For so many of us, our family story is what defines our lives—what we run from or toward in the decades after leaving home. In this course, we will dive into family narratives together. The events we hope to discuss can include those that seem to haunt family struggles: trauma, abuse, neglect. Yet those blessed with stable families have plenty of stories to tell, too—a glorious summer road trip that reveals the love between siblings, or a tender reckoning with a parent’s humanity. As guidance for methods of writing on experiences with family, we will read poetry of Ai, Aria Aber, Catullus, Victoria Chang, Lucille Clifton, Natalie Diaz, Tarfia Fiazullah, Joy Harjo, Robin Coste Lewis, Vi Khi Nao, Sylvia Plath, Carmen Giménez Smith, and others. In order to consider different approaches to the idea of “family histories,” the assigned work will roughly fall in one of the following topics: parents and guardians, siblings and those of our youth, ancestors, and continuing the cycle. These are delineated by the familial figures the authors address in their works, leading up to the writers’ own enactment of parenthood.
In each class, we will discuss the methods the authors have employed, and their methods of engagement with their creative production. In addition, we will consider the effects assigned texts have on you as a reader and, just as important, how you think the writer accomplishes these effects. You will create your own works with these methods in mind. Beyond merely creating new work, we will also revise with help from the discussions.
This four-part course will take place on Mondays, October 2, 9, 16, & 23 from 5:30 – 7:30 PM ET.
Diana Arterian is the author of the forthcoming poetry collection Agrippina the Younger (Northwestern University Press/Curbstone, 2025). Her first book, Playing Monster :: Seiche (1913 Press), received a starred review in Publishers Weekly and was a Poetry Foundation Staff Pick. A Poetry Editor at Noemi Press, Diana’s creative work has been recognized with fellowships from the Banff Centre, Caldera, Millay Arts, Vermont Studio Center, and Yaddo. Her poetry, nonfiction, criticism, co-translations, and conversations have been featured in BOMB, Brooklyn Rail, Denver Quarterly, Los Angeles Review of Books, NPR, The New York Times Book Review, and The Poetry Foundation website, among others. She curates and writes “The Annotated Nightstand” column at LitHub. Diana holds a PhD in Literature & Creative Writing from the University of Southern California, and she splits her time between Cambridge and Los Angeles.