With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, The Center for Women and Gender Action presented a poetic activism workshop titled “Writing Love in a Burning Village” with Inam Kang on Thursday, February 8.
Inam Kang is a Pakistani-born poet who currently lives in Cleveland, OH. He is a former Ann Arbor Poetry & Slam finalist, as well as a member of the 2014 WayneSLAM team, and currently a co-curator for the reading series “FRUIT: A Literary Reclamation for the Unseen”. He came down to read his own work and present a workshop of his examples of what he calls “radical love,” which he demonstrated being expressed through poetry and writing.
In this workshop, Kang engages with political and communal approaches in writing by embracing all kinds of love in a deep and personal way. The workshop questioned how caring for your favorite people, pets, and art in life becomes a way to re-engage with our true selves.
Students literally kicked off their shoes and sat in a circle to discuss and write poetry in a safe space. At the beginning of the workshop, Kang passed around notepads and pens to the whole group, and then asked the group to write down five things that they love. On another sheet, they were told to write down five ways they love. At the end of the workshop, the participants were asked to write a poem a specific way: by expressing gratitude of love. He instructed the students not to worry if it was cliche, because that’s the point of the event: revising writing.
“I like to look at the different ways that people love. It helps you outline and think more about how you talk about your love, and that it is a circular act. Words that push the boundaries of sexuality, love and community should be emphasized,” Kang commented about the various radical love approachments.
Kang also is a huge dog lover, and ranted about his love for dogs during the session as another approach of gratuitous love.
The poetry for the reading was hand selected by Kang, who wants to reinforce a different way of thinking about traditional love. These poems ranged from love poems about people’s partners, to love poems about themselves.
Some of the poems read were “Mountain Dew Commercial Disguised as a Love Poem” by Matthew Olzmann, “For I Will Consider My Boyfriend Jeffrey” by Chen Chen, “Self-Portrait With No Flag” by Safia Elhillo, “Butt Plug” by sam sax, “State Bird” by Ada Limon, and “The Cast” by Sharon Olds.
One poem that stuck out to the students because of the childish wonder in it was “To the third grader who gave me a letter” and in the poem, the writer is trying to figure out what a third grader wrote to her. Eventually, she figures out “love is for everybody” was the scrawled words on the page.
During the workshop, Kang emphasized that the way we love is different from the usually presented of love in traditional writing, but sometimes, the cliche can’t help but come out.
“Love is corny,” Kang joked in-between readings about love poetry.
Overall, everyone felt more connected than ever on a personal level after this gathering. It is a display that writing is evolving to fully describe the human condition of love.
This workshop is one of many others that will follow in the Spring 2018 Semester.