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HoCoPoLitSo Celebrates its 44th Annual Irish Evening with Former & Future Guests

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Featuring ‘visits’ from: Theo Dorgan, Vona Groarke, Mary Madec, Colum McCann, Mike McCormack, Alice McDermott, Paula Meehan and Colm Tóibín

HoCoPoLitSo’s 44th annual Irish Evening of Music and Poetry on Friday, February 11, 2022 at 7:30 p.m. features an amazing roster of Irish writers sharing their memories of past visits. Colm Tóibín, Alice McDermott, Colum McCann, Mike McCormack, Vona Groarke, Theo Dorgan and Paula Meehan will virtually grace our stage, along with music by O’Malley’s March and step dancers from the Teelin Irish Dance Company. General admission is $20 and available at the Howard Community Box Office, https://ci.ovationtix.com/32275/production/1095249 or by calling 443.518.1500.

The evening program, hosted on Zoom, begins with a pre-show at 7:20 p.m. and will pay tribute to Irish evenings of the past and introduce poet Mary Madec. The evening includes an introduction by Daniel Mulhall, Ireland’s Ambassador to the U.S, music by O’Malley’s March fronted by former MD. Governor Martin O’Malley, and award-winning dancers from the Teelin Irish Dance Company.

Six writers to have previously visited HoCoPoLitSo will share tributes to departing Irish chairperson, Catherine McLoughlin Hayes, and the founder of Irish eve, Padraic Kennedy, and read from their award-winning works. Vona Groarke, who visited in 2019, is the author of ten books of poetry and winner of numerous awards. Colum McCann, who visited both 1999 and 2013, received both the National Book Award and the Dublin Literary Award. His most recent book, Apeirogon, was longlisted for the Booker Prize. Poet and playwright Paula Meehan also visited twice, in 2000 and 2014. Theo Dorgan, who visited in 2014, is a poet, writer, lecturer, translator, and documentary screenwriter. Alice McDermott, who visited in 2020, was nominated three times for the Pulitzer Prize and was a recipient of the National Book Award. Colm Tóibín visited in 1999 and again in 2011. A winner of the Dublin Literary Prize, Tóibín received the 2021 David Cohen Prize for Literature, a lifetime achievement award. Mike McCormack visited us in 2018 and his newest novel, Solar Bones, won the Dublin Literary Award. Newcomer Mary Madec’s third poetry collection is The Egret Lands with News From Other Parts (2019).

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Click here to watch a brief video on how to purchase Irish Evening tickets online.

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six questions with Emily Rich and Leona Sevick

Emily Rich and Leona Sevick are the feature writers at January Wilde Readings, a monthly community open mic supported by HoCoPoLitSo. Join Emily and Leona as well as other open mic readers for a free reading on Zoom (and Facebook Live) on Tuesday, January 11 at 7 p.m. Click here to register for the free event. Click here for more details about the event.

We asked Emily and Leona 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?

Emily: My parents.

Leona: While I have written about all of my family members, I suppose my mother shows up most often in my work. She was a South Korean immigrant and a complex person, and I write about her challenges with language and with the small town American culture she raised my brother and me in. I’ve also written about her struggle with illness, though I seldom name her in those poems. My mother died suddenly in late summer, and I have had some difficulty writing since then. I am working through my grief, and I’m confident the writing will come again.

Where is your favorite place to write?

Emily: I think I’m sort of antsy when I write. I have a desk that I’ll sit at for awhile, then move to a comfy chair and use a lap desk. The most important thing is to have quiet. I’m not someone who can write in a coffee shop, for instance.

Leona: My busy kitchen—at a rustic wooden island on a backless stool that keeps me alert.

Who always gets the first read?

Emily: Ideally other writers whose opinions I trust. I was most productive when I met with a regular writing group, but that’s not been possible recently. Sharing critiques with writers on line (the Writers Center in Bethesda has several on-line groups) is a pretty good substitute.

Leona: I have a close friend who is a novelist, and he is an excellent first reader. He is highly attentive to language and helps me make my words more surprising, more active. He is also painfully honest in his observations.

Do you have any consistent re-writing rituals?

