nice, warm greenhouse for new poems. Students may read and consider poems and prose by George Herbert, Julia Alvarez, Gerald Stern, Agha Shahid Ali, Ellen Bryant Voigt, and William Meredith, among many others KEYWORDS:Poetry, form, writing, tradition

  • In recent years, we have seen what appears to be a revival of the Afrosurrealist movement in literature, film, and television, among other genres. But why? What does it mean for Black poets, writers, and creators to turn to the strange and fantastical in our current historical moment? And what did it mean in the past? In this course, students will consider not only the history of surrealism but also earlier periods in which Black artists and creatives in particular have turned to the weird and dreamlike to articulate their plight and circumstances. This course will devote a significant portion of time and study to visual media-cinema, television, and music videos. Students may consider "texts" by Aime Cesaire, Terence Nance, Flying Lotus, Colson Whitehead, and Donald Glover, among others. KEYWORDS:surrealism, film, television, visual, media

  • Over the last few years, if one were to check Amazon's book chart, you would find that prose written by Black and brown writers that deal directly with race and anti-racism rose to the top of the best-selling chart, though the comic book/graphic novel chart had not been similarly affected. This course will consider why that is as well as read and critically engage a number of wonderfully exciting graphic novels and non-fiction by Black and brown creators, many of which also address racial issues directly, and not solely through metaphor or allegory. Students may encounter work by Walter Dean Myers, Roxanne Gay, Mira Jacob, Daniel Barnes, Aaron Mcgruder, and Damon Lindelof, among others. Keywords:Comics, visual art, race and power, visual media

  • Hampshire's Professor Emerita of Psychoanalysis and Clinical Psychology, Annie G. Rogers asserts, "Every sentence we speak is continually surrounded by what is not said and may in fact be unsayable... However, to hear the unsayable I had to consider words as revealing both a conscious narrative about experience and an unconscious one." In recent times, the subject of mental health and wellness has become more openly discussed, though poets have embraced the subject for generations--an experience remains, to this day, almost "unsayable." This course will investigate how the poet grants a reader access to such complicated experience, their speaker's interior landscape, and how experience is then communicated--recreated--within the reader. Students will also deepen their understanding of the role Image plays in the effectiveness of such poems. Readings may include the work of Anne Carson, Elizabeth Bishop, Olena Kalytiak Davis, and Richard Siken, among others. Keywords: mental health, creative writing, poetry, performance, art

  • For centuries, stories and fantasies have been heaped upon Black bodies, and it shows absolutely no sign of slowing. With that understanding, how does African American Literature, art, or film view its protagonist, view the self, and how has that self-image been colored or informed by how it has been held in the imagination of others? In this course, students will not only engage the continually shifting perceptions of Black being, but also the deep influence of media, in particular, in those perceptions. Students should expect to draft and revise essays and reading responses that analyze and interrogate the work of various African American writers, artists, and filmmakers, which may include Cornelius Eady, Victor LaValle, Ava Duvernay, and Donald Glover, among others. Keywords: African American literature, media, visual art, film, poetry.

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