Please – No More Poetry: Postmemory & Historical Trauma

Please – No More Poetry: Postmemory & Historical Trauma

How do we write responsibly about our intergenerational traumas?

‘Thank you for the food and blankets but please – no more poetry.’ – New York fire chief in response to the copious poems written and scattered all over New York City after the World Trade Center Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001 (from the foreword to Poetry After 9/11: An Anthology of New York Poets).

This course considers the intertwined relationship between poetry and historical trauma across the last century and into the beginning of the current century. Over five sessions, we will ask the following critical questions: Why is poetry such a prevalent form in responses to historical and national trauma? What ethical responsibilities do we have when writing about trauma (both our own and others’)? How does the poetry of one collective trauma speak to another collective trauma? And how do we confront inherited trauma or trauma that does not ‘belong’ to us? We will also consider postmemory, a type of intergenerational memory that characterizes second generation survivors of trauma whose own stories are relinquished to make room for the traumatic stories of the preceding generation. Although we will leave space throughout this course for students who wish to write about their own personal traumas, our primary focus will be to move beyond the personal toward the political implications of writing in response to historical and collective traumas; by reading poets writing about historical, collective traumas, we will strive to write our own way – treading cautiously – in to the messy, aching landscape of the traumatic.

5 fortnightly sessions over 10 weeks, starting 14 May 2020. Live chats on Thursdays, 7-9pm GMT; first live chat 28 May.

More information about how all our online courses work can be found on the Online Courses page.

    Image Credit: Lily Banse

About Anna Veprinska View Profile

Anna Veprinska’s full-length collection of poetry, Sew with Butterflies, sold out of its first print run in four months. Her book, Empathy in Contemporary Poetry after Crisis was published in 2020 with Palgrave Macmillan. She holds an award-winning Ph.D. in poetry after trauma, specializing in poetry after the Holocaust, 9/11, and Hurricane Katrina. In 2016-17 she held a Fellowship at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. She has taught for York University, the University for the Creative Arts, Seneca College, and the Poetry School.

'I really enjoy being part of a community of poets, and the courses give me an opportunity to have a poetry practice.'

– Summer 2019 survey response

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