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HoCoPoLitSo and the Bauder Writer-in-Residence, poet Steven Leyva, will add a little lyricism to the Howard County Library System’s summer reading kickoff.
On Wednesday, June 23, 1 to 2 p.m. Leyva, an award-winning poet and professor, will offer a writing workshop and pep talk, The Poetics of Anime and Transformation.
Like the way Goku reinvents himself to save the day in Dragon Ball Z, or how Studio Ghibli turns out inventive, true-to-life but also bizarro anime? Learn how the techniques of anime – invention, creativity, and transformation—can ignite your writer’s imagination.
Anime enthusiast (his children are named after Naruto characters, so he’s all-in) Leyva wants people to see poetry as an experience to be had, like watching anime, not a riddle to be solved.
Besides his anime and manga fan status, Leyva is also an award-winning poet, an assistant professor at the University of Baltimore, and a former English teacher in Baltimore City public schools. His newest book, The Understudy’s Handbook, was chosen as the winner of the 2020 Jean Feldman Poetry Award by Washington Writers’ Publishing House.
Register in advance to receive the link to the virtual workshop.
a blog post by Suhani Khosla
As a reader, loving characters that are born from good writing is easy for me. I rooted for Frances Janvier in Radio Silence, mourned Lydia Lee from Everything I Never Told You, and laughed with Pip from Enid Blyton’s classics. I am awed that every tiny reaction of the hundreds of characters I’ve come across had the potential to alter their respective stories.
As a writer, though, it is always challenging to build admirable characters: either their initial personality is too shallow, or my descriptions veer helplessly into unnecessary ramblings.
At Friday Black Bauder Student Workshop on March 4th held by Howard Community College, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah and Tope Folarin taught me the ins-and-outs of characterization. By the end of the workshop, I saw how these strategies meshed and intertwined with Friday Black’s narratives: through the framework of Adjei-Brenyah’s characters, I was able to fully understand prejudice, such anger, and such resilience.
Adjei-Brenyah and Folarin first began with the different types of characterization, engaging the participants from the get-go with creative examples of each. As we went through the modes of characterization (expository, description, and action), the chat blew up with participant’s replies and examples. I saw the benefits of all methods, and some of the drawbacks: expository was a simple explanation, quick and to the point, but only an explanation; description almost forced a perception of the character, yet description called for artful word choice that would lift the passage; and through recording action readers could form a “nuanced view” without influence by the narrator’s voice, yet it could pose the threat of being too vague.
All avenues were used in the final activity, just as Adjei-Brenyah employs them in his writing. We were instructed to create a hero (or an anti-hero) with the following set of questions:
- What is their power/ability that makes them special? Why?
- How did they get the ability?
- What does your character want (initially)?
- Who might try to stop them?
And based on our answers, we used the modes of characterization to create our heroes/anti-heroes. I found it easier and fun to craft a character succinctly, a character that, maybe one day, could stand with the famous and the infamous ones that shaped my life thus far.
Through workshops with engaging repartee among the hosts and participants, students like myself can gather the tools to add layers of depth to their writing. Crafting our individual narratives relies deeply on how we present ourselves and those around us, a process Adjei-Brenyah and Folarin taught us effortlessly. Happy writing!
To watch Adjei-Brenya’s Bauder lecture, make sure to visit https://vimeo.com/showcase/8082121?video=507368937
Suhani Khosla is a senior at Atholton High School. She likes to read, draw, and write during her free time. She is currently reading Simon Sebag Montefiore’s biography on Jerusalem and Friday Black. Suhani loves working with HoCoPoLitSo as a Bauder Student On Board member, and she hopes to continue her interest in the arts in college.
For thirty-nine (39) years the HOward COunty POetry and LITerature SOciety (HoCoPoLitSo) has awarded book prizes to honor students nominated by their teachers for Promise and Achievement in Language Arts. To foster lifelong reading habits and a love of literature, HoCoPoLitSo presents book awards with personalized bookplates. The tradition continued this year with modifications. Instead of HoCoPoLitSo board members making presentations at Howard County public high school honors assemblies for graduating seniors, books were delivered to students’ schools or mailed directly to students with the assistance of board members Susan Thornton Hobby and Anne Reis (Homewood Media Specialist), and Howard County Public School System’s Secondary Language Arts Coordinator, Nancy Czarnecki.
