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six questions with Ned Balbo and Jane Satterfield

Ned Balbo and Jane Satterfield are the feature writers at the May Wilde Readings, a monthly community open mic supported by HoCoPoLitSo. Join Ned and Jane as well as other open mic readers for a free, virtual reading on Tuesday, May 11th at 7:00 pm.  Register here Get to know Ned and Jane with our Six Questions.

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

Ned: I haven’t counted, but Betty & Carmine, my adoptive parents, have racked up quite a few appearances… as have my birth parents, Elaine (Betty’s much-younger sister) & her belated husband Don. 

Jane: It would be interesting to take an inventory… my parents (and their parents) show up in my recent book, Apocalypse Mix, in the context of poems about war’s generational impact on soldiers and civilians, and I’m pretty sure that the presence of other women writers and artists—present and past—is strong.

Q: Where is your favorite place to write? 

Ned: My home office where files, books, knick-knacks, Golden Guides, drafts & memorabilia are all in easy reach & my lap is available to Wyatt, our affectionate polydactyl cat. 

Jane: My second-floor study has plenty of books within reach; I work near a window that offers the welcome distractions of suburban wildlife—the crows, foxes, squirrels, and assorted birds that sometimes make their way into poems.

Q: Do you have consistent pre-writing rituals? 

Ned: Nothing consistent. Sometimes I wander the Internet: musing on pop culture trivia that’s crossed my path while thinking about the poem I’m working on, or gathering background information in PDF form for research purposes. Lately, if I’m in the mood for music, I’ll call up Eno via iTunes (Ambient 1, Harold Budd collaborations, Thursday Afternoon, Neroli, Compact Forest Proposal), Sufjan Stevens’ Planetarium, or maybe Andrew Bird’s Echolocations.

Jane: Music and meditation are often helpful, but I don’t have any consistent pre-writing routines. I am, however, a notebook fanatic—I like to collect images, ideas, research notes, opening lines so I never have to face a blank page.

Q: Who always gets the first read? 

Ned: Jane. She has a way of just  asking questions gently that point me in the right direction if a poem isn’t quite right. I also listen for the degree of enthusiasm she conveys in her always supportive way. If it’s less than I’d like, I know I have more work to do. 

Jane: Ned. He has a perfect ear for the soundscape of a poem and asks all the right questions that encourage me to return to the page. I’m lucky beyond belief that his listening also turns my attention to subjects I’ve overlooked, written off, or avoided…

Q: What is a book you’ve read twice and would read again?

Ned: Prose – Jane Austen, Mansfield Park; Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God. Poetry – Denis Johnson, The Incognito Lounge; Elizabeth Spires, Globe; Andrew Hudgins, Saints & Strangers; Tracy K. Smith, Life on Mars.

Jane: I’ve cracked the spine of copies of Plath’s Ariel, Shapcott’s Her Book, and Levis’ Winter Stars. I’ll probably do the same with recent favorites like Erika Meitner’s Holy Moly Carry Me and Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s Oceanic. I’ve revisited Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient and Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway more summers than I can count.

Q: What is the most memorable reading you’ve attended?

Ned:  A.E. Stallings at Loyola University Maryland in 2019: not only was she gracious & her poems brilliant but she shared extensive footage, photos & anecdotes on her work in support of Syrian refugee families who’ve fled to Athens, Greece (where Stallings lives) – their children especially, whose poems & artwork reflect both hardship & hope.

Jane: I attended a Simon Armitage reading in a pub in Huddersfield back in 1994 that had all the fabulous energy of a football match — Armitage recited his poems and, since Huddersfield is his hometown, there was a palpable sense of poetry’s connection to the community. Several years ago, I hosted Paisley Rekdal in Loyola’s Modern Masters Series the day Guggenheim winners were announced. Paisley read a sequence of Mae West poems that would later appear in Imaginary Vessels — an amazing mini-seminar in the sonnet.

Summer library program kicks off with transformation, poetry, and anime

Steven Leyva

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. 

