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Meet Chrissy Stegman — 2022 Second Place Winner of the Ellen Conroy Kennedy Poetry Contest
In 2021, Howard County Poetry and Literature Society launched the Ellen Conroy Kennedy Poetry Prize in honor of its founding member, Ellen Conroy Kennedy. Now in its second year, contest judges evaluated many submissions from poets in ten states and three countries for mechanics and technique, clarity, style/music for our contemporary age, imagery/sensory power, and emotional resonance. They noted in “Blue Irises” the creative use of form, the original approach to this poignant subject, the resonant voice of the speaker, and the powerful tension of the poem’s arc.
Tell us about your poem “Blue Irises” How did it come about? What sparked or inspired it?
I received my annual postcard in the mail from GBMC hospital, asking for donations to the NICU. It reminded me.
My youngest son was born early and via emergency c-section. When he arrived, he was whisked away to the NICU.
The poem came from this experience and from the despair I felt at being in the NICU to nurse him or see him whenever they allowed me but also, the other babies sometimes didn’t survive. It was a devastating juxtaposition, living in that space of life and death. It stayed with me.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
That’s a difficult question for me to answer. I suppose it would be the hours I spent in various libraries as a child. Reading saved me so many times, supported me, gave me strength. The power was evident. Language can do that — it reminds me of a passage from The Bow and the Lyre (Octavio Paz): Man is a being who has created himself in creating a language. By means of the word, man is a metaphor of himself.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
My mascot would be pure crystalline silence. I have four school-aged kids in the home (one adult child out in the world) and it’s challenging to find the space and quiet to write and work things out. If not silence, then all of Rocky Mount and Ferrum, VA and the blackberry brambles there, the train tracks, and the cemetery. The Blue Ridge mountains? Take me home. Country roads.
Tell us about a writer or a book that you return to over and over for inspiration.
It’s always Elizabeth Bishop, Rilke, Harryette Mullen, Camus, Anne Carson, Theodore Roethke, Mark Strand, Larkin … I mean, it’s impossible to pick only one writer or book. The Order of Time by Carlo Rovelli is gorgeous.
What are you working on next and where can we find you?
Currently, I’m taking an advanced masterclass at the 92NY Unterberg Poetry Center, New York. I’m also working on a book of poems that offers an interactive quality for the reader and finishing up my first chapbook. I have two poems coming out in March (Gone Lawn) and May (Blue Heron Review) so 2023 is off to a great start.
I can be found on IG: thegoosefaerie and Twitter: @pimpledrose
Hear poet Chrissy Stegman read “Blue Irises”
Poetries of Belonging — HoCoPoLitSo’s 15th Annual Blackbird Poetry Festival
Noah Arhm Choi headlines the Blackbird Poetry Festival to be held on April 27, 2023, at Howard Community College (HCC). The festival is a day devoted to verse, with a student workshop, readings, and HCC Poetry Ambassadors. The afternoon Sunbird Reading features Choi, Regie Cabico, local authors, and Howard Community College faculty and students. This free daytime event starts at 2:30 p.m. in the Rouse Community Foundation Building room 400 (RCF 400). The Nightbird program, in the Horowitz Center’s Monteabaro Hall, begins at 7:30 p.m. The evening features an introduction by Regie Cabico, a reading by Noah Arhm Choi, a reception and book signing. Nightbird tickets, $20 (HCC students free). If you need help with your order, the Horowitz Center Box Office (443.518.1500) has limited phone hours to answer your questions. Tickets for Nightbird can be found through this link: https://ci.ovationtix.com/32275/production/1156148.
Noah Arhm Choi is the author of Cut to Bloom (Write Bloody Publishing) the winner of the 2019 Write Bloody Prize. They received a MFA in Poetry from Sarah Lawrence College and their work appears in Barrow Street, Blackbird, The Massachusetts Review, Pleiades, Split this Rock and others. Noah was shortlisted for the Poetry International Prize and received the 2021 Ellen Conroy Kennedy Poetry Prize, alongside fellowships from Kundiman, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and the Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing. They work as the Director of the Progressive Teaching Institute and Associate Director of DEI at a school in New York City. Jeanann Verlee, the author of Prey, noted “Cut to Bloom is neither delicate nor tidy. This immense work both elucidates and complicates ethnic, generational, and gender violence, examining women who fight for their humanity against those who seek to silence―indeed, erase―them.”