Emily: The best thing I can do to get in the mindset to write is to read. I write nonfiction, so I have several essay collections, as well as lit mag subscriptions that I turn to.

Leona: Before I write I like to read a poem or two that I admire. I generally identify them days before and then revisit them for inspiration.

What is a book you’ve read more than twice (and would read again)?

Emily: William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury; Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried.

Leona: As a teacher, I’m always rereading works in preparation for classes. One book that I choose to teach again and again and enjoy rereading is Jhumpa Lahiri’s collection of stories, Unaccustomed Earth. Her ability to sensitively describe the lives of first generation immigrants and the struggles of their children is deeply moving to me.

What is the most memorable reading you have attended?

Emily: Several years ago I attended the Tin House Writers Workshop where I got to listen to fabulous readings by the likes of Maggie Nelson, Cheryl Strayed, and Anthony Doerr. What struck me was the honest way each of these very accomplished authors talked about self doubt and about how difficult the writing process can be sometimes. Beyond that, I hosted a reading for the Bay to Ocean Journal, the lit mag I manage, just a month ago. I was thrilled to have a community of writers come together, share their words, and get to know each other. We’d all come out of a long period of quarantine (which it looks like we’ll be reentering, unfortunately), and the event was joyful and full of hope.

Leona: When I was at Bread Loaf years ago, I had the honor of hearing Philip Levine read. As someone who writes also about the working class, I found his words and reading style—filled with humility and good sense—inspiring.

About Our Guests:

Emily Rich is managing editor of the Bay to Ocean Journal, published by the Eastern Shore Writers Association. She has taught memoir writing at the Bethesda Writer’s Center and through the Lighthouse Guild at Salisbury University. Her work has been published in The Pinch, Cutbank, Hippocampus, Delmarva Review, and Little Patuxent Review, among others. She’s twice been listed as a notable in Best American Essays. She lives in Trappe, MD with her husband and three hyper Labradors.

Leona Sevick is the 2017 Press 53 Poetry Award Winner for her first full-length book of poems, Lion Brothers. Her recent work appears in Orion, Birmingham Poetry Review, Water~Stone Review, The Pinch, and Blackbird. Sevick was named a 2019 Walter E. Dakin Fellow for the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and she serves as advisory board member of the Furious Flower Black Poetry Center. She is professor of English at Bridgewater College in Virginia, where she teaches Asian American literature.

We’re Cooking Up a Feast of Words

It’s a poetry potluck with Sandra Beasley, Steven Leyva, Alan King, and Naomi Ayala in a virtual poetry reading from their own kitchens!

HoCoPoLitSo opens its 47th literary on Friday, November 5 at 7 p.m. with a virtual Poetry Potluck. Join Sandra Beasley, Alan King, Steven Leyva and Naomi Ayala, each live from their own kitchen, as they read and discuss a feast of food-inspired poetry, and maybe even share a favorite recipe.

As the 2021 Lucille Clifton Reading Series event, Poetry Potluck celebrates the beloved Lucille Clifton, HoCoPoLitSo’s longtime artistic director and first writer-in-residence in the Howard County School System. With technical and artistic support by Howard Community College’s Arts Collective, this year’s program features four writers who have also served as HoCoPoLitSo’s literary ambassadors in the school system.

The program honors 30 years of providing a writer-in-residence to the Howard County public high schools. The evening will also honor Howard County teachers with FREE admission* and a special message from poet Taylor Mali, author of “What Teachers Make: In Praise of the Greatest Job in the World.” (See video clip below for a little teaser.)

Poetry Potluck – Verse in Good Taste
Friday, November 5th at 7 p.m.

An Online Reading live-streamed from kitchens of poets and former writers-in-residence Sandra Beasley, Steven Leyva, Alan King, and this year’s poet Naomi Ayala.

10 general admission*
Reservations required via HCC Box Office

Click here to make your reservation: https://ci.ovationtix.com/32275/production/1080760

*Howard County teachers with a valid @hcpss.org email can request a complimentary ticket by emailing BoxOffice@howardcc.edu

The First Annual Ellen Conroy Kennedy Poetry Prize.

Deadline extended, prizes, publication.