Deaf Republic artist: Jennifer Whitten

blog post by Laura Yoo

Jennifer Whitten – image provided by the artist

Ilya Kaminksy’s poetry collection Deaf Republic (2019) is a book that should be studied from cover to cover. Start with the brick wall of an ear against the black and white background. On the very first page inside, read the praises for Deaf Republic. Back of the inside cover page – note the names of all the artists who contributed to the book: the cover designer, the cover artist, and the artist of the interior illustrations. Read the “Notes” at the end of the book for the poet’s comments on signs and silence. Read the “Acknowledgements” page for the poet’s dedication of certain poems for fellow poets like Jericho Brown, Brian Turner, and Patricia Smith. You can see that it took a village.

image of page 9 of Deaf Republic

Turn to the back cover: “What happens when the citizens of a country no longer hear one another?”

Deaf Republic tells the story of a town that goes deaf in the face of brutality and oppression, and the collection includes drawings of hands that represent signing. The first image is a sign for “town” – two hands held up facing each other, tips of fingers touching, making a tent-like shape. Later, we see signs for “town watches”, “army convoy,” “hide,” “match,” “curtain,” “the town watches,” “story,” “kiss,” “be good,” “earth,” and “the crowd watches.” At the end of the book, the poet writes that the “In Vasenka, the townspeople invented their own sign language. Some of the signs are derived from various traditions (Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, American Sign Language, etc.) Other signs might have been made up by citizens, as they tried to create a language not known to authorities.”

In appreciation for the visual art of Deaf Republic, HoCoPoLitSo invited Jennifer Whitten, the artist responsible for the hand drawings in the collection, to share her experience of working with Ilya Kaminsky and his poetry as well as her vision for the project. We invite you to visit Jennifer’s Instagram page for examples of her art and to take a look at the videos of Jennifer at work (at the end of this article).

For those who are new to your art, how would you explain your aesthetic?

I began my career as a student of medicine, and though I made the difficult decision to pursue my passion for art over what many called the ‘sensible’ path of a doctor, science still colors my aesthetic. I’ve been called a hyperrealist painter, but my dogged attention to detail has very little to do with a metric for skill; after a great deal of reflection, I realized that my meticulousness was my response to a chaotic and troubled upbringing, one riddled with tragic death and loss. In this sense, I relate very deeply to Deaf Republic, insomuch that it serves, as a work of art, to process the past, and, to connect with others, even if their experiences aren’t facsimiles of our own. When you’re entranced by the process, you can tune out the external cacophony over which you have no control. So I make that process as difficult and all-consuming as possible; to make a reverse glass painting, not only do you have to contend with an incredibly slick and disobedient surface, the image is painted both backwards, and flipped. I first discovered reverse-glass painting in a private collection in Lake Como; while teaching myself the process, I grappled for information, anything that could help me navigate such difficult and uncharted territory, but learned that there are only a handful of other people in the world mad enough to take it on and they aren’t very vocal about their methods. Treading water in the deep-end left me a little more open to error and exploration than I had ever been before, which led to more ambitious installations and the incorporation of 3D, even 4D (time-based) media, like live music and video, into the 2D medium of painting. I think this experience prepped me in how to understand sign language illustrations as 2D representations of a 4D gesture.

How did you come to do the artwork for Ilya Kaminsky’s Deaf Republic? Can you tell us about the process of working with the poet and/or the poetry?

In 2017, I did a residency at the Vermont Studio Center. VSC has a unique advantage in that they bring in established writers and artists to offer the residents mentorship. Enter Ilya Kaminsky. The whole cohort was buzzing with talk of him and I confess that at that stage, I didn’t know who he was. But boy, did I find out, crammed into a main hall packed with people eagerly awaiting his reading. How can I describe what it was like to hear Ilya read, other than to say it was like keening, preaching and crooning all at once? The room was riveted, people were in tears. I only realized that I wasn’t breathing when he paused. And then, it was like the séance ended and the medium was back to his smiling, affable self. At some point during the week, VSC conducted Open Studio, where we would wander through each other’s workspaces to reflect on what we’d made so far; Ilya and his agent joined in. The next day, in the lunch line, he approached me and said he’d been quite taken with what he’d seen in my studio and asked if I’d be interested in collaborating, in illustrating his upcoming book of poetry. I was so flabbergasted, I nearly dropped my tray, while somehow managing to blurt out a resounding ‘yes’. 

