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Poetries of Belonging — HoCoPoLitSo’s 15th Annual Blackbird Poetry Festival

Noah Arhm Choi (Photo by Lauren Savannah)

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.


Wilde Readers of February: Melvin Brown and Anthony Moll

We welcome you to our February edition of the Wilde Readings Series with Melvin Brown and Anthony Moll, hosted By Linda Joy Burke. Join us at the Columbia Art Center (Columbia Art Center 6100 Foreland Garth Columbia, MD 21045) on Tuesday, February 14th 7-9 PM. Please spread the word – bring your friends, family, and students.

We encourage you to participate in the open mic. Please prepare no more than five minutes of performance time/two poems. Sign up in advance by calling the Columbia Arts Center, or when you arrive. The number is 410-730-0075. Light refreshments will be served. Books by both featured authors and open mic readers will be available for sale.

Get to know our authors Melvin and Anthony below!

Who is the person in your life (past or present) that shows up most often in your writing?

MB: My grandmother.

AM: I write a lot about chosen family, which means so much to Queer folks who are severed from their biological family. That includes my partner and our closest friends, but also exes and partners of partners. In my most recent collection, it also includes my dog, Chickpea.

Where is your favorite place to write?

MB: My study or kitchen.

AM: Most of my writing happens on my couch, but a few times a year, a small group of my close friends and I will take short retreats to either beach towns in the winter or cabins in the other seasons. We’re dedicated to be writing and nothing else until dinner, then we can stop to share, eat, and generally be in community together. It’s a really delicious balance of productivity and being social.

 Do you have any consistent pre-writing rituals?

MB: No.

AM: I don’t know if counts as ritual, but most of the time I spend generating ideas, outlining, and sometimes even drafting, is when I am walking around my neighborhood in Baltimore. Those ideas all rest in the Notes app of my phone (the digital equivalent of the writers notebook), until I have some time to craft them into something worthwhile.

Who always gets a first read?

MB: My friend and Poet Peter J. Harris.

AM: My partner is always my alpha reader, because she’s an voracious, brilliant reader who can also speak to me candidly about what’s working and what isn’t. Then it goes to my writing group for beta, and they are a skilled group of writers who can really look at the work-in-progress from every angle. Every one of them has played a part in helping my books come together.

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

MB: Do Lord Remember Me by Julius Lester.

AM: About a Mountain by John D’Agata. I know he’s a bit of a controversial figure, but I really love the way he blends research and lyrical prose in that work. I also love the mythology that has come to surround the book!

What is the most memorable reading you have attended?

MB: Can’t remember.

AM: A few years before she passed, Toni Morrison read in Santa Cruz, and Angela Davis provided the introduction. I think it was the only time I’ve ever been truly starstruck, and the energy that night was as if whole audience knew we were in the presence of some of the most brilliant minds of our era.

Melvin Brown

Melvin E. Brown is an American poet, educator, editor, and lyricist. He was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. Brown was the longest-serving editor of Chicory, a magazine published by the Enoch Pratt Free Library. He is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars, and the author of two collections of poetry, In the First Place and Blue Notes and Blessing Songs.

Anthony Moll

Anthony Moll is a Queer poet, essayist and educator. Their work has appeared in Hobart, Little Patuxent Review, Poet Lore, jubilat and more. Anthony is a PhD Candidate in English and holds an MFA in creative writing & publishing arts. Their debut memoir, Out of Step, won a 2018 Lambda Literary Award and the 2017 Non/Fiction Prize. Their latest collection of poems, You Cannot Save Here, won the 2022 Jean Feldman Poetry Prize. Their work has also been recognized with the Adele V. Holden Prize for Creative Excellence, the Bill Knott Poetry Prize, inclusion on the American Library Association’s Over the Rainbow List, and a Best of Net nomination.

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 and Maureen Dowd (Photog: Reynaldo Rivera and NYT.)

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.

wilde readers: lisa lynn biggar and tara elliott

Please join the January Wilde Readings featuring authors Lisa Lynn Biggar and Tara Elliott on Tuesday January 10, 2023 at 7 pm on Zoom! This event will be hosted by Ann Bracken, Linda Joy Burke, and Laura Shovan.

Register in advance for this webinar: https://us02web.zoom.us/…/reg…/WN_q_stx5aXRqS6X8jXGPmc0A

For details about the event, please visit: https://www.facebook.com/events/1188834605044789

Get to know the featured authors Lisa and Tara below!

