In The Spotlight: HoCoPoLitSo

Recently, Howard Community College’s In The Spotlight TV show spent some time learning about HoCoPoLitSo. Check out what they discovered in this short segment.
 

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SAVE THE DATE: Rita Dove & Jushua Coyne • Oct 22nd

A Word of Difference: Rita Dove and Joshua Coyne Celebrate History and Creativity

Wednesday,  October 22, 2014 • 7:30 p.m.
Monteabaro Recital Hall
Howard Community College

Rita Dove

Rita Dove

In celebration of HoCoPoLitSo’s 40th year, former National Poet Laureate Rita Dove will read from her acclaimed most-recent book of poems, Sonata Mulattica, about historical Afro-European violinist George Bridgetower. Violin virtuoso Joshua Coyne will play original music inspired by literature. Coyne’s story as a young African-American classical musician is juxtaposed with Bridgetower’s in the upcoming documentary film Sonata Mulattica, which also features Dove.

Joshua_coyne_violin

Joshua Coyne

Extended scenes from the film will premiere at the event, followed by a discussion with Dove, Coyne, and the film’s creators.

The book Sonata Mulattica has been described by the American Library Association as “a mischievous and sensuous cycle of linked poems that explores genius and power, class and race.”

 

Presented in partnership with Candlelight Concert Society, Columbia Film Society, and the Columbia (MD) Alumnae Chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.

 

WhiteSpacer

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Local Author Katia D. Ulysse Previews Her Novel at the Columbia Festival of the Arts

2014 Columbia Festvial KatiaDUlysse_colorphoto (2)Howard County Poetry & Literature Society (HoCoPoLitSo), in partnership with the Columbia Festival of the Arts, presents the Katia D. Ulysse Book Preview with a reading and pre-release book sale and signing on Wednesday, June 25, 2014, at 7:30 p.m. at Monteabaro Hall in the Horowitz Arts Center at Howard Community College. The event is part of the annual Columbia Festival of the Arts; tickets to the event are $15, and available at the festival’s web site at www.columbiafestival.org/tickets.

2014 Columbia Festival Drifting Photo (2)Katia D. Ulysse is an intense new voice from Baltimore whose debut novel, Drifting, will be released in July. A recently discovered talent, Ulysse was invited by National Book Award-winning novelist Edwidge Danticat to be included in her Haiti Noir anthology. A lyrical novel, Drifting explores the lives of Haitian families aspiring to escape hardship and an earthquake’s devastation. The novel is set before, during, and after the catastrophic 2010 earthquake in Haiti and takes readers from Haiti to the United States and back.

Drifting is a remarkable debut by a phenomenal writer,” writes Danticat, who is also the acclaimed author of the 2013 release Claire of the Sea Light. “[T]his sublime and powerful book allows us to experience the joys and tragedies of ordinary and extraordinary lives, in small neighborhoods and big cities, in the present and the past. Katia D. Ulysse’s talent soarshigher and higher to expand both our hearts and our universe.”

Ulysse’s characters are everyday people: a ruthless entrepreneur who fer­ries peasants out of the countryside, promising them a better life in Port-au-Prince; the office worker who learns that the amount of money and time off she receives depend on her boss’s definition of family; a mother of three who is desperate to leave Haiti to join the husband who left her behind; young girls who fall prey to a trusted schoolteacher who advises them to “work smart, not hard.” And readers meet the desperate elderly woman who seeks the help of a vodun priest to help “fix” her dying hus­band.

Madison Smartt Bell, finalist for the National Book Award for his novel about Haiti, All Soul’s Rising, writes, “Katia D. Ulysse…evok[es] the immigrant experience with delicacy, gravity, and pathos. Refreshing and arresting on the first read, this book will be remembered for a long time to come.”

Drifting is a universal tale. “Drifting is about people from nowhere and everywhere,” writes Ulysse. “The characters in these stories are fictional, but we know each one well.”

