God without Sentimentality
a poetry workshop
with Shane McCrae
The first poems Shane McCrae ever wrote that were any good (in his own estimation) were poems addressed to God spoken by people he imagined to be in Hell. He had just become a Christian after years of contemplation and struggle, and he wanted his poems to speak not only of his new devotion, but also of his struggle. And that was how, quite accidentally, he avoided sentimentalizing his religious convictions. While he would insist that any consideration of the best religiously-inflected poems would have to exclude his own poems, the best religiously-inflected poems do find ways to avoid sentimentality—and yet sentimentality is so hard to avoid when one tries to make a poem about or from one’s faith. In this workshop, students will consider how other poets have avoided sentimentality in their religious poems, and will talk about how to apply these strategies to their own poems.
Shane McCrae is the poetry editor for Image and the author of seven books of poetry: Sometimes I Never Suffered (forthcoming June 2020); The Gilded Auction Block; In the Language of My Captor, which was a finalist for the National Book Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and the William Carlos Williams Award, and won the 2018 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Poetry; The Animal Too Big to Kill, winner of the 2014 Lexi Rudnitsky Editor’s Choice Award; Forgiveness Forgiveness; Blood; and Mule. He is the recipient of a Whiting Writer’s Award, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, the 2017 Lannan Literary Award for Poetry, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He teaches at Columbia University and lives in New York City.