In 2021 the Washington University Libraries acquired the literary papers of Aaron Coleman, a poet and translator who received his Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing in 2015 and a Doctor of Philosophy in Comparative Literature in 2021 from Washington University in St. Louis. The Aaron Coleman Papers consist of drafts of poems from his first two books and other materials related to his time at Washington University.
Coleman arrived in St. Louis for the MFA writer’s program at Washington University in 2013, and connected with a community of multidisciplinary artists, activists, and scholars across the St. Louis region, which was in the beginning of what would be known as the St. Louis Renaissance, or the Black Arts Renaissance.
Interested in the poetics of Blackness, in national, transnational, and translational contexts, contemporary poetic explorations of sexuality and masculinity, and experimental or genre-bending poetic forms, as well as translation, during his MFA years, and into his PhD years, he explored the relationships between American – in both national and hemispheric senses of the term – and Afrodiasporic literatures through literature, theory, translation, and creative writing.
Coleman´s papers are a reflection of his multidisciplinary work and his commitment to build relationships with artists, activists, and scholars from a wide range of backgrounds.The exhibit shows his dedication as he revised, and drafted the work that would go on to be published in outlets including the New York Times, as well as in his first chapbook and book of poetry, in addition to numerous fellowships, and awards.
In 2023, to celebrate the acquisition of his papers, Washington University Libraries installed the “Wherein I Am”: Highlights from the Aaron Coleman Papers exhibition in the Special Collections room of Olin Library. In addition, two events to celebrate the exhibit were co-sponsored by the Center for the Literary Arts, the Department of Comparative Literature, the English Department, and the Writing Program.
On April, 3, 2023, a reading with Coleman was held in Special Collections with a reception in the Gingko room. The following evening, a conversation was held between Coleman and English professor and poet, Mary Jo Bang, whose papers are also part of the Modern Literature Collection.
The reading was part of the International Writers Series, which is a collaboration between the International Writers track of the Program in Comparative Literature and the Washington University Libraries in celebration of new publications by writers and translators in the Washington University in St. Louis community and beyond.
This digital exhibit is a companion to the onsite exhibit and to the celebrations. In addition, it is an ongoing portal to the Aaron Coleman papers.