Faculty Seminar Series Brown Bag: Poetry of Citizenship

Art, Citizenship, and the "Goals" of Creative Work


Bring a lunch and join Sally Ball, Associate Professor of English, poet, and associate director of Four Way Books, as she enlightens us on poetry and its potential impact on politics and citizenship.

Poetry makes nothing happen, Auden told us. Also, the biggest (most-discussed, much-lauded, fastest-selling) book of poetry published in recent years was 2014’s Citizen by Claudia Rankine, a book that helped to bring the post-Ferguson conversation about racial microaggressions to the fore. Many contemporary poets were “raised” to believe politics and poetry do not belong together, even if we read, say, the Polish dissidents: it was okay over there, in dire times. But not here, not now. And yet: here, now.

We will begin with a quick contextual look at the field, some examples from other poets (on gun violence, racial profiling, the environment) and from my own most recent work, talking especially about where the poems came from, what they might “do”—or in some cases, did do—all leading toward a group conversation about the ethics and aesthetics of exploring one’s citizenship though art.

A poem is often an acute form of attention. And such a poem can be the basis of a three-hour seminar or it can be a brief start-of-class nod to something pressing in the world that we need to acknowledge before taking up the scheduled business of the day. Where do you find such poems? How do you talk about them?

In the National Book Award citation of Citizen, the judges say the book “expands the definition [of citizenship] to include a larger understanding of civic belonging and identity, built out of cross-racial empathy, communal responsibility, and a deeply shared commitment to equality.” What does literary art offer our civic life and how can we find it, engage with it, as a maker, as a reader?

The talk also features the following three poets:

Sue Hyon Bae is International Poetry Editor for Hayden's Ferry Review. She was raised in South Korea, Malaysia, and Texas. Her work appears in Four Chambers Press and elsewhere.

Valerie Bandura’s collection of poems, FREAK SHOW (Black Lawrence Press, 2013) was a 2014 Patterson Poetry Prize Finalist. Her second book, HUMAN INTEREST (Black Lawrence Press) is slated for publication in 2017. Her poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, The Gettysburg Review, Ploughshares,Crazyhorse, and many others. She teaches writing at Arizona State University.

Susan Nguyen is currently an MFA candidate in poetry at Arizona State University where she serves as a poetry editor for Hayden's Ferry Review. Her poetry is often interested in the body: how geography, history, and trauma leave markers, both visible and invisible. Lately her work has been focusing on the Vietnamese diaspora after the Vietnam War and the complications of being first generation.

Find more about the "Citizenship" Faculty Seminar Series [here].

Wednesday, September 28, 2016
Social Sciences Bldg 109

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