Regie Cabico is a spoken word pioneer having won The Nuyorican Poets Cafe GrandSlam and later taking top prizes in three National Poetry Slams. Television credits include 2 seasons of HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, NPR’s Snap Judgement and MTV’s Free Your Mind. He is the lead teaching artist for Poetry Out Loud and has recorded several videos for the National Endowment for the Arts and Poetry Foundation.
For more than forty-five years, HoCoPoLitSo has nurtured a love and respect for the diversity of contemporary literary arts in Howard County. The society sponsors literary readings and writers-in-residence outreach programs, produces The Writing Life (a writer-to-writer talk show), and partners with other cultural arts organizations to support the arts in Howard County, Maryland. More information is available at http://www.hocopolitso.org.
HoCoPoLitSo receives funding from the Howard County Arts Council through a grant from Howard County government; Maryland State Arts Council, an agency funded by the state of Maryland; the Community Foundation of Howard County; Dr. Lillian Bauder; and individual contributors.
Colm Tóibín and Maureen Dowd headline HoCoPoLitSo’s 45th Annual Irish Evening
7:30 p.m. Saturday, February 18, 2023
Smith Theater – Howard Community College
HoCoPoLitSo’s 45th annual Irish Evening of Music and Poetry on Saturday, February 18, 2023, at 7:30 p.m. presents Where Journalism Meets Literature: A Conversation with Colm Tóibín and Maureen Dowd. Tóibín and Dowd will explore the crossroads between journalism and literature and read from their recent works. The evening also features music by Poor Man’s Gambit and Ireland’s new Ambassador to the U.S, Geraldine Byrne Nason, has been invited.
General in person admission is $45 and a livestream viewing option is $20.
In-person event tickets: https://ci.ovationtix.com/32275/production/1142555?performanceId=11188584
Livestream tickets: https://ci.ovationtix.com/32275/production/1142556?performanceId=11188582
Colm Tóibín has been shortlisted three times for the Booker Prize and received the 2021 David Cohen Prize for Literature, a lifetime achievement award. In his most recent novel, The Magician, Tóibín explores the heart and mind of a writer, Thomas Mann, whose life is driven by a need to belong and the anguish of illicit desire, in a stunning marriage of research and imagination. Oprah Daily noted the “dazzling, epic family saga set across a half-century spanning World War I, the rise of Hitler, World War II, and the Cold War that is a feat of literary sorcery in its own right.” Tóibín, an Irish novelist, short story writer, essayist, journalist, critic, playwright and poet, has a book of essays, A Guest at the Feast, scheduled for release in January 2023.
Maureen Dowd, a New York Times Op-Ed columnist, writes about American politics, popular culture, and international affairs. The winner of the two Pulitzer Prizes- one in 1999 for distinguished commentary and the other in 1992 for national reporting, Dowd was born in Washington, D.C and previously worked for the Washington Star. She is the author of three New York Times best sellers: Bushworld: Enter at Your Own Risk (2004); Are Men Necessary? When Sexes Collide (2005) and The Year of Voting Dangerously: The Derangement of American Politics (2016).
The evening program begins at 7:30 p.m. Irish beverages, snacks and books will be offered for sale beginning at 7 p.m. and during intermission. A book sale and signing follows the reading and discussion. After intermission, Poor Man’s Gambit will play traditional Irish music, with fiddle, button accordion, guitar, bodhran, and bouzouki.
Recommended Reading: Student Neal Goturi Takes a Look at Popular Cherry Castle Anthology Where We Stand.
As the popular anthology Where We Stand, Poems of Black Resilience is available for sale again, we share student Neal Goturi’s review of a reading held this summer to promote the first printing of the anthology. Neal is a sophomore at River Hill High School and he has recently begun serving as a Bauder Youth Advisor on the board of the Howard County Poetry and Literature Society.
