Monday, July 14, 2008

job / course at cal

Recruiting Student Teachers for June Jordan's Poetry for the People

The Poetry for the People Program (P4P) at UC Berkeley, founded by the
late poet/essayist June Jordan, is in its seventeenth year. June Jordan
founded the program with a vision of artistic and personal empowerment for

Our an annual large class is offered in the Spring semester. The program
has two main components:

1.teaching the work of poets of color in their historical political
contexts, both in and outside the US

2.workshopping student poems weekly, according to a rigorous set of
guidelines developed by June, herself.

The course is taught by Student Teacher Poets or STPs. This group is
generally made up mostly of undergraduates, but has often included some
graduates, graduate students and non-students. The majority of STPs
have taken the large P4P class, but others begin with an interest in
teaching and go directly to the STP class. The STPs take a practicum
class that begins in the Fall and continues throughout the year.

In addition to leading or co-leading a section of 7-12 students in the
Spring, the STPs are responsible for choosing the majority of the
readings for the large Spring class, developing the bulk of the
lectures, and coordinating the final student recital, editing an
anthology, and doing outreach visits to schools and community centers
throughout the year. STPs also workshop each other's poetry.

The director facilitates the STP group throughout the year, and
supervises their work, and the program coordinator takes care of program
logistics. The director also sets the tone of the large class, delivers
several lectures, and supports the STPs in their teaching and

The political and aesthetic groundings of the course come from June
Jordan's own work--reflecting the tradition of women writers of color
needing to bear witness to oppression, to speak what has been silenced,
to speak truth to power, and to offer alternative visions of what the
world can be. In this tradition, the personal is political, students
are encouraged to give voice in their poetry to the most painful and
difficult places in their lives, and to speak about the most difficult
challenges in the world around us.

Due to the personally, politically, and academically intense nature of
the course, the experience of P4P is powerful for all, and can be
consuming for some, particularly younger students who are finding their
poetic voice for the first time. Among the STP group, every year is
different, depending on the personalities involved, but there is a
tradition of healthy (and sometimes unhealthy!) conflict, as the group
of STPs endeavor to take political and artistic leadership in the
course. STPs have the opportunity for profound personal growth as they
confront the power dynamics, leadership challenges and significant
responsibilities of teaching.

P4P director Aya de Leon is recruiting additional STPs. These
individuals may be undergraduate or graduate students at other campuses,
or anyone with a strong commitment to writing and teaching poetry.

The STP course meets Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4-6PM throughout the
year, and the P4P "big class" meets from 3-7PM in the Spring. STPs need
to be available for all three classes, for registered students, this is
a 12-unit load over two semesters.

The STP course meets Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4-6PM throughout the
year, and the P4P "big class" meets from 3-7PM in the Spring. STPs need
to be available for all three classes, plus homework and occasional
outside meetings. For registered students, this is a 12-unit load over
two semesters.

These positions are not paid, but we can offer college credit to everyone.

How to get college credit for these classes:

*enroll via UC Berkeley in the courses (both undergraduate & grad programs)

*cross register from Mills College (both undergraduate & MFA)

*enroll via Berkeley City College (open to all & affordable!)

*enroll via UCB extension (open to all; a bit more costly)

*Student teach as an independent study at your college or university (grad
or undergrad)

*Student teach as an independent study or field study placement with your
low residency MFA program

All are invited to apply!

For info contact P4P Director Aya de Leon: adeleon@berkeley. edu

P4P Program History

After a decade of teaching at the university level and after a few years
of joining the faculty at UC Berkeley, Professor June Jordan, one of the
most published African American writers in history, founded, designed,
cultivated and directed an unprecedented academic course and artistic
movement: Poetry for the People.

Professor Jordan wrote, however, that "I did not wake up one morning
ablaze with a coherent vision of Poetry for the People! The natural
intermingling of my ideas and my observations as an educator, a poet, and
the African-American daughter of poorly documented immigrants did not lead
me to any limiting ideological perspectives or resolve. Poetry for the
People is the arduous and happy outcome of practical, day-by-day,
classroom failure and success."

In 1989, June Jordan began teaching in the African American Studies and
Women's Studies Departments. She soon undertook the presentation of
African American Poetry and Contemporary Women's Poetry. With both
courses, she ensured that student writings occupied equal space and time,
along with established poets, such as James Weldon Johnson or Adrienne
Eventually, she decided to offer something called "Poetry for the People."
So she raised funds from the African American Studies Department, the Dean
of Interdisciplinary Studies, and the Department of English.

Her dream and vision was realized in 1991 when Professor Jordan officially
established Poetry for the People. During its first semester, and every
semester thereafter, the course attracted students from Freshmen to
graduate students in their last year at Boalt Law School, men, women,
African Americans, Asian Americans, Latino Americans, Arab Americans,
Anglo Americans, gay, lesbian, straight, abled, disabled who could take
this course in poetry without any prior writing experience.

June Jordan crafted Poetry for the People with three guiding principles in

1.That students will not take themselves seriously unless we who teach
them, honor and respect them in every practical way that we can.

2.That words can change the world and save our lives.

3.That poetry is the highest art and the most exacting service devoted to
our most serious, and our most imaginative, deployment of verbs and nouns
on behalf of whatever and whoever we cherish.

