Joshua Bennett, Marwa Helal, Ladan Osman, and Xandria Phillips
Harvard Book Store's virtual event series welcome acclaimed poets JOSHUA BENNETT, MARWA HELAL, LADAN OSMAN, and XANDRIA PHILLIPS—recipients of the 2021 Whiting Award in Poetry—for an evening of readings and discussion featuring their latest poetry collections, Owed, Invasive species, Exiles of Eden, and HULL.
Gregory Pardlo described Joshua Bennett's first collection of poetry, The Sobbing School, as an "arresting debut" that was "abounding in tenderness and rich with character," with a "virtuosic kind of code switching." Bennett's new collection, Owed, is a book with celebration at its center. Its primary concern is how we might mend the relationship between ourselves and the people, spaces, and objects we have been taught to think of as insignificant, as fundamentally unworthy of study, reflection, attention, or care. Spanning the spectrum of genre and form—from elegy and ode to origin myth—these poems elaborate an aesthetics of repair. What's more, they ask that we turn to the songs and sites of the historically denigrated so that we might uncover a new way of being in the world together, one wherein we can truthfully reckon with the brutality of the past and thus imagine the possibilities of our shared, unpredictable present, anew.
About Invasive species
In Invasive species, Marwa Helal’s searing politically charged poems touch on our collective humanity and build new pathways for empathy, etching themselves into memory. This work centers on urgent themes in our cultural landscape, creating space for unseen victims of discriminatory foreign (read: immigration) policy: migrants, refugees—the displaced. Helal transfers lived experiences of dislocation and relocation onto the reader by obscuring borders through language.
About Exiles of Eden
Exiles of Eden looks at the origin story of Adam, Eve, and their exile from the Garden of Eden, exploring displacement and alienation from its mythological origins to the present. In this formally experimental collection steeped in Somali narrative tradition, Osman gives voice to the experiences and traumas of displaced people over multiple generations. The characters in these poems encounter exile’s strangeness while processing the profoundly isolating experience of knowing that that once you are sent out of Eden, you can’t go back.
In this debut collection by African American poet Xandria Phillips, HULL explores emotional impacts of colonialism and racism on the Black queer body and the present-day emotional impacts of enslavement in urban, rural, and international settings. HULL is lyrical, layered, history-ridden, experimental, textured, adorned, ecstatic, and emotionally investigative.