“I can not praise and recommend
Where We Stand: Poems of Black Resilience enough.”
Last summer, I went to the reading of the poetry anthology, Where We Stand: Poems of Black Resilience, in the Lucille Clifton Reading Room of Busboys and Poets, the popular restaurant in Downtown Columbia that has a performance space on the second floor. It was the first reading I had ever attended; I was excited to take a break from the more conventional avenues of consuming literature and branch out.
Where We Stand has its roots in a group of socially conscious poets and artists coming together to process the outcomes of the 2016 election and the impending doom of America’s ethos. By the end of production, one understood that editors Enzo Sirloin, Melanie Henderson, and Truth Thomas have put together a must-read collection . It features nearly 30 authors, and a number of poems from each. Powerful photographs partition the book into four parts: Watch for Black Lives, The District Line, The Breathing Fence, and Black Joy Matters.
The evening’s first reader was Joseph Ross, opening with his lines from the anthology:
There is an essential difference(“Cross, Hood, Noose An American History Lesson”, Ross, Where We Stand, 16)
between wood and flame.
It is a gap wide enough
for the Pledge of Allegiance
to walk through laughing.
Remember to not let the base
burn so the cross can stand
for as long as needed…
[In the following clip, Ross reads his poem, “If Mamie Till was the Mother of God,” at the Busboys & Poets event. The powerful poem, not featured in the anthology, won the Enoch Pratt Free Library / Little Patuxent Review Poetry Contest in 2012.]
His poetry commanded attention and set the tone for the night. As the night went on, the speakers read through selected poems — the air kept quiet and was foreboding. Each story told by verse was so heavy that I felt like I needed to take a moment to process it — a break from the cacophony of injustice presented. The person sitting next to me agreed.
Later, as I was walking out, I realized the irony of the situation. We desired something inaccessible to the artists who had just presented: a break. Be it from tragic stories, blind angels, or clipped wings. After only a glimpse of the potency of American venom, the recess from reality requested is out of sight to those most inundated. That is something so foul that no gilded sentiment or sentence can do it justice; it lies beyond a formation of words.
I’ve recently become more aware of my privilege and the privilege present in my community. Columbia is always serene on summer evenings. It is a sheltered and affluent suburban enclave. This lends itself to the vast majority of residents enjoying a level of cognitive dissonance to the obstacles myriads of Americans face. The poets who performed on July 8th brought black experiences into the spotlight and celebrated them; they shortened the empathetic gap between.
I can not praise and recommend Where We Stand: Poems of Black Resilience enough. It is raw, essential, and uniquely comforting. While I was writing this post, the anthology quickly sold out online. If you looked, you could find the odd copy at places like Busboys and Poets. Its publisher, Cherry Castle Publishing has just issued a second printing of the anthology. To order a copy, visit their website cherrycastlepublishing.com
Where We Stand, Poems of Black Resilience quickly sold out of its first printing. As of November 25, this popular and important anthology is available again. Visit CherryCastlePublishing.com to get yourself and everyone you know copies.
Author Gabriel Bump to Deliver Keynote at Howard Community College’s Second Annual Bauder Lecture
Acclaimed author of “Everywhere You Don’t Belong” joined in conversation with Tyrese L. Coleman at the Horowitz Visual & Performing Arts Center
COLUMBIA, MD – Howard Community College announced that Gabriel Bump, author of “Everywhere You Don’t Belong,” a New York Times Book Review Notable Book of 2020 and an Electric Lit Favorite Novel of 2020, will deliver the keynote at the second annual Bauder Lecture. Bump’s keynote will be offered in a hybrid format, both live in person and streamed via Vimeo, on September 22, 2022, at 12:30 p.m. His keynote will be followed by an in-depth conversation with DC-based writer Tyrese L. Coleman.
Bump’s novel, “Everywhere You Don’t Belong,” follows protagonist Claude, a young Black man born on the South Side of Chicago and raised by his civil rights-era grandmother, who tries to shape him into a principled actor for change; yet when riots consume his neighborhood, he hesitates to take sides, unwilling to let race define his life. He escapes Chicago to go to college, to find a new identity, and to leave the pressure cooker of his hometown behind. But as he discovers, there is no safe haven for a young Black man in this time and place called America.
