Drafting Your Dissent with Jen Fitzgerald

Learn your lineage, claim your space, and respect your art. Jen Fitzgerald will nurture the activist impulse and show you why socially-engaged poetry is necessary.

Your Instructor: Jen Fitzgerald, essayist and poet

Where: Online — Available everywhere!

When: This class is not currently enrolling. To be notified when it is offered again, Click Here

Enrollment: 25 students

Price: $250

Class Description

The history and lineage of poetry is one of resistance, dissent, and revolution.

Poets would not still be jailed around the world if there was not power in their words, truth in their recognition of injustice, and a threat of uprising in their song.

In contemporary American poetry, the social and political are workshopped out, the overt has become covert, and the idea of poetry being accessible to broad groups of people is looked at as a deficit of craft and content. Jen Fitzgerald, essayist and poet, is here to tell you that your creative impulse is not wrong or naïve; it needs to be nurtured and respected.

In this three-week workshop, you will look at the international history of socially and politically minded poetry, immerse yourselves in form, prosody, poetry of witness, intersections of social and political schools of thought, identity, the creative impulse, subversive content, and you will ultimately come closer to deciding what kind of poet you want to be and what you want your writing to do in this world.

You are not powerless.

As Lawrence Ferlinghetti tells us:

“Speak up. Act out. Silence is complicity.” 


“Poetry deconstructs power. Absolute poetry deconstructs absolutely.”

Learn your lineage, claim your space, and respect your art.

As an added bonus, Jen will personally facilitate two additional weeks FREE OF CHARGE to all participants on the LitReactor interface who wish to stick around. During this time, she will introduce contemporary pieces of writing that interrogate the realities and responsibilities of artists and the work they create, paying special attention to intersections of identity as the Social-Political. You will continue to revise, rethink, and reimagine your pieces. You will draft personal artistic manifestoes, commiserate, and prepare your writing for the world.

What This Class Covers

  • A brief overview of the revolutionary history of poetry in the United States and abroad.
  • Careful consideration of contemporary American poetry of dissent.
  • Poems of Witness, Litany poems, Image-Driven poems, Sound-Driven Poems, Avant Garde, Spoken Word, Page-Meets-Stage, Found Text, Erasures, Poetics of War, et al.
  • Locating our personal drive— the political and/or social impetus to our writing.
  • Making clear connections to personal experience and respecting those experiences as guiding forces. “The personal is political.”
  • Taking multiple pieces from draft stage through rounds of revision that incorporate research, poetic devices, and the drum beat of prosody.
  • Read craft essays by a broad range of writers (multiple genres, multiple generations) who incorporate the political/social into their work. Understanding how is just as important as understanding why.
  • While considering the ways in which socially-engaged poetry could be presented and performed differently than most sub-genres of poetry, we will listen to established poets read their work. Those that are willing and able will record themselves to share with the class.

Some of the poets we will be learning about and from:

Adrienne Rich, Allen Ginsburg, Amiri Baraka, Audre Lorde, CA Conrad, Carolyn Forche, Frances Chung, Gwendolyn Brooks, Juan Felipe Hererra, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Mark Nowak, Miklos Radnoti, Muriel Rukeyser, Nikky Finney, Nikki Giovanni, Philip Levine, Trace Peterson, Wilfred Owen, and Yusef Komumkakaa

Goals Of This Class

  • To buck the establishment trend of bleaching poetry.
  • To create a space where poets who don’t feel at home in the BFA, MFA, and Academic Creative Writing settings can entirely be themselves to create their truest art. And yes, of course it will be intelligent, well-crafted, and inspired.
  • To give the creative drive primacy over the finished product.
  • To learn the history and locate ourselves in the lineage of activist writers.
  • Hone our skills as poets and stewards of our writing.
  • Elevate our presentation and performance to meet the needs of the poems and audience.
  • To establish the necessity of socially and politically-minded writing within current times.
  • To actively participate in the new era of social-engagement through poetry/writing.
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