“In crisis we must decide, again and again, whom we love.” – Frank O’Hara
“In a package of minutes there is this We. How beautiful.” – Gwendolyn Brooks
Crisis disrupts time. What then does it mean to write through a durational crisis? How does one process and experience and narrate not only the emotional paralysis of the unknown ahead, but also, equally present, the dreamlife, imagination, wakefulness, humor, suspense, and forms of desire and longing and joy that are illuminated during these periods?
In this course open to all levels, we will map out different artistic/cultural movements, literary devices, and philosophical concepts related to writing where crisis, joy, and temporality intersect, beginning with poetry in the early 20th century. For some writers, this means writing in the sermonic voice with long, strophic lines. Others use persona and animate different subjects from past lives. For the modernists, the fragment was essential to depicting the apocalyptic feelings of the interwar period. In the African-American oral tradition, call-and-response uses audience and improvisation to convey communal feelings across time. In other words, crisis is not only the object of poetry, it is also a method that produces epiphany, revelation, joyfulness, and meaning. Lastly, crisis should not be considered narrowly only in terms of our current pandemic, but also historically, structurally, and emotionally.
The course will experiment with different kinds of workshops models: lightning, extended, and generative. A lightning workshop will be a quick and fast workshop (5-7 minutes each) and often “cold,” meaning that you don’t see the work ahead of time and your comments need to be more impressionistic and spontaneous. An extended workshop allows for more thoughtful feedback as you will have more time to write comments for your peers and each piece will be workshopped for a longer period of time with more focus (15-20 minutes each). A generative workshop means that we will spend most of the class writing new work through a variety of exercises. Students will be asked to share their work “on the fly.” These different models will give you a better understanding of the creative process (generating new writing, trusting and refining your feedback instincts, and revising your work more carefully). The course will also experiment with different kinds of prompts: technical/structured, experimental, anonymous, response-oriented, and open.
Class meetings will be held over video chat, using Zoom accessed from your private class page. While you can use Zoom from your browser, we recommend downloading the desktop client so you have access to all platform features.
- Learn about diverse intellectual and poetic histories of the 20th/21st centuries and understand how those writings made essential socio-political and aesthetic interventions
- Generate new writing based on in class exercises and weekly assignments while strengthening close reading skills
- Become comfortable with workshop dynamics and create a revised creative portfolio by the end of the class
- Access to Catapult's list of writing opportunities and important submission deadlines, as well as a 10% discount on all future Catapult classes
Students will be asked to read a poetry packet of less than ten pages of poetry for each week. There will be additional optional reading for students interested in more literary and historical context for the mini-lectures.
Week One: Modernism, Fragmentation, the Unconscious, Call-and-Response; Poets/Artists: Jean Toomer, T.S. Eliot, Gertrude Stein
Week Two: Black Mountain School, Projective Verse, Masculinities; Poets/Artists: Robert Creeley
Week Three: Confessional Poetry, Internal Rhyme, Persona, Voice; Poets/Artists: Sylvia Plath
Week Four: The New York School, Adrenaline, Apparition, Pop; Poets/Artists: Frank O’Hara
Week Five: The Black Arts Movement, Black Persona, Sermonic Poetics; Poets/Artists: Gwendolyn Brooks, Amiri Baraka, June Jordan, Archie Shepp, Fred Moten
Week Six: Manifestos, Testimonies, Strophes, Prose Poems; Poets/Artists: Allen Ginsberg, Claudia Rankine, Danez Smith, Morgan Parker
Week Seven: Diaspora, Multiplicities, Ethnographic Poetry; Poets/Artists: Bhanu Kapil, Meena Alexander
Week Eight: Old and New, Verse Novels, Sonnet Crowns, Myth, Underworlds; Poets/Artists: Anne Carson, Terrance Hayes, Rainer Maria Rilke
Megan Fernandes has been published in The New Yorker, Tin House, Ploughshares, Chicago Review, Boston Review, Rattle, Pank, The Common, the Academy of American Poets, among others. Her second book of poetry, Good Boys, was a finalist for the Kundiman Book Prize, the Saturnalia Book Prize, and was published with Tin House Books in February 2020. Fernandes is an Assistant Professor of English at Lafayette College. She holds a PhD in English from the UC Santa Barbara and an MFA in poetry from Boston University. She lives in New York City.
“If BROAD CITY and Carmen Maria Machado had a poetry baby, it would be GOOD BOYS.”
“GOOD BOYS speaks to our shared knowledge that things cannot go on as they are and yet, day by day, we are going on. Fernandes explores what it feels like to live a life organized by risk, the ordinary wagers and debts we make in our attachments to the people, places, and ideas that we love, our promises to ourselves and others: “The way we bet. What we gamble with.” Being good is one way of managing risk. But it also allows us to ignore the ways in which our world is built on theft — the piracies of whiteness, a sense of entitlement to someone else’s body or someone else’s country… The poems demonstrate an intelligent handling of form, disrupting convenient distinctions between the neatness of intellect and the chaos of feeling.”
“Fernandes’s debut collection, THE KINGDOM AND AFTER (Tightrope Books, 2015), introduced us to her voice as both blunt truth-teller and measured verse-architect. In GOOD BOYS, her new collection published last month from Tin House Books, she plunges back into family, relationships, and identity—then explores the lens itself through which she sees and thinks about her world. Her anger and agitation speak so clearly, so compellingly, that we find ourselves reading her poems on the edge of unease: What will happen next? Is this going to hurt? Will she soothe us? And she does, with great care and love.”
“This tremendous collection of poems centers feminism, racism, and rage in all its imperfections, contradictions and candor.”
“Magnificent in its tumultuous yet savvy voicings, its pain transformed into cadence, its personal yet generous stagings of self.”
“If there is no ethical consumption under late capitalism, our job is to figure out how to move through this world while causing it the least harm. ‘I like when the choices are both ugly,’ Megan Fernandes writes in GOOD BOYS, and then she shows us: rocks and hard places, guns and snowbanks, there and here. It’s a staggering text—ferocious, vulnerable, funny, ambitious, and deeply rigorous. What can a poet do for people, for a planet, literally dying of human greed? Fernandes answers: ‘I map / the storms // of the whole world.’”
“What I learned from you is how/not to be a body,’ Megan Fernandes asserts in her evocatively beautiful collection GOOD BOYS, musing in a later poem, ‘How some of us laugh while hunted.’ These are poems of haunting and hunting, of bodies that are remade in different cities, of family and its legacy, of immigration and what it takes from us. The collection traverses time and place, meditating on the ways love shatters and recreates us all, particularly when it intersects with being othered. Fernandes writes compellingly of the dislocation that comes with migration: ‘My daddy is not a thing like your daddy,’ she says. ‘Our house was not a thing like your house.’ Alike or not, this house of poems contains tremendous light.’”
“The poetry of Megan Fernandes gives me courage to get up another day and fight the patriarchy & racist nationalism. Her limitless imagination and beautiful, lyrical, powerful lines are worth fighting for. Everyone should give this book to someone they love, and everyone should love someone enough to give them this book.”
“She challenges you, makes you step outside your comfort zone. And god, she knows her stuff. Get rid of any stereotype you had before about poetry.”
“This class was more than about poetry, it was about life and learning and the lived experience of others.”
“One of the best professors I’ve ever had. She is incredibly smart and also very honest when it comes to our work. I never felt uncomfortable sharing my poetry with her no matter how personal.”