SAPIENS Poetry Project 2020
SAPIENS invites submissions of literary anthropological poems to publish in celebration of National Poetry Month in April 2020, with a leadoff poem featured in March to commemorate World Poetry Day on March 21. A total of five poems will be selected based on the following criteria:
- We are seeking well-crafted poems that reveal an anthropological lens, bring readers into the sensory details and/or events of a moment you experienced in the field, and/or engage with an anthropological theme, finding, insight, or process (e.g., a poem about the shift to bipedalism in hominins or a poem that elucidates the human impacts of “prevention through deterrence” at the U.S.-Mexico border).
- In the spirit of our mission at SAPIENS, ensure that any factual material in your poems is accurate (dates, spelling of proper nouns, etc.). Please do not blend interlocutors’ voices to create a composite character or voice within a poem. We do allow the use of pseudonyms if you need to protect a person’s identity. If quotes are used, make sure they are accurate. Please ensure that place names are real, not fictionalized, and confirm that all facts are correct and verifiable.
- We welcome poems that wrestle with deeper anthropological themes, insights, or emotional material that might not otherwise be expressible in other forms. While poems should be based in nonfiction, give breathing room for the imagination to fill in unknowns between facts; use colorful sensory details and imagery; bring a poetic witnessing to bear on an event, a community, a phenomenon, or a discovery. As Kent Maynard and Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor, both anthropologists and poets, wrote, “Try to be faithful to external historical experience, while reaching beyond or through it to an equally true, artful reality, a sense of aesthetics that enhances literal ‘facts’ rather than diminishes them.”
- Write for a general audience: Please do not use jargon or refer to insider themes or experiences that only anthropologists will understand.
- Pay attention to craft, or poetic choices that enrich and enliven a poem: various types of rhyme, line breaks, alliteration, imagery, metaphor and simile, diction, voice, element of surprise, etc. (For more, see: A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver; The Poet’s Companion by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux; Writing Poems by Michelle Boisseau, Robert Wallace, and Randall Mann; Real Sofistikashun and The Art of Voice by Tony Hoagland; The Practicing Poet by Diane Lockward [editor]. Also, check out workshops offered by the Society for Humanistic Anthropology.)
- Need inspiration? Check out “Battlefields, Fieldpoems” by Nomi Stone and Leah Zani, and the spoken word piece “Remixed Ode to Rebel’s Spirit” by Gina Athena Ulysse.
Curious about how other anthropologists have approached writing anthropological poetry? Check out these examples:
- Renato Rosaldo coined the Spanish term antropoesía, “verse with an ethnographic sensibility.”
- Leah Zani writes “fieldpoems.”
- Michael D. Jackson writes in The Other Shore: Essays on Writers and Writing about Paul Cézanne: “He sought to strike a bearable balance between the disorderly forces of human existence and the ordering powers of art.”
- Nomi Stone says, “The poem, through language and form, recomposes the sensorium, helps me get as close as possible to the phenomenological experiences I want to describe.” She has taught “anthro-poetics.”
- Ivan Brady articulates the sensual perspective that many poets write from in “In Defense of the Sensual: Meaning Construction in Ethnography and Poetics.”
- Dennis Tedlock, with poet Jerome Rothenberg, wrote in the vein of “ethnopoetics.”
- Some researchers have billed poetic inquiry as a research method in the social sciences.
Poetic forms and terms:
Open to anthropologists from any subdiscipline of the field. To align with the guidelines of SAPIENS, we only consider work by those who are currently enrolled in an anthropology degree program, hold a degree (B.A./B.S., M.A./M.S., and/or Ph.D.) in anthropology, and/or have an appointment in an anthropology department.
We will provide a US$100 honorarium to anthro-poets whose work is published in SAPIENS.
Unpublished work only; no simultaneous submissions to other publications.
Deadline: January 7, 2020
How to submit? Please compile up to three poems into one Word document, PDF, or MP3 and submit that file on Submittable. Maximum length per poem should be two pages in a Word document, single spaced, font size 12. Reviewers will evaluate only blinded copies of your work, so please do not include your name anywhere on your submission. If you feel your poems need context beyond what is in the poems, feel free to add a short description of the field setting or whatever is necessary to orient the reader.