Each of us has our own individual relationship to language—and to the many Englishes (and other languages) we speak and hear every day. How do we speak in private, with our friends and families? What does our internal monologue sound like? How do we speak at Stanford, at our jobs, or in “professional” situations? What do we hear on television, Tinder, or TikTok? Together, we’ll think about how the way we communicate is shaped by the people around us; by schools and institutions; by religion, history, community, and expectation; and by many other things specific to our own experience. As writers, our individual, peculiar use of language is one of our greatest assets; it is also something that continually shapes our thinking, our identity, and our art. In this workshop, we’ll ask ourselves which of our voices feel authentic and natural to us—and which don’t—and we’ll experiment with a series of exercises designed to help us bring all of these voices to the page.
Brittany Perham is the author of Double Portrait (W.W. Norton, 2017), which received the Barnard Women Poets Prize and was nominated for a Northern California Book Award; The Curiosities (Free Verse Editions, 2012); and, with Kim Addonizio, the collaborative chapbook The Night Could Go in Either Direction (SHP, 2016). She is a Jones Lecturer in the Creative Writing Program at Stanford and lives in San Francisco.