Mahogany Browne is gearing up to help lead her first Master in Fine Arts (MFA) residency session – beginning July 5th -- since joining St. Francis College as that program's poetry coordinator this Spring.
Students enrolled in the MFA program come to St. Francis College each July and January for 10 days of intensive workshops, discussions and readings. They work remotely the rest of the time during the two-year program, completing their degrees on one of three "tracks": poetry, fiction or dramatic screenwriting/playwriting.
A Cave Canem fellow and Agnes Gund Fund Recipient, Browne has published multiple poetry collections and books, including Woke Baby, Kissing Caskets, Redbone, and Dear Twitter: Love Letters Hashed Out Online. PBS NewsHour featured Browne reading her poem "Black Girl Magic" in its Brief But Spectacular segment.
Browne recently discussed her background as a poet and what she hopes to accomplish at St. Francis College.
What was your career path?
I began in 1998 writing poems...I then relocated as a journalist to New York in 1999 and returned to writing poems in 2001. I've been a full-time writer ever since. I have picked up facilitator positions, professorships and guest lecturer [positions] in other spaces and capacities [along the way], but it was poetry for the most part.
What are some of your career highlights?
Memorable [parts of my career] include curating the Nuyorican [Poets Café] for thirteen years, being an inaugural MFA candidate at the Pratt Institute for Writing and Activism, being the Cave Canem fellow since 2008.
I've been mentoring young writers since 2001 as well. I'm the current artistic director for Urban Word NYC and that brings me a lot of joy.
How did you get involved in the SFC MFA Program?
I was invited to lead a lecture in a poetry class. I think there was a great response. I was asked if I was interested in coming back in a coordinator capacity or a guest faculty capacity, and I said yes.
The first thing I did [in my new role with SFC] was in April [ed note: Mahogany moderated a Write in Brooklyn discussion event with authors Jason Reynolds and Amber Tamblyn]...So July will be my first real time with students and the faculty.
What do you hope to bring to St. Francis College?
I'm excited to bring community members, both literary [people] and lovers of lit, into the same space. I think it's important to highlight not only the homegrown talent in Brooklyn, but the people who live in Brooklyn, who serve Brooklyn and breathe Brooklyn.
I'm interested in bridging the gap between those voices... and the campus....[St. Francis] does a great job hosting the Brooklyn Book Festival, but what would it look like to continuously have an ebb and flow of our community members returning to St Francis College for inspiration and community?
Do you have a guiding philosophy when it comes to teaching poetry that imbues your approach to your work at St. Francis?
I'm most interested in the validity of voice. I value the voice. I value different dialects and organic dialogue.
I think we lose a lot of our power and our beauty when we're trying to recreate or repurpose or copy things that already exist instead of coming into a space with our individual stories. We're [often] so busy trying to make [our work] universal that we forget our value. And then, in turn, [the work is] homogenized. The homogenized voice is not an evolutionary voice.