Who is the person in your life (past or present) that shows up most often in your writing?

LLB: My grandmother, my dad’s mom, who had a dairy farm in northeast, PA with my grandfather. I spent most of my summers there growing up, and my grandmother and I were incredibly close. I’d help her with all the barn chores, bailing hay, weeding the vegetable garden. . . I just completed a novella-in-flash titled Unpasteurized in which she is the thread that binds, just like she held all our family together all those years. She had five boys and a girl who died when she was only 10 hours old. She always said I was that lost baby.

TE: My parents. I lost my dad when I was 24 to cancer and my mother in 2019 to dementia. Writing has allowed me to grieve their loss.

Where is your favorite place to write?

LLB: I have a beautiful writing studio upstairs in my home that my husband built for me. But that has become more of my Zoom studio. I do a lot of Zoom tutoring for The Gunston School, a private high school in Centreville, and also for Chesapeake College. If I spend too much time up there I get a bit claustrophobic, so now I tend to write more downstairs on the couch in my living room with a view of my wooded back yard, or in the car (as a passenger).

TE: Outside–either late at night or before the world awakens. I need nature and the silence to see what rises to the surface.

Do you have any consistent pre-writing rituals?

LLB: I read a few paragraphs of Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust. I love his lyrical writing with those seemingly endless sentences.

TE: No, but I keep the following on my desk to remind me of things that have become important to my writing… A core of stone from when I visited a gold mine in Colorado. A piece of cotton that Le Hinton gave me when I attended his reading for his book, “Sing Silence. A river stone given to me my a dear friend who is no longer with us. Bits of sea shells worn smooth by the ocean. A pinecone. All of these natural objects remind me to go deeper than I think is necessary, that interconnection is vital, and that revision is what makes things beautiful, even when broken. The spiral found in the end of the pinecone reminds me of the golden ratio, the Fibonacci sequence–a pattern found in nature that resurfaces again and again in my poems.

Who always gets a first read?

LLB: My husband, Don, who is my biggest fan and greatest critic, and my writing friend, Dan Crawley. Dan is considered a master of flash fiction and has a novella-in-flash out published by Ad Hoc Fiction, Straight Down the Road, which I highly recommend. He also has an exceptional short story collection out published by Cowboy Jamboree Press, The Wind, It Swirls.

TE: My desk drawer. I’ve learned that separating myself from my writing helps me to clearly see what needs to be revised.

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

LLB: To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. The interlude where the house is personified especially mesmerizes me.

TE: I return again and again to many books but “The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton”, edited by Kevin Young and Michael Glaser, is one that I regularly revisit. Lucille was my professor at St. Mary’s College of Maryland in the early 90’s. Every time I encounter her poems, I seem to find something new that I didn’t notice earlier, whether its the way she ended a line, a sound, an image, a connection, or a message I was not ready to receive. Although she passed away in 2010, to say that she is still teaching is an understatement.

What is the most memorable reading you have attended?

LLB: Oh so many, but I would have to say Dorothy Allison at a book festival in Flagstaff, AZ. She read from her recently published book then, Bastard Out of Carolina. Her words were so raw, and she was so authentic of a person. She laid it out bare.

TE: Li-Young Lee. Lee’s reading was incredibly intimate and spiritual, something I try to emulate in my own readings.

Lisa Lynn Biggar received her MFA in Fiction from Vermont College and is currently marketing a short story cycle set on the eastern shore of Maryland. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous literary journals including Main Street Rag, Bluestem Magazine, The Minnesota Review, Kentucky Review, The Delmarva Review and Superstition Review. She’s the fiction editor for Little Patuxent Review and co-owns and operates a cut flower farm in Maryland with her husband and three cats.

Tara A. Elliott’s poems have appeared in TAOS Journal of International Poetry & Art, The American Journal of Poetry, and Ninth Letter, among others. President of the Eastern Shore Writers Association, she is also the founder and director of Salisbury Poetry Week and co-chair of the annual Bay to Ocean Writers Conference. A recent winner of Maryland State Arts Council’s Independent Artist Award, she has work forthcoming in Cimarron Review.

wilde readers of december: noa baum & tara hart

On December 13th at 7 pm, join us at the Columbia Art Center for the December Wilde Readings, featuring storyteller Noa Baum and poet Tara Hart. The event will be hosted by Ann Bracken, Linda Joy Burke, and Laura Shovan. We encourage you to participate in the open mic. Please prepare no more than five minutes of performance time/two poems. Sign up in advance by calling the Columbia Arts Center, or when you arrive. The number is 410-730-0075.

