This workshop will focus on the use of persona and place in our writing and how the two can feed off one another. Since persona poems are often shaped by the physical and metaphysical surroundings that give rise to them, we will use place as a portal to understand and access voices other than our own. Inhabiting the bodies and perspectives of other people and objects, we will write persona poems that help us better understand our own voices on the page and how our past writing can speak to future poems, regardless of the landscapes new work navigates. Examining Louise Glück’s well-known collection The Wild Iris, persona poems based on interviews such as those in Tarfia Faizullah’s Seam, persona poems that document working-class America like Philip Levine’s “They Feed They Lion,” and other selected poetry, we will locate where place and persona most effectively intersect, as well as the role both play in any successful poet’s toolkit.
J. Scott Brownlee’s first full-length book, Requiem for Used Ignition Cap, was selected by C. Dale Young as the winner of the 2015 Orison Poetry Prize. He is also the author of two chapbooks: Highway or Belief, which won the 2013 Button Poetry Prize, and Ascension, which won the 2014 Robert Phillips Poetry Chapbook Prize. A former Writers in the Public Schools Fellow at New York University, Brownlee is a founding member of The Localists, a literary collective that emphasizes place-based writing of personal witness, cultural memory and the aesthetically marginalized working class, both in the United States and abroad. He currently works for the College of Arts and Science at NYU, where he is the assistant director of the University Learning Center.