The Poetics of Revenge

In this world built with the engines of empires, injustice remains incessant and relentless. If accountability, i.e. the cardinal bone of any attempt at justice, is rarely afforded, one must, inevitably, begin to contemplate revenge. It’s through revenge that we can attempt to ensure our losses matter in a world that would like to prove otherwise. Of course, in the Western world, we’ve come to think of revenge as a dangerous game: “an eye for an eye” starts a neverending cycle that multiplies wounds and often perpetuates the original harm. But what if, instead of thinking of revenge as reinflicting and reenacting harm, we begin to expand our view and think of revenge as rescue? Are there ways to consider that the human impulse for revenge is merely a prompt? Can revenge be an opportunity to transform ourselves, to enact change? Can revenge be an occasion for beauty? Can revenge be a useful framework for facing complex and far-flung injustices, like colonialism and climate change?

In this six-week workshop, we’ll use the practice of poetry—and the myriad possibilities it affords—to investigate the idea and practice of revenge. We’ll look at poets who have investigated and attempted revenge. We’ll think about revenge alongside different modes of justice—like punitive justice, restorative justice and transformative justice. We’ll spend time thinking alongside one another and writing new work together every week. The first three sessions will be structured in more of a seminar format, where we’ll discuss ideas around revenge and engage in writing exercises; the remaining three sessions will be spent workshopping each other’s work.

Workshop Details


  • Teacher: Bernard Ferguson
  • Level: II
  • Dates: Jul 13–Aug 17, 2022
  • Time: Wednesdays, 6:30–9:30 pm (ET)
  • Location: 144 Montague St, Brooklyn
  • Cost: $445
  • Class size: 5–10 students
  • Registration deadline: SUN, JUL 10, 2022
  • Earlybird discount: $15 off through SUN, JUNE 19
Bernard Ferguson

Bernard Ferguson

Bernard Ferguson (they/them) is a Bahamian poet and essayist. By great luck, they’re the winner of the 2019 Hurston/Wright College Writers Award and the 2019 92Y Discovery Contest, among other awards. Their work has been supported by NYU’s Global Research Initiative, New York’s Writers in the Public Schools, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, the Joshua Tree Highlands Artist Residency and the Constance Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts. By the kindness of friends and editors, their work has been featured, published or is forthcoming in the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas, the New York Times Magazine, New Yorker, Paris Review, Georgia Review and elsewhere. Ferguson has taught creative writing at New York University and numerous New York public schools.