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The Poet’s Circle: “I dwell in Possibility” 


“I dwell in Possibility/A fairer House than Prose–” is a famous line of poetry by Emily Dickinson who lived radically in a time beset by slavery, war, disease, religious extremism, and gender inequality, all of which she contends with in her poetry and letters. 


In the aftermath of WWII, Muriel Rukeyser echoed Emily’s belief in the power of possibility without shying away from America’s hypocrisy: We are a people tending toward democracy at the level of hope; on another level, the economy of the nation, the empire of business within the republic, both include in their basic premise the concept of perpetual warfare… the idea of war… is beneath our other histories… But around and under and above it is another reality… This history is the history of possibility. 


In the 1980’s, June Jordan pressed on the very syntax of democracy, writing: If we live in a democratic state our language would have to hurtle, fly, curse, and sing, in all the common American names, all the undeniable and representative and participating voices of everybody here. 


What questions should we ask in order to imagine the radical possibilities poets envision? How does a verb like “dwell” contribute to a line of poetry? What did the adjective“fairer” connote for Dickinson, and what weight does it carry now? How do we write about hope in a time of “perpetual warfare”? And, ultimately, can we answer June Jordan’s call to overthrow a hegemony of language that undermines our democracy? 

In this course we will create a non-judgemental space to discuss poets like Dickinson, Rukeyser, Jordan, in addition to Leah Naomi Green, Ross Gay, Ada Limón, Tyree Daye, Gabrielle Calvocorresi, Ilya Kaminksy, Li-Young Lee, Jericho Brown, James Baldwin, Danez Smith and Sofia Elhillo, among others; discover and develop our voices as poets; and explore new ways of seeing and saying through workshoping each other’s writing and generating new work in response to weekly prompts. We hold Mary Oliver’s wise words as our core tenant: “To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.”

In addition to the workshop, individual feedback and reading recommendations will be provided to each participant. This course is open to all levels!


MacNair – Tuesdays, June 30th – Aug 4th, 6-8pm (TACOL 2020)


This class is conducted online! A computer with audio, video, and internet functionality is required. Student gives permission for The ArtsCenter and for instructor to use their image and comments in class recordings for promotional non-commercial purposes. Refunds and exchanges are not offered for online classes.


All ArtSchool registrations have a $3 processing fee added upon check-out.

ArtsCenter members receive 15% off of the cost of this course!