Camille T. Dungy & Ross Gay:
Black Nature, Poetry, and Coexistence
in conversation with Aya de León and Maurya Kerr
Wednesday, November 17th 2021
5:00 – 6:30pm PST
Watch the livestream on YouTube here.
This event is presented by the Arts Research Center and Engaging the Senses Foundation, and co-sponsored by the Black Studies Collaboratory, Future Histories Lab of the Global Urban Humanities Initiative, and the departments of English, Ethnic Studies, and Theater, Dance & Performance Studies
Please join us in welcoming two extraordinary poets to ARC’s virtual stage: Camille T. Dungy and Ross Gay. After their readings, they will be joined by Poetry for the People’s Director Aya de León and ARC F21 poetry fellow Maurya Kerr for conversation and Q&A. This event will be livestreamed + live captioned and is free and open to the public.
In addition to four collections of poetry, Camille Dungy edited Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry, the first anthology to focus on nature writing by African American poets. By using social and literary history to broaden our concept of nature poetry, Dungy challenged and changed that framework to include poets writing out of slavery, Reconstruction, the Harlem Renaissance, the Black Arts Movement, and late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century African American poetic movements. Ross Gay is interested in studying joy. His four books of poetry include the National Book Award winning Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude (2015), and his latest, Be Holding (2020), is the winner of the PEN /Jean Stein Book Award. Gay is also the author of the NYT bestselling collection of essays, The Book of Delights, and co-author, with Aimee Nezhukumatathil, of the chapbook Lace and Pyrite: Letters from Two Gardens. A long time gardener, Gay is a founding member of the food justice and joy project the Bloomington Community Orchard.
Camille T. Dungy is the author of four collections of poetry, most recently Trophic Cascade (Wesleyan UP, 2017), winner of the Colorado Book Award, and the essay collection Guidebook to Relative Strangers: Journeys into Race, Motherhood and History (W.W. Norton, 2017), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Dungy has also edited anthologies including Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry and From the Fishouse: An Anthology of Poems that Sing, Rhyme, Resound, Syncopate, Alliterate, and Just Plain Sound Great. A 2019 Guggenheim Fellow, her honors include NEA Fellowships in poetry (2003) and prose (2018), an American Book Award, two NAACP Image Award nominations, and two Hurston/Wright Legacy Award nominations. Dungy’s poems have been published in Best American Poetry, The 100 Best African American Poems, the Pushcart Anthology, Best American Travel Writing, and over thirty other anthologies. She is University Distinguished Professor at Colorado State University.
Ross Gay is the author of four books of poetry: Against Which; Bringing the Shovel Down; Be Holding; and Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, winner of the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award and the 2016 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. His new poem, Be Holding, was released from the University of Pittsburgh Press in September of 2020. His collection of essays, The Book of Delights, was released by Algonquin Books in 2019. Ross is also the co-author, with Aimee Nezhukumatathil, of the chapbook “Lace and Pyrite: Letters from Two Gardens,” in addition to being co-author, with Rosechard Wehrenberg, of the chapbook, “River.” He is a founding editor, with Karissa Chen and Patrick Rosal, of the online sports magazine Some Call it Ballin’, in addition to being an editor with the chapbook presses Q Avenue and Ledge Mule Press. Ross is a founding board member of the Bloomington Community Orchard, a non-profit, free-fruit-for-all food justice and joy project. He also works on The Tenderness Project with Shayla Lawson and Essence London. He has received fellowships from Cave Canem, the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, and the Guggenheim Foundation. Ross teaches at Indiana University.
Aya de León directs the Poetry for the People program in the African American Studies Department at UC Berkeley. Kensington Books publishes her award-winning novels that generally focus on race and climate. The latest, A SPY IN THE STRUGGLE is about FBI infiltration of an African American organization fighting for climate justice and racial justice. Her first young adult novel, The Mystery Woman in Room Three, about two undocumented Afro-Latina teens who uncover a senate kidnapping plot to stop the Green New Deal is currently available for free in serialized format on Orion Magazine. Her next adult novel comes out next month, QUEEN OF URBAN PROPHECY is about a female rap artist that addresses misogyny in hip hop, police violence, and the climate crisis. Aya is alumna of Cave Canem and VONA, and is a member of the national working group of the Red, Black and Green New Deal, the climate initiative of the Movement for Black Lives. Aya is currently working on a memoir of her body that explores the intersection of food, body image, race, and the environment. In 2022, she is organizing an online conference on Black Literature vs. the Climate Emergency. Finally, her Justice Hustlers series has been optioned for television, and she is working on the pilot. Find her at ayadeleon.com.
Maurya Kerr is a bay area-based writer, educator, and artist. Much of her artistic work, across disciplines, is focused on Black and brown people reclaiming their birthright to wonderment. Maurya’s poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart prize, and has appeared or is forthcoming in Blue River Review, River Heron Review, Inverted Syntax, Oyster River Pages, Chestnut Review, Mason Jar Press Journal, Harbor Review, and “The Future of Black: A Black Comics and Afrofuturism Anthology” (November, 2021). Maurya is an ARC fall 2021 Poetry fellow.