Following his keynote, Bump will be joined by Washington, D.C.-based writer, Tyrese L. Coleman, author of “How to Sit,” for an in-depth conversation. Tyrese L. Coleman is a writer, wife, mother, and attorney. Her debut collection of stories and essays, “How to Sit,” was published by Mason Jar Press in 2018 and nominated for a 2019 PEN Open Book Award.
The Bauder Lecture by Howard Community College is made possible by a generous grant from Dr. Lillian Bauder, a community leader and Columbia resident. Howard Community College presents an annual endowed author lecture, and the chosen book will be celebrated with two student awards. Known as the Don Bauder Awards, any Howard Community College student who has read the featured book is eligible to respond and reflect on the book in an essay or other creative format. The awards honor the memory of Don Bauder, late husband of Dr. Lillian Bauder and a champion of civil rights and social justice causes.
“Everywhere You Don’t Belong” was selected by the Howard County Book Connection committee as its choice for the 2022–2023 academic year. The Howard County Book Connection is a partnership of Howard Community College and the Howard County Poetry and Literature Society.
The Bauder Lecture will take place in Howard Community College’s Smith Theatre at the Horowitz Visual and Performing Arts Center, 10901 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia, Maryland. The event will be live streamed on Vimeo and archived.
To learn more about the Bauder Lecture and RSVP for the event, visit howardcc.edu/bauderlecture.
HoCoPoLitSo Hosts a Book Release Party for E. Ethelbert Miller at Busboys & Poets
HoCoPoLitSo opens its literary season September 25th at 7 p.m. with a special program to celebrate the release of a How I found Love Behind the Catcher’s Mask (City Point Press) by E. Ethelbert Miller. The 2022 Lucille Clifton Reading Series will be held in the Clifton Room at Busboys and Poets, 6521 Mango Tree Road, Columbia, MD 21044.
Columbia audiences have enthusiastically enjoyed local D.C. writer E. Ethelbert Miller’s work for years. Miller served as writer in residence to the Howard County schools in 1996-1997; hosted Joseph Ross for the Clifton Reading Series in 2020; and has been both the featured author and host on several of HoCoPoLitSo’s The Writing Life.
E. Ethelbert Miller is a writer and literary activist. He is the author of two memoirs and several books of poetry including The Collected Poems of E. Ethelbert Miller, a comprehensive collection that represents over 40 years of his work. Miller’s poetry has been translated into nearly a dozen languages. For 17 years he served as the editor of Poet Lore, the oldest poetry magazine published in the United States. Miller is a two-time Fulbright Senior Specialist Program Fellow to Israel. He holds an honorary degree of Doctor of Literature from Emory and Henry College and has taught at several universities. Miller is on the board of the Institute for Politics, Policy and History at UDC. Miller also hosts WPFW (89.3 FM) radio’s On the Margin, a weekly podcast.
For events, the Lucille Clifton Room at Busboys and Poets has a capacity for 120 people, with table seating available for 70 on a first come, first seated basis. Additional seating is available at the bar, and there is plenty of standing room. Admission is free, though an RSVP is requested at https://eethelbertmiller.eventbrite.com/. Books, food and beverages will be available for purchase onsite. Table service features drinks, snacks, and access to the full restaurant menu. More information about Busboys and Poets and a menu is available at https://www.busboysandpoets.com/location/columbia/
HoCoPoLitSo, a private, nonprofit literary organization, receives funding from the Maryland State Arts Council, an agency funded by the state of Maryland; Howard County Arts Council through a grant from Howard County government; Community Foundation of Howard County; Columbia Film Society and individual contributors. For more information, visit http://www.HoCoPoLitSo.org or https://www.facebook.com/HoCoPoLitSo.
