Terrance Hayes and Simone White, Poetry and the Senses, UC Berkeley

We’re excited to invite you to an online reading event featuring renowned poets Terrance Hayes and Simone White on Wednesday, March 17, 2021, at 4:00-5:30pm PST. The reading and conversation are part of Engaging the Senses Foundation’s flourishing collaboration withUC Berkeley’s Arts & Humanities/College of Letters & Science, entitled Poetry and the Senses.

Poetry and the Senses is a two-year initiative established under the leadership direction of Anthony Cascardi, Dean of Arts & Humanities. In this 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. The program was launched in August of 2019 under the robust direction of  UC Berkeley’s Arts Research Center’s (ARC) Interim Director Natalia Brizuela (Professor of Spanish & Portuguese and Film & Media). In 2020, 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, did a remarkable job of growing the initiative despite the unexpected, exigent circumstances of the Covid-19 crisis. They beautifully fulfilled their mandate of 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.”

Throughout most of 2020, the eight multidisciplinary fellows chosen for last year’s program were tasked with holding the space of poetry and resilience in virtual meetings serendipitously focused on the theme of emerge/ncy with the word and concept of “emergence” also a focal emphasis. Working apart, yet always together, their projects included crafting unique personal projects relevant to the topical theme, exploring a range of artistic responses to crisis and extremity with renowned writers, arranging provocative online readings with artistic and social thought leaders such as Joy Harjo (appointed to serve a rare third term as U.S. Poet Laureate beginning in 2021), and putting together a chapbook (due this Spring, please stay tuned)  showcasing poetry and art created in response to the concept of “emergency.” The year ended with an online reading from the new work developed during the year by each of the  2020 fellows, along with an in-depth conversation that was rich, focused, and inspiring.

We are thrilled to support the coming year of the Poetry and the Senses project, and to introduce you to the new fellows who will explore what we all hope will be a time of true and radical emergence as the year unfolds after the struggles and collective pain of 2020. Spring 2021’s undergraduate fellows are Vethea Cerna Cole, a queer, Filipinx writer in their final year of pursuing a BA in Gender & Women’s Studies at UC Berkeley, and Elizabeth Zhiying Feng, a visual artist, writer, and programmer from the Bay Area. Graduate student fellows are reelaviolette botts-ward, a doctoral candidate in African Diaspora Studies researching Black women’s healing spaces in Oakland, and Noah Warren, author of The Complete Stories (Copper Canyon, 2021) and The Destroyer in the Glass (Yale, 2016). Faculty fellows for Spring 2021 are Ramona Naddaff, author of a collection of prose-poems, Paris/Paris (Tête d’Affiche, 1991) and of a permanent installation of a poem-collage, “Ancient Greece and Democracy” in the Lisbon metro station, and Rome Prize and Berlin Prize winner Ken Ueno, a composer, vocalist and sound artist. 2021 Cultural fellows for the initiative are Sara Mumolo, author of Day Counter and Mortar, who serves as the Associate Director for the MFA in Creative Writing at Saint Mary’s College of CA, and Maw Shein Win, a poet, editor, and educator who was a 2019 Visiting Scholar in the Department of English at UC Berkeley and was first poet laureate of El Cerrito, California (2016 – 2018).

Among the array of events we’ll keep you updated on here, one major undertaking we can all look forward to will be Poetry and the Senses‘ spring festival, which will include several panels, curated by both the 2020 fellows and 2021 fellows, within the framework of “what voices to carry with us in emergency,” and inclusive of robust audience participation.

We’re so inspired by the wonderful work being done by this team of educators and artists who are investigating creative ways of navigating our complicated times by focusing on meaningful engagement through poetry, art, collective awareness, and the senses. We’ll continue to update you on all 2021 the Poetry and the Senses events and offerings as the year unfolds!