Back to Network News

Create Poetic Maps to Hidden Worlds that Are Inside Us and Around Us with Jennifer Givhan

Jennifer Givhan
Jennifer Givhan

WINSTON-SALEM—As writers, we’re often encouraged to “write what we know.” Even still, it can take a long time to write toward those parts of ourselves that we know best, those parts we’d prefer to keep hidden: our secret thoughts, dark family histories, dreams, and more. But it is exactly those things that make us feel most vulnerable, which we’d prefer people not see, that we must write about if we’re ever going to find our voices and share our truths.

On Thursday, March 17, 2022, at 7:00 pm EST, novelist and poet Jennifer Givhan will lead the online class “Subverting Expectations: Stranger Things, Duende, & Writing into the Upside Down” (Poetry).

Registration is closed.

The underbelly is the vulnerable spot. It could also be the dark spot, the seamy place, the liminal margins. This is the place we are most helpless, most in need of defense. And yet, this is where, in the poem of duende, we must confront. In Stranger Things, the Netflix sci-fi/horror throwback, the children and adults must both contend with the Upside Down, a parallel world distorted, a shadow world askew … The boys in the show describe it as “a place of decay and death, a plane out of phase, a [place] with monsters. It is right next to you and you don’t even see it.”

In this workshop, we will more than see it. We will create poems that are maps to the hidden creatures in our society, our psyches, our pasts—membrane-thin strings connecting the outer shells with the inner viscera of our collective and individual histories. Subverting expectations of the poems, ourselves, and the world around us, we will locate and (re)create maps to the underbellies, to the duende world where madness and abandon often eclipse logic and where, as Tracy K. Smith writes, “skill is only useful to the extent that it adds courage and agility to intuition.” Join Givhan as she guides us into the Upside Down, where our craft skills will help us unleash our inner beasts to battle with the beasts already residing breath-on-the-back-of-the-neck close.

The cost for the class is $35 for NCWN members, $45 for non-members. Space is limited.

Jennifer Givhan is a Mexican-American and indigenous poet, novelist, and transformational coach from the Southwestern desert and the recipient of poetry fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and PEN/Rosenthal Emerging Voices. She holds a Master’s degree from California State University Fullerton and a Master’s in Fine Arts from Warren Wilson College. She is the author of four full-length poetry collections, most recently Rosa’s Einstein (University of Arizona Press), and the novels Trinity Sight and Jubilee (Blackstone Publishing), all of which were finalists for the Arizona-New Mexico Book Awards. Her newest poetry collection Belly to the Brutal (Wesleyan University Press) and novel River Woman River Demon (Blackstone Publishing) are forthcoming this fall. Her poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction have appeared in The New Republic, The Nation, POETRY, TriQuarterly, The Boston Review, The Rumpus, Salon, and many others. She’s received the Southwest Book Award, New Ohio Review’s Poetry Prize, Phoebe Journal’s Greg Grummer Poetry Prize, the Pinch Journal Poetry Prize, and Cutthroat’s Joy Harjo Poetry Prize. Jenn would love to hear from you at and you can follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for inspiration, writing prompts, and transformational advice.

“The Network offered online classes long before the COVID-19 pandemic, and we’ll continue to do so moving forward,” said NCWN communications director Charles Fiore. “While nothing can replace the energy of an in-person event, online classes can still be inspirational. More importantly, they offer a way to connect with writers across the state and beyond while staying safe.”

The online class “Subverting Expectations: Stranger Things, Duende, & Writing into the Upside Down” (Poetry) is available to anyone with an internet connection, or who even owns just a telephone. Instructions for accessing the online class on Thursday, March 17, will be sent to registrants no less than 24 hours prior to the start of class. The class will be archived and made available to registrants for repeated viewings.

The nonprofit North Carolina Writers’ Network is the state’s oldest and largest literary arts services organization devoted to writers at all stages of development. For additional information, visit