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Ekphrasis and the Body: A Workshop Reading
December 16, 2020 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Participants from Ekphrasis and the Body, one of Cave Canem’s workshops this fall, will read from work developed with Omotara James.
Traditionally, an ekphrastic poem describes or gives voice to a visual work of art. When we are moved by a piece of art, we usually experience it viscerally, before we process it intellectually. In other words, we experience art in the body. The body not only houses these experiences, but contains every memory that has shaped us: individually and collectively. The body is also the subject of countless works of art, going back to the cave paintings. Therefore, the body is one of the oldest, most politicized site in history. In this ten-week online workshop, we will work to subvert the traditional definition of ekphrasis as description. In these current times of global upheaval, uprisings and revolution, the question of who gets to determine what we label as art is more relevant than ever. By shifting the artistic gaze, we begin to decolonize the art and photography world. Ekphrastic poetry is a way of confronting the historical politics responsible for the global canon of art. Ekphrastic poems help create a discourse around these works. Sometimes the most political thing one can do is to create room for oneself within the canon: ekphrasis as a means of representation. In this workshop, participants will map the poetics of their identities and experiences with weekly discussions of contemporary poems that explore the body. In combination with visual prompts, in-session writing, and peer-workshops, participants will learn to harness the language and image of the body to craft ekphrastic poetry. Participants will respond to visual prompts that include personal photos and artifacts, modern visual art and sculpture, photojournalism, and music media from popular culture. This workshop will include readings by Lucille Clifton, Sharon Olds, Vievee Francis, Jericho Brown, Phillip B. Williams, and more.
Omotara James is the author of the chapbook, Daughter Tongue, selected by African Poetry Book Fund for the 2018 New Generation African Poets Box Set (Akashic Books). Born in Britain, she is the daughter of Nigerian and Trinidadian immigrants and a former social worker, in the field of Harm Reduction. She is a recipient of the 2019 92Y / Discovery Poetry Prize and has received two Pushcart Prize nominations and one Best of the Net nomination. Omotara’s work has received support from Cave Canem, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, The Colgate Writers’ Conference, the Home School and the Academy of American Poets. Her work has appeared in such publications as The Paris Review, The Recluse, POETRY, The Academy of American Poets, The Believer, Literary Hub, Poetry Society of America, Winter Tangerine, No Tokens, Platypus Press, and various anthologies. Omotara holds an MFA in Poetry from New York University and a BA in Creative Writing from Hofstra University. She lives in New York City.