Poetry for Every Body with Molly McCully Brown
Molly McCully Brown Headlines HoCoPoLitSo’s Fourteenth Annual Blackbird Poetry Festival
Molly McCully Brown headlines the Blackbird Poetry Festival to be held in person on April 28, 2022, at Howard Community College (HCC). The festival is a day devoted to verse, with a student workshop, readings, and HCC Poetry Ambassadors. The afternoon Sunbird Reading features Brown, Hayes Davis, local authors, and Howard Community College faculty and students. This free daytime event starts at 2:30 p.m. in the Rouse Community Foundation Building room 400 (RCF 400). The Nightbird program, in the Horowitz Center’s Monteabaro Hall, begins at 7:30 p.m. Presented live, the evening features an introduction by Hayes Davis, a reading by Molly McCully Brown, and a reception and book signing.
Nightbird tickets, $15 (HCC students free), are available on-line at https://bit.ly/nightbird2022. If you need help with your order, the Horowitz Center Box Office (443.518.1500) has limited phone hours to answer your questions. Additional information can be found at https://hocopolitso.org/blackbird-poetry-festival/. At this time, masks are required for all guests on campus. Up-to-date requirements for campus visitors are available at: https://www.howardcc.edu/coronavirus
Brown’s newest book, Places I’ve Taken My Body (Persea Books, 2020), is an essay collection that Kirkus Reviews (April 1, 2020) described as “Heartfelt and wrenching, a significant addition to the literature of disability, explores living within and beyond the limits of your body.” Brown writes that she “came into the world blue and tiny and sparring for my place in it. Two pounds, with my fists up.” The only surviving premature identical twin, Brown was born with cerebral palsy. Brown is a poet and essayist who teaches at Old Dominion University, where she is an assistant professor of English and creative nonfiction, and a member of the MFA Core Faculty. In The Field Between Us (Persea Books, 2020), poems written in the form of letters between coauthors Molly McCully Brown and Susannah Nevison, consider disability and the possibility of belonging in the aftermath of lifelong medical intervention. Poet Ilya Kaminsky wrote “This is a beautiful, urgent book.” Brown is also the author of the poetry collection, The Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded (Persea Books, 2017), which won the 2016 Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize and was named a New York Times Critics’ Top Book of 2017. Critic Dwight Garner called the book, “part history lesson, part séance, part ode to dread. It arrives as if clutching a spray of dead flowers.”
Hayes Davis is the author of Let Our Eyes Linger (2012), poetry examining his life as son, grandson, father, husband, artist, and schoolteacher while exploring racial identity and the plight of black men. Poet Toi Derricote wrote that “Davis’ poems invite comparisons with Robert Hayden and Gwendolyn Brooks’ poems of 20th century family life.” He teaches at the English and serves as the assistant director of Institutional Equity, Access, and Belonging at Sandy Spring Friends School .
On Reading: What’s In A Name?
There’s quite a stack of things that I have set aside ‘to read next’, whenever that comes along. More and more gets added to the stack and each book slowly waits its turn, probably too patiently. Every once in a while something comes along that moves right up to Next and becomes Now already. Never did I imagine a document on the naming of public spaces commissioned by our County Executive Dr. Calvin Ball to slip into the queue, much less become next and now as soon as I heard about it. It is an absolute must read, and a riveting page turner at that. I can’t look away, and I shouldn’t.
The document is the 262 page Public Spaces Commission Report, released on November 5, 2021. It lists out all public owned buildings in Howard County, Maryland, where I live, their names, and the relation of the person behind that name to any history of slave ownership and/or oppression. It documents participation in slavery, involvement in systemic racism, support for oppression, involvement in a supremacist agenda, violation of Howard County human rights laws, and even if the namesake includes racist and offensive terminology. It is pretty weighty; here is an example:
Wow. Page after page of analysis and detail like this, building after building. For a number of buildings, no direct relation to slavery was discovered, for many, though, there is a past to reconcile.
