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Khaled Mattawa, Poetry

Photo by Khairy Shaaban

Khaled Mattawa has published five books of poems, translated several books of poetry, and edited anthologies of Arab American writing. Most recently, his chapbook Mare Nostrum appeared from the Quarternote series of Sarabande Books. He received a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 2014. He teaches creative writing at U-M and edits Michigan Quarterly Review.



Lyric of the Abundant Self

The lyric poem is strongly associated with a voice speaking in first person, and often that first person is assumed to be the poet. This amalgamation of poetry and autobiography has some advantages, but it often results in obscurity rather than clarity and disengagement rather than revelation. On the other hand, as the philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin states, the self comes to life on the threshold between one’s own and someone else’s consciousness. He further asserts that the essence of being human, and by extension the essence of the lyric poem, is a state of deep communion. Through short readings and exercises, this workshop will attempt to harness our natural self-awareness and our capacity for empathy toward the creation of poetic selves. We will explore ways of shifting our focus from entreaty to lyric, and toward transforming autobiography into narrative and wordplay into drama.