The new annual Ellen Conroy Kennedy Poetry Prize honors our dear co-founder (1932-2020) and supports HoCoPoLitSo’s live literary programs. 

The winning poet will be awarded a cash prize of $500, provided by the Friends of HoCoPoLitSo.  The winning poem will be published in The Little Patuxent Review and HoCoPoLitSo’s website.  Additionally, the winning poet will be celebrated with a press release, on social media, in a blog interview, and in the annual report.  A second prize winner will also be selected and awarded $100.

Eligibility: We welcome submissions from poets all ages and in all styles, including experimental, traditional, and short narrative poems. Each poet may submit one or more previously unpublished, original poems to total no more than 60 lines or three pages. HoCoPoLitSo-appointed judges will consider each poem separately and without identifying author information to select one winning poem of exceptional quality. HoCoPoLitSo Board Members and staff are not eligible to submit.

Evaluation: Each poem will be judged separately and read anonymously. 

Reading Fee: $10 

Submission Deadline: October 15, 2021  [EXTENDED]

The winner will be notified by November 15, 2021.

Click here to submit your work.

HoCoPoLitSo Announces Inaugural Ellen Conroy Kennedy Poetry Prize

HoCoPoLitSo has created a poetry prize in honor of co-founder Ellen Conroy Kennedy (1932-2020). The winner’s poem will be  published on HoCoPoLitSo’s website and the winning poet celebrated with a press release, on social media, in a blog interview, and featured in our annual report. 

We welcome submissions from poets of all ages and in all styles, including experimental, traditional, and short narrative poems. Each poet may submit one to three previously unpublished, original poems to total no more than 60 lines or three pages. HoCoPoLitSo-appointed judges will consider each poem separately and without identifying author information to select one winning poem of exceptional quality.

Entries must be submitted September 30, 2021. Each poem will be judged separately and read anonymously. The reading fee is $10. The winner will be notified by November 15, 2021. HoCoPoLitSo Board Members and staff are not eligible. Click here for the submission link.

Kennedy, a National Book Award finalist, co-founded the Howard County Poetry and Literature Society in 1974 and served as chief executive officer until 2005, bringing literary luminaries including Saul Bellow, Edward Albee, Isaac Bashevis Singer, W.S. Merwin, Henry Taylor, Lucille Clifton, Amiri Baraka, Gwendolyn Brooks, Stanley Kunitz, Derek Walcott, Allen Ginsberg and more to Howard County.

“Ellen’s brilliant, discerning love of literature, especially contemporary poetry, inspired the creation of this annual contest in her name. She delighted in nurturing and showcasing new voices who can move, inform, and connect our community through verse,” says Tara Hart, HoCoPoLitSo Co-Chair.

Proceeds will support HoCoPoLitSo’s live literary programs. HoCoPoLitSo’s mission is to cultivate appreciation for contemporary poetry and literature, to celebrate a culturally diverse literary heritage and to broaden exposure to the literary arts. The Writing Life, HoCoPoLitSo’s award winning writer to writer interview show, available on YouTube, has been viewed worldwide over 666,000 times. HoCoPoLitSo is supported in part by the Howard County Arts Council through a grant from Howard County Government, the Community Foundation of Howard County, the Maryland State Arts Council, the Columbia Film Society, Dr. Lillian Bauder, and individual donors.

Click here to SUBMIT YOUR WORK.

Stop Asian Hate

We are profoundly saddened and outraged by the recent violence against Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) people and by the ongoing systemic lack of accountability. We stand in solidarity with all those seeking to create long-lasting change in our communities.

HoCoPoLitSo was founded to celebrate diverse literary heritages and to foster literary appreciation in diverse populations, including varying gender, ethnic and cultural identities, age groups, and income levels. We believe that opening a book, reading a poem, or attending a literary event can be a powerful humanistic journey of exploration, education, and enlightenment. 

To this end, over the years HoCoPoLitSo has hosted an inclusive list of authors, and our video series reflects that diversity. We are committed to the ongoing collaborative process of inclusion. As a way to address, extend, and deepen these crucial conversations about the AAPI experience, audiences can watch featured authors reading their work, with introductions by local actors. 

