Ashley M. Jones and Monica Sok are two of the poets leading this intimate O, Miami workshop. (📸: @omiamifestival)
The New Tropic’s latest look at O, Miami’s 2021 programming — you can see the last two features here and here — is for anyone who’s still trying to process the events of the last year.
As the world becomes increasingly acclimated to COVID-19 and more and more people become vaccinated, it’s understandable that many are itching to resume life as they once knew it. Miami-Dade’s curfew is gone, concerts are creeping back into our lives, and Instagram is littered with maskless folks mugging it up for the camera.
But for some, all of the above is easier said than done. Even the most outgoing of pre-March 2020 social butterflies have had a hard time processing that the day where we no longer need to shelter in our cocoons could be closer than once imagined. Compound the pandemic with a fragile social order, ever-worsening climate emergency, and increasingly oppressive political atmosphere, and you have a recipe for an anxiety disaster.
“Calling on Ancestors: Exploring Tenderness in Turbulent Times” is a workshop about finding stable grounding amid precarity. This Saturday’s event will see six poets walk participants through “ethical loneliness” by asking introspective questions and inviting guests to ponder their relationship to their ancestors.
Two of the facilitators, Ashley M. Jones and Monica Sok, took the time to answer The New Tropic’s questions about this weekend’s workshop as well as what attendees can expect from it.
What inspired the creation of Calling on Ancestors for O, Miami 2021? Was there a specific intent behind it?
We've been thinking about tenderness in our poetics a lot, especially in the pandemic. We're considering intimacy, both on the page and in the act of community — how does it ask for vulnerability, how does it lead to resource sharing? For us, this intimacy starts with our ancestors, who we each call upon in our writing practice and in our daily lives. We wanted to offer this to the community through O, Miami to create space for collective healing, using poetry.
What can people who sign up for Saturday’s workshop anticipate from the event?
The program consists of a poetry reading and conversation on April 17th and an intimate workshop on April 24th. During the reading, we’ll each read our poems and open up a discussion about how we call on our ancestors in our craft as poets. In the workshops, participants can expect to read and analyze published works which connect to themes including ritual, social justice, history, and personal history, and they’ll also be guided through a generative writing exercise. We hope that those who attend the reading and/or the workshop are able to enter a vulnerable space with us.
What would you like people to take away from their workshop experience?
We hope to share some of our tools and inspirations with our participants and to offer them prompts to create original work. They will also receive a packet with poems and questions for exploration which they can keep and use in the future.
Calling on Ancestors: Exploring Tenderness in Turbulent Times starts at 11 a.m. on Saturday, April 24; get your tickets here. You can learn more about O, Miami by visiting the festival’s website and social media channels.