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Summer Workshops for Young Writers

Writing From Time: Documentary Poetry with Cheswayo Mphanza


8 Sessions

Out of stock

Monday - Thursday 1:00 pm EDT - 3:00 pm EDT August 9 to August 19, 2021

Online via Zoom

The reference or gesture towards the past is increasingly becoming more daunting. History happens in a millisecond; and perhaps the complexity of placing oneself in the ongoing disarray of time, out of the many events simultaneously happening, is one of the greatest and most difficult conditions of being. David Shields, via Ralph Waldo Emerson, in Reality Hunger, writes “there is properly no history, only autobiography.” Essentially, this argues that our documentation, writing, of the past is a reflection of our indulgence in our personal frame of reference to the past. So often, as writers, we position ourselves as agitators, heresiarchs, conspirators, and proselytizers when we write about history because we are always enjambing our own perspective and subjectivity into the fold of the narrative we present.

In this workshop, the aim is to explore how the writing of Documentary Poetry is about being in conversation with history as an act of engaging with the various possibilities tethered to historical events and people. In a sense, we are constructing lingering narratives the archives simply do not, and cannot offer us. In turn, what we will do with our own writing and citing of the past is create a meta-archive. An archive that reflects upon itself in what is and isn’t stored. By primarily looking at the docu-poetry books Macnolia by A. Van Jordan and Voyage of the Sable Venus by Robin Coste Lewis alongside other secondary texts, we are going to create our own historical recordings as an interplay between creativity and what we presume to be facts.

Designed for young writers, ages 13-18.
Capacity: 12

NOTE: Please include the following information about the student taking the course in the “Notes” field at checkout: student’s name, grade level, and email address.

Each year The Center for Fiction offers KidsWrite Fellowships for young adults in need of financial assistance. To apply to be a 2021 Summer KidsWrite Fellow, please click hereThe deadline to apply for a KidsWrite Fellowship is 11:59pm ET on June 12, 2021.


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, Lolwe, Birdfeast, 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, a recipient of the 2017 Hurston/Wright Award for College Writers, and winner of the 2020 Boston Review Annual Poetry Contest, his debut collection The Rinehart Frames (University of Nebraska Press), is the winner of the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets. He earned his MFA from Rutgers-Newark.