What was your approach to creating the drawings for Deaf Republic? Are the drawings a representation of American Sign Language or another sign language?

What Ilya had seen during Open Studio that night were the line drawings I do in preparation for the paintings on glass […]; although minimal and unfinished, these lines were the aesthetic Ilya had had in mind. From what I gather, some of the signs are actually ASL (I recognized “Kiss” for example), while others were invented by Ilya. It was a challenge to distil my usual aesthetic, turning what normally serves as preparatory into a finished work (people often misinterpret simplicity for ease, but distillation is difficult!). The reference images provided to me were very sparse, so I relied on verbal descriptions for guidance—luckily, Ilya is a poet (and a damn good one)! This highlighted the intersection between the verbal and the visual for me. There was a bit of back and forth, particularly with “Hide”, where Ilya asked me to conceal the thumb behind the fingers a bit more, as though it were hiding. This made me hyper-aware of how creatively illustrative sign language can be. I saw my hands in a new light, anthropomorphized. To use my own as reference was so meaningful and it’s an honor to literally have had a hand in Ilya’s masterpiece. To form the signs with my fingers as I read meant that I wasn’t a passive reader, but rather one actively and corporeally engaged. 

How do you think your drawings contribute to the meaning of the poems? 

In Ilya’s words to me, “the image and the narrative are so connected, their moods often depending on each other”; it was important to me to capture the simultaneous blunt force and tender intimacy of Ilya’s poetry visually. Again, in Ilya’s words, “the lines [in your drawings] create their own continuum among the signs, how they present themselves eloquently, assertively, yet intimately.” Hearing readers are conditioned to associate the written word with sound, which is a part of language that is inaccessible and therefore meaningless/superfluous to a Deaf or Hard of Hearing individual. The written word was originally created as a representation of linguistic sound; my illustrations serve to question that automatic association in Hearing readers. I hope that my images reinforce what poetry, what sign language do in their own right, which is to remind readers that the written word has a visual component, both in terms of its morphology, but also in terms of its placement on a page and the negative space with which it interacts (I see a strong link in the way in which the naked glass in my painted works relate to the negative space on Ilya’s pages, both communicating absence, loss and silence). Blocks of text in prose do not use the visual aspect of language to drive the narrative—not in the way poetry can, or illustration can. The creativity behind sign language compels us to linger on individual words, the visual asking us to pause and consider what a word means at its core. Which is what poetry does. It’s a beautiful experience, like knowing that the German word for “lightbulb” is “glow pear”. 

On your Instagram page, I love the astrology series, which are hand-painted backwards on glass. (I’m an Aries, and the image of the ram is stunning!) Can you tell us more about that collection?

The Zodiac series has a bit in common with the images I did for Deaf Republic, in that both have semiotics at their core. But honestly, it began as a break from the scholastic, theory-laden vantage point I’d developed during my Masters program. I just wanted to reconnect with paint itself, to relish in the feel of it sliding over glass and in the satisfaction of creating the illusion of a variety of textures using only black and white. Working with the imagery of the Zodiac let me indulge in the exquisite differences between wool and scales, tentacles and horn, a butterfly’s wings and a crab’s claws. However, given the fact that a painting takes me not hours, but months to complete, I found myself, before long, listening to scholarly podcasts about astrology while at the easel. Some of my favorites were about Jung and archetype and I learned that astrology itself is a language, a system of intricate geometry and symbol.

