Visiting Assistant Professor of Creative Writing & African American Literary Arts
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. He currently lives in Brooklyn.
Fredrick Douglass famously writes, "If there is no struggle, there is no progress." That struggle, for African Americans, has often been managed or mitigated through the solace of music, of song, from spirituals to rhythm and blues. In this course, we will approach this topic by reading and discussing a selection of songs, poetry, prose, drama, and film to determine the targets of African American dissatisfaction, and to understand how assumptions about race can tear the social fabric among and within groups. Related themes include religion, assimilation, gender, and art; and notice how many of our literary readings use or are about music. Students should expect readings to be organized historically by song genre, taking us from the antebellum period to the contemporary period. But we will also move around within periods to see how later authors have written about the past that, in part, defined them. Students should expect to draft essays and reading responses exploring the relationship between music and texts and may read and consider work by Audre Lorde, Sam Cooke, Phyllis Wheatley, Spike Lee, and W.E.B. DuBois, among others. (keywords: African American literature, creative writing, music)
While I absolutely believe revision can be taught, and reading can be taught. Probably the only sound pedagogical tool for poetry is imitation. Writing can be introduced to people, but ultimately, only poems can teach poetry. Received 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 common received poetic forms and conventions. How do formal poems negotiate the relationship between form and content? When is a particular formal constraint most appropriate? 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, creative writing, form, prosody)
Full Title: Environments and Change: Addressing Climate Change in a Changing Social, Political, and Environmental World Main Question: What are the ongoing and growing concerns associated with climate change and how can we take meaningful, positive action to address them? Course Description: The challenge of creating a just and sustainable future in the face of climate change is arguably the greatest challenge yet to face humankind. Why haven't we as individuals or governments or societies begun to act as if our very lives and cultures are threatened by climate change? Countries across the world were able to enact rapid and massive behavioral change when faced with COVID19, but have failed to do so when faced with climate change. What are the implications of environmental and climate change in relationship to privilege, accessibility, and race? How does one live a sustainable life in an ever-changing world? Join us to brainstorm potential solutions to current local and global environmental and related social problems. This seminar will be co-taught by an interdisciplinary team of faculty and staff and will include guest lectures from experts across a breadth of areas related to climate change, environmental justice, and sustainability. The course will be divided into modules focused on specific problems and potential solutions, such as why humans are so resistant to changing our habits, and how massive societal change can be motivated; how we can learn to communicate around hard topics and differing beliefs; how ecopoetics and ecocriticism can engage not only climate justice but racial justice as well; how applied design can help us create accessible tools; and how other animals are responding to climate change and biodiversity loss. Modes of working will include brainstorming, hands-on design and fabrication work (#making), reading, researching, communication, dialogue, and restorative practices. Approaches: #sustainabledesign #environmentaljustice #creativewriting #biodiversityconservation
Too often African Americans exist, as Ralph Ellison's narrator in Invisible Man remarks, as "phantom[s] in other people's minds," imagined as monsters, which also extends into American Literature. For centuries, stories and fantasies have been heaped upon Black bodies, and it shows no signs of slowing. But how does African American Literature see its protagonist, see the self, and has that self-image been colored by how it has been held in the imagination of others? In this course, students will continually engage notions of the monstrous in African American Literature, and they should expect to draft and revise essays and reading responses that analyze and interrogate the work of various African American writers and artists, considering the relationship between horror, the gothic, and our own complicated history, personal and cultural. Students may read and consider the work of Toni Morrison, Cornelius Eady, Victor LaValle, Elizabeth Young, and Niela Orr, among others.
Samuel Beckett writes, in his short prose piece of the same title: "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better." This will be a course about "try[ing] again," about "fail[ing] better". I have said, and fully believe, that getting a draft down on paper is merely drafting, is merely procuring the materials to write the poem. The real work of writing comes in revision. It is there we make our intent clear or sometimes even known in the first place, and that discovery can completely change a poem. To that end, this workshop will be solely focused around revision, ideal for Div III or advanced Div II students. Students may read and consider work by Ellen Bryant Voigt, Stephen Dobyns, Louise Glück, James Longenbach, and Carl Phillips, among others. This course does require instructor permission, so, if interested, please contact me via email as soon as possible for course submission guidelines.
In the midst of our current fraught political moment and landscape, students will track, interrogate, compare, and contrast the manner in which Black and other poets of color engage race and dispensations of American politics. How do various poetic approaches enact the political concerns of the day? Can the making of art create additional problems or concerns? Students should expect to draft essays that close read and think through numerous poems within their respective historical contexts. What can these poems teach us about the function of American Letters as a kind of chronicle? Students may read and consider the work of Robert Hayden, Amiri Baraka, Gwendolyn Brooks, E. Ethelbert Miller, and Terrance Hayes, among others.
In this workshop, students will read, question, draft, and workshop a variety of long poems. How does the writer sustain the poem's focus and direction? How does the writer emphasize the poem's intent given the expansiveness of the poem, and how does the writer negotiate the notion of possible excess in a longer poem? More importantly, how does the long poem sustain the reader's interest and attention? And what is the payoff? Students may read and consider poems by Larry Levis, Ross Gay, Tommy Pico, John Murillo, and B.H. Fairchild, among others. This workshop requires instructor permission. Students must attend the first workshop session to secure class enrollment. Please feel free to email for additional requirements. If you wish to register for this class, please email faculty Nathan McClain at nmIA@hampshire.edu and provide a three-page poetry sample.