Poetry Moment and Writing Life videos by HoCoPoLitSo include:

Though this list is not exhaustive, HoCoPoLitSo also recommends these works by AAPI writers. Look for these titles on Bookshop.org to support independent booksellers around the country.

Anthology 

  • Go Home! edited by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan
  • Aiiieeeee!: An Anthology of Asian American Writers edited by Frank Chin, Jeffrey Paul Chan, Lawson Fusao Inada and Shawn Wong 

Nonfiction 

  • We Gon’ Be Alright by Jeff Chang
  • How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee
  • All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung
  • Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong 
  • The Girl at the Baggage Claim: Explaining the East West Culture Gap by Gish Jen
  • The Magical Language of Others by EJ Koh  
  • The Making of Asian America by Erika Lee
  • Fairest by Meredith Talusan
  • Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White by Frank H. Wu
  • Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

Fiction

  • White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
  • The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata by Gina Apostol
  • Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha
  • Days of Distraction by Alexandra Chang
  • Edinburgh by Alexander Chee
  • The Resisters by Gish Jen
  • East Goes West by Younghill Kang
  • The Prince of Mournful Thoughts and Other Stories by Caroline Kim
  • The Interpreter by Suki Kim
  • The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
  • Drifting House by Krys Lee
  • Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
  • Gold Boy, Emerald Girl by Yiyun Li
  • Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
  • The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen 
  • No No Boy by John Okada
  • The God of Small Things by Arundati Roy
  • The Death of Vishnu by Manil Suri
  • On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
  • Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang 

Poetry 

  • Pilgrim Bell: Poems by Kaveh Akbar
  • The Twenty-Ninth Year by Hala Alyan
  • Hybrida by Tina Chang
  • Obit by Victoria Chang
  • A Portrait of the Self as a Nation by Marilyn Chin
  • DMZ Colony by Don Mee Choi
  • Soft Science by Franny Choi
  • Bodega: Poems by Su Hwang
  • A Lesser Love: Poems by EJ Koh
  • The Last Incantation by David Mura 
  • Lucky Fish by Aimee Nezhukumatathil 
  • Nightingale by Paisley Rekdal 
  • 3 Sections by Vijay Seshandri
  • A Nail the Evening Hangs On by Monica Sok
  • Peach State: Poems by Adrienne Su 
  • A Cruelty Special to Our Species by Emily Jungmin Yoon

(Re) Imagining Language and Silence: The Poetry of Ilya Kaminsky

HoCoPoLitSo and Howard Community College Present
The Thirteenth Annual Blackbird Poetry Festival

Russian-born poet Ilya Kaminsky headlines the Blackbird Poetry Festival to be held virtually on April 29, 2021. The festival is a day devoted to verse, with student workshops, readings, and HCC Poetry Ambassadors on social media.

The Sunbird Reading features Kaminsky, Teri Ellen Cross Davis, local authors, and Howard Community College faculty and students. This free daytime event starts at 2:30 p.m., with registration required — click here to register.

The Nightbird program, hosted on Zoom, begins with a pre-show at 7:20 p.m. Presented live, the evening features an introduction by Cross Davis, a reading by Kaminsky, and an audience question and answer session. A link to the online event will be emailed to ticketholders. Nightbird tickets, $15, are available on-line. If you need help with your order, the Horowitz Center Box Office (443.518.1500) has limited phone hours to answer your questions.


Kaminsky, hard of hearing since the age of four, is the author of Deaf Republic, a 2019 National Book Award finalist. In Poets & Writers Magazine, Garth Greenwell wrote “Deaf Republic is a dramatic masterwork, a parable-in-poems that confronts the darkness of war and terror with the blazing light of ‘a poet in love with the world.’ ” The BBC selected Kaminsky as “one of the 12 artists that changed the world” in 2019. Kaminsky is also an editor, translator, and professor at Georgia Tech, where he holds the Bourne Chair in Poetry.


Kaminsky authored an earlier poetry collection, Dancing In Odessa (Tupelo Press, 2004). Shortly after the release of that collection, Kaminsky won the Whiting Award and a Lannan Literary Fellowship. Carolyn Forché noted he was “more than a promising young poet; he is a poet of promise fulfilled. I am in awe of his gifts.”


