Carmen James: “Berlin is a ferocious and elegant metropolis that will hold any poet in her embrace”

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Carmen James is a Ph.D. student in the Philosophy and Education program at Teachers College, Columbia.  Her Masters thesis, titled “Imagination: A Practice of Attentiveness for Building Understanding,” was completed in May 2011 when she graduated from the same program. She is interested in strategies for incorporating a curriculum of aesthetics and ethics into schools, such as the way aesthetic experiences, particularly poetry and cultural centers like museums, can be morally and philosophically educative and how these types of experiences are critical for identity formation and for developing flexible and open modes of understanding. She has explored questions of culture, education and urban identity abroad, most recently in 2011 working with a grant in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She graduated with an A.B. in Comparative Literature from Harvard University where her Senior Thesis was titled “The Poet and the City.”

Why did you apply?

The opportunity connected to be deep seated and long held interest in the way people carve out space for aesthetic experiences in cities and how poets capture that experience. It was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down. Its a gift, as Virginia Woolf writes, to have a room of one’s own.

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When did you come?
June 2012
What did you do in Berlin?

I wrote poetry, walked, enjoyed Berlin culture. I designed daily walking tours through the city. I photographed and took writing breaks.

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What did you think of the project?

It was a gift to have the time to breathe and be to write and dream, housed in safe quarters and well fed with currywurst and other treats. 

What did you work on whilst in berlin?

Poetry. I read Rilke’s poetry and wrote a series of responses to his poems

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Best/worst moments

Walking through the city. Worst, none really. perhaps the very brief wait for my lost luggage.

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conclusion- Berlin is:
a ferocious and elegant metropolis that will hold any poet in her embrace.


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