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Dr. Joshua Bennett

Professor of English and Creative Writing at Dartmouth College and acclaimed poet

Joshua Bennett Performs at the White House Poetry Jam
  • About Joshua Bennett

    An award-winning poet and performer, Dr. Joshua Bennett is a Professor of English and Creative Writing at Dartmouth. He has performed at venues such as the Sundance Film Festival, the NAACP Image Awards, and President Obama’s Evening of Poetry and Music at the White House. In his engaging conversations and keynotes, Dr. Bennett explores the historical importance of the literary arts, the connection between artmaking and racial and environmental justice, and his own personal journey as a poet, scholar, and educator.

    Dr. Joshua Bennett’s debut book, The Sobbing School, is a mesmerizing collection of poetry that examines and reinvents representations of black history and contemporary black experience. The Sobbing School “captures the variegated textures of African-American life as a diverse body of experiences cut through with conflicting class and cultural investments” (The Center of Literary Poetry). This debut collection was a finalist for an NAACP Image Award and a National Poetry Series selection.

    Dr. Joshua Bennett is also the author of Being Property Once Myself—an incisive work of literary criticism and a groundbreaking articulation of undertheorized notions of dehumanization and the Anthropocene—and Owed, a poetry collection that celebrates everyday Black experience in the United States. His forthcoming collection, The Study of Human Life, addresses issues such as abolition, Black ecological consciousness, and the boundless promise of parenthood. His writing has been published in The Best American Poetry, The New York Times, The Paris Review, among other publications.

    As a Professor of English and Creative Writing at Dartmouth College, Dr. Joshua Bennett focuses on 20th and 21st-century African American literature, Black poetics, and animality studies. He has taught creative writing workshops across the United States to students from middle schools to colleges and universities.

    Dr. Joshua Bennett earned an M.A. in theater and performance studies from the University of Warwick, where he was a Marshall Scholar, and his Ph.D. from Princeton University. He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, MIT, and the Society of Fellows at Harvard University. He currently lives in Boston.

    Contact us for more information about bringing Dr. Joshua Bennett to your next event.

  • Speaking Topics

    Environmental Poetry

    Bennett has studied the intersection of African American writers and a commitment to care for the Earth. In this educational and moving talk he explores the speeches, sermons, poems, plays, and songs of black writers from the 19th century to the Present and how they are imperative toward planetary stewardship. In what he’s termed "black ecological consciousness," Bennett unpacks how these forms are rooted in an intimacy with the living environment.

    The Life of the Spoken Word

    Spoken word has always been a gathering space for the marginalized. From the 1960s to its current heyday, many of the most prominent figures in the modern spoken word poetry movement have been black and brown poets, a number of whom have turned to the form to expand our social and political imaginations. The history of spoken word is also American history: a story about race, class, and the pursuit of human dignity. In this talk, Dr. Bennett will explore not only the past and present influence of spoken word poetry, but its intersections with other forms of oratory. By exploring these genres in conjunction, he investigates the relationship between public acts of passionate utterance and our collective desire for a more just, equitable future.

    Poetry for the People

    What do poems make possible? What necessary lessons can poems teach us not only about language, but about how to treat each other? How do poems grant us insight into ways we can better care for the planet, and every living thing held within its breadth? This lecture will explore the public works of writers like Gwendolyn Brooks, June Jordan, and others in the name of clarifying how their public projects help us better understand the work of racial and environmental justice today.

    An Evening with Joshua Bennett

    Poet and Professor Dr. Joshua Bennett will share original work from his first three collections of poems—The Sobbing School, Owed, and The Study of Human Life—while also offering reflections on the craft of storytelling, the power of the spoken word, and his own journey as a writer and educator.

  • Video

  • Praise for Joshua Bennett

    Praise for Owed

    Themes of praise and debt pervade this rhapsodic, rigorous poetry collection, which pays homage to everyday Black experience in the U.S. . . . Bennett conjures a spirit of kinship that, illuminated by redolent imagery, borders on mythic, and boldly stakes claim to ‘some living, future / English, & everyone in it / is immortal.’

    The New Yorker

    Bennett captures the beauty of what really matters in life—the memories, youth sports, family traditions and little moments that many of us take for granted . . . [Owed] couldn’t have been more timely.