Here is what Noa and Tara had to say to our favorite six questions!

Who is the person in your life (past or present) that shows up most often in your writing?

Noa: My mother and grandmothers probably.

Tara: My late daughter Tessa is either explicitly or implicitly, in her absence, in most of my poems.

Where is your favorite place to write?

Noa: I am primarily a spoken word artist so the writing is a tool to support my speaking. I don’t have a favorite place.

Tara: I have been composing most poems during my morning walks in the woods near my house. My dog Buddha loves walking early and long, which is good for me as well, and I find lines coming to me on the paths. I used to wait to get home to write them down, but sadly they would have dissolved. Now I use the “voice memos” app on my phone to capture lines and ideas as they arise, and then I find little pockets of time to listen to those memos and transcribe them, writing and shaping as I listen. The places I write depend on what pocket of time I’m seizing — at my desk at work or at home, in a journal I keep in my car. Sometimes I make the time to write for a longer stretch — a sort of mini-retreat — and I will take my laptop or journal somewhere neutral like a library or coffee shop, where I don’t feel the pull of other tasks.

Do you have any consistent pre-writing rituals?

Noa: I start by speaking and telling the story several times to different listeners before I write it down.

Tara: Before everything, there is reading. Reading others’ poetry is my best pre-writing ritual, whether that is curled up with their books, surfing poets.org, or listening to Padraig O’Tuama’s “Poetry Unbound” podcast. Others’ poems are like the rows of prayer candles in a church, from which I find light for my own intentions.

Who always gets a first read?

Noa: I have several storytelling friends that I work with on new material. I always read it aloud.

Tara: No one person. I’m always grateful that I shared a poem with my father in which I sought to imagine his most difficult days just before I was born — when he lost his best friend and was losing his mother. It was one of the very few times that I saw him cry. My mother finds a lot of comfort in the loss of her granddaughter in my chapbook. These days, I tend to keep my poems close; most of them are just for me. My daughter Bella seems to enjoy reading the ones I’ve published in my chapbook that are about her. If I’m sending them out into the world, an audience at a reading will hear them first, or an editor or contest judge will the first to see them. Years ago I was part of a lovely group of writers who met regularly to share our work: I miss that and hope that in a less busy season of our lives we will resume.

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

Noa: One Hundred Year of solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Tara: Orlando by Virginia Woolf

What is the most memorable reading you have attended?

Noa: David Whyte at the Psycotherapy Networker Conference.

Tara: I have the incredible good fortune to attend so many wonderful readings in my work with HoCoPoLitSo, but I can say my most vivid emotional memory is of Patricia Smith’s 2013 visit, when HoCoPoLitSo hosted her as part of the Columbia Festival of the Arts. Smith read her suite of poems about Hurricane Katrina, “Blood Dazzler,” as the Sage String Quartet played Wynton Marsalis’ “At the Octoroon Balls.” It was beyond moving — it was transcendent. It felt like everything that we imagine great literature can do for the human spirit: connect us, enlarge us, make us better people for that encounter.

About the authors:

The Washington Post describes Noa Baum as someone who “spreads cultural truths that eclipse geopolitical boundaries…”. Israeli born, Noa is an internationally acclaimed storyteller, author, and coach focusing on the power of storytelling to heal across divides of identity and build peace. She is the author of the award-winning memoir A Land Twice Promised and a new picture book How the Birds Became Friends.

Tara Hart, Ph.D., was awarded a 2011 Pushcart Prize for Poetry and has a chapbook entitled The Colors of Absence. Other places her poems appear include the anthology to linger on hot coals: collected poetic works from grieving women writers. She is a professor and chair of humanities at Howard Community College, and co-chair of the Board of Directors of the Howard County Poetry and Literature Society (HoCoPoLitSo).

meet the wilde readers of November: Jim Karantonis and Patrica VanAmburg

Join Wilde Readings on Election Night for November Wilde Readings — live and in person at the Columbia Art Center. Featured authors are Jim Karantonis and Patricia VanAmburg. Laura Shovan is your host. Please spread the word – bring your friends, family, and students. All are welcome. We encourage you to participate in the open mic. Please prepare no more than five minutes of performance time/two poems. Sign up in advance by calling the Columbia Arts Center, or when you arrive. The number is 410-730-0075. Light refreshments will be served. Books by both featured authors and open mic readers will be available for sale.