A native of Haiti, Ulysse writes in English and Haitian Creole. Her work has appeared in The Caribbean Writer, Meridian, Peregrine, Smartish Pace, and other publications. Her stories have been anthologized in MaComère, Butterfly’s Way, Haiti Noir, and other collections. In 2013, her first children’s book, Fabiola Can Count, was released.

HoCoPoLitSo is a nonprofit organization designed to enlarge the audience for contemporary poetry and literature and celebrate culturally diverse literary heritages. Founded in 1974 by National Book Award finalist Ellen Conroy Kennedy, HoCoPoLitSo accomplishes its mission by sponsoring readings with critically acclaimed writers; literary workshops; programs for students; and The Writing Life, a writer-to-writer interview show seen on YouTube, HCC-TV, and other local stations. HoCoPoLitSo receives funding from the Maryland State Arts Council, an agency funded by the state of Maryland and the National Endowment for the Arts; Howard County Arts Council through a grant from Howard County government; The Columbia Film Society; Community Foundation of Howard County; the Jim and Patty Rouse Charitable Foundation; and individual contributors.
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“Rock Star” Billy Collins Delights Columbia Audience With Poetry.

It’s not often that Columbia hosts a national poet laureate. And even less frequently can we listen to a poet laureate whose publishing contract ran to six figures with Random House. Turns out, that’s not an oxymoron. It’s a Billy Collins.

Collins On April 24, at the Blackbird Poetry Festival, HoCoPoLitSo brought to Columbia a writer who passes for a rock star in the poetry world. Collins, “the most popular poet in America,” according to the New York Times, drew groupies from as far away as Philadelphia and western Maryland. Collins read in the afternoon with students, and at an evening reading, thanks to a partnership with Howard Community College’s student life office, and humanities and English divisions.

As co-president of the HoCoPoLitSo board Tara Hart said in her introduction, Collins has brought poetry to the people, “down from the shelves and out of the shadows.”

But Collins says he doesn’t sit down at his desk and decide, hmm, today, I think I’m going to write a poem that will bring poetry out of the shadows. Instead, he says, “I’m just trying to write a good poem.”

He’s always thinking about the reader, he says, and alternating his attention between the reader and the poet. To that end, he opened his reading with “You, Reader.” His voice, particularly well-suited to his dry wit, is without affect, so it also worked with his poems that were more reflective, even sad, like the canine soliloquy, “The Dog on his Master.”

Collins read poems that drew huge laughs, including “To My Favorite 17-Year-Old High School Girl,” “More Than a Woman,” and “Oh My God,” as well as “Cheerios,” (“that dude’s older than Cheerios,” he says he imagines people marveling, as, in his poem, his protagonist sits drinking his orange juice and reading in the paper about his birth year being the same as the breakfast cereal’s).

He explained that he doesn’t talk about exotic things, just normal life that leads to revelation, as in his poem “The Lanyard,” that starts out contemplating the plastic necklaces made by bored campers and ends up cogitating the meaning of maternal love.

“I explore a little curiosity that some people with normal work hours don’t have time to explore,” he said.

Collins talked about his haiku and how he’s fond of the seventeen-syllable rules.

“The haiku doesn’t care about my self-expression. It looks back at you with, ‘what’s the matter with you? That’s six syllables.’ ”

He read haiku about the moon in the window, about raindrops, and then this one, “an emotionally poignant one,” he said.

Midwinter evening
Alone at the sushi bar
Just me and this eel.

 Fans laughed at his work, and nodded during his poems about dogs and splitting wood.

The questions after the reading went on for twenty minutes.

Q: “What is your writing regimen?”

A: “I have no discipline,” Collins admitted. “I write on the fly. I never sit down and say I’m going to commit an act of literature before lunch.”

And:

Q: “What is the favorite poem you’ve written?”

A: “I really have no interest in them. I’ve written them; I’m out.”

Collins also discussed how he grounds his poetry in the domestic, with the scene as a “launching pad.”

