It is breath
that makes the tragic endurable.
– Terrance Hayes

Poetry & the Senses creates meaningful opportunities for engagement, research, and collaboration. Begun in January 2020, this multi-year initiative 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.

Cave Canem Reading

The Arts Research Center is dedicated to exploring Poetry & the Senses, thanks to a generous multi-year grant from Engaging the Senses Foundation. As a think tank for the arts at UC Berkeley, ARC acts as a facilitator and connector between campus and the many flourishing regional poetry communities.

Image: Chi Elliott, Cameron Awkward-Rich, Morgan Parker, Cornelius Eady, and Vincente Perez at the Celebrating Cave Canem Reading.

Modeled on the ARC Fellows Program, the core of the grant funds horizontal working groups that bring together Berkeley faculty, graduate students, undergraduate students, and Bay Area community poets. Each group convenes over a semester to share creative work, research, discussion, and critique, organized around a wide-ranging theme. Events offer a chance to broaden the conversation, including Visiting Writer readings. In the past 3 years, we have featured over 32 poets including Cameron Awkward-Rich, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Natalie Diaz, Camille Dungy, Cornelius Eady, Safia Elhillo, Ross Gay, Joy Harjo, Terrance Hayes, Lyn Hejenian, Hieu Minh Nguyen, Morgan Parker, Craig Santos Perez, Danez Smith, Patricia Smith, and Simone White.

Image: Spring 2023 fellows

The theme for 2023 is reclamation.

Under the theme of Reclamation, the 2023 Spring and Fall terms of Poetry & the Senses will be led by Indigenous writers who draw on Indigenous languages and aesthetics: Craig Santos Perez (Chamoru), Natalie Diaz (Mojave), and Beth Piatote (Nez Perce). Berkeley’s poetry fellows will be joined by a team of writers from University of Hawaii (Perez); Arizona State University (Diaz); and the community-based Nez Perce writing collective, luk’upsíimey (Piatote).

UC Berkeley occupies the unceded territory of the Ohlone peoples, and as a land grant university it benefits materially from the historical and ongoing dispossession of Indigenous land. In calendar year 2023, ARC will create dialogues with two other public land-grant universities that also have significant, complex histories with Native territorial dispossession as well as with Indigenous education and outreach. The first is University of Hawai’i at Mānoa in spring 2023, and the second is Arizona State University, in fall 2023. ARC Poetry Fellows from UC Berkeley & the Bay Area will be in conversation with both fellowship cohorts from UH and ASU. In addition, you will collaborate with fellows from the Nez Perce writing group luk’upsíimey, which uses poetry to assist in crucial reclamation and linguistic revitalization. The Nez Perce were exiled and forced to disperse from their homelands in Wallawa, Oregon; language and poetry is the mechanism of their return.

This expansion of our current model will create connections around Indigenous issues across 4+ different western states and will explore poetry and the politics of language in a wider framework. The interest is in creating a trans-Indigenous conversation, with juxtapositions that decenter European thought and begin to translate an oceanic-to-desert-to-river-to-forest poetic imaginary.

Poetry fellows, here.

Writing events here.

Poetry fellowship here.

Fellows’ publications, video readings, and work made here.

Bay Area Flash readings here.

Poetry & the Senses is overseen by Beth Piatote, ARC Director, and managed by Laurie Macfee, ARC Associate Director (more here). Our Poetry Advisory Board members can be found here. For more information or questions, please email Laurie directly, at