Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing

Author-Activists to Explore The Task Before Us: Writing Truth to Power

The Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing Program will invite Pulitzer Prize finalist Martín Espada and award-winning writer Cheryl Clarke to lead an interactive discussion interrogating the intersection of creative writing and participatory democracy.

Part of an annual series that seeks to support culturally and socially engaged writers committed to creating positive change in the community, The Task Before Us: Writing Truth to Power will take place Friday, January 18, 7:00 p.m., at the Harraseeket Inn, Freeport, Maine.

This symposium examines the intersection of creative writing and participatory democracy. The First Amendment is also a call-to-arms: the founders saw Free Speech as a crucial way to protect our democracy (especially one in crisis). Martín Espada and Cheryl Clarke will discuss the structures that threaten and challenge our freedom of expression. Join our community to listen, to question, and to consider art-making as an essential act of citizenship. How, as writers and teachers, can we subvert systems of oppression?

Join author-activists Espada and Clarke and the Stonecoast community at the historic Harraseeket Inn as we imagine future directions for the politics and aesthetics of transformation. Listen, question, and reconsider where you stand.

Conversation moderated by Stonecoast faculty member Elizabeth Hand.

Martín Espada once served as a tenants’ rights lawyer in the Greater Boston Latino community, where, inspired by these experiences, he began to write poetry. Today Espada is widely celebrated for his personal, political, and prophetic poetry. He is the author of over twenty books, most recently the poetry collection Vivas to Those Who Have Failed (2016). His book The Republic of Poetry (2007) was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

A translator, editor, and critic as well as a poet, Espada’s numerous prose publications include the banned-by-Arizona Zapatas Disciple (reissued in 2016) and The Lover of a Subversive is Also a Subversive (2010).

Espada’s poetry has been recognized with the Shelley Memorial Award, the Robert Creeley Award, an American Book Award, the PEN/Reyson Fellowship, and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

In 2018 Espada received the prestigious $100,000 Ruth Lilly Prize in Poetry and the Academy of American Poets Fellowship for distinguished poetic achievement. He teaches in the Stonecoast MFA Program at the University of Southern Maine and at UMASS/Amherst and lives in Leverett, Massachusetts.

Cheryl Clarke, poet, critic, and activist, began writing at the age of five and grew up in Washington, D.C., at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. During a distinguished forty-year career as a co-curricular program leader advocating for social justice and LGBTQIA rights at Rutgers University and beyond, she published the ovular essays “Lesbianism: an Act of Resistance” and “The Failure to Transform: Homophobia in the Black Community” in the ground-breaking publications This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color (1981) and Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology (1983).

Clarke’s five collections of poetry include Narratives: Poems in the Tradition of Black Women (1983), Living as a Lesbian (1986), Humid Pitch (1989), Experimental Love (1993), and By My Precise Haircut (2016), which won the Hilary Tham Capital Competition. Her critical study After Mecca: Women Poets and the Black Arts Movement was published in 2005, and her new and selected work appears in The Days of Good Looks: Prose and Poetry 1980-2005 (2006).

A member of the Women in Print movement from the 1970s through the 1990s, which championed the work of marginalized writers engaged in liberation art and activism, Clarke continues to write, lecture, and promote women writers. Along with her sister, novelist and Stonecoast MFA faculty member Breena Clarke, Clarke helps organize the annual Hobart Festival of Women Writers. Clarke is co-owner, with her partner Barbara J. Balliet, of Blenheim Hill Books in Hobart, New York. She resides in Jersey City, New Jersey, and Hobart, New York.