Georges to discuss American identity with Brown Bag



Today, a poet will attempt to tackle a timeless — and timely — question: What does it mean to be an American?

Danielle Legros Georges, the poet-in-residence for Week Three at the Writers’ Center, will examine this question with her Brown Bag lecture, “Articulations of America,” at 12:15 p.m. today on the front porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall.

Georges’ fascination with the American identity drew her to this topic.

“I’ve been interested in how the U.S. has been built both physically and in the imagination,” she said. “I’ve always been interested in the development of American and U.S. identity and identities, and as a writer I have appreciated reading writers who have taken the question up directly or obliquely.”

According to a profile on the poet from The Boston Globe, Georges was born in Haiti and lived in Zaire — now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo — and Boston when she was younger. On a personal level, her fascination with what it means to be an American makes sense.

Clara Silverstein, program director of the Writers’ Center, said she felt that Georges’ experiences made her an ideal fit for Week Three, the theme of which is “Immigration: Origins and Destinations.” Silverstein said she also admired Georges’ work as Boston’s poet laureate. The writer was named to the position last year and has focused her efforts on community outreach.

Georges said the jumping-off point for her Brown Bag is a question posed by “Frenchman-turned-American” Jean (John Hector St. John) de Crèvecoeur in his book Letters from an American Farmer, published one year before the end of the American Revolution. That question is, “What is an American?”

“American writers have long pursued the identity and idea of America,” Georges said.

Georges said her lecture will begin with de Crèvecoeur’s question and explore the work of poets such as Emma Lazarus and Langston Hughes to look for an answer to a perhaps unanswerable question.

“I hope my lecture will open up a dialogue on the topics mentioned, as well as engage questions of social justice, privilege and citizenship,” Georges said.