Grief, like good poetry, isn't linear. It's rarely straightforward, often confusing. It circles and lifts, eddies and fades, then comes back all the sudden to punch you in the gut when you least expect it. Sometimes it's furious, sometimes persistent, and sometimes even sweet.
Most of language fails us when it comes to grief, which is why we need a practice of reviving the basic tools we have to talk about what we've gone through, are still going through.
Poetry can be that practice: messy, personal, reaching, revelatory.
For National Poetry Month, Scalawag takes our grief and other loves on the road; We're hosting writing workshops with poets across the South to create spaces we can gather in community where we can struggle to find the words together.
Three in-person and one virtual workshop are scheduled so far, with more to come. Learn a little bit about the poets hosting workshops in your area, and sign up below. Spots are limited. These spaces are Black-centering, but everyone ages 16 and up are welcome.
April 1, 11 a.m. — 1 p.m. CST
Jackson, Mississippi @ The Mississippi Museum of Art
Explore ways to creatively use what you have to develop personal recipes for (self) preservation in the wake of emotional grief. Together we'll go 'grocery shopping,' borrowing from rich Southern culinary traditions. The end result will be lists, recipes, and poetic meals that can nourish our hearts and souls.
Amanda Furdge (Shelby) is a God-fearing and God-full Black Mississippian organizer, revolutionary, and cultural worker. At thirty-five years old, she is a leading figure in the universal Black Arts Movement and has written, published, and contributed to countless creative expressions of her own as well as many others across the globe. Amanda considers her most noteworthy accomplishments to be found within the eyes, smiles, ideas, and attitudes of her three beloved sons Titan, Mega, and Seven. Nothing is more valuable, liberating or empowering to Amanda than love.
April 4, 7 p.m. — 8:30 p.m CST
Virtual, via Zoom
Some of the strongest feelings we have are about people we've loved and lost. Ariana will guide participants in writing odes to themselves and their loved ones. Participants will consider the power of our own names, the strength of self-love, and the love we share with others.
Ariana Brown is a queer Black Mexican American poet, creative writing teacher, and librarian based in Houston. She is the author of We Are Owed. (Grieveland, 2021), Sana Sana (Game Over Books, 2020), a 2014 national collegiate poetry slam champion, and has been teaching and performing poetry for 13 years.
April 12, 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. EST
Durham, NC @ Rofhiwa Books
Racial violence echoes heavily. Black communities are often re-traumatized in processes to seek justice for those killed unjustly. In this grief workshop, participates are invited to construct erasure poems that reflect the continuous police violence we face and the losses we are tasked to survive.
Crystal Simone Smith is the author of two poetry chapbooks, Routes Home, and Running Music. She is also the author of Wildflowers: Haiku, Senryu, and Haibun. Her work has appeared in numerous journals. She is an alumna of the Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop and the Yale Summer Writers Conference. She holds an MFA from Queens University of Charlotte and lives in Durham, NC with her husband and two sons where she teaches English Composition and Creative Writing. She is the Managing Editor of Backbone Press. Her latest book Dark Testament, released this January, gives voice to the mournful dead, their lives unjustly lost to violence, and to the grieving chorus of protestors in today's Black Lives Matter movement, in search of resilience and hope.
"Get Over," "Move On."
with Alysia Nicole Harris
April 26, 7 – 8:30 p.m. CST
Dallas, TX @ Wild Detectives
This workshop leads participants through a series of writing exercises exploring the role that prepositions and directions play in the processes of grief and healing. Much of the time, the language we use assumes a linear and time-bound process that doesn't match our complicated experiences of grief. Together, we'll write to find more productive angles in which to view and move through loss.
Alysia Nicole Harris, Ph.D. is a poet, linguist, international performer, arts writer, and charismatic follower of Jesus. She is the author of the chapbook How Much We Must Haved Looked Like Stars to Stars, a collegiate and youth poetry slam champion, and founding member of the spoken word collective The Strivers Row. Alysia has performed in over 20 countries and now lives in Corsicana, TX where she serves as Scalawag's Arts & Soul Editor-At-Large. She received her Ph.D. from Yale in Linguistics and her MFA in Creative Writing from NYU.
The Evidence of Grief
with Victoria Newton Ford
April 28, 5 – 6:30 p.m. EST
Washington, DC @ Anacostia Arts Center
In this poetry workshop, participants will be invited to engage with found text—from letters, social media posts, news headlines, song lyrics, and more—to use as prompts to write poems investigating grief.
Victoria Newton Ford is a poet from Memphis, Tennessee. She is a MacDowell and Lambda Literary Fellow, and her work has been supported by Tin House Summer Writers Workshop, the Vermont Studio Center, and The Hurston/Wright Writers Workshop. She earned her B.A. in English with a concentration in creative writing from the University of Pennsylvania. She is currently working on her first manuscript about Black mothers and their daughters, captivity, and haunting.
with Aurielle Marie
more from grief & other loves
No woman makes it through life without a sister. Through faith, family, and struggle, we inhabit a deep solidarity that allows us to hold one another close, even at the very end. Nnenna Freelon walks us through her journey of losing her sister, Debbie.
Photographer Justin Hardiman, a collaborator with Jasmine Williams and Sarah Jené's 'How We Get Over: We Grow On' project at the Mississippi Museum of Art, shares stunning portraits and excerpts from his audio-visual project, 'The Color of Grief.'
Grief is a woman with plenty to say. In the first episode of Great Grief, Nnenna Freelon asks us to consider what happens if we stop running from our grief, sit down, and listen to her for a change. Listen and read along with the podcast transcript.