ARC Fellows: Sensing, Knowing, and Other Matters

ARC Fellows: Sensing, Knowing, and Other Matters

Submitted by our 2020 Poetry and the Senses Poetry Fellow:

Menat Allah El Attma (English Literature/Global Urban Humanities)

Two dangers never truly cease to threaten the world: order and disorder. The artist, in whichever medium they practice, knows then how easy and often they find themselves between opposing impulses. This between-space is the central dilemma wherein art itself creates yet cannot resolve.

Whether such art—be it the written word, or photographed image, or sculpted clay—succeeds in its intended plan towards some resolution, I am more invested in the varied attempts and methods employed along that endeavor. Less so focused on its attainment or end-results, I am drawn by the meanings carried by the artistic process—for which are neither absolutely this or that, here or there, but enfolded (once again) in between. It is by the senses, the very abilities that inform us about the space(s) wherein we partake, that one may read their meanings and perhaps begin to understand how they can be deduced and interpreted. That is, sensing is a way of knowing or of acquiring and communicating information; for, the reception of such senses is equally significant to the knowledge they deliver. It posits senses, or what is elementary and fundamental in living things, as a condition of being, namely: the sensed experience as an event, the sensor as a subject, and sensing as an embodied act or performance. The receiver or reader of art, then, becomes a participant.

I compiled a short list of book/film suggestions for quarantainment (quarantine + entertainment) so you, too, may witness and participate in their art (and education). All books listed are by women writers and can be found on at an affordable cost. As for films, the Internet is wide enough when you want it to be and know where to look. Ask a friend?

  1. Central do Brasil (Central Station) 1998 Brazil:
  2. Precious, 1996 dir. Lee Daniels
  3. Queen & Slim, 2019 dir. Lena Waithe and Melina Matsoukas
  4. Moonlight, 2016 dir. Barry Jenkins
  5. Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi
  6. Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick; Dust Tracks on a Road: A Memoir; Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
  7. The Women of Brewster Place and Bailey’s Café, Gloria Naylor
  8. Time Present and Time Past, Deirdre Madden
  9. White Teeth and On Beauty, Zadie Smith
  10. The Word: Black Writers Talk About the Transformative Power of Reading and Writing, Marita Golden
  11. A Taste of Power: A Black Woman’s Story, Elaine Brown
  12. Assata: An Autobiography, Assata Shakur
  13. Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches, Audre Lorde
  14. Images Matter & Listening to Images, Tina M. Campt
  15. Territories of the Soul: Queered Belonging in the Black Diaspora, Nadia Ellis
  16. Stories from Blue Latitudes: Caribbean Women Writers at Home and Abroad and Bruised Hibiscus, Elizabeth Nunez
  17. The Faraway Nearby, Rebecca Solnit
  18. Home, Toni Morrison
  19. Passing, Nella Larsen
  20. Lucy and A Small Place, Jamaica Kincaid
  21. Fledgling and Parable of the Sower, Octavia E. Butler
  22. Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route, Saidiya Hartman
  23. Black Girl Magic, The Black Beat Poets Volumes 1 & 2
  24. The January Children (African Poetry Book), Safia Elhillo
  25. The Archive & the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas, Diana Taylor

Emigrated from Egypt, Menat Allah El Attma majors in English Literature and Global Urban Humanities at UC Berkeley. She is a writer, visual artist, and a Muslim woman aspiring to teach. Menat is personally invested in a myriad of stories and expressive forms to tell them. To her, Art is not only important but necessary to meaningfully study history, science, language, ourselves and each other. The more she practices, the more she sees and understands that the art is in the telling of the story as much as the story itself.

Note: Over the course of the spring semester, each 2020-2021 ARC Fellows will submit a short blog post about their project. We hope you will enjoy these short readings! Poetry and the Senses will create meaningful opportunities for engagement, research, and collaboration. As a think tank for the arts at UC Berkeley, ARC will act as a facilitator and connector between the campus and the many flourishing regional poetry communities. This two-year initiative (Jan 2020 – Dec 2021) explores the relevance and urgency of lyrical making and storytelling in times of political crisis, and the value of engaging the senses as an act of care, mindfulness, and resistance. To learn more about the program, click here.