The Constraints of this Room: The Poetics of Escape

(with Joshua Wilkerson)

Starts June 6, 2021

What if, instead of seeing the blank page as emptiness waiting to be roused by the perfectly expressive poem, we were to look at writing instead as a market crowd for pickpocketing, a trick straightjacket designed for a flashy getaway?

The Surrealists, Oulipo, and a whole stable of contemporary writers have done just that, using collage, aleatory procedures, games, constraints, and collaborative writing to poke fun at the horrors of the empty page, the stale language and images around them, and the Romantic myths of authorship, selfhood, and poetic form.

What better way to escape oppressive constraints than to design your own? Through a range of readings and guided writing exercises, we will explore techniques for writing under constraints, or, in the words of Raymond Queneau, we will attempt to “build the labyrinth[s] from which [we] will try to escape.” In the process, participants will add to their toolkits for approaching and revising pieces of writing, whatever the specifics of their practice, and discover fresh ways to generate work in our current quarantined moment.

Four-week workshop:
  • Sunday, June 6 (7pm–8:30pm Atlantic Time/UTC-3)
  • Sunday, June 13 (7pm–8:30pm Atlantic Time/UTC-3)
  • Sunday, June 20 (7pm–8:30pm Atlantic Time/UTC-3)
  • Sunday, June 27 (7pm–8:30pm Atlantic Time/UTC-3)

Required supplies: none

Suggested skill level: from beginners to experienced writers

Seats available: 15

Workshop fee: CAN$95

Joshua Wilkerson is a poet and educator living in Lenapehoking (aka Brooklyn, NY). He holds an MA in Comparative Literature from the University of Chicago and is completing an MFA in poetry at CUNY Brooklyn College, where he works as an adjunct English instructor. He is a co-founder of Flatbush Commons, a community library and arts incubator in Brooklyn, and is a poetry and arts editor at The Brooklyn Review.