Moreover, I realized that this incredibly rich, cultural mine has been largely left out of art historical discourse and scholarship, despite its prominence, and has been entirely rejected by the Science it originated. This is something astrology has the misfortune of sharing with glass painting, which, though once esteemed enough to be considered holy, devolved into a decorative/utilitarian craft over time. Though I hadn’t taken the Zodiac seriously at the outset, I’ve since been thoroughly moved by how it has captured the imaginations of civilizations all over the world and by how it’s a way for human beings to systematically apply meaning to the patterns we seek and find in chaos.

This is something that the Zodiac shares with language and music as well (how humans are able to apply pattern to random sounds and call it musical); my Zodiac paintings are part of a larger installation for which I developed an algorithm to translate the Zodiacal constellations (upon which the animals are based) into notes for cello. As a whole, it’s a translation from literal to abstract and calls attention to the impulse to do this, which is uniquely human. 

Jennifer Whitten – Glass Painting
Aries – Painted backwards on Glass!

six questions with regie cabico and chad frame

Regie Cabico and Chad Frame

Regie Cabico and Chad Frame are the feature writers at the March Wilde Readings, a monthly community open mic supported by HoCoPoLitSo. Join Regie and Chad as well as other open mic readers for a free, virtual reading on Tuesday, March 9th at 7:00 pm.  Register here Get to know Regie and Chad with our Six Questions.

Who is the person in your life (past or present) that shows up most often in your writing?
Regie: My muse, a lover, a secret crush, a celebrity crush and most recently, Filipino mythological deities and monsters.
Chad: Quite a few people from my past show up, as most of my writing is autobiographical. I have a collection coming out (Little Black Book) that’s entirely made up of poems about people from my past who were formative to my identity and sexuality, usually (but not always) failed romances. The poems are just titled with a first name, and I pointedly didn’t change any of the names, so that should make some waves when it comes out! I also wrote a collection (Two-Step Charlie) about the death of my father, who was an alcoholic Vietnam veteran. I wanted to chronicle the entire experience, from his terminal cancer diagnosis to his treatment, to taking care of him in hospice, to his inevitable passing, and beyond.
Where is your favorite place to write?
Regie: H Street NE, DC outside of Wydown, at Maketto in their back yard, on my patio, on an airplane, train, hotel room.
Chad: I’d like to say at some sort of antique desk with a feather quill or vintage typewriter, but quite honestly, I write at a cluttered table that was once a dining room table, but which is so covered in books and papers it’s utterly unrecognizable. My laptop is at one edge with a tiny area cleaned off for it, and otherwise my back is to a windowsill overloaded with potted plants.
Do you have any consistent pre-writing rituals?
Regie: I read a lot of poems online, watch poetry performances, write with my students and write in a notebook I carry with me everywhere. Then I might have a can of Mango Truly Seltzer or iced green tea and transfer my journal writing on my Google Chromebook.
Chad: I’m rarely consistent, but I always do an extensive amount of research before and while I write. It’s not unusual for me to have dozens of browser tabs open on my computer and phone to be reading all manner of information I might need to write. I also write a lot of found poetry (I’m particularly fond of the cento), and whenever I do that I always have a lot of research open for quotes, but I like to scrawl things out in a physical journal, since it feels more like I’m piecing together a puzzle that way. Odd, I suppose, but it works for me.
Who always gets a first read?
Regie: I will send to Soo-Jin Lee, a playwright, Drew Pisarra, a writer in Manhattan, and an ex Guillermo Filice Castro.
Chad: I tend to read things out loud to myself, but since my Maine Coon, Jabbers (short for Jabberwocky) is always by my side, I suppose he gets first read. I do also have a wonderful writing group (shout out to Montco WordShop!) who meet once a month who are always supportive and helpful with my work, and (hopefully) they can say the same about me.
What is a book you’ve read more than twice (and would read again)?
Regie: I always turn to the poetry in The Language of Saxophones by Kamou Daaood & Crossing With The Light by Dwight Okita
Chad: Recent obsessions include: Madeline Miller’s Circe and The Song of Achilles, Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone’s This is How You Lose the Time War, and absolutely anything by N.K. Jemisin, but particularly her speculative short fiction in How Long Till Black Future Month.
What is the most memorable reading you have attended?
Regie: The Poetry Slam Finals in 1994, San Francisco. I was on the New York Team with Maggie Estepp, Tracie Morris, Hal Sirowitz versus the Boston Team with Patricia Smith, Lisa King, Craig Hickman.
Chad: Performances with No River Twice, my poetry and improv performance group, are always memorable, since no two readings are ever the same. I’ve read at big venues with hundreds of people and very tiny ones where only the performers showed up, yet still had a lot of fun reading to one another. I’ve enjoyed them all, but my most notable reading was probably at the Library of Congress.
Register here and join Regie and Chad on March 9th at 7 pm!

