Tongo Eisen-Martin, MA

Affiliated Faculty

Teaching Philosophy

My teaching praxis is based on the idea that poetry is a part of your one human experience taking place in and revealed by an interconnected reality. The view of craft as component walls away potential insight and inhibits writing and movement work. Writing strategies that flow from the reality that craft does not have to be a metaphysical, separate entity from you strengthens all internal processes of liberation, importantly including your art. From political to unpopulated realities of the world, all continuums of existence can emerge together in a line of poetry, within a cooperation, to produce insight. You can let the infinite, natural occurring unities of reality do the work for you on the page.

Poetry occupies the strangest place in reality. A convergence of paradoxes where reality can simultaneously only be perceived and only be produced; where one line is both a universe unto itself and at the same time completely devoid of any individual register or self-contained existence; where there is only evidence and simultaneously no evidence of a creator. It is the half step between the realms of cosmic unity and one million dualities. The poet creates an image by pulling them towards each other. A process of healthy insanity or within an insanity free of self-absorption. The poet creates an image by relaxing into the emotive math of language. In poetry, there is no ideal state. In poetry, there is no ideal style. There is no ideal reader. There is no ideal audience. There is only a torrential continuum of language through which we chase liberation.


MA in African-American Studies, Columbia University

BA in African-American Studies, Columbia University

Area of Expertise


Meaningful Action in the World

I spent many years as an organizer, teacher, and youth worker, usually in places of extreme repression and systemically imposed wretchedness. What education provided was a life of praxis that parallels the craft of poetry. I taught in order to put revolutionary principles (as many as I had an understanding of) into practice. Namely, I sought to practice the principle that one of the conditions of social transformation is a people fully aware of history, fully aware of the engines of history, and fully aware of how to self-determine current reality. Poetry (or art of any discipline) provides a similar opportunity, and also exists in the part of the mind that produces revolutionary intention. Poetry is every step of the way from idea to practice, and your revolutionary praxis and art subtitle each other. So as I evolved my revolutionary practice (especially internally), so evolved my poetry; and vice versa; and ultimately express my evolution as a human being.


8th Poet Laureate of San Francisco

Pronouns: He/Him

Affiliation MFA Creative Writing