This summer, YPEI introduces a new remote Creative Writing Workshop with incarcerated students at MacDougall-Walker. Conceived and led by YPEI Fellows Ananya Kumar-Banerjee (‘21) and Minh Vu (YC ‘20, GSAS ‘26) in collaboration with Gabrielle Colangelo (‘21) and the Yale Literary Magazine, the Workshop is designed to provide incarcerated students with a sense of styles of writing across genres and forms through weekly course packets guest-edited by prominent writers from across the country. These packets include a robust set of readings curated by the writers, as well as writing prompts that encourage student engagement with fiction, poetry, cultural critique, and long-form narrative. The Workshop gives students the chance to work on their writing one-on-one via correspondence with a peer editor to finalize their pieces for publication, providing a space for communal learning during a time of intense isolation.
Guest editors of weekly packets include contemporary authors Morgan Jerkins, Alexander Chee, Mark Oppenheimer, Hanif Abdurraqib, David Gorin, and Briallen Hopper, alongside an archival unit with Melissa Barton and Nancy Kuhl, co-curators of the Yale Collection of American Literature at the Beinecke Library.
Our first packet comes courtesy of Franny Choi, the Gaius Charles Bolin Fellow at Williams College and the 2019 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellow. Her packet reflects on how poetry can, as she says, “make you feel alive, given the terrible world.”
“We’re hoping that creative writing can serve as a window into a better world for ourselves and our students,” the Workshop Leaders write. “As we consider what a future driven by care, listening, and abolition would look like, writing gives us the space to imagine a path to this world and a way to live in it. During a time of carceral isolation, creative writing serves as a collective medium for the students to engage with each other and the world. We conceive of writing as, ultimately, a creative act with radical potential. While creative writing workshops sometimes compel students to write within existing political frameworks, the backbone of this workshop is the knowledge that writing is a tool that allows us to glimpse liberation. More than anything, creative writing is a tool for YPEI students to simultaneously reflect upon, reconstruct, and reimagine Yale life both inside and outside while caught between the two pillars of COVID-19 and police brutality.”