In this generative class for poets of all levels, we will strive to develop our individual creative practice. Inspired by the ethics of hip hop and sample-based production, we will turn to poets, TV shows, songs, visual art, historic texts, and more in an effort to refine our creative approach.
In this class, we will learn how to approach and talk about art with the rigor of an artist to enable us to understand how artists construct their work to make us feel. We will gain the tools we need to fight writer’s block. Poets will receive weekly generative writing prompts, along with in-class exercises to unlock creativity. We will look at work from artists and writers like: Sharon Olds, Ada Limón, Ramiro Gomez, Yvette Mayorga, Krista Franklin, Sentrock, Langston Kerman, Tyler, The Creator, Noname, and others.
Our guiding question will be: how can I sustain a creative practice that makes me feel good, while writing poems that engage with all the wonders and flaws of human life?
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 Zoom desktop client so you have access to all platform features.
- A vibrant, thoughtful, and supportive environment where you'll get extensive feedback from peers and the instructor
- A deep dive into the craft and joy of the creative process, so you can develop a sustainable writing practice
- Four polished poems, ready for submission
Week 1: Intros, writing & self compassion, odes on odes
Week 2: Stag’s Leap aka I keep writing about the same thing what do I do? workshop #1
Week 3: Collage and collaboration, fragmenting narrative, check in #1
Week 4: The unreliable narrator featuring the crucial television series LOVESICK, workshop #2
Week 5: Erasures, history as a writing of the future
Week 6: Revising towards music, poetry and performance as feedback, check in #2, workshop #3
Week 7: Revising towards mischief, learning to break poems, workshop #4
Week 8: Celebration, resource share, next steps
José Olivarez is the son of Mexican immigrants and the author of the book of poems, Citizen Illegal. Along with Felicia Chavez and Willie Perdomo, he is co-editing the forthcoming anthology, The BreakBeat Poets Vol. 4: LatiNEXT. He is the co-host of the poetry podcast, The Poetry Gods and a recipient of fellowships from CantoMundo, Poets House, the Bronx Council on the Arts, the Poetry Foundation, and the Conversation Literary Festival. His work has been featured in The New York Times, The Paris Review, and elsewhere.
“José is one of the most genuine mentors I have ever had. He gives us poetry he loves, that he actively questions, and that he accurately relates to our lives based on our struggle, culture, or poems we’re trying to write. He individually builds relationships with every single of us because he cares about us and our poems. He doesn’t want us to stay comfortable in how we write, he pushes us out of our comfort zone in order to grow, create pieces our hearts need, and read truths in books we would never have had access to without him.”
"When I think of the kind of mentor I want to be, I draw much influence from how José has mentored me and my friends. There is no one I know who is more genuinely dedicated to the work of others than José, he manages to take care with his critique and be kind in his honesty. I don’t think José creates workshops for the sake of being prepared to teach, but in hopes that we not only learn something new about poetry, but also something new about ourselves. I have never left a workshop feeling I did not have a new resource to draw inspiration from, and a new inclination about myself or my work to face. Most importantly, Josè is not teaching to give, but also to receive. In his lessons he is also searching for a lesson, seeking to learn from his students, and acknowledging the importance of an education that is not one sided, but instead cycles throughout the classroom touching everyone, even the facilitator."
“It seems clear that Olivarez wrote from every part of himself to build this incredible book. He uses the tools of his craft to create a sanctuary for others, and to present alternative realities that might finally serve, rather than pillage from, brown and black people.”
“CITIZEN ILLEGAL is right on time, bringing both empathy and searing critique to the fore as a nation debates the very humanity of the people who built it.”
“CITIZEN ILLEGAL is a fearless, instrumental, honest collection of poetry. In other words, the book is fire. Skilled, tender, funny, yet undecorated, Olivarez’s poetry navigates the razor sharp duality and utter contradiction of citizenship. These poems helps us carry the weight of biases, the absurdity of our prejudices; they help us seek documentation for our humanity which cannot, by any means, be dictated by policy makers. Let it be said that these poems are also love poems. Olivarez chooses to use his voice, sometimes brutal, sometimes bloody and blistered, to confront our monstrosity, yet he never shies away from love, even when he exposes the lies we keep in order to live. Keep an eye out for José Olivarez: he might be the poet you need when it’s time to cross a line, destruct borders, and still come out on the other side with your dreams intact.”