The Poetry of Witness

Mon 3 August 2020 - Sat 8 August 2020
Tutors / Meena Kandasamy & Sandeep Parmar
Guest Reader / Deryn Rees-Jones
Course Fee / From £550 - £675 per person
Genre / Poetry
Language / English

On this course, we will explore the role of the poet as a witness-bearer in society. Living in a time of chaos, austerity and impoverishment alongside worldwide xenophobia and racism—how do we capture our complex times in poetry? Bearing witness can be an ethical or political act.  What are the characteristics of this literature of witness? Defining the “poetry of witness” as a term of literary art, Carolyn Forche says, “poem’s witness is not a recounting, is not mimetic narrative, is not political confessionalism, and it is not simply an act of memory.” During this course we will dedicate our time to writing poetry, and enjoy individual writing time, group workshops, and sessions discussing the long and illustrious line of poets who were witness-bearers including Anna Akhmatova, Dunya Mikhail, Czeslaw Milosz and Gwendolyn Brooks, among others.


Meena Kandasamy

Meena Kandasamy is a novelist, poet and translator who lives in East London. Her critically acclaimed first novel, The Gypsy Goddess (Atlantic Books, 2014), blurred the line between powerful fiction and fearsome critique in narrating the 1968 massacre of forty-four landless untouchable men, women and children striking for higher wages in the village of Kilvenmani, Tanjore. Her second novel, a work of auto-fiction, When I Hit You (Atlantic Books, 2018) drew upon her own experience within an abusive marriage, to lift the veil on the silence that surrounds domestic violence and marital rape in modern India. It was selected as a book of the year by The Guardian, The Observer, Daily Telegraph and Financial Times; and was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2018, and Jhalak Prize. Her third novel, Exquisite Cadavers, is forthcoming from Atlantic Books in November 2019.

Sandeep Parmar

Sandeep Parmar is Professor of English Literature at the University of Liverpool where she co-directs Liverpool’s Centre for New and International Writing. She holds a PhD from University College London and an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. Her books include Reading Mina Loy’s Autobiographies (Bloomsbury Academic, 2013), an edition of the Collected Poems of Hope Mirrlees (Carcanet, 2011) and two books of her own poetry published by Shearsman: The Marble Orchard (2012) and Eidolon (2015), winner of the Ledbury Forte Prize for Best Second Collection. She also edited the Selected Poems of Nancy Cunard (Carcanet, 2016) and with Bhanu Kapil and Nisha Ramayya co-authored Threads (Clinic Press, 2018). Her essays and reviews have appeared in The Guardian, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The New Statesman, The Financial Times and the Times Literary Supplement. She is a BBC New Generation Thinker and co-founder of the Ledbury Emerging Poetry Critics scheme for BAME reviewers.

Guest Reader

Deryn Rees-Jones

Deryn Rees-Jones is a poet, editor and critic. Her selected poems, What It's Like To Be Alive, was published by Seren in 2016 and was a Poetry Book Society Special Commendation. Recent books of poems include Burying the Wren and Erato (2019). Both were PBS Recommendations and were shortlisted for the T S Eliot prize. Deryn is editor of the award-winning poetry series Pavilion Poetry (Liverpool University Press). Her new lyric essay Fires is published by Shoestring Press.

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