Skip to Content

Writing Workshops

To Render Human: On Blackness and Implications of Persona in Poetry with Cheswayo Mphanza


6 Online Sessions

Out of stock

Once a week Mondays, 5:30 pm EST - 7:30 pm EST June 20 to July 25, 2022

Online via Zoom

Registration for this workshop has closed.

Please Note: The third session will take place on Thursday, July 7th. There is no meeting on Monday, July 4th.

In Black Skin, White Masks, Fanon proclaims, “I came into this world anxious to uncover the meaning of things, my soul desirous to be at the origin of the world, and here I am an object among other objects.” Being human, or the attempt at being human, is tricky business. Especially when one considers the parameters of race and gender. Perhaps that’s why persona poetry writing, literally meaning “mask,” is a daunting endeavor. What does it mean to write in an objectified body about inhabiting the persona of monsters, objects, and other objectified people? There has to be an argument made here about the ever elusive difficulty of reaching, reclaiming, and reconfiguring of the human/e that Black writers have attempted to arrive at through the use of persona.

In this workshop, we are going to explore the persona poetry, and perhaps ekphrastic as well, of Black writers in terms of how they think about being Black and projecting their sense of selfhood onto others. In turn, we will produce our own persona writing and interrogate what this transference of self means. Are we actually writing in persona or are we revealing our own troubling notions about what it means to be our (non)selves or an/other? To uncover this mask, we will look to the work of Ross Gay, Safiya Sinclair, Tyehimba Jess, Donika Kelly, Terrance Hayes, Evie Shockley, and Frank B. Wilderson III.

Capacity: 12


Led by


    Cheswayo Mphanza

    Cheswayo Mphanza

    Cheswayo Mphanza was born in Lusaka, Zambia and raised in Chicago, Illinois. His work has been featured in the New England Review, the Paris Review, Hampden-Sydney Review, Boston Review, Lolwe, and elsewhere. He has received fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, Hurston/Wright Foundation, Callaloo, Cave Canem, and Columbia University.

    A finalist for the Brunel International African Poetry Prize, winner of the 2020 Boston Review Annual Poetry Contest, and a Creative Capital 2022 awardee, his debut collection The Rinehart Frames (University of Nebraska Press), is the winner of the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets and was a finalist for the 2021 National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry. He earned his MFA from Rutgers-Newark and currently serves as the editor in chief for Lampblack.