Virginia Tech’s MFA Program in Creative Writing, along with the Center for Refugee, Migrant, and Displacement Studies, will host “Undocupoets” on Tuesday, March 15.

The day will be a two-part event, with poet and Graywolf Press Editor Anni Liu set to discuss publishing at 12:15 p.m. in Shanks Hall 370/380. Poets Janine Joseph and Jesus Valles will join  at 5:30 p.m. in the Newman Multipurpose Room for a poetry reading and discussion. 

The conversation will explore the issues and forces that shaped the movement, and the ongoing conversation surrounding migration, diaspora, and citizenship. The event, which is also a part of Virginia Tech's Principles of Community Week, is being held in anticipation of the 2023 publication of “Undocupoetics: An Introduction.” 

Undocupoets is a timely and distinctive anthology of an emerging field of poetry written by poets who are currently, or were formerly, undocumented in the United States. Though poems on immigration and migration form a particularly American tradition, the canon is incomplete without the recognition of works that focus specifically on the undocumented immigrant experience.

The term “undocumented” cannot be simply lumped under the immigrant experience, nor does it imply “at risk,” “without voice,” or “subhuman.” Rather, “undocumented” mandates these as conditions of existence­ — conditions that are resisted with poetry.

The anthology will address the ramifications that one undocumented individual’s experiences has on their own self, their family, and their community. Through the careful curation of poems, it will show how the undocumented experience intersects with other markers of identity, including, but not limited to, the experiences of Black, Asian American and Pacific Islanders, individuals with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ individuals.

Like the “Black Arts Movement,” the “Black Mountain Poets,” the “Beats,” the “Confessionals,” the “Surrealists,” the “New York School,” and the “New Formalists,” among other touchstone poetry movements before us, this anthology will distinguish itself by laying the foundation for Undocupoetics — the poetic that is crucial to the work and process of undocumented poets today.

This anthology will institute a new tradition in poetry, complete with critical lenses, that will reflect the particular themes, dilemmas, and darknesses an undocumented poet emerges from. It will address questions such as: How to survive? How to speak? And, what to say when legal status is insufficient to capture the breadth of individuals' wit, innermost thoughts, and madcap lives? 

The event is sponsored by the MFA Program in Creative Writing; the Department of English; the Center for Refugee, Migrant, and Displacement Studies; the Women and Minority Artists and Scholars Lectures Series fund; the International Inititiatives Committee; and the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.

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