“I start with something simple,” Collins said. “I like poems to start in Kansas and then go to Oz.”

His advice to Linda Joy Burke, a poet and teacher, on how to teach kids to not take themselves too seriously, was to give them models. William Carlos Williams and Coleridge are good ones, he said, and they should write a poem following that poet’s rules.

“It keeps them from the gushers, the geysers of feeling,” Collins said. “We’re all born with 200 bad poems in us at birth. Most people are nice enough to never let them out.”

CollinsLineAfter the reading, the audience burst into the lobby clamoring for places in line. They chatted and compared Collins’ stories on the long book-signing line (those waiting were well fueled with chocolates passed out by volunteers).

Those fans brought their piles of books – some were collectors’ items — and phones for selfies and cameras for more formal portraits. Collins stayed an hour and a half after the reading finished to sign all the books and talk with his fans.

One young college student – the one from Philadelphia who brought her mom from Belair – gushed that he signed every one of her books. Then she confided that she and her mother are both creative writing majors because of his work.

A poet couldn’t ask for more. Except maybe another book contract.

 

Susan Thornton Hobby
recording secretary of HoCoPoLitSo

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Evoking family from the stage at HoCoPoLitSo’s Irish Evening

HoCoPoLitSo’s Irish Evening of Music and Poetry was even more of a family affair than usual this year. Normally an occasion that parents and adult children (and occasionally a third generation) attend in their Irish wool and finest green, this year’s Irish Evening featured two poets who themselves are family.

MeehanDurganPaula Meehan and Theo Dorgan have been poetry and life partners for decades. And from the stage on March 14, they talked about kindred, a word they used for Seamus Heaney, a huge presence of a poet who died August 2013 and who is being mourned throughout the literary world.

“Everyone feels like they’ve lost a member of their own family,” Meehan told Dorgan during that afternoon’s taping of The Writing Life, HoCoPoLitSo’s writer-to-writer interview show.

From Heaney to sassy Irish grandmothers to uprising revolutionaries, family was called up throughout the evening reading.

Dorgan started off reading “Speaking to My Father,” about his hard-working patriarch and what he must have thought about Dorgan’s labors as a poet: “I move the words as you moved the heavy tires./ I make the poems like you and Rose made children,/ Blindly, because I must.”

Meehan read her sonnet “A Remembrance of My Grandfather, Wattie, Who Taught Me to Read and Write,” which she dedicated to Heaney when he became a grandfather. And she read two poems about her grandmother, Hannah, who was raised in and virtually embodied north inner city Dublin. Hannah’s voice came through loud and clear in “Would You Jump Into My Grave as Quick” and “Hannah Grandmother,” in which she counsels her granddaughter to “tell them priests nothing,/ … keep your sins to yourself.”

Dorgan invoked his laughing aunt, his great-grandmother dying in childbirth on a ship off Cape Horn, and even read some new and “very gloomy poems,” including “Harvest Moon.”

Meehan named animal forbears in “The Solace of Artemis,” about the brown bear mother from Ireland said to be the matrilineal root of all polar bears; the poem’s narrator “is comforted” by the thought that this matriarch’s mitochondria lives on.

The ghosts in Dorgan’s poem “Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin, Easter 1991” were revolutionaries. Dorgan explained that on the 75th anniversary of Ireland’s Easter uprising, the government decided to ignore the event. So artists and musicians and laborers put together their own commemoration, and Dorgan wrote the poem that summoned the “soft-footed” specters from the catwalks of that jail.

Smith Theatre was thick with all the ghosts invoked from the stage: longtime Irish Evening attenders and donors Monica Gallivan Lack and Ed Harris, Heaney, all those grandmothers and fathers, sisters and family specters we carry around with us.

The family members who have already gone, those ghosts, were probably hovering just over our shoulders, nodding along with the poetry and tapping their spirit toes to the music.

Save the date for the 37th Irish Evening of Music and Poetry: March 13, 2015.

