Taking Persona Personally
We often think of a chorus as the part of a song we can’t get out of our head. It’s no coincidence that the ancient Greek root of the word implies a collective singing and dancing of poetry. In ancient Greek drama, the chorus was a persona both one and many—a group of voices speaking and moving together that would periodically interact with the characters on stage as part of the plot while also providing contextual information for the audience directly. The chorus was both inside and outside the action at once. “The ideal spectator,” as scholars have noted, representative of a larger collective experience, in contrast to the individual “hero.”
In this five-week online workshop, we’ll consider ourselves—our many selves, those different versions of us across every time and place that we have lived—to create our own personal poetic landscape. By creating poems out of our composite lived experience, we’ll begin to feel time as less linear and more spherical, allowing many different versions of ourselves to speak at once—in essence creating a chorus of selves, a unique landscape in which we’re both the actors and spectators of our own lives, both the speakers and audiences of our own poems. We’ll explore different interpretations of the chorus (by Aeschylus, Euripides and Sophocles) and the work of contemporary poets who expertly use multiple voices to create unique, tactile landscapes from their lived experiences, including Anne Carson, Cynthia Cruz, Rosebud Ben-Oni, Andrew McMillan, David Wojnarowicz and others. Class sessions will meet synchronously via Zoom every Saturday afternoon, and assignments, poems and critiques will be shared via Wet Ink.
Constantine Jones is a queer Greek-American thingmaker raised in Tennessee and currently housed in Brooklyn. Author of the debut poetry collection In Still Rooms (The Operating System, 2020) and a Visual AIDS Artist+ Member, their work has found homes in the PEN Poetry Series, Blood Tree, Stone Pacific, Hematopoiesis and Fugue, among other publications. Their poem “Screening” was selected by Mark Doty as runner-up in the 23+ age bracket of our Whitman Bicentennial Poetry Contest. They teach creative writing at the City College of New York, where they earned an MFA.