Micro Lesson: Writing the Subversive with Ally Harris

Posted Wed, 9/14/2016 - 10:50am by  |  Category: , ,

MicroLesson-01Poet Ally Harris‘ three-hour poetry workshop, Writing the Subversive, is on Sunday, October 9, open to writers of all levels.

Through workshopping, reading, and discussion, you’ll explore what a poet must do to artfully incite anger, fear, passion, and action in their audience.

Register for Writing the Subversive >


1. An example of what we will be reading in class:

This class will define subversion as “an attempt to transform the established social order and its structures of power, authority, and hierarchy.” We will read and discuss poetry by a controversial and anonymous group called Mongrel Coalition, who assertively and explicitly holds author and literary institutions accountable for their privilege. In contrast, we will read Ariana Reines, focusing on her idea that subjugation of women = the subjugation of the environment, the planet (an ecofeminist tenant). If there’s time, we might read poets like Theresa Hak Kyung Cha or Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib. Most certainly I will drop a packet of poems on you that you can explore on your own time (cheesy smile).

2. What to expect from the class:

Expect to have open dialogue informed by the close reading of these texts, to workshop in light of these discussions, and to put more pressure on identity than form. Why is talking about identity subversive? Because it challenges what we have, and asks us to give some up, and that makes people uncomfortable.

Yup, this class might be prickly for people who have not explored their own myriad privileges (i.e. unearned advantages), and those who have not been in conversation with their own privilege while writing. However, the writer who has not fully considered these ideas is totally welcome!

3. An example exercise:

Because revision is to see beyond the first sight, to reframe and reveal by amputation or by exploitation, we will revise for subversion: culling subversive language from subversive texts. Homework sucks, but feel free to bring in a text, like a video or song or Facebook post that enflames you, engulfs you with its terrible rhetoric. We will discuss how to converse with this text, to feed off the horror of its content.

For workshop, please send me a poem that you believe centers on ideas of identity, the body, politics, etc., but that you wish to make stronger, more affective. If you speak, we will listen. Tell us what you wish your writing could do, and we might be able to tell you how to move in that direction. Sometimes writers don’t choose to be subversive, it chooses them, and that’s okay.

4. A moment of advice:

Shoot from the hip and shear with the gut. Being disgusting or shocking is the cosmetic on the poem. It is too easy, and it is not enough. The reader must be able to untie the mask and take from the poem’s dark hole a morsel to caress into the sweaty future.


ally_harris-1521400_744584460044_1498775637_nAlly Harris teaches, writes, and hosts a reading series in Portland, Oregon. She has two chapbooks of poems, Her Twin Was After Me (Slim Princess Holdings) and Floor Baby (dancing girl press).

Check out her work in the October 2016 issue of BOATT Journal.