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SFU English welcomes Cornel Bogle as its new assistant professor
Cornel Bogle joined the Department of English’s faculty on July 15th, 2023. This fall, the assistant professor and poet is teaching ENGL 362: Transnational Black Oratures.
Originally from Kingston, Jamaica, Bogle completed his graduate studies at the University of Alberta, and most recently taught at York University. Now, he has moved to B.C. and will be conducting research and teaching at SFU.
“When this opportunity came up, I thought it was wonderful to be in B.C.— to be able to begin working with communities, with students, and the academic community, and to turn attention to Black cultural production that takes place in British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan—spaces that often lie beyond the scope of recognition when it comes to Black cultural production,” says Bogle.
The course that he is teaching this semester, ENGL 362, focuses on transnational Black oratures. “Orature” refers to oral literatures or oral performance, and includes oral storytelling, performance poetry, slam poetry, and more.
“I am really interested in offering this course to SFU students as an entry way to thinking about Blackness, not only in Canada, but transnationally,” says Bogle.
For example, students will examine communities like the Caribbean that were formed out of oral literatures. They will look at a specific poetic form called “Dub poetry,” which is accompanied by music and has both Afro-Caribbean/Afro-Jamaican origins, as well as diasporic origins.
“Some prominent Dub poets were Jamaican immigrants to the United Kingdom and Canada,” says Bogle. “In the course, we begin by establishing an understanding of Dub poetry then moving into thinking about how Dub in the Canadian setting is being mobilized.”
The course will also focus on the digital realm, as students will look at Black audiobooks read by Black narrators, and African American blogs.
“What does it mean to quite literally hear and voice Blackness?” asks Bogle. “What goes into voicing Blackness in particular way? We also look at the way huge oral rhetoric is mobilized, particularly in African American blogs.”
Bogle’s course on Black oratures is a rarity, if not an entirely unique offering at a Canadian university. He also teaches the class from the perspective of a poet, as well as a professor.
He began writing poetry as an undergraduate student, inspired by other Jamaican poets, including Kei Miller who visited his high school class.
“Kei Miller was the first queer poet I read, but not only that, the first queer Jamaican poet I ever read,” says Bogle. “There was a real moment of excitement for me to discover, ‘Oh, there’s a queer, Jamaican poet’ when I was 16 or 17. His work speaking to queer experiences in Jamaica became really important to me.”
In university, Bogle found inspiration in the work of other Jamaican poets, such as Mervyn Morris, Edward Baugh, and Lorna Goodison. Although he describes his early work as imitative in nature, he characterizes his current poems as lyric and personal. He sometimes also ventures into the realm of conceptional, found poetry, and erasure poetry.
“In terms of what is next in my creative journey, right now I’m working on a lot of critical work, which makes me hungry to turn to creative writing or to creative processes,” says Bogle. “The way in which I’m most inspired or think of the next project is I go to the archives. I’m interested in what kind of archival narratives or archival material connects these two places, not only Jamaica, but the entire Caribbean to Vancouver.”