six questions with Patti Ross and Gwen Van Velsor

We asked our guest writers of the February Wilde Readings to tell us a little bit about their reading and writing favorites and habits. Get to know Patti Ross and Gwen Van Velsor here and join their reading on February 9th at 7:00 pm via Facebook!

Patti Ross

Patti Ross is a local spoken word artist and host of EC Poetry and Prose Open Mic in Ellicott City, MD. A graduate of The Duke Ellington School for the Arts and the American University. Patti began her writing career for Rural America Newspapers. A lifelong advocate for the poor and homeless often using the pseudonym “little pi” Patti writes poems about the racially marginalized and society’s traumatization of the human spirit. Her blog: https://littlepisuniverse.wordpress.com

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

PR: My ancestral mothers – both related and unrelated.

Where is your favorite place to write?

PR: In front of a window looking out at nature.

Do you have any consistent pre-writing rituals?

PR: I always hand write in a journal my first thoughts and first drafts.

Who always gets a first read?

PR: My accountability partner and a couple of other best friends. I also share the second draft and sometimes the first with my poetry critique group.

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

PR: The Bible.

What is the most memorable reading you have attended?

PR: A young adult reading at the Strathmore titled Manual Cinema’s No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks for an exploration of DC’s grassroots poetry scene. Kim Roberts was the host and the poets were some of the best performance poets in the region. Marjan Naderi was/is fabulous. She is DC’s Youth Poet Laureate, holds five Grand Slam Champion titles: Library of Congress 2018 National Book Festival Poetry Slam Champion, two-time national Muslim Interscholastic Tournament Spoken Word Winner, 2018 NoVA Invitational Slam Champion, and the 2019 DC Youth Slam Finals Slam Champion. While being on the 2018 and 2019 DC Youth Slam Team, Marjan was featured in the Washington Post and NowThisHer. As the first Muslim American and Afghan woman to be announced as the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival Poetry Champion. I have heard her speak several times since then and her words still make me shiver. I love watching young adult poets perform. They share words with keen intention.

 

Gwen Van Velsor

Gwen Van Velsor writes creative nonfiction and holds a degree in Special Education from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She started Yellow Arrow Publishing in 2016, a project that supports writers who identify as women. Her major accomplishments include walking the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain, raising a toddler, and being OK with life exactly as it is. She has published two memoirs, Follow That Arrow, in 2016 and Freedom Warrior, in 2020.

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

GVV: For better or worse, I have written the most about my ex-husband. We grew up together in a way, and there are infinite ways to write about and process those years.

Where is your favorite place to write?

GVV: I love to write in a cozy coffee shop that is buzzing with busy customers. It keeps me in a good balance between writing and daydreaming. I’m less likely to surf the internet aimlessly or bang my head on the table in editing distress when in public.

Do you have any consistent pre-writing rituals?

GVV: I try not to engage in too many rituals since I end up getting distracted by them versus feeling supported. My most consistent ritual is to write everything by hand first, then type it up when I’m in the mood. I find the hand/head/heart connection keeps me honest on the page. Typing somehow takes me away from that.

Who always gets a first read?

GVV: My best friend Rachael! She is always enthusiastic about what I write, no matter what, which is what I need in a first read in order to keep going.

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

GVV: The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It’s my go-to book when my writing is stagnant, it never gets old.

