Willamette Writers Eugene Presents Carter McKenzie
Poetry as Witness against Unjust Erasure
This meeting is online and in person. Please join your Eugene Willamette Writers Chapter this September 26, 2023, 6:15-7:30 PM. Doors open at 6 PM.
“Perhaps the most insidious and least understood form of segregation is that of the word.” —Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric, p. 122, concerning the damage of systemic racism in the United States “To whom and what is history responsible? What I realized at the burying grounds was that each of us is implicated in locating the past-to-present….What then is my relationship with history, told and untold, on this land?” —Lauret Savoy from her book Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape, p. 113
The need to interrupt and bring to an end inhumanity in all of its forms, including racism, antisemitism, misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia, has never been more urgent than now, during the rise of authoritarianism rooted in white supremacy. Erasure of historical truths while encoding inhumanity into law are the means of oppression that harms us all—through distortions and fear, through isolation. Through lack of shared experiences as human beings. Such oppression, while causing the most harm to communities marginalized by white supremacy’s systems, dehumanizes us all.
No form of art is exempt from historical precedent; no artist or writer can afford indifference to the personal work of learning of their own relation to that history.
There is no neutral ground in how we choose to see the world, whether or not the subjects of our art are explicitly political.
Making true diversity possible is an ongoing, crucial challenge and responsibility, and it is especially the responsibility of those of the dominant culture to identify their own unconscious habits of exclusion and assumptions, which keep the barriers of false narratives in place. We can’t dismantle what we can’t see.
This is a challenge of witness I recognize for myself as a white-bodied, cis, straight woman poet. I look forward to bringing to our discussion the questions of process, including questions of tone and speciﬁc language—the assumptions, freedoms, and responsibilities of naming—that I encounter as a poet.
As part of our discussion, we will read poems of place by other poets, including Eavan Boland and Linda Hogan, revealing and reclaiming what has been erased through historic harm. Through generative writing warmups, I will invite participants to begin poems exploring their own histories, including and centering what has or might have been omitted from the accepted story—a forgotten road, a forgotten language, a forgotten community, both human and more-than-human—and which needs to be included, made visible, whether in grief or celebration.
This work of witness is an attentive willingness to see and to feel. Such attention is a form of justice, and justice is a form of love, the complex ground of poetry.
About your chapter meetings
Willamette Writers meetings are open to all writers, 18 and up. Guests are welcome to make a donation to help support the cost of the meeting (we believe in paying our speakers for their time and skills). This meeting is run by volunteers. We look forward to seeing you there!
Young writers are encouraged to join our Young Willamette Writers meetings. Sign Up! Any high school or middle-grade writers are welcome to join us. Sign up for our email list at: http://eepurl.com/hRubBf A registration link will be sent to our email list before our next meeting.
MASKING: Willamette Writers continues to encourage mask-wearing at our in-person, indoor meetings. We also invite you to join us at one of our online Chapter Meetings.
You have to be logged into your own personal Zoom account to attend this meeting (to create a FREE account, go to Zoom.us).
Once you are logged in to your own personal Zoom account, register for the meeting at the link provided above.
On the day of the meeting, log into your Zoom account and then click the link Zoom sent you in your email when you registered with the link above. If you are logged into your personal Zoom account, you can also click the link above and register again if you need to. If you have not done this before, we encourage you to try logging in a half hour before the meeting begins. We had to change our meeting access because of a few inappropriate guests, but we want to continue to keep our meetings open to the public.