Resident scholar Dr. Joshua Bennett shares insight on spoken word poetry

Dr. Joshua Bennett

Dr. Joshua Bennett                                

An award-winning poet and a professor of English at Dartmouth College, Dr. Joshua Bennett has ready access to the most trenchant details, the most apt analogies, and the most mellifluous phrasing that the language has to offer. 

But when asked recently why he loves to perform spoken word poetry, Thayer’s scholar-in-residence saw no need for rhetorical flourish. 

“It makes me feel alive,” Bennett told Upper School English classes last month at a gathering celebrating the art form.

Bennett performed several of his poems, including “America Will Be,” “Dad Poem (The New Temporality),” and “Dad Poem X,” which was recently published in The New Yorker. 

In the robust question-and-answer session that followed, Bennett discussed his writing process with students, offering advice on writer’s block and finding inspiration in everyday moments. When asked about his career path, Bennett shared that he’s been writing poetry in some fashion since he was a small child but was inspired to dive into spoken word poetry after seeing a poetry slam as a teenager. Before he became a professor, Bennett performed spoken word poetry nationally and was on tour for more than a decade, often averaging 50 gigs per year. He has recited his poetry at the Sundance Film Festival, the NAACP Image Awards, and at President Barack Obama’s Evening of Poetry and Music at the White House, among other venues. 

The recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, MIT, the Society of Fellows at Harvard University, and the Guggenheim Foundation, Bennett is the author of three books of poetry: The Sobbing School, Owed, and The Study of Human Life; a book of literary criticism entitled Being Property Once Myself: Blackness and the End of Man; and his newly released nonfiction work Spoken Word: A Cultural History

Thayer Academy’s Scholar-in-Residence Program was created to “bring the world to Thayer,” part of efforts to develop curricula and training around critical communication and leadership skills that students need to navigate a changing global landscape.

 

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