Our partnership with UC Berkeley is expanding to new heights in its second year as UC Berkeley’s Arts Research Center (ARC) continues to create thoughtful, innovative programs that address in realtime the constantly evolving and extremely challenging realities of life and art in the Covid era. As a reminder, Poetry and the Senses is an ongoing two-year initiative (Jan 2020 – Dec 2021) established under the leadership direction of Anthony Cascardi, Dean of Arts & Humanities. In this robust initiative, poetry— including poetic and mindful modes of engaging with the world— is the central focus of creative investigation across the UC Berkeley campus and the community. Poetry and the Senses creates meaningful opportunities for engagement, research, and collaboration, exploring the relevance and urgency of lyrical making and storytelling in times of political crisis, and the value of engaging the senses as an act of care, mindfulness, and resistance. The initiative is thriving under the guidance of ARC Director Julia Bryan-Wilson (Doris and Clarence Malo Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art), Associate Director of ARC, Lauren Pearson, and Laurie Macfee, Program Director of ARC.
Throughout the spring of 2021, ARC and the poets who are serving as its multi-disciplinary fellows for the spring semester have been tasked with holding the space of poetry and resilience focused on the theme of emerge/ncy, with the word and concept of “emergence” also a focal emphasis. Continuing this focus from 2020, the initiative actively investigates, “what is emergent or birthed at times of crisis, the voices that become maps, guideposts, and sustenance along the way.”
Each month throughout the spring of 2021, Poetry and the Senses features monthly readings, which will remain online through the duration of the semester. These include February’s reading with Safia Elhillo, Hieu Minh Nguyen, and Craig Santos Perez, and March’s conversation with Terrance Hayes and Simone White. On April 26, we were delighted to welcome Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Natalie Diaz, and Aja Monet in readings and conversation. The Spring series will end with the Poetry & the Senses Fellow Reading on May 10, featuring Spring fellows reelaviolette botts-ward, Vethea Cole, Elizabeth Feng, Sara Mumalo, Ramona Naddaff, Ken Ueno, Noah Warren, and Maw Shein Win, each sharing the work they have created during their Spring 2021 fellowship.
An exciting new feature of the initiative is the Flash Readings Series, featuring Bay Area poets giving a 3-5 minute reading of one of their poems, related in some way to the theme. These short readings are available on the ARC YouTube channel. ARC says, “The Bay Area offers a rich, deep, and broad tapestry of voices – we could easily have tripled the number of reading slots and still barely skimmed the surface of wonder and beauty that surrounds us. We are lucky and grateful to these poets for participating in this celebration of community, for helping us think through and within crisis, understand moments of emergency as catalysts for renewal, as ruptures that signal massive—if painful—change, and lean into the possibility of rebirth and new beginnings.” We are thrilled to share with you these meaningful readings with Jane Hirshfield, Thea Matthews, Kim Addonizio, Brenda Hillman, and other fine poets; many more will be added to the list through May, so keep checking back!
Last, but absolutely not least, we’re pleased to announce that applications for the Poetry and the Senses Fall 2021 Fellowships are still open through May 2, 2021 at 11:59pm PDT. Eight fellows will again be chosen, two in each category of faculty, graduate, undergraduate, and community poet; each will receive a $3,000 stipend. Fellows will have the opportunity to meet twice a month (in-person, online or hybrid) with the fellows working group to share creative work; participate in two readings (including a end of semester group reading); have a blog post published on the ARC Blog; interact with visiting writers; have their work showcased in a chapbook; and participate in any projects the group decides on collectively
The theme for fall 2021 will be coexistence which, “has a spatial component, and implies the sharing of space or cohabitation within overlapping territories; it also has a temporal dimension, suggesting simultaneous presence with others in the same moment in time. We seek fellows whose work engages capaciously with issues of mutuality, synchronicity, interdependence, and care – from enlivening exchanges between beings, to the porous line between animate and inanimate, to the challenges of living together on our planet, to the uncanny shivers of coincidence.”
We urge all interested UC Berkeley and California poets who haven’t yet and are interested to apply! Looking back at our 2020 and Spring 2021 fellows, you can see the rich diversity and depth of their engagement and the opportunities the initiative provided for their artistry. Work created for the initiative by each 2020 fellow is now available to explore; Spring 2021 fellows work will be available soon.