Against the State

How does poetry (and how can our poetry) respond to power? By “respond to” we may mean speak out against, oppose, critique, dismantle or interrogate. By “power” we may mean reigning bodies both official and unofficial, micro and macro–the State, white supremacy, Wall Street, the patriarchy, the 9-5, the various institutions and persons that act upon us. Foucault writes that “power is not a thing but a relation … omnipresent at every level of the social body.” In this workshop we will ask the question of whether or not power is inextricable from language, vocabulary, diction and the deployment of all three. How might the poem become a site of resistance and renewal? How can we use language to critique and disrupt the replication of power, while remaining aware of our own complicity in power relations? We will consider poems of revolt, elegy, memorial, manifesto and reclamation. Through a series of experiments, readings, prompts and exercises, we will work towards a poetry of dissent and potential. We’ll look at texts by Myung Mi Kim, Audre Lorde, Anne Boyer, Solmaz Sharif, Jenny Zhang, The Mongrel Coalition Against Gringpo, Roger Reeves, Cathy Wagner and many others.

Workshop Details


Wendy Xu is the author of You Are Not Dead (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2013) and several chapbooks. Selected by D.A. Powell for the 2011 Patricia Goedicke Prize in Poetry, her recent work has appeared in Best American Poetry, Poetry, Denver Quarterly, Gulf Coast, Guernica, Black Warrior Review, Hyperallergic, The Volta and elsewhere. She was awarded a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship by the Poetry Foundation in 2014. She lives in Bushwick and teaches writing at CUNY.