Twenty-eight students were chosen by their English Departments to receive HoCoPoLitSo’s Promise and Achievement Award in Language Arts. The honorees were: Victoria Adler, Cameron Goodwin-Schoen (Atholton), Helen Pantoulis, Tobias Moser (Centennial) Kaitlyn Walker, Harrison Young (Glenelg), Rose Kinder, Christopher Parris, Jr. (Hammond), Dré Campbell, Gale Freeman (Homewood Center), Emily Gorny, Richard Zhou (Howard), Autumn Salcedo, Andrew Vesey (Long Reach), Audrey Casper, Jiwoo Moon (Marriotts Ridge), Ian Roe, Douglas Stewart (Mt. Hebron), Mikhi Kelly, Maheshwari Shukla, Genesis Houston, Kiana Macharia, (tie) (Oakland Mills), Esha Bhatti, Melissa Rayo (Reservoir), Tess Redman, Chutian Weng (River Hill), Ananya Chand, and Aden Noyes (Wilde Lake).
Supported by a generous donation by Dr. Lillian Bauder, students received books by such outstanding poets and writers as: Maya Angelou, Carrie Brown, Michael Dirda, Lauren Groff, Joy Harjo, Colum McCann, Alice McDermott, Randy Pausch, Stanley Plumly, Jason Reynolds and Ocean Vuong. Students were also invited to view the authors who have visited Howard County talking about their work at www.youtube.com/hocopolitso.
We get mail!
Harvest is about food, of course, a storing away of all the energy and sunshine and hard work of summer for a slower, more contemplative time. Sure, there are pumpkins, but fall is also about the last tomatoes and corn, and the starchy parsnips and potatoes that last all winter long.
I think of poems and stories as a kind of harvest, storing up the ephemeral to be savored later.
The Between the Leaves Project is about linking writing with the food we grow and eat. HoCoPoLitSo and the Howard County Library have teamed up to put literature — about collard greens and zinnias and raspberries and butter beans — in the Enchanted Garden at the Miller Branch.
Signs, bearing excerpts from poems and novels that relate to the crops being grown, have been thrust into the garden plots, a lovely quarter-acre just outside the Ellicott City library branch. The vegetables and fruits grown in the garden by volunteers, from library teens to Master Gardeners, are harvested every week and donated to the Howard County Food Bank.
The signs offer a little taste of literature in the garden, but if you’d like a full serving, attend the harvest reading on Oct. 28. Authors, board members of HoCoPoLitSo, and staff and friends of the library will read poems that will leave us hungry. Hear works by Robert Frost, Lucille Clifton, Nikki Giovanni, Gary Snyder, Pablo Neruda, and other authors. Snacks will be served and books with the poems, as well as excerpts from novels and short stories, will be available for borrowing.
Join us at the drop-in reading 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 28, at the Miller Branch library in the garden under the twinkling lights, for an evening of poetry to savor.
A guest blog by Faye McCray
When I first started teaching writing workshops with kids, it was for selfish reasons. I was in a place of transition in my career and that meant a great deal of obnoxious self-reflection about what made me truly happy. I knew it wasn’t my day job and when I pictured myself happy, I kept conjuring up the same image: Kid-me, twelve-ish, sitting in front of my sixth grade classmates reading my work for the first time. To be clear, I didn’t want to actually be twelve again. God, no. There were braces and glasses and bad relaxers. However, I did want that feeling. The feeling of being surrounded by folks ready to listen and be heard.
As a child, I was a voracious reader. My favorite work was fiction that took place in worlds completely different from mine. In retrospect, I don’t know if that was my curiosity or just the fact that worlds that looked like mine didn’t really exist in the nineties literary landscape. Either way, for me, reading was like getting to try on another person’s soul. It was the ability to see, feel and taste what life was like in a way completely different from my own. I could go from my reality: being a girl with box braids and a beef patty on a subway in Queens to a young woman on vacation in Monte Carlo who meets and marries a man who, unbeknownst to her, murdered his first wife.