Professor Jordan's vision for the reading and writing of poetry stands out
from other university poetry courses. In an interview with the Daily
Californian on November 19, 1998, Professor Jordan stated that the goal of
Poetry for the People "is to make audible the inaudible, and visible the

Then, after the success of the third semester of the program, a core of
young poets wanted to make P4P a way of life. As a result, Professor
Jordan decided to try and institute a course called "The Teaching and
Writing of Poetry." Interested students would work closely with her and
then they, in turn, would become teachers of other students. This practice
continues today as undergraduates and graduate students are trained by the
director to facilitate groups, lecture on various topics, and assume
positions of leadership.

African American Studies 158A (fall) and 158B (spring) serve as this
teaching practicum for STPs in the process of preparing to student teach
the main introductory spring class, African American Studies 156AC, known
as "The Big Class." The students in these courses conduct extensive
research into the poetic traditions under consideration for the Big Class.
Each student is required to give an in-class presentation on an assigned
poetic tradition, in addition to an intensive examination of pedagogical
issues. Much of the time in the spring is spent discussing teaching
strategies, exploring solutions to pedagogical issues, and coordinating
projects. The STPs also form and facilitate a poetry-writing group under
the Director's leadership and complete all the assignments the students in
the general class are given, in addition to certain specific exercises in
poetic craftsmanship. This group of STPs also provides personnel for the
various outreach programs and is encouraged to perform at community events
and readings in the Bay Area.

The success of P4P is evidenced by the dozens of poetry programs across
the country that are led by former P4P students and whose designs are
based on the program. In 1995, after Professor Jordan and several of her
students published June Jordan's Poetry for the People: A Revolutionary
Blueprint through Routledge Press, hundreds of organizations throughout
the country have adopted this blueprint not only as a reference but a
guiding principle in their own poetry workshops and programs. Moreover,
numerous former P4P students have been anthologized, published, and
celebrated with prizes.

Thus, from its humble beginnings of around 15-20 students in 1991, to its
height of over 130 student enrollment, the once-tenuous experiment of
Poetry for the People has emerged a cultural institution on the UC
Berkeley campus that has engendered dialogue and created connections
across every conceivable line.

Professor Jordan has said, "Poetry has been falsely viewed as a province
for privileged folks and for the extremely gifted. [But] poetry derives
from an oral tradition throughout the world. It comes from the people and
needs to be given back to the people."

Today, Poetry for the People is a fully accredited, three course sequence
of classes wherein students present their work in an on-campus public
poetry reading every semester and self-produce and then publish a
professional anthology of their poems. In keeping with the university's
goal of public education, Professor June Jordan expanded this program to
many different Bay Area locations: Berkeley High School, Dublin Women's
Prison, Glide Memorial Church, Mission Cultural Center, and Yerba Buena
Center for the Arts.

Every poetry reading she helped organize was a standing room only affair —
in mammoth campus spaces such as the Life Valley Science Building Lecture
Halls, Lewis Hall, and Wheeler Auditorium.

In 2001, Professor June Jordan went on leave. However, given the student
demand for the course and the popularity of the program, she was asked to
name a successor. Selected by Professor Jordan, Junichi P. Semitsu
directed the program until 2005. In 2005-06 P4P alum, Maiana Minahal was
director. In fall 2006, the African American Studies department appointed
community artist and activist Aya de Leon as director, and her appointment
continues into its third year.

Aya de Leon continues in Jordan's tradition of reaching beyond university
walls, developing programming at Berkeley High, B-Tech (Berkeley High's
alternative/ continuation school), Oakland Unified, Berkeley City College,
Epic Arts, La Pena Cultural Center, and Richmond's Leadership Public
School, as well as reaching out to Mills College, SF State, Foothill
College, and other Bay Area schools to recruit students.

The Program has continued to bring countless "hot shot poets" to campus
for readings to P4P students and the general public: Adrienne Rich,
Ntozake Shange, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Joy Harjo, Sandra Cisneros, Juan
Felipe Herrera, Bei Dao, Janice Mirikitani, Ruth Forman (a former P4P
student), Marilyn Chin, Haas Mroue, Martin Espada, Cornelius Eady, Lorna
Dee Cervantes, E. Ethelbert Miller, Sekou Sundiata, Kevin Young, Dennis
Kim, Leroy Quintana, Li-Young Lee, Naomi Shihab Nye, Francisco Alarcon,
Sara Miles, Donna Masini, Luis Rodriguez, Tyehimba Jess, Mohja Khaf — to
name a few.

The current ever-evolving syllabus continues to extend to new cultural
areas for further, broadening research and eventual curricular inclusion.
Designed to constitute a one-semester crash course of world literacy in
poems, the syllabus typically focuses on three distinct American cultures,
which often rotate year after year. Our Spring 2008 semester focused on
the poetry of African Americans, Arab and Arab Americans, Latina/os,
Xicana/os, and the intersecting trajectories of these three groups in the
United States and the Americas.

Professor Jordan passed away in June 2002. Thanks to her vision and the
commitments of the African American Studies Department, UC Berkeley's
Dean's office, and the sustained efforts of subsequent directors and
student teachers to continue her legacy, the African American Studies
156AC course remains strong and alive. Indeed, the class continues to
build a legacy as one of the most visible, vibrant, and energetic
communities on the Berkeley campus, in continuing Dr. Martin Luther King's
wish of a beloved community.

Aya de Leon
Director, June Jordan's Poetry for the People
African American Studies Department
UC Berkeley

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