R139. Which Comes First, Activism or Artist?

Marquis Salon 5, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Two
Thursday, February 9, 2017
10:30 am to 11:45 am


Confronted with social wrongs, should we, as writers, feel obligated to use our art to advocate for our gender, race, or a political cause? What goes into that choice and what is at stake? If we do so use our art, how do we face injustice and still craft aesthetically compelling poems? Five poets explore the question raised at Fisk in 1966 between Robert Hayden and the Black Arts movement—Am I a poet first, or am I a black poet?—and explore how this question applies to all of us today.



George Higgins is the author of a book of poetry, There, There. He is both a Holden and a Cave Canem fellow. He graduated from the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers. Higgins has been published in Best American Poetry.

Martín Espada has published more than fifteen books. His new collection of poems is called Vivas to Those Who Have Failed. Other books of poems include The Trouble Ball, The Republic of Poetry, and Alabanza. His honors include the Shelley Memorial Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Eleanor Wilner has seven books of poems, most recently Tourist in Hell and The Girl with Bees in Her Hair, and a book on visionary imagination. A former MacArthur Foundation and NEA Fellow, a forty-year teaching veteran, she is a faculty member at the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.

Joshua Bennett

Ladan Osman


February 7–10, 2024
Kansas City, Missouri

Kansas City Convention Center