As the current academic year of Engaging the Senses Foundation’s ongoing Poetry and the Senses partnership with UC Berkeley’s Arts and Research Center (ARC) comes to an end, we can look back at a project that has focused — in the words of Julia Bryan-Wilson, ARC’s Director – on poetry as a vital resource during a time unduly challenged by crisis, including a world-wide pandemic, massive wildfires, and intense political unrest. The Poetry and the Senses project has dovetailed seamlessly with other ARC projects that investigate visual activism to provide a rich array of artistic tools we can all turn to for comfort and engagement.
During these crucially challenging months, Poetry and the Senses has been a powerful forum for collectively exploring and deepening our core belief in the idea that art can heal by giving voice to what must be heard, and by bringing hearts and minds together in the contemplation of reality and the envisioning of change.
This emphasis is what you will hear so clearly in the stunning final reading and conversation with 2021 Spring Poetry Fellows reelaviolette botts-ward, Vethea Cole, Elizabeth Feng, Sara Mumolo, Ramona Naddaff, Ken Ueno, Noah Warren, and Maw Shein Win. Together, the Spring fellows gave their all to exploring the theme of emerge/ncy: voices to carry with us in times of crisis throughout the semester, investigating what kinds of poetic modes of address might be recruited in times of global catastrophe, and how poetry can help us think through and within crisis, while bringing to light the hopeful concept of “emergence;” within the difficult definition of “emergency,” suggesting rebirth and new beginnings.
Also worth revisiting are the equally meaningful Poetry and the Senses Fall 2020 Fellows’ reading and conversation and 2021’s Flash Reading Series, which was inaugurated during April’s National Poetry month, and featured 25 Bay Area community poets with widely different and evocative voices, each giving a 3-5 minute reading of one of their poems related in some way to the theme of emerge/ncy.
We are deeply thankful to UC Berkeley’s ARC for their ongoing, stellar work in highlighting the art of poetry as the essential form of expression and nourishment we know it to be. We’re looking so forward to bringing you news of the upcoming fellows for Fall 2021’a session of the Poetry and the Senses project, which will pivot to the theme of “coexistence” with its implications of sharing space or cohabitation within overlapping territories and simultaneous presence with others in time. Emerging together from the space of acute collective trauma, we are excited to see what the next evolution of Poetry and the Senses will gift us with this fall as the new poets engage with issues of mutuality, synchronicity, interdependence, and care, all turned towards addressing the challenges of living together on our beautiful, burdened planet.
Please stay tuned!