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 EDT - 7:30 pm EDT 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.
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.
By Cheswayo Mphanza
The Rinehart Frames
By Cheswayo Mphanza
Published by Nebraska
The poems in The Rinehart Frames seek to exhaust the labyrinths of ekphrasis. By juxtaposing the character of Rinehart from Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man with the film 24 Frames by Abbas Kiarostami, the poems leap into secondary histories, spaces, and languages that encompass a collective yet varied consciousness of being.
Cheswayo Mphanza’s collection questions the boundaries of diaspora and narrative through a tethering of voices and forms that infringe on monolithic categorizations of Blackness and what can be intersected with it. The poems continue the conversations of the infinite possibilities of the imagination to dabble in, with, and out of history.
About this series
We strive to make our classes the most inviting and rewarding available, offering an intimate environment to study with award-winning, world-class writers. Each class is specially designed by the instructor, so whether you’re a fledgling writer or an MFA graduate polishing your novel, you’ll find a perfect fit here.
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