Teri Ellen Cross Davis is the author of a more perfect Union (The 2019  Journal Charles B. Wheeler Poetry Prize) and Haint (2017 Ohioana Poetry Award). She is the 2020 Poetry Society of America’s Robert H. Winner Memorial Prize winner and the poetry coordinator for the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.

Author Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah to Deliver Keynote at Howard Community College’s Inaugural Bauder Lecture

Acclaimed author of “Friday Black” will be joined in conversation with local author Tope Folarin

COLUMBIA, MD – Howard Community College announced that Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, the New York Times-bestselling author of “Friday Black,” will deliver the keynote at the inaugural Bauder Lecture. Adjei-Brenyah will participate in the virtual event on March 4, 2021, at 12 p.m., which also will include a conversation with Washington, DC-based writer Tope Folarin.

Adjei-Brenyah’s debut work, “Friday Black,” is a collection of twelve short stories that explore the injustices experienced by Black men and women in the U.S. Adjei-Brenyah, a professor at Syracuse University, uses fiction, humor, and shock to tackle urgent instances of racism and cultural unrest in America.

His work has appeared or is forthcoming from numerous publications, including the New York Times Book Review, Esquire, Literary Hub, the Paris Review, Guernica, and Longreads. He was selected by Colson Whitehead as one of the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” honorees, is the winner of the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award and the William Saroyan International Prize, and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Award for Best First Book, the Dylan Thomas Prize and the Aspen Words Literary Prize.

Following his keynote, Adjei-Brenyah will be joined by Tope Folarin, a Nigerian-American writer based in Washington, D.C., and the author of “A Particular Kind of Black Man,” for an in-depth conversation. Folarin won the 2013 Caine Prize for African Writing, was recently named a “writer to watch” by the New York Times, and was recognized among the most promising African writers under 40 by the Hay Festival’s Africa39 initiative.

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 will present an annual endowed author lecture known as The Bauder 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 Mr. Don Bauder, late husband of Dr. Lillian Bauder and a champion of civil rights and social justice causes.

“Friday Black” was selected by the Howard County Book Connection committee as its choice for the 2020–2021 academic year. The Howard County Book Connection is a partnership of Howard Community College and the Howard County Poetry and Literature Society.

To learn more about the Bauder Lecture and RSVP for the event, visit howardcc.edu/bauderlecture.

For more information on Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, “Friday Black,” and the Howard County Book Connection, visit https://howardcc.libguides.com/bookconnection2020.

Behind the Scenes of the Poetry Moment Series

We’ve all been swirling around in the frenetic cloud of crazy that has been the last twelve months. For HoCoPoLitSo, one thing has settled out of the hubbub. Poetry is something that helps. Hearing poetry, reading verse, listening to another soul speak truth is a balm.

National Poet Laureate Joy Harjo explains it well.

“When I began to listen to poetry, it’s when I began to listen to the stones, and I began to listen to what the clouds had to say, and I began to listen to other. And I think, most importantly for all of us, then you begin to learn to listen to the soul, the soul of yourself in here, which is also the soul of everyone else.”
If there’s any time we need to listen to our souls, and to the souls of other folk, it’s now.

The Poetry Moment series was created as a response both to the pandemic and to the Black Lives Matter movement. Since 1974, HoCoPoLitSo has been deliberate in its inclusion of authors to represent the fullest range of human experience. We have long believed that opening a book, reading a poem, or attending a literary event can be a powerful humanistic journey of exploration, education, and enlightenment.
The project evolved from a broad-based poetry video series to focus for the first eleven weeks on amplifying the voices of Black poets who have visited our audiences. Later, we added the voices of poets of different backgrounds.

And in November, we started videotaping young actors from Howard Community College’s Arts Collective reading introductions to the archival video of poets and their work. Directed by Arts Collective’s Sue Kramer, these actors–Chania Hudson, Sarah Luckadoo, and Shawn Sebastian Naar–spent many Monday evenings learning about poetry, tripping over tricky names, and recording video introductions that help explain the poems to viewers. They handled their own styling, and even set up their own lighting and sets.

