Poetry as a genre, and a gesture, is particularly equipped to house the vibrant possibilities of the most acute and revealing portraiture. After all, portraiture is not just mimicry, a photocopy of a subject. Rather, portraiture is a rigorous noticing and collecting of the prominent details that make up the essence of a subject; it is the order and depth at which those details are reproduced. Though, of course, what’s “prominent” is in the eye of the beholder. In this six-week, in-person workshop, we’ll explore various methods of portraiture, learning how to capture and liberate subjects ranging from the self to people we know intimately to people we don’t know at all to objects that populate our everyday lives to places from our past to places in our present, and more. We’ll aim to reveal to ourselves the resonances, powers and meanings of the people, settings and things that furnish our world.
Each week we’ll study strategies and discuss a sample of poems, portraits and other texts that we’ll draw inspiration from for our in-class generative writing prompts. Selected readings will include the works of Gwendolyn Brooks, Patrick Rosal, Christina Sharpe, Rita Dove, Bill Knott, Frida Kahlo, Airea D. Matthews, Linda Gregg, Aracelis Girmay, Layli Long Soldier, Fatimah Asghar, Toni Morrison, Jos Charles and more. We’ll also workshop one another’s poems. This workshop will be a space for everyone thoughtfully and intentionally to consider their own and each other’s drafts—how a poem might be meaningfully pushed further into its most rich and polished final form. This will come in the form of line edits, notes and letters. Writers should expect to leave this course with six new drafts of poems and new tools for understanding and creating solid portraiture poems. Class sessions will meet at 144 Montague St, and assignments, poems and critiques will be shared via Wet Ink.
We strongly encourage all in-person workshop participants to wear masks. Workshop participants may be required to wear masks as an accessibility accommodation for other participants or the instructor.
Angel Nafis is the author of BlackGirl Mansion (Red Beard Press/ New School Poetics, 2012). She earned her BA at Hunter College and her MFA in poetry at Warren Wilson College. Her work has appeared in Black Futures, the Rumpus, Poetry, Buzzfeed Reader and elsewhere. Nafis is a Cave Canem fellow, the recipient of a Millay Colony residency and the founder and curator of the Greenlight Bookstore Poetry Salon. In 2011 she represented NYC at both the Women of the World Poetry Slam and the National Poetry Slam. She is half of the ODES FOR YOU TOUR with poet, musician and visual artist Shira Erlichman, and with poet Morgan Parker, she runs the Other Black Girl Collective, an internationally touring Black Feminist poetry duo. In 2016, Nafis was a recipient of the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation, and in 2017 she was awarded a Creative Writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. She is a Jerome Hill Artist fellow and teaches in Randolph College’s MFA program. Facilitating writing workshops and reading poems globally, she lives in Brooklyn.