The central concern of this class is the relationship between the social lives of everyday people and contemporary poetics, with a special emphasis on what June Jordan once called “the difficult miracle of Black poetry in America”. How does poetry help us to know one another? And how might we better understand the role of poetry, of poetics, for those historically barred from the very practice of reading or writing, from ownership (even of one’s own body), and various generally recognized forms of belonging? For the purposes of this course, these will be some of our animating questions.

As a group, we will read and listen to the works of Toni Morrison, Aretha Franklin, Tracy K. Smith, MF DOOM, Saul Williams, and Claudia Rankine, among others. We will compose nature poems, and meditate on the affective range of classic Motown records. We will study lyric poetry on the printed page, as well as spoken word performances that find their most vivid expression in the open air. All toward the aim of elaborating a working theory of social poetics, a poetics of sociality, made to the measure of the present day.