I asked the actors a few questions about the project and its evolution, and loved their responses. Naar, who portrayed Langston Hughes for HoCoPoLitSo’s 2019 Harlem Renaissance Speakeasy, has taken on roles for Spotlighter’s, Wooly Mammoth, Howard University, and the Kennedy Center. Hudson, who was the Harlem Renaissance Gwendolyn Bennett, is receiving her bachelor in fine arts from UMBC this spring in theater, and has played in many Arts Collective shows, as well as performances at UMBC and Rep Stage. Sarah Luckadoo is an actor, choreographer, movement coach, and teaching artist who has worked with the equity company Ozark Actors Theatre in Missouri, Red Branch Theatre Co., Laurel Mill Playhouse, HCC’s theater department, and of course Arts Collective.

The enthusiasm these actors brought to their work gave me such hope, and reminded me of when the 22-year-old inaugural poet Amanda Gorman read her uplifting lines on January 20:

We will not march back/
to what was/
but move to what shall be/
A country that is bruised but whole …

Perhaps watching a Poetry Moment featuring these young actors and the master poets will let a poem will take up residence in your bruised heart, and help you through the chaotic, difficult times ahead.
 

HoCoPoLitSo: Had you ever read poetry before?

Shawn Sebastian Naar: I have read poetry for performances (Langston Hughes, Shakespeare, Amiri Baraka, etc.) and I have read poetry recreationally for enjoyment (Maya Angelou, Shakespeare, Rupi Kaur, etc.)

Sarah Luckadoo: Yes! I was introduced to poetry at an early age and have always found myself drawn to it. My theater teacher in high school, who was also a published poet, was the driving force behind that love. Most, if not all, of the theater projects we did had some sort of poetry involved, including participating in the poetry recitation competition, Poetry Out Loud. 

Chania Hudson: Yes! I’ve read poetry for HoCoPoLitSo and Arts Collective’s Harlem Renaissance event as Gwendolyn Bennett, and recently I read a few poems as Audre Lorde for Howard Community College’s Women’s Studies Salon: The Power Within virtual event.

HCPLS: If you did read poetry before, did you enjoy it?

SL: 100%! I love that poetry has this unique ability to tell full, intricate stories through its varying structures or even just a few words. It really shows how truly powerful words can be.

CH: Yes, I love reading poetry! I’ve found some of my favorite poems through working with HoCoPoLitSo.

SSN: Yes, I enjoy reading poetry. Reading great poetry is like listening to great music. When a poem or a song hits me in the right way and expresses a universal truth, it resonates deeply, and I am moved to tears or fits of laughter in the moment.

HCPLS:  Did your perceptions of poetry change as we went through the project?

CH: I’ve always had a respect and love for poetry but this project turned my attention to the poet, and understanding the WHY of their poetry. It has felt like a behind the scenes look at how and why poems come to be.

SSN: Before this project, my personal selection of poetry was limited to more well-known poets or poets from school. Through this process, I’ve found some new favorite hidden gem poems, I’ve been introduced to Poet Laureates, and I even have some international poets that I’ve fallen in love with (Seamus Heaney, I’m looking at you).

SL: I’ve always enjoyed poetry, but this process has reignited the love I had for it. I hate to admit it, but I forgot what it felt like to just sit and read or listen to poetry. With the busyness from day to day and this “go go go” mentality, I’ve had a separation from it and this project made me realize how much I miss it. 

HCPLS: Was there a favorite poem that you worked on (and why)?

SL: Such a hard question! I’ve honestly loved all of the poems I’ve worked on, but if I had to pick favorites it would probably be “blake” by Lucille Clifton and “Beijing Spring” by Marilyn Chin. “blake” was one of those poems that just reached out and grabbed me from the get-go … the words, the story, all of it.  And I appreciated it even more when I discovered why Lucille Clifton wrote it and what she was trying to say. For “Beijing Spring” I particularly connected with it because of Marilyn Chin’s message of youth empowerment. She focuses on the innocence and determination of youth throughout history and demonstrates how they can quite literally move mountains to create change and defend their democratic rights. 

CH: “Mrs. Wei Wants to Believe the First Amendment” by Hilary Tham, because it introduced me to a new perspective that I wasn’t fully aware of before reading it.

