Poetry is not a luxury.
–Audre Lorde


UC Berkeley’s Arts Research Center (ARC) will spend the next year exploring Poetry and the Senses, thanks to a generous grant from Engaging the Senses Foundation.

Poetry and the Senses creates meaningful opportunities for engagement, research, and collaboration. As a think tank for the arts at UC Berkeley, ARC acts as a facilitator and connector between the campus and the many flourishing regional poetry communities. This ongoing 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.

The theme for Spring 2021 is emerge/ncy. What kinds of poetic modes of address might be recruited in times of global catastrophe? How does poetry help us think through and within crisis? “Emergency” implies urgency, sudden harm, life-threatening violence, and extreme circumstances, but embedded within it is the word “emergence;” suggesting rebirth and new beginnings. How can we understand moments of emergency as catalysts for renewal, as ruptures that signal massive—if painful—change?

Find out about our current and past fellows, here.

To read our press release, please click here.

Find more about our events here, and more on our fellowship program here.


Board Members

Natalia Brizuela received her Ph.D. from New York University in 2003. Her current research focusses on 19th and 20th century Latin American literature.

Anthony Cascardi  works on literature and philosophy, aesthetics, and early modern literature, with an emphasis on Spanish, English, and French. He is especially interested in the Spanish Baroque and frequently teaches courses on Cervantes and on aesthetic theory.

Chiyuma Elliott is Assistant Professor of African American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Her scholarly work and teaching focus on poetry and poetics, visual culture, and intellectual history from the 1920s to the present. Before joining the Berkeley faculty, Elliott was a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford, and Assistant Professor of English, Creative Writing, and African American Studies at the University of Mississippi. 

Nadia Ellis specializes in African diasporic, Caribbean, and postcolonial literatures and cultures. Her research traces the trajectories of literary and expressive cultures from the Caribbean to Britain to the United States and she is most intellectually at home at various intersections: between the diasporic and the queer; imperial identification and colonial resistance; performance and theory; migrancy and domesticity. She teaches classes on postcolonial literature and the city, black diasporic culture, queer theory, and US immigrant literature.

Timothy Hampton holds the Aldo Scaglione and Marie M. Burns Distinguished Professorship and directs the Townsend Humanities Center.  He works on Renaissance and early modern European culture, in both English and the Romance languages. His research and teaching involve the relationship between politics and culture, and focus on such issues as the ideology of literary genre, the literary construction of nationhood, the relationship of poetry and music, and the history of diplomacy. 

Kathryn MacKay hails from Toronto, where she served as the programmer and interim artistic director of The Images Festival of Independent Film and Video, one of North America’s largest festivals of alternative cinema and media art. MacKay’s programming activities have also included positions as guest curator at the Ryerson Image Centre; guest programmer for TIFF Cinematheque; programming associate for Wavelengths, Toronto International Film Festival; curator of installations for The 8Fest; and as a guest presenter moderating conversations with visiting filmmakers at the International Film Festival Rotterdam.

Alex Saum-Pascual is a digital artist, poet and professor. She is Associate Professor of Spanish at the University of California, Berkeley, where she teaches Contemporary Spanish Literature and Culture (20th and 21st Centuries) and Electronic Literature (Digital Humanities). She is also part of the Executive Committee of the Berkeley Center for New Media and the board of directors of the Electronic Literature Organization. Her academic work on digital media and literature in the Spanish-speaking world has been published in Spain, Mexico and the United States. Her digital artwork and poetry has been exhibited in galleries and art festivals in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Spain, Norway and the UK.

Beth Piatote is author of two books: a mixed-genre collection, The Beadworkers: Stories (Counterpoint 2019); and a scholarly monograph, Domestic Subjects: Gender, Citizenship, and Law in Native American Literature (Yale 2013), as well as numerous essays and short stories stories in journals and anthologies. Her recent work, The Beadworkers, has been long-listed for the Aspen Words Literary Prize and the PEN/Bingham Prize. She is currently associate professor of Native American Studies, where she specializes in Native American literature and law; Nez Perce language and literature; Indigenous Language Revitalization; and creative writing. She earned a PhD from Stanford University.

Rena Rosenwasser was born in New York City in 1950. After graduating from Sarah Lawrence College in 1971, she moved to California, where, in 1974, she helped found Kelsey Street Press, where she continues to serve as its co-director. Between 1987 and 2006 Rosenwasser initiated and produced a series of collaborations between poets and visual artists that established Kelsey Street Press as the premiere and longest lived independent publisher of literature for women.

Hazel White‘s public work includes presentations at SFMOMA, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts,
and Headlands Center for the Arts, where she was an affiliate artist for several years and her work is part of the Key Room permanent collection. She’s a recipient of a Creative Work Fund grant and finalist for the California Book Award, National Poetry Series, and Fence Ottoline Prize.


Poetry and the Senses is overseen by Julia Bryan-Wilson, ARC Director, and managed by Laurie Macfee, ARC Program Director. For more information or questions, please email arcpoetry@berkeley.edu. To contact Laurie directly, please email macfee@berkeley.edu.