After a summer break, we’re excited to look ahead to the fall semester of Engaging the Senses Foundation’s ongoing Poetry and the Senses partnership with U.C. Berkeley’s Arts and Research Center (ARC). Looking back at the project throughout 2020 and 2021, we can reflect on an ongoing initiative that has focused brilliantly — 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. We are deeply grateful to Julia Bryan-Wilson, Doris and Clarence Malo Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art, who has overseen Poetry and the Senses since 2019 and is on leave for the fall 2021 semester; Acting Director of Arts Research Center Chiyuma Elliott, an Associate Professor of African American Studies at UC Berkeley who is a member of the ARC Poetry and the Senses Advisory Board; and Associate Director of ARC Laurie Macfee, a poet, artist, art administrator, and educator who facilitates the Poetry and the Senses initiative. Our most profound gratitude goes to U.C. Berkeley Dean of Arts and Humanities Anthony J. Cascardi, founder and former director of the Arts Research Center at Berkeley and professor of comparative literature, rhetoric, and Spanish, whose support and vision made the Poetry and the Senses initiative possible.
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 important reckonings and by bringing hearts and minds together to contemplate reality and envision change. Fall 2021’s cohort are certain to further these goals. The Poetry and the Senses fellows for Fall 2021 will now pivot from earlier semesters’ theme of emerg/ency to the theme of “coexistence,” with its implications of both sharing space/cohabitation within overlapping territories, and simultaneous presence with others in time. We’re delighted to anticipate upcoming creative investigations from Undergraduate Fellows Anastasia Le, a poet, printmaker, and student co-operative member in her final year of a BA in comparative politics at UC Berkeley and Gisselle Medina, a poet, visual artist and journalist in their final year as an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley. Graduate Student Fellows Lindsay Choi, a poet and translator working between English, Korean, and Swedish, and Vincente Perez, a Black Mexican-American performance poet, scholar, and writer working at the intersections of Poetry, Hip-Hop, and Digital Black cultural praxis will be rounding out the student intern group. Also joining the Fall 2021 initiative are Faculty Fellows Ahmad Diab, a Palestinian writer and academic who is an assistant professor of modern Arabic literature and cinema (20th and 21st centuries) at UC Berkeley, and Jesse Nathan, a lecturer in the English Department at UC Berkeley, whose poems appear in the Paris Review, Kenyon Review, The Nation, FENCE, The Yale Review, Harvard Review, and American Poetry Review. Community Fellows Maurya Kerr, a bay area-based writer, educator, and artist, whose artistic work is focused on Black and brown people reclaiming their birthright to wonderment, and D’mani Thomas, a Black visual theorist, horror enthusiast, and writer from Oakland, California who has received fellowships from The Watering Hole, Foglifter literary journal, and Bakanal de Afrique via Afro Urban Society will add their voices and visions to the upcoming semester of study, creative work, and performance.