Published October 18, 2021
Poet, scholar and professor Simone White, a Whiting Award winner whose innovative work has also received New American Poet (2013) recognition from the Poetry Society of America and a prestigious Creative Capital Award, will be the featured speaker for UB’s annual Robert Creeley Lecture on Poetry and Poetics.
This year’s Creeley lecture is a two-day virtual presentation that opens with White’s lecture at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 21 and continues at 3 p.m. Oct 22 with a collective reflection and response to her address led by artist, writer and cultural theorist Hannah Black.
White’s lecture, titled “expand to what,” will stress the need for performance in poetry and for poetry as a performative event. It will also explore the possibilities for expansion of a poetic practice today.
“Simone White is an incomparable, intellectually exhilarating writer of poetry and various genres of critical prose, including art criticism, literary criticism, aesthetics, critical race theory and critique of law,” says Judith Goldman, associate professor of English, College of Arts and Sciences, and director of the English department’s Poetics Program. “In her critical writing, White goes right to the heart of very contemporary cultural forms. Her poetry astonishingly embodies writing as thinking, working the very edges of thought to reveal crevices of language and felling in relation to race, gender, sexuality.”
Separate online registrations, which are required for each day of the lecture, can be made online.
Simone White’s Creeley lecture builds upon a tradition of previous speakers Nathaniel Mackey, Jerome McGann and Lisa Robertson. But the lecture is not a discrete event, but rather the opening of what Goldman calls “a needed conversation.”
“We begin setting this in motion through the companion discussion hosted by Hannah Black that responds to the talk, to start off what we imagine as a long series of interchanges, especially given that the lectures are also published with commentaries in a series with SUNY Press,” she says.
Goldman says Simone White and Hannah Black pose questions across media, including poetry, visual arts, music and online platforms.
“As artists, they blur institutional lines regarding what belongs where, redefining what the anchors are and what they can be, finding vectors of art-making by which to evade the commodification and symbolic hold through which White institutions exercise domination,” says Goldman. “Both of them gravitate toward potential resistances through poetry and its performance.
“Both days promise to be rewarding experiences.”
White is the Stephen M. Gorn Family Assistant Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania. Since arriving at Penn in 2018, she has been teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in addition to leading poetry workshops. She is a scholar of 20th- and 21st-century Black studies and radical Black poetics, and the author of “Dear Angel of Death,” “Of Being Dispersed,” “House of Envy of All the World,” “Unrest” and “Dolly” (with Kim Thomas). A forthcoming book, “or, on being the other woman,” will be published next year. Her poetry and critical essays have appeared in Artforum, Boston Review and Harper’s Magazine.
White’s work is informed by a multidisciplinary background.
A practicing attorney for seven years before concentrating on her writing, White received a JD from Harvard Law School, an MFA from the New School and a PhD in English at CUNY Graduate Center. Writing, however, has been a nearly lifelong interest. She told the Yale Daily News that she “had always sort of been a secret writer of poetry — even as a very, very young person in high school.”
The annual Robert Creeley Lecture is an opportunity for the UB community to embrace and invite others to acknowledge one of the 20th century’s most important and influential poets. Creeley (1926-2005) was a SUNY Distinguished Professor and author of more than 60 books of poetry and criticism. He served as Samuel P. Capen Professor of Poetics at UB and was a faculty member at the university from 1966 to 2003, when he left to become a Distinguished Professor at Brown University.