Writing the Othered City: The Problematics of Writing Poetry for Oakland, California

By:
E Dillon Westbrook
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Oakland, Ca. is a diverse city with a vibrant history of political activism and cultural movements. The larger, and by the last census richer, neighbor of San Francisco, Oakland is nevertheless depicted as the "other" city. Perhaps because of this, Oakland has struggled to find a literary identity of its own. Today, a large community of active writers, organized loosely around current ond former students of the Mills College English deparment, live and write in Oakland, yet their relationship to writing about or from the city remains in many cases ambivalent. Through interviews with contemporary writers and critical analysis of more famous Oakland writers such as Joaquin Miller and Ishmael Reed, I will seek to explore the peculiar difficulties of writing about Oakland and point to some hopeful prospects in the form of collaborative writing efforts. These projects include a web-based interactive map, featuring place-specific writing about Oakland's neighborhoods and landmarks, and an effort to collect and publicly post poems about Oakland at different locations around the city.


Keywords: Poetry, Internet Poetry, Oakland, California, U.S.A.
Stream: Art in Communities
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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E Dillon Westbrook

Masters in Fine Arts Candidate, English Department
Creative Writing
Poetry, Mills College

Oakland, CA, USA

Coming from a background in both philosophy (B.A. in Philosophy, with honors,University of California at Santa Cruz) and music composition and performance, my pursuit of poetry involves a synthesis between these three fields. Areas of special interest include collaborative work with music, dance and other performing and intermedia arts. Current projects I am working on include a web-based poem interrogating the tradition of analytic philosophy, and an ongiong project to publicly post poems about the city of Oakland in various physical locations of the city. Each work is a diverse whole, recalling variously the work of LANGUAGE poets, the diaries of Ludwig Wittgenstein and the vernacular poetry of Carl Sandburg.

Ref: A06P0406