When my sixth grade teacher decided to task us with writing original work to share with our classmates, it was as if I was going to finally see them and they would finally see me. Truth be told, I was probably the most excited kid in class. However, the seed was planted. I was a writer, and I bet if I looked hard enough, there were other kids who thought they were writers too.
On March 22, I had the pleasure of hosting the Columbia Art Center’s first Teen Open Mic. The theme was “Choose Civility”, HoCo’s most known slogan which in the current social and political climate, could mean a great many things. I was so nervous leading up to the event. I knew how much a Teen Open Mic would have meant to me. I also wondered if the idea was antiquated. After all, isn’t social media one big open mic with the added benefit of anonymity?
As teens trickled into the Art Center, however, I could see the same excited anticipation I had felt over twenty years ago written all over their faces. Naturally, there were nerves but armed with their words on their phones or on sheets of paper in their hands, they were ready. Their powerful work ranged in topic from mental health to self-acceptance to race to the environment. I was moved – not only by the incredible work itself but how beautifully it was received. The crowd was modest but as I said to the young writers that evening, I preferred it that way.
By the end of the night, as we wandered around the beautiful art center and munched on the remaining snacks, the mood felt light. The teens, who had arrived as strangers, now shared praise and encouragement, promising to “see each other next time.” Their enthusiasm was infectious. I realized that although I was decades away from making that discovery in my own sixth grade classroom, I was invested in making similar experiences a possibility for other pre-teens and teens. We all have a desire to be heard. More importantly, we all have a valuable story to tell.
About the blogger:
Faye McCray is an author and essayist whose popular essays on love, life and parenting have been featured in the Huffington Post, My Brown Baby, For Harriet, Madame Noire and other popular publications. She is the Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Weemagine, a website devoted to celebrating and inspiring all children and the people who love them. Faye is also the author of Dani’s Belts, a collection of horror short stories, Boyfriend, a full length novel about a troubled college student struggling with love and fidelity, and I am Loved! a collection of positive affirmations for kids. Find out more about Faye on her website: http://www.fayemccray.com/
Join forces with author, library and HoCoPoLitSo to offer a book of dreams for everyone
The inside cover of Jason Reynolds’s book For Every One says it all. We’re supposed to pass it on. The book’s dedication reads, “For You. For Me.”
His book is about dreams, and how hard one must work to achieve them. He wrote about trying to focus on his ambitions:
“So I went out and bought all the books on all the ways to make dreams come true, laying out the how-to, somehow spinning life into a fantastic formula for dummies and dream chasers, written by experts and dream catchers who swear that I can one plus one and right foot left foot my way into fulfillment, never taking into consideration all this mess I got strapped to my back and my head and my legs and my heart.”Reynolds wants everyone to hear about following dreams. So does HoCoPoLitSo. The Howard County Library and HoCoPoLitSo are joining forces to bring Reynolds to speak to the East Columbia Library Oct. 9. And we’d like to share this gift of a book. The library and HoCoPoLitSo are raising money to give out 100 copies of For Every One to students who attend his reading. Pupils from Lake Elkhorn, Oakland Mills, Wilde Lake, and Harper’s Choice middle schools will be bused to the reading, joining lots of Reynolds’ fans at the event. Register here for the event. Every dollar raised is matched one to one by funds from the Kathleen Glascock Challenge, a memorial fund named for an inspiring Clarksville Middle School media specialist who believed that books could change lives. She and Reynolds would have had a lot to talk about. It’s hard not to get goose bumps when Reynolds, who didn’t read a book cover to cover until he was nearly 18, talks about teenagers. “All I want kids to know is that I see them for who they are and not who everyone thinks they are,” he told the Washington Post last year. Reynolds, now a best-selling author with nine books, a Newbery Honor, and National Book Award finalist on his resume, says he wants to tell the stories that he wasn’t seeing on library and bookstore shelves – tales of black and brown teenagers handling tough issues. His goal is “putting that on the page with integrity and balance, to acknowledge the glory and the brokenness. That’s all I want to do. It’s a lot, but so are they.” Librarians around the county can’t keep his books on the shelves, and they’re thrilled that Reynolds is coming to read. Anne Reis, media specialist at Homewood Center, the alternative school in Howard County, was introducing Jason Reynolds to two classes of “very reluctant readers,” as she called them. They were disruptive, she remembers, until she started playing a “The Daily Show” clip of Trevor Noah’s talk with Reynolds, who emphasized the importance of hip-hop to his writing, and how young people are the antidote to hopelessness. “They heard the truth of his message and that he respects them and wants to write for them … . They were completely silent,” Reis said. “A pin could have dropped and you would have heard it. Jason Reynolds has an authenticity in his writing that speaks to the kids at my school. They are psyched to meet him in October!” Donate here: https://hclibrary.org/classes-events/glascock-challenge-seeks-to-inspire-reluctant-readers
Susan Thornton HobbyRecording secretary, HoCoPoLitSo Board
I had never heard of Marilyn Chin. But there I sat in the hazy Smith Theatre, listening to the petite, flip-flop-clad lady unfold her Chinese heritage, her voice’s rich resonance baptizing life into her words. Peppered with rhetorical questions and salted with snark, Marilyn Chin’s poetry invited the audience into conversation. As she discussed her experience with assimilation, I thought back to my years of insecurity with my Nigerian identity.