These buildings have an everyday presence in our lives: government administration buildings, schools, parks, libraries and such (the report put off addressing the 3,000+ street names in the county for another day). Building name elements are familiar and roll off our tongues like nothing matters: Warfield Building, Miller Branch, Atholton Park, River Hill, and so on. For many of us today, any association with history, benign or otherwise, is not really part of our everyday interaction. Places become more associated with what we do there, like attend a meeting, pay a ticket, check out a book, swing on a swing set. Knowing only so much, those that stop and think about it may take a moment and realize, “Oh, so that’s who the George Howard Building was named after, the first governor of the state from our county… interesting.” Up till now, that might have been the depth of curiosity, recognizing a bit of historic trivia.
Less trivial, and what this document lays out page after suffocating page, is a deeper understanding of our county’s past and its people of power or note now memorialized through building names: that they enslaved and profited so off of others. For locals who know these buildings and so casually say their names, it is jaw dropping. We Howard Countians must deepen our understanding of the past in our present, and begin a discussion about how to reconcile with it. This is a start.
This report really is vital knowledge. You can find and read or browse the Public Spaces Commission Report here. Seriously, take a look… you won’t be able to look away. Sincere thanks to this administration for commissioning it and bringing forward this part of Howard County history, and special thanks to the researchers behind the project (all are listed within the report). What a document you have made, what an important resource. As one would expect, the work does not stop here.
My Own Name. I have another reading project in the works, one that is going to come sooner after reading this report. I want to understand my own name, and its relationship to slavery. The Singletons originally came into this country in the 1700s and established a cotton plantation up river from Charleston, South Carolina. I hear they were also later successful in North Carolina. That they were successful means they relied on the work of slaves, the lives of slaves. I want to know more about that, to understand and document what is in the name I wear, the one that has been carried superficially into the present, a little too willfully unaware. As you know me, the project will start with reading, with books like Edward Ball’s Slaves in the Family, a model for the research, and Theodore Rosengarten’s Tombee, A Portrait of a Cotton Planter already in the queue, move through google search results of my own name, and eventually a trip south to visit places in person. It is a monumental task, but it will be a task that builds a more real monument to those that came before us and how they lived prior to our becoming. We owe it to them.
I usually end these with ‘Happy Reading’, but this is a different kind of reading.
Board Co-chair, HoCoPoLitSo
Further reading for Howard County history buffs: History of Blacks in Howard County Maryland, Oral History, Schooling, and Contemporary Issues, by Alice Cornelison, Silas E. Craft, Sr., and Lille Price, published under the auspices of the Howard County Branch of the NAACP in 1986.
six questions with Mary Brandenburg and Hananah Zaheer
Mary Brandenburg and Hananah Zaheer are the feature writers at February Wilde Readings, a monthly community open mic supported by HoCoPoLitSo. Join Mary and Hananah as well as other open mic readers for a free reading on Zoom (and Facebook Live) on Tuesday, February 8 at 7 p.m. Click HERE to register for the free event. Click here for more details about the event.
We asked Mary and Hananah our favorite six questions about their reading and writing, and here’s what they had to say.
Who is the person in your life (past or present) that shows up most often in your writing?
Mary: Honestly, I don’t have an answer for this question! I don’t tend to write about people, rather I focus on nature, my relationship to the numinous, the divine.
Hananah: A compilation mother, not mine exactly, but mother figures based on so many.
Where is your favorite place to write?
Mary: I don’t have a ‘favorite’ place to write, that is, a place where I settle down. I have a space in my home, my study, where most of my current poems are written. However, I have had the opportunity to spend several vacations on the coast of Maine, and that is always a place where I can write, once I have arrived, my mind has settled, and I have shaken of the echoes of ‘home’. That can take a few days!
Hananah: In bed, or wherever I can find complete isolation.
Do you have any consistent pre-writing rituals?
Mary: No, I really don’t! I find I have to sit quietly and empty myself so my muse(s) can find me. Yet sometimes lines will come to me while walking or driving, especially if I am alone and driving a long way and my mind is empty.
Hananah: Usually a combination of worry, coffee, social media, coffee, pep talk.
Who always gets a first read?
Mary: Sometimes it’s my husband, who sees the world very differently than I do! And often a close friend will listen to something I want to share.
