Documentary Poetics: An Evening with Susan Briante - Oklahoma Center for the Humanities
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Documentary Poetics: An Evening with Susan Briante

Event to take place Feb. 16, 7pm at Tyrell Hall on the University of Tulsa campus.

Susan Briante is the author of Defacing the Monumenta series of essays on immigration, archives, aesthetics and the state. For this work, Briante won the Poetry Foundation’s Pegasus Award for Poetry Criticism in 2021. Briante will be in conversation with TAF and OCH fellow Kaveh Basiri to discuss Defacing and perform a poetry reading.

In a starred review, Publisher’s Weekly calls the collection “a superb examination of the ethical issues facing artists who tell others’ stories” and a “dazzlingly inventive and searching text.” In another review, author Marie Scarles locates Briante’s focus on “the Southwest border, documenting the cruelty and violence of US immigration policy.” In this political, national/global discussion is also a very personal lyrical element. Briante accounts for herself as affected observer, as activist, as poet, all existing in the same poetic world. Additionally, as Scarles notes, Briante’s book isn’t just about the struggle for justice at the southern US border, but also a meditation on documentary poetics more broadly, tracing its history from James Agee to NourbeSe Philip.

As a whole, this work fits into a trend called documentary poetics, a recently burgeoning genre that uses legal documents, news reportage, testimony, personal experience, and other elements (both fiction and non) to form the basis for its content. What emerges, especially for Briante, is a complex web of information, a narrative perhaps, that attempts to tell a more complete story of an event. Briante’s work hits at the heart of debates about immigration, border control, and the legal system. What does freedom mean to those attempting to cross the US-Mexico border? How is the US embodying its ideal of “freedom” as it relates to immigrants? How does Briante’s innovative work help us to think about these questions? Join us for what promises to be a fascinating evening.

Susan Briante is the author of three books of poetry: Pioneers in the Study of Motion, Utopia Minus, and The Market Wonders. She has received grants and awards from the Atlantic Monthly, the MacDowell Colony, the Academy of American Poets, the US-Mexico Fund for Culture, and (most recently) the Ucross Foundation. She is a professor of English in the creative writing program at the University of Arizona. There she serves as co-coordinator of the Southwest Field Studies in Writing Program, which brings MFA students to the US-Mexico border to engage in reciprocal research projects with community-based environmental and social justice groups.