Picador Seminars by Sasha Pimentel in the Winter Term 2018/19

As part of her tenure in the winter term of 2018/19, Picador Professor Sasha Pimentel will teach two classes at American Studies Leipzig.

Contemporary Poetries That Sing from U.S. Histories and Ahistories

Wednesdays, 3-5pm, GWZ 3.5.15

[H]ow we see ourselves (if our vision is not decolonized), or how we are seen is so intense that it rends us. It rips and tears at the seams of our efforts to construct self and identify,” bell hooks writes in Black Looks: Race and Representation, and we can add to that what historian and writer Aberjhani proposes, that “[t]he best of humanity’s recorded history is a creative balance between horrors endured and victories achieved.” In this course, we’ll study the many and varied contemporary poetries that speak to modern experience in U.S. literature, focusing on poets who speak from historically marginalized cultural positions. It’s poets who understand both speech and silence as the dueling texts of a poem—matching too the need to assert, against the unspeakable realities, of the histories and ahistories of: U.S. slavery, genocides and colonizations of indigenous peoples and throughout the Americas and Asia, and historical national and state moves against the immigration and interrelationships of peoples because of racial or ethnic discrimination.

We’ll study how a poet both sings against—and must fall silent too—in such spaces, studying full-length works such as: Kevin Young’s Ardency: A Chronicle of the Amistad Rebels, Patricia Smith’s Incendiary Art, Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric, Juan Felipe Herrera’s 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border, Natalie Diaz’s My Brother Was an Aztec, Aracelis Girmay’s The Black Maria, Chen Chen’s When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities, Paisley Rekdal’s The Night My Mother Met Bruce Lee: Observations on Not Fitting In, Ocean Vuong’s Night Sky with Exit Wounds, sam sax’s Madness, Philip Levine’s The Mercy, Edward Hirsch’s Gabriel, Layli Long Soldier’s Whereas and Fady Joudah’s Footnotes in the Order of Disappearance, among individual poems and critical texts by historians/scholars/cultural and literary critics like hooks, Ta-Nehisi Coates, James Baldwin, Angela David, Emma Pérez, Matthew Frye Jacobsen and Ezra Cappell.

This seminar is part of the MA module “Immigration, Ethnicity, and Citizenship.”


Advanced Poetry Writing: Poetry Workshop

Tuesdays, 3-5pm, GWZ 3.5.15

In order to begin writing a poem writes Richard Wilbur, “there has to be a sudden, confident sense that there is an exploitable and interesting relationship between something perceived out there and something in the way of incipient meaning within you.” In this graduate workshop, we’ll work through your poems to mine that territory between the external and the internal, wrenching language down to rhythm and measure to arrive at what Denise Levertov says in a poem is not an approximation of an experience, “but the feeling of an experience, its emotional tone, its texture.”

In this graduate writing seminar, I’ll ask you to learn advanced skills in poetry by workshopping working poems written by you and your classmates, as well as studying contemporary texts—both creative and critical—in poetry. We will focus on: finding a poem’s organic form; creating complex meanings through line, language and whitespace; balancing momentum and resistance in poetic form; and developing rhythm and tension through syntax, punctuation, point of view, perspective, time, tense, sonic repetition and imagistic repetition. We’ll talk too about accessing Federico García Lorca’s poetic duende, how to arrive at what is truly “at risk” in art, in a poem, so that we may write as closely as possible to that which is ultimately unsayable—but necessary to say.

This class, formally comprising a 45-minute seminar followed by a 45-minute tutorial, forms the BA Professional Skills Module “Creative Writing: Imagining America” (5 credits). More information on this new module is available here.