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Power on the Page

March 22, 2017

Assistant Professor V. V. Ganeshananthan

Assistant Professor V. V. Ganeshananthan
Assistant Professor V. V. Ganeshananthan with her novel LOVE MARRIAGE

What does it look like when the written word intersects with activism, identity, and politics? On March 24, Power on the Page will bring seven writers, teachers, and editors from our region to campus to discuss this topic.

Opening a conversation

The University’s MFA program has been interested in finding ways to talk about intersectionality in relation to publishing and writing, especially in the wake of last fall’s presidential election, which prompted renewed interest in political conversation and writing nationwide. In light of this, graduate student volunteers, faculty, and staff have been working to bring seven panelists to campus for a two-part conversation on writing and identity. Power on the Page will include two discussions, one on teaching and a second on publishing. Each will be moderated by a graduate student in creative writing.

The first panel will address issues of representation, identity, oppression, and politics-at-large in the classroom. The second, on activism in publishing, will invite participants to discuss how publishing can be used as a platform for activism. Panelists in both conversations will share their own experiences and also consider historical approaches to pedagogy, publishing, advocacy and activism.

Panelists include: Taiyon Coleman, Jennifer Kwon Dobbs, Heid Erdrich, Shawn Gude, Andy Johnson, Sun Yung Shin, and Valerie Wetlaufer.

Professor V. V. Ganeshananthan of the University of Minnesota’s creative writing program, one of the event’s organizers, hopes the event will address ways that marginalized communities and creative writing institutions engage with issues of power and privilege. (Ideally, she says, the event will be the first of many in an ongoing conversation.)

Creating an inclusive space

Power on the Page will be held at the Weisman Art Museum. The event will attract a diverse group of students, teachers, and friends of the MFA program, along with teachers, writers, activists, and members of the publishing industry.

Ganeshananthan looks forward to a lively and inspiring conversation around intersectionality of queer politics, black politics, politics of communities of color, disability politics, and working class politics—and is open to allowing the panel discussion to gravitate toward topics organically: “I’m happy I can’t predict where the conversation will go!” she says.

She believes it is important to create spaces for conversation for as many communities as possible: people of color, people who identify their aesthetics as experimental, people who are disabled, LGBT people, and those working and engaging with politics and power in different ways.

Ganeshananthan hopes that event participants will leave with new strategies for exploring and discussing their post-election work and political writing, in general. Since the MFA program in creative writing is a multi-genre program, with poets sharing the classroom with both fiction and nonfiction writers, the scope of the discussion is inclusive of each genre and connections between them.

Many students are considering whether they are addressing their political concerns in the right genre or form. They are also contemplating the ethics of hybrid genres, as well as the complex issues involved with writing about others’ communities—and their own.

Ganeshananthan also hopes the audience will hear some specific ideas they can use to continue their own writing. This event will make space for the birth of new ideas and perspectives of writing about politics, opportunities to showcase work and build relationships with talent of the Twin Cities. “It will be interesting to see the body of conversation that evolves out of this,” Ganeshananthan says.


Taiyon J Coleman is a poet, essayist, and teacher. Taiyon is a Cave Canem fellow, and her writing has appeared in Bum Rush the Page: A Def Poetry Jam, Riding Shotgun: Women Writing about Their Mothers, The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South edited by Nikky Finney; Blues Vision: African American Writing from Minnesota, and her critical essay, “Disparate Impacts: Living Just Enough for the City,” appears in the 2016 anthology, A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota, edited by Sun Yung Shin. Her essay, “The Thenar Space: Writing beyond Emotion and Experience into Story” is forthcoming in the anthology, How Dare We! Write: A Multicultural Creative Writing Discourse edited by Sherry Quan Lee. Her article, “The Risky Business of Engaging Racial Equity in Writing Instruction: A Tragedy in Five Acts,” published in TETYC in 2016 was awarded the 2017 Mark Reynolds TETYC Best Article Award for 2017. Over this current academic year, Taiyon has been an invited panelist on Minnesota Public Radio’s (MPR) Friday Roundtables: Disparities in Minnesota from the Eyes of Those Who Fight Them; Who are We as Americans after this Election?; and What is Feminism Today? as hosted by national correspondent Kerri Miller. She is graduate of the MFA Creative Writing Program at the University of Minnesota, Twin-Cities, and she holds a PhD in English Literature and Culture with a minor in African Diaspora Studies from the University of Minnesota. Taiyon is a 2017 recipient of a McKnight Foundation Artist Fellowship in creative prose. She is an Assistant Professor of English Literature with a focus in American Multicultural Literature at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Jennifer Kwon Dobbs is the author of Paper Pavilion (2007) a recipient of the White Pine Press Poetry Prize and the New England Poetry Club’s Sheila Motton Book Award; Notes from a Missing Person (Essay Press 2015); and Interrogation Room (White Pine Press forthcoming 2018). She has received grants from the Daesan Foundation, Intermedia Arts, and Minnesota State Arts Board. Currently co-editing an international anthology of auto-critical writing (Palgrave MacMillan forthcoming 2019), Jennifer is associate professor of English and program director of Race and Ethnic Studies at St. Olaf College.

