Photo portrait of Aaron Coleman.
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John M. Olin Library, Level 1, Julian Edison Department of Special Collections Reading Room

Wherein I Am: Highlights from the Aaron Coleman Papers

In 2021 the Washington University Libraries acquired the literary papers of poet, translator, and Washington University alumnus Aaron Coleman. To commemorate the opening of the papers to researchers, this exhibition in the Julian Edison Department of Special Collections Reading Room in Olin Library presents highlights from the collection. 

In addition, the University Libraries hosted a reading by Coleman on April 3, 2023, and a conversation with Aaron Coleman on April 4, 2023. A digital exhibition of Wherein I Am is also available.

The Wherein I Am exhibition is curated by PhD Student in Comparative Literature Sarah Maria Medina. All items on display are from the Aaron Coleman Papers

A watercolor portrait of Aaron Coleman. The portrait is a closeup of the author's face with is eyes closed.
Watercolor portrait of Aaron Coleman by Elaine Goble Dandridge, Fall 2014, painted during Coleman’s poetry reading at Soulard Arts Market/Human Spaces.

Exploring the Exhibition

The MFA Years

This case focuses on Coleman´s activities while in the Writers Program at Washington University from 2013 to 2015 when he received his poetry MFA, as well as his third-year fellowship in the program for the 2015-16 academic year. During this span of time, Coleman worked extensively with Professor Mary Jo Bang and Professor Carl Phillips, and he connected with a community of multidisciplinary artists, activists, and scholars across the St. Louis region.

An all-caps typed poster reading "I AM A MAN" with am underlined.
“I am a Man” poster, 2014, carried by Coleman during the summer of 2014 protests after the killing of Michael Brown.

The PhD Years

This case features some of Coleman’s numerous lines of inquiry during his PhD years in the International Writers track of Comparative Literature from 2016 to 2021. Examples include heavily annotated drafts and notes toward round tables, readings, and speeches during his study of poetry and translation of the African Diaspora in the Americas.

A typed, double-spaced analysis turned in for the Introduction to Comparative Literature Roundtable with handwritten notes around the margins.
Introduction to Comparative Literature Roundtable notes, 2016, showing Coleman’s active participation in a discussion about the many conceptions of belonging.

Drafts, Collaborations, and Influences

This case includes a hand-drawn tree by Coleman of his many literary influences, revised poetry drafts, and an example of his collaborations with artists in the St. Louis community, all providing a deeper look at how his multifaceted work takes shape.

A typed draft of "St. Trigger Lovestruck" with handwritten notes in pen.
“St. Trigger Lovestruck” draft, 2014, with notes taken during Coleman’s visit with Visiting Hurst Professor C.D. Wright.

Drafts, Publications, and Awards

This case centers on Coleman´s work toward publishing his poetry in the chapbook St. Trigger, the book Threat Come Close, as well as a literary journal, The New York Times Magazine, and an anthology of Black American literature. The case also includes the submission that brought him a 2021 NEA fellowship which has poems from his forthcoming book.

Cover art for St. Trigger, whichi shows a Church's stained-glass window.
St. Trigger, winner of the 2016 Button Poetry Prize.

Visiting the Exhibition

The exhibition is available for viewing during Special Collections’ operating hours without an appointment. For more information on accessing Special Collections, please see the Special Collections Research and Access page. If you have any questions regarding the exhibition, please contact the Modern Literature Collection and Manuscripts Curator Joel Minor.