We asked Jim and Patricia our favorite six questions, and this is what they had to say.

Who is the person in your life (past or present) that shows up most often in your writing?

Jim: Me. I do. My older Brother Zack gave me permission to use his name rather than Jim in my novel. Zack sounds far more Greek than Jim. I’ve always needed and thrived (maybe escaped) with an audience, even as a child. Some things never change.

Patricia: In recent years, I think it has been my dad–though I also find myself writing about my granddaughters and other young women/children from the news.

Where is your favorite place to write?

Jim: On the deck during warm weather, especially afternoons. In the winter at the main library in Columbia and the library at Howard Community College. And then came Barnes and Noble at the mall.

Patricia: Just jotting ideas, I would probably sit in my favorite livingroom chair overlooking Wilde Lake. For serious composing, I would need the computer on my bedroom desk–between two windows. But I have to admit that I also write at stop lights when driving.

Do you have any consistent pre-writing rituals?

Jim: A cup of coffee. Some music, classical violins is my first choice, next soft jazz. Set up my pens and red markers, and open my notebook with notes, notes, and more notes. Peruse the notes on events and individuals in my life that had an impact, and even those I just remember for their quirkiness. Take more notes about  my past, and stories I’ve told on stage or to friends but haven’t put to paper. Anything to not get started with the difficult part . . . writing.

Patricia: No. I just know when a poem needs to get out. Probably the most formal preps I have ever experienced were the February poetry workshops.

Who always gets a first read?

Jim: My muse, Mary Lou Hobbs. She is my wife so she better be first.

Patricia: Usually, my critique partner, but, increasingly, I rely on my husband to give the non poet viewpoint.

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

Jim: Just finished for second time, A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller. Published in 1959, and although I was just a teenager that was about the time I read it. (A post-apocalyptic novel that in those days we called science fiction.) I do save certain passages from novels of fiction that may capture my own feelings about self and society. I constantly check back with sections of history texts, biographies, and auto-biographies. Especially those related to civil rights and Martin Luther King, Jr., and those about soldiers and war.

Patricia: Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard. I sometimes reread Tom Robbins and Louise Erdrich for the beauty of their imagery.

What is the most memorable reading you have attended?

Jim: For poetry it was Billy Collins. The most honest presentation about his own writing, and his take on attempts by others. For a novel, I can’t recall any but probably because I’ve not attended many. The best interview where I was fortunate to be in the audience was one at the main Baltimore City Library. The excellent author, George Saunders, had the stage. He kept the audience engaged, serious and not so serious, and remarkably at the right times. 

Patricia: Probably a Leonard Cohen concert because he was one of my favorite poets. I also enjoyed workshops with Galway Kinnel and Sharon Olds at Omega. For a traditional reading, I would have to mention the mythology issue of Little Patuxent Review which I had the pleasure of guest editing.

About the authors:

James (Jim) Karantonis is a storyteller, a writer, and a retired civil rights worker. Jim was a medic and psychiatric specialist during the Vietnam War. He has shared his military experience on stage for Baltimore’s popular Stoop Storytelling series, and on public radio’s WYPR. Jim’s first short story “A Crazy 8’s Christmas” won the Spotlight Award from New York’s Slice Magazine. Numerous stories and poems appeared in The Muse, a literary publication of Howard Community College in Columbia, MD. The novel of Crazy 8’s: Soldiers Still was published in 2021. Jim’s working on a memoir of how this White, Greek “Hillbilly” from southern West Virginia was privileged to work closely with Coretta Scott King and the 1st National King Holiday.

Patricia VanAmburg retired Emerita from Howard Community College where she taught literature and creative writing. She also served several years on the editorial committee of Little Patuxent Review literary magazine. Her poetry chapbooks include Watching for Birds (2014) and Refugee Heart (2022).

