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January 24, 2024 6:00–8:00 pm
Rubenstein Arts Center, Lounge
Creative Writing

The Living Voice: Creating a Poem’s Unique Speaker

Taught by Yerra Sugerman

About the Workshop

In this workshop, we will explore how a distinctive speaking voice in a poem—the nuanced utterance of a specific speaker and the creation of a particular character—gives rise to an unforgettable work. How does this subtle element called “voice” connect a reader with the idiosyncratic person who is talking? How does a speaker’s voice engage us, excite us, and pull us into the psyche of the individual who is revealing aspects of the way they think, feel, and live? As the poet Tony Hoagland once observed, “A poem strong in the dimension of voice is an animate thing of shifting balances, tones, and temperature, by turns intimate, confiding, vulgar, distant, or cunning—but, above all, alive.” In this class, we will take pleasure in and generate poems that are memorable for the ways a speaking “voice” brings life to them as their connective tissue.

About the Instructor

Yerra Sugarman is an American poet, essayist, and teacher. Born in Canada, she lives in New York City. She is the author of three poetry collections: Forms of Gone, which was a National Book Critics Circle “Favorite First Book” and was awarded PEN American Center’s PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award; The Bag of Broken Glass, which was a National Book Critics Circle “Recommended Book”; and, most recently, Aunt Bird, a hybrid collection comprised of lyric poems, prose poems, and lyric essays published by Four Way Books. Aunt Bird was the winner of the American Book Fest’s 2022 Best Books Awards in the category of General Poetry, and was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Awards in Poetry. Her chapbook From Her Lips Like Steam was published by the Aureole Press at the University of Toledo in December 2019.
Her poetry, translations, personal essays, and critical articles have appeared in Ploughshares, The Nation, AGNI, Prairie Schooner, Pleiades, New England Review, The Bellevue Review, The Massachusetts Review, Poetry International, On the Seawall, and elsewhere. She earned a B.F.A. in Visual Art from Concordia University in Montreal, an M.F.A. in Painting from Columbia University, an M.A. in Creative Writing from The City College of New York, and a Ph.D. in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Houston. She has been the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry, PEN American Center’s PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award, a “Discovery”/The Nation Poetry Prize, the Poetry Society of America’s George Bogin Memorial Award and its Cecil Hemley Memorial Award, a Canada Council Grant for Creative Writers, a Chicago Literary Award, a Glenna Luschei Prairie Schooner Award, and an American Book Fest prize.
She is the daughter of Holocaust survivors, and grew up in a community of survivors in Toronto. She serves as a board member for Yetzirah, a nonprofit literary organization dedicated to fostering and supporting a community space for Jewish poets.

About the Location

This workshop will meet in the Lounge at the Rubenstein Arts Center.

Address: 2020 Campus Drive, Durham, NC 27701

About Duke Arts Create

Duke Arts Create is a series of free, hands-on arts workshops designed to help all Duke students, including graduate and professional students (including Duke Health), as well as Duke faculty and staff develop a variety of creative skills in the visual arts, dance and movement, creative writing and more. Workshops are open to all skill levels and backgrounds. Most workshops are held in the Duke Arts Annex, the Rubenstein Arts Center or the Duke Arts Office 2101 and are typically held weeknights from 6-8 p.m.

Registration for the following week’s workshops go live on Friday mornings at 9 a.m. – sign up in advance to guarantee your spot. Didn’t get a spot? No problem! We always reserve space for walk-ins. Email DukeCreate@duke.edu if you have any questions. Sign up for the monthly newsletter here, which includes the full list of classes offered during the following month.

Duke Arts Create is sponsored by the Office of the Vice Provost for the Arts (Duke Arts).