Poetry is a mysterious tool. It breaks apart our language in order to communicate. Poetry within the Black tradition must subvert all norms, even the ones created for its own survival. Literature of this world is irreverent and divine, ecstatic and tragic. The workshop will investigate the range of Black identities and experiences through the mystery of poetry. We will utilize the Lift Every Voice Project Reader developed by Kevin Young, which contains legendary voices such as Paul Laurence Dunbar and Nikki Giovanni, and then explore the ecstatic language of new legends, such as Morgan Parker and Danez Smith. The goal is to surrender ourselves to the sacred histories as we write, and then imagine fiercely into the future.
Works by Venita Blackburn have appeared or are forthcoming in Apogee, Iowa Review, Foglifter, Electric Literature, the Paris Review and other literary journals. She received the Prairie Schooner book prize for fiction, which resulted in the publication of her collected stories, Black Jesus and Other Superheroes, in 2017. In 2018, she earned a place as a finalist for the PEN/Bingham award for debut fiction, was a finalist for the NYPL Young Lions award, and a recipient of the PEN America Los Angeles literary prize in fiction. She is founder of the literary nonprofit Live, Write (livewriteworkshop.com), which provides free creative writing workshops for communities of color. Her home town is Compton, California, and she is an Assistant Professor of creative writing at California State University, Fresno.