Suzanne Gardinier

on leave yearlong

BA, University of Massachusetts-Amherst. MFA, Columbia University. Author of 12 books, most recently Amérika: The Post-Election Malas 1-9 (2017), Notes from Havana (2016), Carta a una compañera (2016), Homeland (2011), Iridium & Selected Poems (2010), & Letter from Palestine (2007). Her poetry has appeared in Grand Street, The New Yorker, and the Wolf magazine in the United Kingdom; her fiction in The Paris Review & Fiction International’s “Artists in Wartime” issue; and her essays in The Manhattan Review, The Progressive, & Siècle 21 in Paris. Served on an American Studies Association Panel called “American Jews, Israel, & the Palestinian Question,” and as resident director of the Sarah Lawrence College study abroad program in Havana. A recipient of awards from the New York Foundation for the Arts and the Lannan Foundation. SLC, 1994–

Previous Courses

Writing

First-Year Studies in Poetry: The Making of the Complete Lover

Open, FYS—Year

The known universe has one complete lover, and that is the greatest poet. —Walt Whitman

This class will be a yearlong introduction to the ways and means of making poetry, from the most concrete to the least: the word, the line, the image, the sonnet, the ghazal, the blues, prescience, truth, revision. Our text will be an anthology of 99 great poems according to me, from ancient Sumer to the present, called “Love the Wild Swan,” supplemented by poems your tastes will add to our mix. We will not discuss drafts of student work in class but in conference; in class, we'll discuss the mysteries of poems that we love as a way of figuring out how to make new poems in dialogue with them. You will be expected to attend class, engage with assigned and suggested readings, participate in discussions, and, by the end of the course, produce: (a) a short critical essay on a poem; (b) a short biographical sketch of a poet; (c) a 20-page anthology of poems, with introduction; and (d) a 10-page chapbook. The only prerequisites for this class are a passion for reading that equals your passion for writing and a willingness to undertake whatever might be necessary to read and write better on our last day of class than on our first.

Faculty

Nonfiction Workshop: To Tell the Truth

Open, Seminar—Fall

This class will explore the mysteries of reading and writing what has been called “nonfiction,” focusing on questions around what has been called lying and what has been called telling the truth. Was Toni Morrison right when she said our minds have an “antipathy to fraud”? Does lying have a syntax? What are the cultural contexts, nourishments, and manipulations that may affect what happens between a writer or a reader and a drafted or published sentence? Is it possible to identify a lie in print? When you write, is it possible to lie less? What does a writer’s voice sound like when it’s lying? Is it possible to “tell the truth”? In conference, we’ll discuss your reading, your research, and your drafts; in class, we’ll discuss readings—likely to include the work of James Baldwin, Teju Cole, Dionne Brand, James Bamford, June Jordan, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Alexander Chee—in light of the questions above as a way of guiding our own makings. You will be expected to attend class, engage with assigned and suggested readings, participate in discussions (maybe more actively than usual; see note, below), and write 15 pages of publishable nonfiction. The only prerequisites are a passion for reading that equals your passion for writing, the courage to give up spectatorhood for active participation, and a willingness to undertake whatever might be necessary to read and write better on our last day of class than on our first. NOTE re spectatorhood: In our world of screens, it can be easy to think of an education as something you watch vs. something you do. To try to avoid this, I’ve decided to decrease the number of pages I’m asking you to read and increase the number of minutes I expect you to discuss them. In most classes, I’ll ask you to talk with me for 10 minutes or so, with classmates chipping in or not, about your thinking in relation to what we’ve all read. This will mean substantially more than throwing in a brief comment or listening attentively, although both of those are still important. This will be done with respect and care; but if you know that it will be excrusiating or impossible to talk for 10 minutes in a row about what you think, this class may not be the right one for you.

Faculty

Poetry Workshop: The Zuihitsu

Open, Seminar—Spring

“There is nothing like a zuihitsu,” Italo Calvino wrote, in Six Memos for the Following Millenium, “and its definition slips through our fingers. [Zuihitsu] is a classical Japanese genre that allows a series of styles, and everything can be constantly reshuffled and reordered in every conceivable way.” The name is derived from two Kanji: “at will” and “pen.” In this class, we’ll explore the zuihitsu as readers via three required texts—The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon and two versions of Narrow Road to the Interior, one by Basho and one by Kimiko Hahn—and as writers, using the materials of haiku, lists, interviews, dialogues, travelogues, monologues, maps, and poems of all varieties. Participants will be required to make an individual zuihitsu and to contribute to the making of a collective one. The only prerequisites are a desire to be challenged, a thirst for reading that equals your thirst for writing, and a willingness to undertake whatever labors might be necessary to read and write better on our last day of class than on our first.

Faculty

MFA Writing

Poetry Workshop: The Dead and the Living

Workshop—Spring

In this class we'll discuss how to draw on the inspirational powers of other poets: the living, as proposed by you, and the dead, as proposed by me. Each week, someone in the class will assign, present, and suggest an exercise based on the work of a living poet—and each week, I'll do the same based on the work of someone dead. Our choices will be made after our introductory discussions to figure out the powers, needs, and interests of the poets in the room. Along the way, we'll develop a critical language together in which to talk about poetry of any description, acquire tools of our own inspired by the inventions of others, do some in-class workshop discussion of drafts (but not too much), and broaden our sense of the range of what poetry is and can do. Drafts will be discussed in detail in conference. You'll get experience in teaching a class as well. The only prerequisites are a desire to be challenged, a thirst for reading that equals your thirst for writing, and a willingness to undertake whatever labors might be necessary to read and write better on our last day of class than on our first.

Faculty