What is the most memorable reading you have attended?

GVV: I heard Rafael Alvarez give a reading in the basement of an art studio on a rainy night. It was a tiny crowd from Highlandtown (Alvarez’s “Holy Land”) and he was absolutely in his element. He was so passionate about his love for Baltimore, it was highly contagious.


Join Patti Ross and Gwen Van Velsor for an evening of reading and open mic on February 9th at 7 pm!

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Watch “Why We Can’t Wait: Poetry of History and Justice by Joseph Ross”

Watch this year’s Lucille Clifton reading, “Why We Can’t Wait: Poetry of History and Justice,” featuring Joseph Ross reading from his latest book Raising King. In this event, Mr. Ross is introduced by E. Ethelbert Miller. The reading is followed by a Q&A session hosted by HoCoPoLitSo board member Susan Thornton Hobby. Ninety minutes.

Lucille Clifton Reading Features Joseph Ross – Why We Can’t Wait: Poetry of History and Justice

Joseph Ross launches his new book of poems, Raising King, introduced by E. Ethelbert Miller in a virtual presentation.

Now available to watch online:


HoCoPoLitSo opens its literary season October 2 with “Why We Can’t Wait” featuring Joseph Ross and the debut of his new book of poetry, Raising King.

The 2020 Lucille Clifton Reading Series provides an opportunity to deepen and extend our understanding of the experiences of others and ourselves as Ross explores through verse the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. Ross based his poems on King’s own writing in Stride Toward Freedom, Why We Can’t Wait, and Where do We Go from Here. Ross will read and discuss his work beginning at 7:30 p.m. in a virtual presentation.

Advance registration is required and donations are appreciated.

Help HoCoPoLitSo Happen

Ross says Raising King “invites readers to journey with Martin Luther King, Jr., from Montgomery to Memphis. These poems, some in Dr. King’s voice, some in other voices from his time, offer the reader a new way to understand the compassionate and prophetic life of Dr. King.” Joseph Peniel, author of The Sword and the Shield: Revolutionary Lives of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. writes: “Raising King is a groundbreaking poetry collection that helps to rescue the radically compassionate legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Joseph Ross brilliantly reminds us that King’s power derived from the way in which he forced American and global citizens to confront uncomfortable truths about race, poverty, citizenship, war. A must read.”

Ross is the author of three books of poetry: Meeting Bone Man (2012), Gospel of Dust (2013) and Ache (2017). His poetry has appeared in a wide variety of publications including The Los Angeles Times, The Southern Quarterly, Xavier Review, Poet Lore, Tidal Basin Review, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, and Sojourners. His work appears in many anthologies including What Saves Us: Poems of Empathy and Outrage in the Age of Trump, edited by Martín Espada. He served as the HoCoPoLitSo’s 23rd writer-in-residence and teaches high school English is Washington, D.C. He is a six-time Pushcart Prize nominee and his poem “If Mamie Till Was the Mother of God” won the 2012 Pratt Library/Little Patuxent Review Poetry Prize. Raising King will be available from Willow Books in mid-September.

Joseph Ross and E. Ethelbert Miller

E. Ethelbert Miller is a literary activist and author of two memoirs and several poetry collections. He hosts the WPFW morning radio show On the Margin with E. Ethelbert Miller and hosts and produces The Scholars on UDC-TV which received a 2020 Telly Award. Miller’s latest book If God Invented Baseball (City Point Press) was awarded the 2019 Literary Award for poetry by the American Library Association’s Black Caucus. Click here to view the E. Ethebert Miller Collection at GWU.

Zoom attendance is limited to the first hundred registrants. Additional virtual attendance will be available through live streaming on Facebook.

Click here to register for this online event.

Donate to HoCoPoLitSo to help make this and other events like this important discussion happen.