Hananah: Mostly my friend writer K.K. Fox, but I have a couple of other writer friends who are my first readers, too. These days my younger son, Yezen, is honing his editing skills and likes to give me feedback on beginnings.
What is a book you’ve read more than twice (and would read again)?
Mary: I love Mark Nepo’s The Way Under the Way, Rilke’s Book of Hours, Mary Oliver’s New and Selected Poems, as well as David Whyte’s House of Belonging.
Hananah: To name a few–Revenge-Yoko Ogawa; We, the animals–Justin Torres; Department of Speculation–Jenny Offil; I hold a wolf by the ears–Laura van den Berg; This is how you lose her–Juno Diaz; A house on Mango Street–Sandra Cisneros; A lesson Before Dying–Ernest Gaines
What is the most memorable reading you have attended?
Mary: I’ve not attended very many poetry readings. However, in early 2019 I visited a poet friend, whom I had never met face to face, who lives in Tallahassee, Florida. She took me to a local poetry reading and there I discovered how many, many forms a poem can take! Each reader was entirely different! Each poem was so unique! That gave me a sense of freedom and license – permission to just be me and have my own voice. And it’s ok!
Hananah: Grace Paley at the F. Scott Fitzgerald conference in 2005. I was new to teaching, a fresh MFA and she was all grace and magic.
REGISTER FOR WILDE READINGS HERE to hear more from Mary and Hananah!
Mary Brandenburg began keeping a journal at age 13. She discovered that writing, whether in journal form or in poems, holds the power to heal. She has self-published two books of poetry: The Intelligence of Leaves and Limitless Belonging. In the early 1980’s Mary became a practitioner of acupuncture, for her the discovery of the intersection of spirituality and wellness. Her poems are a reflection of her time in the treatment room, as well as time spent roaming around the natural world, hanging out with animals, trees, moonlight…and each other. She lives with her husband, John, and their amazing miniature Australian Shepherd ‘Tooey’.
Hananah Zaheer is the author of Lovebirds (Bull City Press, 2021). Other work has appeared in Kenyon Review, Best Small Fictions 2021, Waxwing, AGNI, Smokelong, Virginia Quarterly Review, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Alaska Quarterly Review (with a Notable Story mention in Best American Short Stories 2019) and Michigan Quarterly Review, where she won the Lawrence Foundation Prize for Fiction. She is a fiction editor for Los Angeles Review.
Poetry Slam Workshops with Lady Brion
Starting in February, the Howard County Library System is producing a series of four Poetry Slam workshops with social justice poet Lady Brion. HoCoPoLitSo is a supporting partner of this event.
Brion uses her poetry—focused on the black struggle, gender equality and women’s empowerment, and religious themes—to merge the space between art and activism.
Each session will focus on social justice, celebration in the midst of oppression, history, and then on March 23, the library will host an open mic. Register for each session separately.
The Anthem – February 16. Participants will explore writing celebratory unapologetic anthems about themselves, especially in the midst of an oppressive society that rarely gives space for anyone to express their fullest and truest identity. REGISTER.
Picketed – March 9. Participants will discuss the history of social movements and the way that radical demonstrations and protests can lead to change. This context will be used to have students create their own picket signs and craft a poem from it. REGISTER.
If these streets could talk – March 16. Participants will explore a social justice issue that is important to them by personifying a space, place, or object connected to their chosen social ill. REGISTER.
Open Mic – March 23. Participants will be encouraged to share poems created in one of the previous workshops or any other work that they have created. Host Lady Brion will feature sharing some of her social justice related works. REGISTER.
Lady Brion is an international spoken word artist, poetry coach, activist, organizer, and educator. Brion uses her poetry—focused on the black struggle, gender equality and women’s empowerment, and religious themes—to merge the space between art and activism. She has performed across the world including London, Ghana, Zanzibar and many of the American states. Her educational career includes teaching creative writing at the middle and elementary school level, coaching poetry teams in more than 10 institutions for the Louder Than a Bomb poetry program and residencies in more than 15 K-12 institutions. Brion is a board member for Dew More Baltimore, an art-centered nonprofit using spoken word as a tool to foster community and civic engagement.