"Where Poetry Comes From: Intersectionality and the Poetry of Social Justice"
As a member of a First-Year Seminar team at Mount Saint Mary's University, I have developed a module entitled "Where Poetry Comes From: Intersectional Identities and the Poetry of Social Justice." The purpose of my literature-based module is to introduce first year, majority first-generation Latina college students to the history of poetry and the ways in which poetry--a genre students associate almost exclusively with the expression of private emotions--has become a vehicle for freeing oppressed voices and addressing social inequality and inequity. I begin with a brief review of poetry's history and definitions, including a look at Sappho, The Song of Songs, and Caedmon's Hymn, in order to challenge students' view that poetry is limited to expressions of personal emotions. The main focus of the course is the "intersectional" work of Adrienne Rich, Audre Lorde, and Claudia Rankine, work which insists that "the personal is political" (Rich) and that "poetry is not a luxury" (Lorde). I note that Rich's and Lorde's work pre-dates Kimberle Crenshaw's 1989 coining of the term "intersectionality." Alongside my discussion of these literary poets, I juxtapose contemporary spoken word/Slam-style social justice poetry representing the intersections of marginalized identities. Furthermore, I argue that social consciousness of Rich and Lorde paved the way for the spoken word/Slam movements' vocalized demands that marginalized people be heard.
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