SSN: It’s tough to single out a favorite, but a couple poems of note would have to be Amiri Baraka’s “In the Tradition” and Josephine Jacobsen’s “Gentle Reader.” Baraka is one of my favorite playwrights and poets. The intensity of the passion and fire of “In the Tradition” is special. Conversely, I had never heard of Josephine Jacobsen before this project, but I love how she plays with opposites in “Gentle Reader.” The language is sensual, and the poem is sexy. Not what I expected at all from the refined Jacobsen and that is exactly what makes the poem brilliant.

HCPLS: Was there something you came across in the project that will stay with you?

CH: The majority of the poems featured will stay with me because of the way these poets have impacted their communities and the world around them. Each poem was like seeing the world through someone else’s eyes and I know that will stick with me for a while.

SSN: It feels to me that poetry gets overlooked sometimes in the arts. I’ve come across an incredible array of poets in this project and what will stay with me is the appetite for great poetry of the past, present, and future.

SL: In such an unprecedented time, it can be difficult to feel inspired or remember what good is left in the world. This project did both of those things. These poets shared stories about places, people, their lives–the good and the bad all wrapped together. What will stay with me is not only their stories, but their willingness to be vulnerable and share them. At the end of the day, we all have something to share, something to contribute and that’s pretty special. 

Susan Thornton Hobby
Poetry Moment series producer

Click here to view Poetry Moments online at the Columbia Arts Channel.


Up next for the Arts Collective is their What Improv Group! and “A Valentine Affair (from afar).”

Joseph O’Neill headlines HoCoPoLitSo’s First Virtual Irish Evening

Click here to view the evening’s program.

HoCoPoLitSo’s 43rd annual Irish Evening on February 19, 2021 is a creatively conceived virtual event. Featuring award-winning author Joseph O’Neill, the evening includes an introduction by Daniel Mulhall, Ireland’s Ambassador to the U.S., author Belinda McKeon serving as emcee, an Irish dance lesson with Maureen Berry of the Teelin School and musical performances by Jared Denhard, former MD. Governor Martin O’Malley, Laura Byrne and Sean McComiskey. Tickets, books, signature cocktail box available www.howardcc.edu/IrishEvening. If you need help with your order, the Horowitz Center Box Office has limited phone hours to answer your questions.

Joseph O’Neill has written four novels, most recently The Dog (longlisted for the 2014 Booker Prize) and Netherland, which received the 2009 PEN/Faulkner Prize for Fiction and the Kerry Fiction Prize. Born in Cork to an Irish father and a Turkish mother, O’Neill was raised in Mozambique, Turkey, Iran, and Holland before studying law at Cambridge. He emigrated to New York City more than twenty years ago. He is also the author of a book of short stories, Good Trouble (2016), and of a family history, Blood-Dark Track (2001). O’Neill’s stories have appeared in the New Yorker and Harper’s. He writes political essays for the New York Review of Books. “I’ve moved around so much and lived in so many different places that I don’t really belong to a particular place, and so I have little option but to seek out dramatic situations that I might have a chance of understanding,” he told the Paris Review.

The evening program, hosted on Zoom, begins with a pre-show at 7:20 p.m. Presented in a pub-like variety show format, the readings will be interspersed with music, Irish art, a dance lesson, an audience question and answer session, and a rousing sing-along. A link to the online event is $20 and several options are available. A signature cocktail kit, An Irishman in Istanbul (Jameson, cardamom, apricot and citrus), is available for pick up. Cocktail kits provide the ingredients for two drinks and must be ordered by 6 p.m. February 12 and will be available for pickup at The Wine Bin, 8390 Main Street, Ellicott City between noon February 18th through noon February 19th. Limited quantities of three of O’Neill’s books (The Dog, Netherland, and Good Trouble) are also available for purchase.

O’Neill joins the long list of illustrious Irish authors HoCoPoLitSo has brought to Howard County audiences, including Frank McCourt, Colm Tóibín, Anne Enright, Colum McCann, and Emma Donoghue. For more than 40 years, HoCoPoLitSo’s Irish Evening has celebrated the substantial impact of Irish-born writers on the world of contemporary literature.

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