Conversation Series:

Poetry as Radicalization and Liberation for BIPOC & Marginalized People

This new conversation series searches for a foundation of thinking on and a collective exploration of poetry’s role in activism and social change from contemporary poets whose art directly reflects such inquiry and risk. The program’s creator and host is Felicia Zamora, poet and assistant professor of poetry at the University of Cincinnati. 

Conversation guests are asked a series of five to six questions on what it means for them to be a poet in the current climate of the nation, their thoughts around poetry as a medium for social change, and how they see imagination’s role in their art and the role art plays in radicalization.

Either we are doing the work of making a better world, or we are doing something else.

Dr. Joshua Bennett

What does it mean to be a poet in the current climate of our nation? How do Dr. Bennett’s words, “doing something else” fuel the larger conversations around human justice and white supremacy in the country? Poets, as artists, by intrinsic nature look beyond the veil of what is, to expose the seams of existence. Do poets have an obligation to call failed systems and structures into question? Is poetry activism? What roles do imagination and magic play in the invention of a world where BIPOC and marginalized people’s liberation exist?

The series is supported by the Charles Phelps Taft Research Center, the A&S Faculty Development Award in the Vice Provost’s Office, and the Latino Faculty Association at the University of Cincinnati.

Recent Conversations

Dr. Joshua Bennett – January 27, 2022

Dr. Joshua Bennett is the author of The Sobbing School (Penguin, 2016)—which was a National Poetry Series selection and a finalist for an NAACP Image Award. He is also the author of Being Property Once Myself (Harvard University Press, 2020), Owed (Penguin, 2020), The Study of Human Life (Penguin, 2022) and Spoken Word: A Cultural History, which is forthcoming from Knopf. He has received fellowships and awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Whiting Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Society of Fellows at Harvard University. He is a Professor of English at Dartmouth College.

Jennifer S. Cheng – September 22, 2021

Jennifer S. Cheng’s Moon: Letters, Maps, Poems was selected by Bhanu Kapil for the Tarpaulin Sky Award and named a Publishers Weekly “Best Book of 2018." She is also the author of House A, selected by Claudia Rankine for the Omnidawn Poetry Prize, and Invocation: An Essay, an image-text chapbook published by New Michigan Press. She is a 2019 NEA Literature Fellow and has received awards and fellowships from Brown University, the University of Iowa, San Francisco State University, the U.S. Fulbright program, and the Academy of American Poets. Having grown up mainly in Texas and Hong Kong, she lives in San Francisco. 

Upcoming Conversations (2022)

Hoa Nguyen – February 2, 2022 | 7pm EST

Author Hoa Nguyen standing in front of a modern painting

Born in the Mekong Delta, Hoa Nguyen was raised and educated in the United States and has lived in Canada since 2011. She is the author of several books including As Long As Trees Last, Red Juice: Poems 1998-2008, and Violet Energy Ingots which received a 2017 Griffin Prize nomination. Her fifth book of poems, A Thousand Times You Lose Your Treasure was named a finalist for a National Book Award for Poetry and the Governor General’s Literary Award and has garnered additional support from Publishers Weekly, The Poetry Foundation, Ms Magazine, and the Los Angeles Review of Books. Her writing has been promoted by such outlets as Granta, PEN American Center, CBC Books, Boston Review, The Best Canadian Poetry series, Poetry, The Walrus, and Pleiades. In 2019, she was nominated for a Neustadt International Prize for Literature, a prestigious international literary award often compared with the Nobel Prize in Literature. Since 2017, she has served as Associated Faculty of the University of Guelph Creative Writing MFA program.

Donika Kelly – February 23, 2022 | 7pm EST

Author Donika Kelly standing in front of a textured concrete wall

Donika Kelly is the author of The Renunciations (Graywolf, 2021) and Bestiary (Graywolf). Bestiary is the winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize, a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Poetry, and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. The collection was also long listed for the National Book Award, and was a finalist for a Publishing Triangle Award and a Lambda Literary Award. A Cave Canem graduate fellow and member of the collective Poets at the End of the World, Donika has also received a Lannan Residency Fellowship, and a summer workshop fellowship from the Fine Arts Work Center. Her poems have been published in The New YorkerThe Atlantic onlineThe Paris Review, and Foglifter. She currently lives in Iowa City and is an Assistant Professor at the University of Iowa, where she teaches creative writing.

Heid E, Erdrich – March 9, 2022 | 7pm EST

Heid Erdrich smiling in a green scarf

Heid E. Erdrich is the author of six collections of poetry, including Fishing For Myth (New Rivers, 1997), The Mother's Tongue (Salt, 2005), National Monuments (Michigan State University, 2008), and Cell Traffic: New and Selected Poems (University of Arizona Press, 2012). Her writing has won fellowships and awards from the National Poetry Series, Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, McKnight Foundation, Minnesota State Arts Board, Bush Foundation, Loft Literary Center, First People’s Fund, and other honors. She has twice won a Minnesota Book Award for poetry. Heid edited the 2018 anthology New Poets of Native Nations from Graywolf Press which won an American Book Award. Her most recent poetry collection, Little Big Bully, won the Balcones Prize. Heid grew up in Wahpeton, North Dakota and is Ojibwe enrolled at Turtle Mountain.

An interdisciplinary artist, she performs her poetry across the country, sometimes collaborating with musicians, visual artists, and dancers. Her first exhibit as a featured artist was Skew Lines, May 2019, created in a dual residency with Rosy Simas for SooVac gallery in Minneapolis.

Dr. Craig Santos Perez – April 6, 2022 | 7pm EST

Dr. Craig Santos Perez poised in a black shirt and gray cap

Dr. Craig Santos Perez is a native Chamoru (Chamorro) from the Pacific Island of Guåhan (Guam). He is a poet, scholar, editor, publisher, essayist, critic, book reviewer, artist, environmentalist, and political activist. He is a Professor in the English Department at the University of Hawaiʻi, Mānoa, where he teaches creative writing, eco-poetry, and Pacific literature. He is affiliate faculty with the Center for Pacific Islands Studies and the Indigenous Politics Program. 

Craig is the author of two spoken word poetry albums, Undercurrent (2011) and Crosscurrent (2017), and five books of poetry: from unincorporated territory [hacha] (2008), from unincorporated territory [saina] (2010), from unincorporated territory [guma’] (2014), from unincorporated territory [lukao] (2017), and Habitat Threshold (2020). His work has been translated into Chinese, Japanese, and Spanish. His monograph, Navigating CHamoru Poetry: Indigeneity, Aesthetics, and Decolonization, is forthcoming in 2022 from the Critical Issues of Indigenous Studies at the University of Arizona Press. 

He is the co-founder of Ala Press (the only publisher in the US wholly dedicated to Pacific literature) and the co-editor of five anthologies of Pacific and eco-literature: Chamoru Childhood (2008), Home(is)lands: New Art and Writing from Guahan and Hawaiʻi (2018), Effigies III: Indigenous Pacific Islander Poetry (2019), Indigenous Literatures from Micronesia (2019), and Geopoetics in Practice (2020).