Susan Thornton Hobby
board member and great-granddaughter
of Jane Gilbane, born in County Leitrim, 1893

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Blackbird Poetry Festival Features Billy Collins, “The Most Popular Poet in America”

Contact: Pam Kroll Simonson, (443) 518-4568, hocopolitso@yahoo.com

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Howard County Poetry & Literature Society (HoCoPoLitSo), in partnership with Howard Community College’s Office of Student Life, English/World Languages Division, and Arts & Humanities Division, presents the annual Blackbird Poetry Festival from Monday, April 21 to Thursday, April 24, 2014, at Howard Community College (HCC). For the first time, this year’s festival opens with a four-day Poetry Film Festival featuring showings of five acclaimed films. The last day of the film festival coincides with a full day of Blackbird Festival events, including readings by two-term National Poet Laureate Billy Collins, called “the most popular poet in America” by The New York Times; workshops for HCC students by Bruce George, poet and co-founder of HBO’s Def Poetry Jam; readings by student poets from HCC; and on-campus patrols by the Poetry Police, who will award individuals carrying a poem in recognition of national Poem-in-Your-Pocket Day. The theme of this year’s Blackbird Poetry Festival is “Poetry Unmasked,” exploring the bare truths of poetry.

“Billy Collins is famous for conversational, witty poems that welcome readers with humor,” writes The Poetry Foundation, an independent literary group, “but often slip into quirky, tender or profound observation on the everyday, reading and writing, and poetry itself.”

“His last three collections of poems have broken sales records for poetry,” writes the Winter Park Institute for intellectual engagement at Rollins College. “His readings are usually standing room only, and his audience — enhanced tremendously by his appearances on National Public Radio — includes people of all backgrounds and age groups.”

Collins will read and discuss his work at Nightbird, the Blackbird Poetry Festival’s ticketed evening event, at 7:30 p.m. at Smith Theatre, located in the Horowitz Visual and Performing Arts Center at HCC in Columbia. A book signing and reception will follow. Earlier that day, Bruce George will facilitate creative writing and performance poetry workshops for HCC students. In the afternoon, Collins will give a shorter, free, and open-to-the-public reading at Smith Theatre with student poets at 2:30 p.m. He will also tape an episode of The Writing Life, HoCoPoLitSo’s Bravo-TV Arts for Change Award-winning interview show broadcast on cable and YouTube. Collins will be interviewed by poet Kendra Kopelke, director of the University of Baltimore’s MFA program in Creative Writing & Publishing Arts and two-time Pushcart Prize nominee.

The Poetry Film Festival will be held in Monteabaro Recital Hall, located in the Horowitz Visual and Performing Arts Center at HCC, and is free and open to the public. It features Poetic Justice with Janet Jackson and Tupac Shakur and poems by Maya Angelou on Monday, April 21 at 12:30 and 3 p.m.; Dead Poets Society with Robin Williams and Ethan Hawke on Tuesday, April 22 at 12:30 p.m.; Tom and Viv, a biopic about T. S. Eliot starring Willem Dafoe and Miranda Richardson on Tuesday, April 22 at 3 p.m.; Shakespeare in Love with Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes in celebration of Shakespeare’s birthday on Wednesday, April 23 at 12:30 and 3 p.m.; and Slam, winner of Sundance Film Festival’s 1998 Grand Jury Prize for a Dramatic Film, on Thursday, April 24 at 12 p.m. (Films planned for the festival are subject to change.)

Tickets to the Nightbird reading are $50 for the first three rows in the center aisle and $30 for general admission, $20 for seniors, and $15 for students. Tickets can be purchased at www.hocopolitso.org or www.brownpapertickets.com/event/523094. For more information, contact HoCoPoLitSo at (443) 518-4568 or hocopolitso@yahoo.com. Seniors in Columbia can request transportation by calling the Senior Events Shuttle at (410) 715-3087. HCC is an accessible campus. Accommodation requests should be made to HoCoPoLitSo by April 17, 2014.

