Poetry and Freedom Movement

February 15, 2022

People often talk about poetry as a rarefied, elitist art. And yet it has always been, as poet and activist June Jordan put it, an art “for the people,” as poems have served as revolutionary rallying cries, missives passed between prison cells, anthems for liberation. How do practitioners of the genre think about their own experiences at the intersection of poetry and social movements? What are the relationships between forms on the page and embodied forms of political struggle? Does the practice of poetry lead the poet to seek isolation or to gather in community? Under what conditions can a poem imagine freedom?

The Politics of Literary Practice

Join Jewish Currents for a series of three conversations—on poetry, criticism, and translation—to explore the relationships between politics and literary form. Considering the history and present of the genres in question, participants will discuss the various ways that textual practices structure our imaginations—and how they chart possibilities for reading, thinking, and living otherwise.

Check out the upcoming two events in the series: Criticism as Creative Form and Translation, Migration, Mobilization.

Zaina Alsous is an organizer and popular educator in Miami and the author of A Theory of Birds.

Alexis Pauline Gumbs, PhD is a Black feminist love evangelist and an aspirational cousin to all life and the author of the forthcoming The Eternal Life of Audre Lorde. Alexis is also the author of Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons of Marine Mammals (AK Press, 2020), Dub: Finding Ceremony (Duke Press, 2020), M Archvie: After the End of the World (Duke Press, 2018) and Spill: Scenes of Black Feminist Fugitivity (Duke Press, 2016). She is also coeditor of Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Frontlines (PM Press, 2016). Her work has been featured in Best American Experimental Writing, The New Inquiry, Sierra, The Offing, Kweli, Ebony, Southern Cultures and more. Alexis is a 2022 National Endowment for the Arts Fellow and she was a 2020-2021 National Humanities Center Fellow. Alexis is creative writing editor of Feminist Studies, literary advisor for the Ntozake Shange Trust, and the co-creator of the Mobile Homecoming Trust, a living library amplifying generations of Black LGBTQ Brilliance in Durham, NC.

Momtaza Mehri is a poet, essayist and independent researcher. Her latest pamphlet, Doing the Most with the Least, was published by Goldsmiths Press.

Claire Schwartz is the author of the forthcoming poetry collection Civil Service (Graywolf Press, 2022) and the culture editor of Jewish Currents.