Commentaries

Jason Zuzga wins prize for best dissertation

Zuzga at the award ceremony. Photo: Charles Bernstein

Scholar and poet Jason Zuzga has won the Diane Hunter Prize for Best Dissertation, 2017, from the English Department of the University of Pennsylvania.  Prize judges Rita Barnard and Rita Copeland wrote this commendation of  Zuzga's "Uncanny World: Envisioning Nature in Documentary":

The committee was extremely impressed by the range and quality of the work submitted for the award.  We extend our sincerest congratulations and admiration to all of the nominees, whose collective work is testimony to the intellectual energy and rigor of Penn’s English department.  We agreed, however, to name Jason Zuzga’s “Uncanny World:  Envisioning Nature in Documentary,” as the winner of the prize for the best dissertation. 

Coolitude, a poetics for 2017

What draws me specifically to this kind of engagement is its implication of history and by extension the importance of the first-person perspective. So often in the United States brown and black bodies are erased in the white world of poetry. I think the assertion of my brownness coupled with my complicated history is important since the de facto subject position is no longer cishet white and male.

What draws me specifically to this kind of engagement is its implication of history and by extension the importance of the first-person perspective. So often in the United States brown and black bodies are erased in the white world of poetry. I think the assertion of my brownness coupled with my complicated history is important since the de facto subject position is no longer cishet white and male.

Rochelle Owens: From “Solarpoetics” (continued) 12-15

[Writes Owens of her new masterwork: “In the order of the letters of the alphabet I am making use in these poems of a system of mental relations which by the act of writing becomes the poem, a cosmic meditation.”]

 

Vulnerable Flesh Eater

 

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Coolitude: Theoretical underpinnings

The term Coolitude is derived from “coolie,” a word originating in Tamil that means “laborer” with the implication that the labor provided is physical in nature. The British started taking Indians into their colonies in 1838, a trade that lasted until 1917, created to provide labor needed in sugar plantations after slavery was abolished. Its roots are in labor and works to reclaim an identity that acknowledges histories of labor and the British labor trade in the colonies. This type of movement that faces Asia from spaces where overseas Indians live counters common wisdom that holds that fictions of “race” create identity.

 

kuli nam dharaya

Natalwa me ai ke

bhajan karo bhaya

hath me cambu

kandh me kudari

pardesita ghare jai

 

They’ve given you the name “coolie”

A century after the end of Indian indenture

An introduction to the scope of this project

Indentured Laborers 1897, Trinidad

This year marks a century since the system that displaced over three million South Asians ended. From 1838–1917, the British, after slavery was abolished, transported 341,600 indentured laborers from India to British Guiana. Worldwide they displaced 3.5 million Indians who they recruited to work sugar plantations in the Caribbean, South Africa, Réunion, Ile de Maurice, Fiji, and South America.

Some of the migrants, the girmitiyas, the kantrákis, the coolies, chose to sail across the seas into a life of new adventure.