During my childhood, I tugged at my belly, my hair, my skin. I hunched in over myself. But I remember watching a spoken word from YouTube during youth group, the same lines which had echoed through my house the entire week prior because my mom, the youth leader, had been so fascinated by the video. Ears straining to keep up with the whiplash tempo, the laughing cadence, I snapped my fingers, riveted by the rain of spitfire, desperately beckoning the words barked out of the poets’ lips to be mine.
Slam poetry was alive.
A tandem of voice and pulse, spoken word went beyond sonnets and “thou”s and lofty declarations of love; it playfully teased out slant-rhymes and sidestepped the conventions of language. Poetry, I discovered, could be as unorthodox as I wished, and listening to the crowd of adroit artists (cough-SarahKay-PatrickRoche-BlytheBaird-OmarHolmon-cough) has since stirred a hunger.
Maybe I am looking for truth, naked and unholy. Maybe I write because I’m looking to sing what could be my gospel, to scream it in the shower, to spit it into the mic, to whisper it in an ear, to let it breathe ink and paper and dust.
While I write, I’ve knocked on Petrarch’s door, revisiting the poetry I once scoffed, imbibing in myself a greater appreciation for the art. Analyzing syntax and diction is what I love to do—maybe because I regularly eye my friends’ texts. (There’s a world of difference between “ok” and “Okay.”) While I am yet to be convinced that every inch of a poem is birthed from divine inspiration, I nevertheless believe that the spectrum of poetry—from spoken word to the coffee-stained margins—contains a delicateness that ought to be explored with careful hands and open eyes. As a writer, I wish to infuse electric vulnerability in my writing, inviting readers and listeners to unwind, to laugh, to have conversation.
As a writer exploring vulnerable curiosity, Eunice Braimoh wishes to symphonize conversation regarding race, gender, and diversity. When not effusively fangirling over slam poetry and intricate word-play, Eunice can be found writing (and rewriting) her own poetry and fiction. Previously recognized with two Regional Keys from the D.C. Metro Region, Eunice recently received a Silver Key for her poem “in which icarus does not drown”. She will be attending University of Maryland, College Park as an English major starting this fall.
The week of September 25th, we celebrate our RIGHT TO READ! In celebration of Banned Books Week 2017, we asked several educators and librarians about their favorite banned books. Here’s what they said.
