Ecstasy in Poetry

“Sappho steps outside herself. Love has caused her to abandon her body. The green grows greener. Some essential quality deepens as the self is removed,” writes Jia Tolentino on Anne Carson’s translation of Sappho’s Fragment 31. How can poetry open doors to rapture and self-transcendence? What is fruitful, dangerous, and complex about ecstasy? In what language does ecstasy touch or even become grace, death, fear or other truths? Might poems be places where we can detect sharp differences between ecstasy and trance, the ecstatic and the euphoric? As we take these inquiries on, we’ll write new poems based on generative exercises, reaching for the ecstatic in our work. We’ll look to writers Joy Harjo, Fernando Pessoa, Peter Gizzi, Donika Kelly, Emily Dickinson, Kim Hyesoon, Dorothea Lasky, Ross Gay, Rainer Maria Rilke and others to show us where ecstasy lives, how it moves us, what it might build or break down.

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Emily Hunt is a poet, artist, educator and arts professional. She holds an MFA from the University of Massachusetts–Amherst and is the author of the poetry collection Dark Green (The Song Cave, 2015), named a “Must-Read Poetry Debut” by Lit Hub. Her most recent works are Company (The Song Cave, 2019), a poetry chapbook, and Cousins (Cold Cube Press, 2019), a book of photographs. Hunt has been a visiting writer at the University of Richmond, Reed College and UC Santa Cruz, and has taught writing at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst, Westfield State University, Juniper Summer Writing Institute, Omnidawn Publishing, Berl’s Brooklyn Poetry Shop and elsewhere. She has worked for a variety of museums and arts nonprofits, including the Poetry Society of America, the Poetry Foundation, the Contemporary Jewish Museum and Action Books.

Workshop thumbnail artwork: Collage by Christine Hou