Meet Wilde Readers: Desirée Magney and Neha Misra

The hosts of Wilde Readings – Laura Shovan, Linda Joy Burke, Faye McCray, and Ann Bracken – are happy to host the first reading of the 2022-2023 season with two authors, Desirée Magney and Neha Misra! The event is at 7 pm on Tuesday, September 13th on Zoom. Register for the Zoom event here: https://us02web.zoom.us/…/reg…/WN_dptdMYcaTKqZ16Kt4aIsqw

Click here for more information about the event and how you can participate! Now, meet Desirée and Neha with our favorite six questions for writers:

Who is the person in your life (past or present) that shows up most often in your writing?

Desirée: My mother is the person who shows up most often in my writings. I’m currently working on a book about her and my struggles to understand how her childhood trauma shaped the adult and parent she was. As I say in the book, “Her life was like a combination of the fairy tales in my childhood bedroom bookcase – part “Cinderella” with the evil stepmother, part “The Seven Princes” with the lost brothers, part “Little Red Riding Hood” with the wolf disguised. I wouldn’t have believed her childhood stories if I hadn’t heard them corroborated over-and-over again during visits in our living room with her three brothers.”

Neha: Grandmothers across time and space

Where is your favorite place to write?

Desirée: My favorite place to write is in the quietest room in my house. I like to work at my kitchen desk but because I have a dog and a retired husband at home, that is rarely the quietest room. Luckily, I have another room – sometimes referred to as a tree house, sometimes a Rapunzel tower. It was originally planned as a small rooftop deck but we enclosed it and it has beautiful views of the treetops in Rock Creek Park. The only reason I don’t use that room as my exclusive office is that it isn’t sufficiently heated and cooled.

Neha: Amidst tree elders

Do you have any consistent pre-writing rituals?

Desirée: I need coffee and a clean desk.

Neha: It is a mix of music, nature meditation, and incense

Who always gets a first read?

Desirée: My first reader depends on whom I’ve written about. In stories I’ve written and published about my daughter, she’s always been my first reader. I want to know if she remembers things differently or remembers more details and I don’t want to invade her privacy. Plus, she’s an excellent writer and editor. In a story I wrote about my son – a fun piece about going to museums to see Van Gogh’s paintings – I gave him first dibs. But for stories about my mother, I usually have my husband or daughter read them first.

Neha: One of my personal council members – beautiful humans I love and trust the most!

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

Desirée: I rarely reread a book. But over the years, I’ve read To Kill a Mockingbird a number of times. I’ve also reread one of my favorite memoirs, The Four Words for Home by Angie Chuang. LPR published one of her pieces in 2012 and that is how I got to know her as a writer. Lastly, I love rereading Anne Lamott’s, Some Instruction on Writing and Life. Her book is full of good advice and powerful sentences, some of which I’ve added to my list of favorite quotes.

Neha: Gitanjali (Song Offerings) by Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941)

What is the most memorable reading you have attended?

Desirée: I suppose my bias as the former publisher of Little Patuxent Review (LPR) comes through in this answer. I’ve loved every LPR reading. Prior to the pandemic, they were held twice a year on the second floor of Oliver’s Carriage House in Columbia, Maryland. The rustic wood beams and fireplace, gave the readings a comfy feel that blocked out everything but the stories shared within those four walls for those two hours. Since the pandemic, they’ve been held virtually and haven’t suffered from the online venue because the most impressive part of the readings have always been the writers and other artists who grace the podium and share their art with us.

Neha: The Sanctuaries D.C. closing ceremony reading to honor the journey of an incredible local arts collective

Desirée Magney, a memorist, poet, and attorney has published in bioStories, Bethesda Magazine, Delmarva Review, The Washington Post Magazine, Washingtonian Magazine, the Writer’s Center-Art Begins with a Story, Jellyfish Whispers, and the Best of Storm Cycle Anthology. She was a member of the board and publisher of Little Patuxent Review, has contributed to its blog, and served as a nonfiction submission reader. She has taught memoir writing at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

Neha Misra is a first generation immigrant poet, contemporary eco-folk visual artist, and an award winning climate justice advocate. Neha’s multi-disciplinary Earth stewardship centered creative studio uses the power of art to build bridges between our private, collective, and planetary healing. She is a 2022 Public Voices Fellow on the Climate Crisis – an initiative of the OpEd Project and the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication to change who writes history. Learn more at: http://www.nehamisrastudio.com

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/

Click here to RSVP.

