Meet the Teaching Artist: Poetry as “Creative Reception” with Rosebud Ben-Oni
by Writing Workshops Staff
A week ago
Join us for an exciting opportunity with Rosebud Ben-Oni, a highly accomplished poet and author. In her upcoming 6-week Zoom workshop, Poetry as 'Creative Reception', Ben-Oni will dive into the intriguing relationship between poetry, science, and technology. This course will challenge your perception of reality, artificial intelligence, and extraterrestrial life through the lens of poetry, drawing inspiration from prominent poets like Aimee Nezhukmatathil, Terrance Hayes, Carmen Giménez Smith, and Tracy K. Smith.
Throughout the workshop, you'll explore thought-provoking questions about the virtual and physical world divide, the impact of social media on human connection, and the possibility of life beyond our planet. Designed for poets of all skill levels, this course doesn't require any textbooks; all the materials will be available online. Expect to generate fresh ideas, engage in lively discussions on assigned readings, and re-imagine your poetic expression in the context of evolving virtual and scientific languages. Rosebud Ben-Oni's "Poetry as 'Creative Reception'" promises to ignite your creativity and expand your horizons in the world of poetry.
Hi, Rosebud. Please introduce yourself to our audience.
I think poetry is the one place that will always exceed and dispel and disperse the need for definition. Someone might say, "you can't use [X] in a poem anymore," and then some poet will go and do just that, and wonderfully, and newly. I don't believe all language has already been used, or there are no new ideas. Of course there are! The scientist in me is the poet in me and I promise to all the writers (but especially poets) reading this that whatever you write is part of an overall evolution of the species. In fact, I believe poetry will be the future of all human communication, or play at least a role in it. Science itself relies heavily on metaphor. Science needs metaphor. I mean, we've proven the existence of electron, but to speak of my beloved electron clouds, of which I've written so many poems about, we need metaphor. So whether you are brooding or joyful, that's really not important— you can be many things because the world needs you, whether it likes it or not. I'm a poet who writes about complicated unsolved problems in theoretical physics and this damn Vampire Bunny pops up continuously, at least in my last collection, If This Is the Age We End Discovery.
I write about Matarose, my alter ego, and AntiMatterose, my Antimatter self, and then G-Dragon and power ballads and The Weeknd and loop quantum gravity. Again none of us are made to fit in neat little boxes of one identity, or be just one thing. I certainly am not and don't fit in one entrapment, and if you tried to do that to me, you'd have to divide me up and then you'd have a lot of little Rosebuds running around because I have so many timelines and pieces and places to be. Actually, that kinda scares me! I myself would be wary of a lot of little rogue Rosebud Ben-Onis running around because I know the first things they would do, and it would be many things, but all united in the name of mischief. Troublemakers for sure, stealing all the sugar packets and taking over particle accelerators (and not just the LHC) and playground swings and slides. Movie matinees at 3 AM and co-MC'ed by a cantor and the late Carl Sagan. Actually, that would be great. Hmmm....
Please provide a brief description (250-300 words) of your book.
At its core, this collection is about rethinking how we approach the idea of “discovery.” Rather than utilizing the methods of colonization and conquest, by formulating elegant, fundamental equations as a way to “solve” the universe, I’m more concerned with exploring sheer curiosity and unfolding the many processes of questioning itself. The speaker is not looking for an answer to The Theory of Everything, or discovering a single “guiding star,” but rather what it means to express the journey itself. She is also someone who is trying to make sense of things after falling physically ill and finding no clear answers in either traditional Judaism or science, but forging her own strange combination of the two that revolve around the idea of “Efes”— that is, “zero” in Modern Hebrew, but also can mean, “to nullify, to conceal,” in mystical Jewish thought. She takes this idea a step further: that nullification and negation can actually be a means of transformation.
What made you want to teach this specific class? Is it something you are focusing on in your own writing practice? Have you noticed a need to focus on this element of craft? Or is this just your jam and you love it?
I am fascinated by multiverses, simulations, and theoretical particles that continue to go unproven; poetry allows me to explore these ideas through, say, strange syntax and spacing on a page. Poetry is a large step in shape-shifting the languages that shape our understanding of each other, our world and the universe. I say this knowing theoretical physics hasn’t led to the many new discoveries once promised; that this may be the age that we might just never be able to understand many aspects of the universe. But as a poet I can imagine what it means for our lifespans to just seem long enough to skim surfaces, to ask questions, albeit often the wrong questions, in the hope that they might lead to less wrong questions. For me, “discovery” is not about possessing or taking over; it’s about curiosity itself.
Give us a breakdown of how the course is going to go. What can the students expect? What is your favorite part about this class you've dreamed up?
I suppose my favorite part is we will be letting our imaginations run amok, asking ourselves what is real and on what basis, how poetry might be the future of all communication and if there is life outside our own planet (there is).
What was your first literary crush?
That's way too hard. I have too many. The scientist I continuously return to is Hugh Everett.
What are you currently reading?
From the Mouth of the Whale by Sjon
How do you choose what you're working on? When do you know it is the next thing you want to write all the way to THE END?
My obsessions don't leave me alone until they say when, and even then, I return to them.
Where do you find inspiration?
I have some health challenges, and when a hand goes numb or my balance falters, I think how can I move in poetry the way I can't IRL right now? Try to take challenges and turn them on their heads. Like I said, I'm extremely impish. Whatever gives me a hard time, I give back.
What is the best piece of writing wisdom you've received that you can pass along to our readers? How did it impact your work? Why has this advice stuck with you?
A lesson, rather: Niels Bohr shut down Hugh Everett before he really began his work in physics. What's so fascinating to me is that Everett jumped around chemical engineering to mathematics to physics like hopscotch. He was brilliant. He came from a working class family and just had a grit to him, and he wrote his dissertation on what would be called the Many Worlds Interpretation later on a dare. I'm cliff notes versioning the story, of course, for sake of space here, but he was also a human and vulnerable to criticism. So when he challenged Bohr, who was very powerful, with new ideas and subsequently was shut down, he left the field. He died in his 50s never knowing the multiverse idea (kinda a pop culture idea of really what should be called Everett Quantum Mechanics) would have such an impact. I learned this story in my 20s. I thus far have held onto my grit. I take chances, a lot of them. I also won't let the world forget this story.
What is your favorite book to recommend on the craft of writing? Why this book?
I've never read a book on craft, but there are some wonderful resources on the Academy of American Poets.
Bonus question: What’s your teaching vibe?
Impish, engaged, and sometimes I will answer your questions with more questions~ lets create something new, something challenging.
Learn more about working with Rosebud.
You can learn more about Rosebud's upcoming class, Poetry as “Creative Reception” 6-Week Zoom Workshop, and sign up if interested.
I She also has received fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, City Artists Corps, CantoMundo and Queens Council on the Arts. Her work appears in POETRY, The American Poetry Review, Academy of American Poets, Tin House, Guernica, Electric Literature, among others. Her poem "Poet Wrestling with Angels in the Dark" was commissioned by the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in NYC. In 2022, In January 2023, she performed at Carnegie Hall on International Holocaust Memorial Day, as part “We Are Here: Songs From The Holocaust," and most recently, her poem "When You Are the Arrow of Time" was commissioned by the Museum of Jewish Heritage— A Living Memorial to the Holocaust to accompany Andy Goldsworthy's Garden of Stones exhibit.