Help HoCoPoLitSo Happen

Suhani and Rebecca host Teen Open Mic on July 17th

HoCoPoLitSo is proud to support the Open Mic Teen Reading Series. The event’s organizers are Suhani Khosla and Rebecca Ledger, rising seniors at Atholton High School who share a passion for literature and poetry. They pursue this interest by organizing creative writing events at school.  With this open mic event, Suhani and Rebecca hope to bring together middle and high school students to share their literary talents with the community. A variety of pieces can be shared, ranging from short stories to poetry. The organizers hope that in light of current events, this event will provide a safe environment and an outlet for creative expression for young poets and writers.

The format is an Open Mic, and participants should RSVP by emailing khoslasuhani@gmail.com and rebecca14122002@yahoo.fr before July 17th. The first reading will take place on July 17th at 7pm.  Google Meet code: meet.google.com/btd-fokf-gqc.

Get to know our organizers, Suhani and Rebecca:

Why do you write? Or, what drives you or motivates you to write?
S: I write to express myself and explore a creative outlet.
R: I use writing as an escape from every day life. I find writing to be a sanctuary for me.
Who in your life gets to read the first of your writing?
S: People who usually first see my writing are my family members and friends, and also some people who are willing to look over and edit.
R: My cousin, who is also my best friend, reads the first of my writing.
Do you have any consistent writing rituals
S: When I prepare to write, I listen to music and start drafting at night. I look over what I wrote in the morning to finalize.
R: I usually write in my room late at night or when I have any down time. I usually listen to music or sometimes even audio recordings of poems to channel my creativity.
What is a book you’ve read more than twice?
S: I read 1984 by George Orwell three times. I really liked Orwell and Huxley’s work, or any dystopian novel.
R: I read To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee twice. It’s one of my favorite books and to this day. I still sometimes flip back to my favorite passages.
What made you want to organize this event?
S: To bring  the community together during these rough times. Poetry can help with expressing concerns and opinions in a safe environment.
R: To give people the opportunity to express themselves through poetry, especially in these difficult times.

Cancelled – 12th Annual Blackbird Poetry Festival to Feature Poet/Journalist Jeffrey Brown

Regretfully, this year’s Blackbird Poetry Festival is now cancelled due to the public health crisis.

Jeffrey Brown, Journalist and Poet.

Poet and PBS Senior Correspondent Jeffrey Brown headlines the festival, April 30, 2020, on the campus of Howard Community College, a day devoted to verse, with workshops, book sales, readings, and patrols by the Poetry Police. The Sunbird poetry reading, featuring Mr. Brown, local writers, and Howard Community College faculty and students, starts at 2:30 p.m. and is free. Mr. Brown will read from and discuss his poetry during the Nightbird Poetry Reading, starting at 7:30 p.m. in the Monteabaro Hall of the Horowitz Center for Visual and Performing Arts.

Brown’s 2015 volume of poetry, The News, was selected as one of best poetry books of May 2015 by The Washington Post. In the forward, Robert Pinsky notes “The News is more than a venture into art by someone prominent in another field. In these poems, an unconventional subject for poetry is dealt with from within, by a real poet.” In the afterward, Brown says “I got hooked as a reader long ago. But why write poetry? Why write these experiences through poetry? To explore what happened from another angle, to see beyond the camera, to imagine what might be there, to use the language in a different way. Like the news, poetry seeks to inform our lives and helps us to reflect upon who we are and the conditions, disastrous or delightful, of the world in which we live. Here it is — I am talking to myself, again — your day.”

Workshops, open to the public, will take place in the Kittleman Room of Duncan Hall at 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. Ann Bracken, the author of two collections of poetry, No Barking in the Hallways: Poems from the Classroom (2017) and The Altar of Innocence (2015), will offer a workshop on poetry as a way of reporting your life as part of the festival. Bracken, twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, will hold her free workshop at 9:30 a.m. in the Kittleman Room.

Nightbird admission tickets are $15 each (seniors and students $10) available on-line here: GET TICKETS. For tickets by mail, send a self-addressed envelope and check payable to HoCoPoLitSo, 10901 Little Patuxent Parkway, Horowitz Center 200, Columbia, MD 21044.

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