“If you lose track of your voice as a writer, go back, eavesdrop, write down everything you hear, and that’s it. That’s you listening to the world,” advises playwright Annie Baker. In this workshop, we will tune in to the rich, wild, alarming and beautiful bits of speech we hear every day—on trains, in coffee shops, offices, classrooms, hallways, libraries and parks—and transform this raw material into poems. We’ll treat eavesdropping and dialogue transcription as a form of generative writing, paying attention to what our inevitably selective, subjective listening tells us about what we’re looking for in the voices around us, what we’re asking language to do for us, and what we have to say as poets. If, as John Berger asserts, “[t]o look is an act of choice,” then to listen is a willful action, too—one that will aid us in uncovering and refining our distinct poetic voices. As we experiment with various tactics for weaving overheard and received speech into our drafts, we’ll take cues from poets such as June Jordan, Eileen Myles, Claudia Rankine, Alice Notley, James Tate, Layli Long Soldier and Tonya M. Foster.
Emily Hunt is a poet, artist, educator and arts professional. She holds an MFA from the University of Massachusetts–Amherst and is the author of the poetry collection Dark Green (The Song Cave, 2015), named a “Must-Read Poetry Debut” by Lit Hub. Her most recent works are Company (The Song Cave, 2019), a poetry chapbook, and Cousins (Cold Cube Press, 2019), a book of photographs. Hunt has been a visiting writer at the University of Richmond, Reed College and UC Santa Cruz, and has taught writing at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst, Westfield State University, Juniper Summer Writing Institute, Omnidawn Publishing, Berl’s Brooklyn Poetry Shop and elsewhere. She has worked for a variety of museums and arts nonprofits, including the Poetry Society of America, the Poetry Foundation, the Contemporary Jewish Museum and Action Books.
Workshop thumbnail artwork: Pronouns of Origin by Christine Hou