Online | Nonfiction | Workshop

2-Day Online Nonfiction Workshop: The Poetics of the Profile

The best profiles and biographies sing through the soul of the person, but this can only happen if the storyteller is observant and a good listener. This requires an approach that goes beyond anything taught in journalism school, beyond any of the 5 W's (who, what, where, when, why) and beyond any obligations. A good profile must be unafraid to break past the barrier between subject and writer, no matter how much or how little access to the subject of a story, no matter whose story is being told and by whom. Past telling a good story, a profile and its writer must be able to dilute a specific and pointed truth—this is an art that poets and editors know all too well, and it's one that a good profile writer should always keep in mind.

This class—open to poets, journalists, visual artists, and nonfiction writers at any level of experience—is designed to broaden the scope of the specific art of writing a profile or biography of a subject. We will be reading, writing, and editing largely with the goal of expanding our ways of accessing a subject's world, no matter how different or similar they may be from us.

Writers will interview a subject of their choice after the first session, which will cover unique profiles and outline how the writers worked their magic. In the two-week interim between sessions, students will write a profile, turn it in for revision, and edit it after receiving feedback from colleagues and the instructor. For our final session, we will look at poets and visual artists and analyze their approach to editing, culminating in students editing their profiles into erasure poems as a generative exercise and an editorial experiment.

Class meetings will be held over video chat using Zoom accessed from your private class page. While you can use Zoom from your browser, we recommend downloading the desktop client so you have access to all platform features. We will also make use of a class Google Drive.

Please note that class will meet meet Oct .13, break for two weeks, and return for the final session on Oct. 27

COURSE TAKEAWAYS:

- Learn to intimately and effectively interview any subject (from a celebrity to a family member)

- Become more familiar with the editing process in journalism and poetry

- Develop an approach to writing that is multi and cross-disciplinary

- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes

COURSE EXPECTATIONS:

Students should expect to complete one 1,200-1,500-word profile piece after the first class session. Following a two-week interim of writing the piece and editing according to feedback from the instructor and fellow students, the profile will be edited into a poem during the second session’s generative workshop. After the final session, it is optional for students to receive feedback on their poems from the instructor.

COURSE SKELETON:

Session 1: We will focus on the basics of writing a profile including the interviewing and pitching process, interviewing strategies, and editing. Readings will include Suzy Exposito's "Bad Bunny in Captivity" (Rolling Stone), Isabelia Herrera's "Rosalía's Real Magic" (The FADER), Amanda Hess' "Sinead O'Connor Remembers Things Differently" (NYT Magazine), and Ron Howell's "On the Run with Assata Shakur" (Newsday).

With a two-week interim between classes, subjects will choose a subject, interview them, write a 1,200-1,500 word profile, share it with the instructor and classmates for feedback on the class Google Drive, and come to the second session with a revised profile.

Session 2: With their profiles on hand, students will look at text-based works by poets and visual artists (who have often teetered the line of criticism and journalism) and study cut-up and erasure methods to turn their profiles into erasure poems. Readings will include excerpts from Anne Carson's If Not, Winter: The Fragments of Sappho, Diane di Prima's Revolutionary Letters, Jenny Holzer's "Inflammatory Essays" and other works, Lorraine O'Grady's Cutting Up the NYT, and Assata Shakur's Assata: An Autobiography.

E.R. Pulgar

E.R. Pulgar is a Venezuelan American poet, editor, translator, and journalist based in New York City. Born in Caracas and raised in Miami, their writing deals in the grey spaces of sexuality, Latinx identity, alternative & queer culture, spirituality and lyricism. Their writing has appeared in i-D, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Crack Magazine . Their poetry has appeared in Pank Magazine, Blush Lit and Dion Ys Us. They are the founder of the Endless Blue Salon, online poetry editor of Columbia Journal Issue 60, and an MFA Candidate in poetry and literary translation at Columbia University.

Testimonials

“Due to the pandemic, Zoom became the architecture of our lives. Even through the screen, E.R. was always present and curious, becoming a figure in leading conversations and creating group exercises. He was the soul of our class’s online experience. His work challenges ideas of ancestry, identity, and political regime. To engage with E.R.'s poetry is an interior experience. They possess a skill that cannot be bought: he takes true, bare emotion and turns it into poetry. Because E.R. is not afraid to say that which is private and radical, everything he does is at stake in his heart. He has given me the courage to think and write with such risk.”

Sophia Torres-Ulrich Workshop Cohort, Columbia University

“There are many things that I can tell about the degree to which Pulgar has influenced my ways. From the way in which we did late night experimental poetry, the countless interviews I served as mic tech, and the innumerable amounts of poetic beats at concerts, they have taught me aspects of writing I did not know were possible. Not in a way of critical bashing, but in the way a gentle relative peruses and questions your structure — ‘Where can we take away? Where can we add?’ — with no malice, only wanting for you to show your absolute best.”

Monte Stevens Colorado River Indian Tribes Poet, New York University

“When it comes to inspiring poetry, both in others and in their poems, E.R. Pulgar is the locus. His experience in PR and journalism as well as the creative arts give him a unique vantage which translates into a personalized teaching style.”

Bob Holman Poet and Arts Impresario, Bowery Poetry Club

“Pulgar explores a fascinating intersection between the real and unreal, using their extensive background and talent in journalism and poetry to guide students in this intensive about what makes a person(a) sing beyond a piece of writing. The class is sure to be a great learning tool for poets, nonfiction writers, and all artists alike. Working closely and collaborating with the exquisite brilliance of Pulgar this past year, I can attest to the magic of their presence in a learning space and their deeply felt love of writing."

Dorothea Lasky Poet and Concentration Director, Columbia University

“Pulgar is a real journalist but possesses what so few have: real style. In a modern media landscape that deals mostly in Strunk and White syntax, E.R.’s poetics push the medium and remind us why kids used to actually buy magazines. I read him on music and dancing and love because his work reminds us they’re often the same thing. While many of his contemporaries, myself included, hide behind urban snark his work is boldly romantic — which is really much cooler.”

Jacob Seferian Columnist and Editor, Bricks Magazine and Polyester Zine