HoCoPoLitSo is a nonprofit organization designed to enlarge the audience for contemporary poetry and literature and celebrate culturally diverse literary heritages. Founded in 1974 by National Book Award finalist Ellen Conroy Kennedy, HoCoPoLitSo accomplishes its mission by sponsoring readings with critically acclaimed writers; literary workshops; programs for students; and The Writing Life, a writer-to-writer interview show seen on YouTube, HCC-TV, and other local stations. HoCoPoLitSo receives funding from the Maryland State Arts Council, an agency funded by the state of Maryland and the National Endowment for the Arts; Howard County Arts Council through a grant from Howard County government; The Columbia Film Society; Community Foundation of Howard County; the Jim and Patty Rouse Charitable Foundation; and individual contributors.

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A Letter from Sama Bellomo

Events come and go. Audiences come and go. Sometimes we wonder how we are doing, if are reaching people, providing enough to help grow the world’s literary heritage person by person. This season, we received the following letter. How humbled and grateful we are.

Dear HoCoPoLitSo,

A thousand gratitudes have flown through my mind and I am sure that the count will grow further as the events of the day really sink in.

I get out so little that I have to select very carefully my activities beyond work and medical appointments.  That you have all taken the steps to include me, to be kind toward me, and to be well yourselves around me, speaks much to the ways in which simply being our best possible selves can help others be well also.

MailIt’s not that I felt treated more specially than anyone else, but that I felt treated as specially as everyone else.  It is so easy to feel different, exotic, unusual, especially with all the luggage I carry just to get through a day that it can be off-putting for me to feel like I must explain myself just to be among others. On top of that, another attendee complimented my “entourage,” that is, my friend, Jeffrey, and the interpreters, who accompanied me through the event so I could get through.

You can tell that many of my go-to sentences about my health are well rehearsed because the social stickiness of navigating life with multiple disabilities [Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Dysautonomia, and hearing loss] gets to be old hat somewhere around the bazllionth iteration.  All of this is pretty old hat for you because you are sensitive individuals with a clear idea of what it means to be aware of how we treat people, but it’s always nice to hear that our efforts and ways of being matter.  It means more when we are in those life spaces where we question ourselves, when self-assuredness is particularly thin.  Save this note for that moment.  If it’s not enough, call me, I’ll make more.

All day long I was challenged, brought to new places in my thoughts, confronted with the brevity within me from which I had been hiding (avoiding, which we call coping, but which doesn’t accomplish what actual coping gets done) because it wanted me to make decisions regarding my health that will be very hard to make alone.  The exercises were overwhelming, and this is actually a good thing, because it was a safe and productive environment where I could work on my own perceptions.  As a community leader in the Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome world I really need to take care of my own thoughts first, so that I can help others grow.  You have helped me do this work, and I thank you very sincerely.

As a disabilities advocate I find it necessary to mention how very accessible (if not uniquely accessible) the entire event was, both at the workshop and at the presentation. Even the sign language interpreters tried the exercises – did you know that?  They enjoyed the class, faced some of their own thoughts, and helped me communicate mine to the class, because I was able to “hear” and keep up.

I am not the same person I was before the workshop.  Something in me finally understood that my work and attitude have power that can change minds, help others understand, and hopefully, feel better.  Clearly you can tell that being sick has taken over my life.  But I’ve got a hold of the reins and this wild horse will have to sleep sometime.

It was wonderful to be included, and I hope I can participate or help in another HoCoPoLitSo event in the future. Even if it’s for a one-night event manning a donation table, if I’m well enough, I’m in!

Anyway, in short, thanks a lot-a-lot.

Be well,

Sama

Sama Bellomo is a rehabilitation technologist who writes accessible curricula to help individuals with disabilities gain employable skills on their way into the workforce. Sama attended the Lucille Clifton Poetry Series Workshop and Reading with Michael S. Glaser.

 

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