The Personal Is Political

Poetry as Consciousness Raising

What is a “political” poem? In the 1969 essay from which this course borrows its title, feminist activist Carol Hanisch writes, “It is at this point a political action to tell it like it is, to say what I really believe about my life instead of what I’ve always been told to say.” In this workshop, we’ll explore the many ways in which a poet’s expression of their unique perspective as a person in the world may be both an intimate whisper from one individual to another and an act of political speech. As the act of speech requires the act of listening, we’ll hone our listening through the work of Claudia Rankine, Ari Banias, Sarah Gambito, Ilya Kaminsky, Janine Joseph, Danez Smith and others—and we’ll ask ourselves what it means to us, and to the world, when as writers we speak both artfully and meaningfully from the substance of our lived experience.

Workshop Details


Laura Eve Engel is the author of Things That Go (Octopus Books, 2019). A recipient of fellowships from the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing and the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, her work can be found in the Nation, Best American Poetry, Boston Review, PEN America, Tin House and elsewhere. She has taught courses in creative writing, literature and composition at the University of Houston, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Fordham University, among other places, and for ten years she worked with high-school-age writers and new teachers at the University of Virginia’s Young Writers Workshop, where she served as residential program director from 2012 to 2017. A musician in the off-hours, she’s one half of a band called The Old Year.