To Kill a Mockingbird has influenced me as a reader and a teacher. As a young reader it brought me into a world I knew nothing about. As a teacher it has opened the same door for hundreds of students. It is only controversial because it depicts an ugly truth- which is also its value. – (a Howard County high school English teacher)
“It depicts an ugly truth – which is also its value.” Agreed. For my own part, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has had a similar impact for me, both as a teacher and as a reader. Our literature is our history. Regardless of genre, our literature reflects who we were, are, and could be. I have always found myself drawn to those authors who have been willing to paint in honest brushstrokes, an image of humanity that requires taking stock in the complexities and contradictions, pressing us to face the mirror. Often lost in the controversy surrounding “Huck” is the wink of hopefulness gained from the novel’s final passage. – (a Howard County middle school English teacher)
My daughter read Al Capone Does My Shirts last year as a 5th grader and it was her first experience of being “hooked” by a book and rushing to read the next book and the next in the series. It totally changed her from being a reluctant reader to being someone who devours books! Having taught it in the past I do not see why it would be controversial. Many books have characters with huge flaws. But having characters that possess both positive and negative qualities is what makes them multi-dimensional, interesting, and realistic. – (Howard County secondary literacy coach)
As a middle school teacher, I would have to choose The Giver and The Outsiders, two books that really touched kids and elicited deep and honest discussions. I loved teaching those books. – Beth S. (Howard County middle school English teacher)
Favorites to teach and/or read: Hunger Games, To Kill a Mockingbird, Fahrenheit 451, In Cold Blood, Leaves of Grass. Favorites to read to my kids: And Tango Makes Three, The Paper Bag Princess, The Lorax, Where the Wild Things Are. – Amy P. (High School English teacher in Hudson, MA)
Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo and All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque. Both novels are stories of the horror and dehumanizing effects of war (WWI, to be precise), and the relentless pursuit of an ill-defined victory at all costs. Reading these books in high school caused me to question a lot of the assumptions I had about politics, war, religion, and conflict more broadly defined than I had before. Or since, for that matter. They literally changed my outlook on life in a span of a few weeks, and I continue to wrestle with these ideas to this day. – Jeffrey M. (English Professor at Howard Community College)
And Tango Makes Three. My two children enjoyed this book when they were just 3-4 years old. It’s a book about penguins! But here’s the thing – now that my older son is 8 year old I am wondering how he might experience and “hear” the book today. That’s the thing about books (good books), right? They challenge us to these questions – and this book forces me to be thoughtful about how I would teach my children about family diversity and help them become accepting, welcoming people in the world. In the Night Kitchen was a gift from our friend and neighbor (Tim!) – of course the children just love that Mickey is naked – butt and penis and all – in the illustration and they giggle and laugh. But they also enjoy Mickey’s adventure. It’s fun. For my kids – who like to tell fart jokes all day long – this book delights them. And I’m really, really good with that. – Laura Y. (English Professor at Howard Community College)
Strega Nona is one of my favorite books of all times. This book has been challenged and banned due to the magical or witch-like abilities of a magic pasta pot. Strega Nona’s objective is not to be a book about witchcraft, rather a book that is full of whimsy, allowing children to engage their imagination. Challenging or banning books can stifle creativity and imagination. When a book is challenged or banned because one person feels that it is against their morals, it can lead to an entire community of readers having restricted or no access to a book. – Christina P. (Librarian at Howard Community College)
The Things They Carried: it challenges ideas of morality, truth, courage, and patriotism. I come from a military family (going back generations), so this really resonates with me. The narratives never stop feeling relevant. O’Brien creates a web of fiction, memoir, history, and memory that always ensnares us us readers, leaving us in the best possible state: uncertainty. That is where all good inquiry comes from. – Ryna M. (English Professor at Howard Community College)
It was much more banned in the past, but definitely The Handmaid’s Tale! Even when I read it in the 8th grade (?), I remember being shocked at the story–not because of content, but because of so many similarities and so much truth. I thought how not so unrealistic this society was, and I still think that now. – Sylvia L. (English Professor at Howard Community College)
For my kids… Hop on Pop!! This is such a great book to start children reading on their own. The simple rhyming text is perfect.
For me one of my favorite books growing up was Are you There God, It’s me Margaret. It’s one of the first books I could relate too. – Melissa P. (Preschool teacher at the Children’s Learning Center)
A guest blog written by Christina Smith, a student in Professor Ryna May’s literature class at Howard Community College
Admittedly, I had never attended a literary reading prior to the HoCoPoLitSo Irish Evening on February 10th. I hope that it is not too shocking that I say this, given that I am an English major. So, I am happy that I finally had the opportunity to experience a literary reading at the 39th Irish Evening held at the Smith Theater at Howard Community College.
Before I went I knew little about the program, only that the author would read from at least one of her two books, and that there would be Irish music and dancing for entertainment. Even though my friend Amy and I were probably some of the youngest people to attend that night, I did not feel awkward there. On the faces of the people there, you could tell everyone was having a fantastic time. The entire evening was a hit.
