In Brown Bag, Sean Singer to ask: ‘What is the function of poetry?’

In Sean Singer’s view, poets — or anyone for that matter — would do well to take stock of the catastrophic world events that have occurred since 2016.

“The topic of my Brown Bag is on moral injuries,” said Singer, Chautauqua’s award-winning Week Nine poet-in-residence. “It’s sort of a collective feeling of being injured on a moral level by events since 2016, including the COVID-19 pandemic, climate emergency, the rise of autocracy, and the blurring of truth and fiction.”

Singer said his lecture will be about the ways that poetry can be a tool that can respond to these global emergencies.

At 12:15 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 23 on the porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall, Singer will ask “What is the Function of Poetry?” in the season’s last Chautauqua Literary Arts poetry Brown Bag lecture of the 2022 season.

For emerging poets, like those in Singer’s week-long poetry workshop at the Chautauqua Writers’ Center, Singer advised “reading the best, whenever possible.”

“Try not to get caught up in things that have nothing to do with writing, such as publishing, the business part of it, fame, and making it all about you,” he said. “That’s as opposed to trying to perfect writing as a craft or a way of organizing your life.”

Singer said that it’s essential that writers take responsibility for their writing.

“In other words, it’s about taking a stand on this word versus some other word,” he said. “And being intentional about things, not being arbitrary — basically, trying to find clarity in mud — is so important.”

When it comes to leading a workshop, Singer said he tries his best to imitate good teaching that he’s experienced over the years.

“I was never really formally trained in how to teach, or pedagogy,” he said. “There’s a whole methodology for how to do that properly. I really had to teach myself how to do that. Having confidence in the material, being enthusiastic and generous-minded and patient are all key points.”

Singer also said that it’s helped him to “use things from my life” as “fuel, or raw material,” in his writing.

“Writing is a kind of expression of freedom, in part because you’re choosing what you’re responsible for,” he said.

Tags : literary artsLiterary Arts Center at Alumni Hallpoet-in-residence

The author Chris Clements

Chris Clements is reporting on literary arts during his third summer with The Chautauquan Daily. He has previously written previews for the Interfaith Lecture Series and Sacred Song Services and covered literary arts digitally in 2020. Chris is a second-year grad student at The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where he is a Master of Fine Arts candidate in creative writing, specializing in fiction. He’s passionate about all things related to literature, music and film, especially author David Foster Wallace, jazz singer Cecile McLorin Salvant and the films of Paul Thomas Anderson.