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.

meet Tracy Dimond and Melanie Henderson – June Wilde Readings guests

The hosts of Wilde Readings – Laura Shovan, Linda Joy Burke, Faye McCray, and Ann Bracken – are happy to host the final reading of the 2021-2022 season with two dynamite authors, Tracy Dimond and Melanie Henderson! The event is at 7 pm on Tuesday, June 14th at the Columbia Art Center and on Zoom. Register here for the Zoom link: https://us02web.zoom.us/…/reg…/WN_vBEdi7IkSiKoSYzVb1XbTg

All are welcome to the Wilde Readings to hear Melanie and Tracy and to participate in the open mic. Please prepare no more than five minutes of performance time/two poems. Sign up in advance by calling the Columbia Arts Center (410-730-0075), or when you arrive. Light refreshments will be served. Books by both featured authors and open mic readers will be available for sale.

Now, meet Melanie and Tracy with our favorite six questions for writers!

Who is the person in your life (past or present) that shows up most often in your writing?

Melanie: My great great grandfather

Tracy: There isn’t one person, all my poems are haunted by things I’ve overheard.

Where is your favorite place to write?

Melanie: In bed on my laptop

Tracy: For the past few years, I’ve gone to Cacapon State Park. I love going to the cabins in the winter, outside of the busy season, and writing without Wi-Fi. I’ve also started running to Cacapon Mountain Overlook when I’m there—it’s a magical view of West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania that you experience after ascending almost 2,000 feet in 5 miles.

Do you have any consistent pre-writing rituals?

Melanie: No

Tracy: I am notoriously sporadic in my writing practice. If I’m running and going to the gym, that’s usually a sign my brain is spinning ideas. I need movement and I need observation. As long as I have an idea and my headphones, I can draft something.

Who always gets a first read?

Melanie: My longtime writing family, Truth Thomas

Tracy: I have good friends in my writing group, and I’ll often send them the pieces where my first question is “is this a diary entry or writing?” I feel safe giving them writing that still feels very raw. Honestly, I also thrive on an audience as first readers—I want to see how different lines land with an audience.

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

Melanie: American Journal by Robert Hayden

Tracy: I’ll stick to poetry—I have read Dorothea Lasky’s Black Life over and over. She will shift from hilarious to devastating within one poem. That book has been instrumental in my own writing for almost a decade.

What is the most memorable reading you have attended?

Melanie: That’s a pretty tough question. However, I’d have to say I was most moved by a reading given by the illustrious poet, Reuben Jackson, at the American Poetry Museum when it was located on Good Hope Road in SE, DC about 15 years ago.

Tracy: This is such a difficult question—I’ve had the privilege and joy of attending so many incredible readings as an events organizer and community member! This question will probably always change for me, depending on my mood. Today, I’ll say the spirit of the Artichoke Haircut series really grabbed me when I first moved to Baltimore. Local and national writers would be paired, then the hosts would transition to an open mic. It was held at Dionysus in the Mt. Vernon neighborhood of Baltimore, and is one of the reasons I applied to the University of Baltimore (the series hosts went there).

Tracy Dimond is a 2016 Baker Artist Award finalist. She is the author of four chapbooks, most recently: TO TRACY LIKE / TO LIKE / LIKE from akinoga press. She holds her MFA in Creative Writing & Publishing Arts from the University of Baltimore. Find her online at poetsthatsweat.com.

Melanie Henderson was born, raised and lives in Washington, DC. Prior to earning an MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University, she studied poetry at Howard University and the Voices Summer Writing Workshops (VONA). Her debut collection of poems, Elegies for New York Avenue, won the 2011 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award. She is the Managing Editor of Tidal Basin Review and Poetry Editor for Cherry Castle Publishing.

See through Poems Reading Celebrates Old Ellicott City

Reading on June 12th at Museum of Howard County History, 3 p.m.

Celebrate Ellicott City’s 250th anniversary with a poetry stroll along Main Street from April 1 through June. Created by the Howard County Poetry and Literature Society (HoCoPoLitSo), the project features twenty-five poems displayed in the windows of Ellicott City stores. QR codes at the bottom of the posters, accessed through your camera phone, explain how the poetry connects to Ellicott City’s commerce, history, and landscape. (Click here to read more about the See through Poems project.)

Join us Sunday, June 12, starting at 3 p.m., at the Museum of Howard County History for a reading of the poems. Local poets, community members, and special guests will read selections from the collection, with a reception afterwards.

Register and let us know you will be there:

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