    Not only are these poems eloquent but also lyrical, intelligent, and, occasionally, funny. Most reflect upon and communicate the pain, joy, and intensity of the current Black experience . . . In a time when many confront and protest the racism prevalent in our society, Bennett’s new book is vital.

    Library Journal (starred review)

    [Owed] intertwines the author’s multifaceted professions as poet, performer, and professor through powerful, crisp poems that celebrate the complexity, joy, and heartbreak of the Black experience in America . . . Bennett’s poems are more necessary than ever.

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

    [A]stonishing poems that explore the past, childhood, family relationships, identity, and memory among many other themes, all expertly rendered through a mixture of forms . . . [Bennett] has a gift for building and setting vivid scenes and complex stories within the small frames of his stanzas.


    We’re lucky to have Joshua Bennett’s Owed at this hour in America. The resonances of ‘ode’ and ‘owed’ underscore his tremendous acts of invention amid ‘an ever-expanding grand Black Epilogue.’ Lyrical and political fibers are woven through narratives as clear and idiosyncratic as the plastic on your grandmother’s couch. Owed fights for the ‘ground where the children can play and come home whole.’ Bennett swings with song and exaltation; he swings with resistance and defense. I’m glad to have his amazing collection right now. I will be glad to have it tomorrow.

    Terrance Hayes, author of American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin

    Owed is an indictment of the state even as it is an ode to the ongoingness of Black imagination. Here, a single moment shimmers with a million resonances of attention. So the world is loved this much. And what has been taken has been taken this much. Bennett insists on repair even as he mourns what is utterly irreparable. This book is part of a breathful, bodied fight for Black life. I am emboldened and sharpened by Bennett’s genius and by his love made plain across each of these shimmering pages.

    Aracelis Girmay, author of The Black Maria

    Praise for Being Property Once Myself

    In intense and illuminating reevaluation of black literature and Western thought.

    Ron Charles, Washington Post

    A gripping work…Bennett’s lyrical lilt in his sharp analyses makes for a thorough yet accessible read.

    LSE Review of Books

    Tremendously illuminating…Bennett’s refreshing and field-defining approach shows how both classic and contemporary African American authors undo long-held assumptions of the animal–human divide.

    Salamishah Tillet, author of Sites of Slavery

    Praise for The Sobbing School

    In his scintillating debut, Bennett raises a crucial question about the writing of African-American experience: how can one convey the enormity of black suffering without reducing black life and expression to elegy? . . . At its heart, Bennett’s sharp collection is an ode to family, friendship and culture that neither pulls punches nor withholds sentiment.

    Publishers Weekly

    Bennett is one of the most impressive voices in poetry today. . .he is also quietly building a reputation as one the brightest intellectual and political thinkers of a new generation.

    Jesse McCarthy, Dissent Magazine

    ’Who can be alive today/and not study grief,’ Joshua Bennett asks in this arresting debut. Yet these poems are no study in grief. Abounding in tenderness and rich with character, these are no quaint lyrics. They leap into our lives, engaging, crackling with wit and intelligence. It’s one of Bennett’s unique gifts—a virtuosic kind of code switching—to deliver a civil tone of I’d rather you didn’t, while we know what he means is, more provocatively, I wish you would.

    Gregory Pardlo

    At a moment in American culture punctuated to a heartbreaking degree by acts of hatred, violence and disregard, I can think of nothing we need to ponder and to sing of more than our shared grief and our capacity not just for empathy but genuine love. Poetry is critical to such an endeavor—and Joshua Bennett’s astounding, dolorous, rejoicing voice is indispensable.

    Tracy K. Smith

    At the heart of Joshua Bennett’s debut collection lies grief, but his poems also pay tribute to the human will to endure. There are glimpses here of James Baldwin and Zora Neale Hurston where Bennett’s syntactical dexterity and feeling for language meet the rhythm and flow of dangerous music. His poems of identity are also poems of imagery and invention, and they testify to poetry’s endless mutability through story and song, lament and praise. The Sobbing School is an essential book for our times.

    Eugene Gloria
  • Books by Joshua Bennett

  • Media About Joshua Bennett

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  • 212 572-2013
  • Joshua Bennett travels from Boston, Massachusetts

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