Heid E. Erdrich is the author of five collections of poetry including Curator of Ephemera at the New Museum for Archaic Media new in 2017. Heid’s nonfiction work, Original Local: Indigenous Foods, Stories and Recipes from the Upper Midwest, earned a City Pages Best Food Book of 2014 designation. Her writing has won awards from the Minnesota State Arts Board, Bush Foundation, The Loft Literary Center, and First People’s Fund. Her book National Monuments won the 2009 Minnesota Book Award. In 2013 she was named a City Pages Artists of the Year. Heid’s poem films have been screened widely at festivals and have won Best of Fest and a Best Experimental Short awards. She is an independent scholar and curator, a playwright, and founding publisher of Wiigwaas Press an Ojibwe language publisher. She teaches the MFA Creative Writing program of Augsburg College. Heid grew up in Wahpeton, North Dakota and is Ojibwe enrolled at Turtle Mountain.

Shawn Gude is an associate editor at Jacobin magazine. An Iowa native, he graduated from the University of Iowa in 2011 with a BA in political science and received an MA in nonfiction writing from Johns Hopkins University in 2014. Before coming on staff at Jacobin, he worked as a porter at a luxury condominium building, a packer at the UPS Store, and a stocker at a grocery store. He's been active in various social movements and left organizing efforts, and is currently a member of Democratic Socialists of America. His mantra: educate, agitate, organize."

신선영 Sun Yung Shin is the author, editor, or co-editor of six books and one chapbook: Unbearable Splendor (poetry/essay); Rough, and Savage (poetry); Skirt Full of Black (poetry); A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota (essays); Outsiders Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption (essays); 쿠퍼의 롐슨 Cooper’s Lesson (bilingual book for children); and "My Singularity" (poetry). With Xiaolu Wang she is a cofounder of a native women artists & women of color artist collective and is a contributing editor at Aster(ix) and Society Editions. She has received artist grants from the Bush Foundation, the Minnesota State Arts Board, the McKnight Foundation, and the Jerome Foundation. Shin teaches at the Perpich Center for Arts Education, University of St. Catherine, Hamline University, and elsewhere. She lives in Minneapolis.

Andy Johnson began his career as a musician, then as stage manager and director. Later, Andy became an aid worker in postwar Liberia where he served as the nationwide coordinator of a Books for Africa initiative, connected former child soldiers with literacy and job training programs, and created the first-year writing program at Cuttington University. After completing his MFA, Mr. Johnson taught the first known #blacklivesmatter college course in America, as well as spoken word, fiction writing, African American comedy, literature, and composition courses. He currently works as an arts-based evaluator for TerraLuna Collaborative. Andy is also one of the local organizers for Writers Resist, an international reading series promoting inclusion, democracy, and freedom.

Andy writes magical realism in the African American literary tradition. Andy’s work has been seen in Callaloo, African American Review, Kweli, Lunch Ticket, and other publications. His debut novel, The Through, will be published later this year by Jaded Ibis Press. He holds a BA in Drama from The University of Texas, and an MFA in Fiction from The University of Alabama. Andy is a current Kimbilio Fellow in African American Fiction, and a 2010 recipient of the Presidential Award for Volunteerism.

Valerie Wetlaufer is a poet, editor, and educator. Winner of the Lambda Literary Award for her first poetry collection Mysterious Acts by My People (Sibling Rivalry Press 2014), Valerie holds a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Utah, an MFA in Creative Writing from Florida State University, an MA in Teaching & a BA in French from Bennington College. She is the editor of Adrienne: a poetry journal of queer women, and author of three chapbooks. Her second book, Call Me by My Other Name was published by Sibling Rivalry Press in March 2016.

This story was written by an undergraduate student account executive in CLAgency. Meet the team.