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.
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.
As the book description posits, "The BreakBeat Poets are a break with the past and an honoring of the tradition(s), an undeniable body expanding the canon for the fresher." Poetry has a rich oral and aural tradition and Hip-Hop plays an important role in much of Poetry's current forms, rhythms, and presentation. Students will read several of the 78 featured poets in the anthology and think through the various intersections between tradition and innovation. Students will also conduct additional research and present on one of the BreakBeat poets and the ars poetica form. Readings may include the work of Eve Ewing, Marcus Wicker, John Murillo, Ocean Vuong, Nate Marshall, Evie Shockley, Patrick Rosal, and Douglas Kearney, among others.
Psychologist Annie P. 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," and while mental health and wellness have become a more openly discussed subject, the experience remains almost unsayable. So, how does the poet grant a reader access to such complicated experience, the speaker's interior landscape? How is it communicated-recreated-within the reader? In this workshop, students will study poems on the subject of mental health and illness as well as deepen their understanding of the role image plays in the effect of those poems. Readings may include the work of Anne Carson, Elizabeth Bishop, Galway Kinnell, Olena Kalytiak Davis, Sylvia Plath, Jane Kenyon, and Richard Siken, among others. Prerequisite: At least one prior creative writing workshop.
Robert Hass writes, "All the new thinking is about loss. / In this it resembles all the old thinking." And while the poets we will consider certainly consider loss in their thinking, they also expand that thinking to include such contemporary subjects as identity, home, sexuality, disease, justice, and police brutality. In this course, we will close read and respond to debut or second collections by several emerging poets. Students will annotate individual poems and develop interview questions for each collection. Readings may include work by Tommye Blount, Nicole Sealey, Aaron Coleman, Safia Elhillo, Danez Smith, Ladan Osman, Cortney Lamar Charleston, and Tarfia Faizullah among others.
In this workshop, we will focus our attention on the function of tone in a poem as a way of communicating and deepening its emotive charge. We will examine a few of the numerous craft elements that contribute to a poem's tonal register, such as sound, detail, image, syntax, form, music, and how these tools might signal tonal shifts within a poem or complicate a poem's emotional depth. We will also consider how elements of tone create tension and counterbalance within poems. And we will draft and revise poems that engage in some serious play and think about how even playfulness or seriousness are carefully crafted things. Readings may include work by Gwendolyn Brooks, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Hayden, Jericho Brown, Carl Phillips, Roger Reeves, Thom Gunn, and Ellen Bryant Voigt, among others. Prerequisite: At least one college-level poetry workshop.