I was shocked to see that the program boasted the Ambassador of Ireland, her Excellency Anne Anderson. She was very gracious, and it was impressive that Mrs. Anderson was able to join us for the Irish Evening despite her busy schedule. A list of her accomplishments made me feel lazy and slightly light-headed at the enormity of her dedication to civil rights and women’s right’s worldwide.
While I like to think myself well read, I had not been made familiar with Belinda McKeon’s work. It was a treat to have her read from both her books, Solace and Tender. I was quite taken with her reading from Tender as I could feel the insecurities that her characters suffered from, the anguish of unrequited love and how truly awkward it is to be a young 18-year-old. She was witty and kind with her characters, as though greeting an old friend. Hearing the author read her own work gives you an idea of how those characters really present themselves in her mind. From her reading, the audience got a feel that these characters were real, that they had pains, hopes, flaws, and humor.
I loved the reading from Tender so much that I even ordered it from Amazon when I got home. Now when I read it, I will have the added pleasure of knowing how the author intended for it to be read. And in a way I will be able to connect with the characters on a more personal level.
The evening wrapped up with a performance from the Narrowbacks and Irish step dancing by the Culkin School. The music was traditional Irish music, a perfect nightcap to a fantastic evening.
I admit that I got some strange looks when I told people about my Friday night, but it was definitely worth it to let my inner nerd have a fun evening. I look forward to attending more events produced by the HoCoPoLitSo.
And a big thank you to Professor May for making it possible for me and a plus one to attend.
By Christina Smith
A guest blog submitted by Cara Caccamisi, a student in Professor Ryna May’s literature class at Howard Community College in Columbia, Maryland
Howard County Poetry and Literature Society’s 39th Annual Irish Evening, which took place at Howard Community College’s Smith Theater on Friday, February 10th at 7:30 pm, was an event of Irish pride and culture. Hosted by Columbia’s own Catherine McLoughlin-Hayes, the HoCoPoLitSo Irish Evening Chair, the evening was a great way to experience Ireland without leaving the state of Maryland.
The auditorium was filled with fascination, excitement, and anticipation from the many spectators, while musician Jared Denhard performed the Celtic Harp. Then, Ms. McLoughlin-Hayes came on stage to introduce the main event for the night. Her enthusiasm set the tone for the evening.
Ms. McKeon chose to read first from Solace which was awarded the Faber Prize and Irish Book of the Year. The passage she read described a conflicting relationship between father and son on a farm in Ireland. Ms. McKeon’s second reading was from her latest book, Tender, about two college friends who meet in Dublin and become close; it shows the transformation of friendship from being teenagers to becoming adults. In her unique and exhilarating story, Ms. McKeon depicts the friend’s difficult relationship as Catherine grows strong feelings for James, who is a homosexual. The book grows extra complicated as it is set in the 1990’s when being homosexual was not widely accepted.
Following the author were the Narrowbacks. The Narrowbacks name is a tribute to the term immigrant, as many of the band members have roots in Ireland and they are inspired by the band, Celtic Thunder. The group members consisted of brothers, Jesse and Terence Winch, Dominick Murray, and Linda Hickman, all of whom were apart of Celtic Thunder. Other members were Terence’s son, Michael Winch and Eileen Estes, daughter of Celtic Thunder’s lead singer.
Many of the songs performed consisted of main themes of nature, growing up as an immigrant, and love. One of the most memorable songs, “Childhood Ground”, was written by Terence Winch and sung by Eileen Estes. It remembers the time when the Bronx Expressway was built and shattered the homes of many Irish families, including Winch’s family home. Traditional Irish music is so distinctive as it combines poetry of hardships, life, and love with rare instruments, known in Ireland. The Irish step dancers from the Culkin School performed during some of the songs played by the Narrowbacks.
With the outstanding performance by the Narrowbacks and the talented step dancers, the audience was very well-entertained. The auditorium was filled with the sound of Ireland, and the spectators joined in on clapping hands and nodding their heads to the music. And Belinda McKeon, a truly brilliant writer, left the listeners craving more of the stories.
HoCoPoLitSo created an enjoyable evening and allowed the viewers a chance to spend an evening immersed in Irish culture.