We Must Make Our Own Language

Imagining a Vernacular Future

What is the role of vernacular language in literature and how does it help shape a new language for the future? How can we use vernacular to embrace our idiosyncratic voices, protest the status quo and project the world we want to see? We will explore these questions and read texts that transcend time and place in their imaginings of radical futures. Workshop discussion will center around readings from Rotten English, edited by Dohra Ahmed; Sleeping with the Dictionary, by Harryette Mullen; this planet is doomed, by Sun Ra; Born Palestinian, Born Black, by Suheir Hammad; and more. Students will create original vernacular works as part of the workshop.

Workshop Details


Marwa Helal is a poet and journalist. She is the author of Invasive species (Nightboat Books, forthcoming 2019) and I Am Made to Leave I Am Made to Return (No, Dear/Small Anchor Press, 2017). Her work has appeared in Apogee, Hyperallergic and Poets & Writers, among other journals, and in the anthologies Bettering American Poetry 2016 and Best American Experimental Writing 2018. She is the winner of BOMB Magazine’s Biennial 2016 Poetry Contest and has been awarded fellowships from Poets House, Brooklyn Poets and Cave Canem. Helal received her MFA in creative nonfiction from the New School and her BA in journalism and international studies from Ohio Wesleyan University. Born in Al Mansurah, Egypt, she currently lives and teaches in Brooklyn.