In my previous post, “Poetry for the Young (and the Young-Hearted)”, I promised you voices of our young poetry lovers.
First up is HoCoPoLitSo’s Student on Board Member, Katy Day. Katy is a student at University of Maryland, College Park who is studying English and Psychology. She has been a friend of HoCoPoLitSo’s since 2013. She made her Blackbird Poetry Festival debut in 2013. Billy Collins, who came to HCC to read at the 2014 Blackbird Poetry Festival, is an admirer of Katy’s poetry (as evidenced by the photo below). She is currently studying poetry with Stanley Plumly at College Park.
I asked Katy some questions to get her take on encountering poetry.
What do you get out of attending poetry and literary events?
All of my time studying literature and poetry hasn’t prepared me to fully articulate the degree to which attending poetry readings and other literary events have influenced my life. The first poetry reading I ever attended was the Blackbird Poetry Festival in 2013. I knew that I had discovered something great when I attended Blackbird that year. I felt like I belonged there and like I had finally found something that I really felt passionately about.
As a student and as a citizen of this world, what benefits do you see in reading and studying literature (especially poetry)?
Studying literature and poetry has expanded my mind. It has allowed me to discover who I am as a person by changing and building upon my thoughts and beliefs about the world.
What’s your favorite work of literature (a particular poem, poet, or novel maybe)?
I can’t choose a single favorite. I love poetry and literature for several different reasons and I think that different works of poetry and literature have enriched my life in different ways. I can read David Sedaris over and over again and still laugh until I’m crying and marvel over his perfected comedic timing. The more I learn about poetry and literature, the more particular my interests become also. I read Olive Schreiner’s Story of an African Farm and was blown away by not only the anticipation of modernist literature in the experimental style of her writing, but also by her progressiveness, which I think even surpasses many of our contemporary thinkers. Oscar Wilde has also greatly influenced the way in which I consciously navigate and perceive the world.
Do you have any thoughts on what literary organizations like HoCoPoLitSo can do to engage young people?
This is a tough question. It’s hard to get people of any age interested in poetry. Billy Collins says that high school gives people “anti-poetry deflector shields.” Any time poetry is encountered, the automatic response is to avoid it. Becoming interested in poetry is like opening a set of nesting dolls. You have to begin with poems that speak to non-poetry adherents. Then, like the nesting dolls that become smaller and smaller, your interests become more and more refined as you explore various kinds of poetry. I think these anti-poetry deflector shields come from teachers who forgo the big nesting dolls and instead present their students with poems that require the refined interest that comes with exposure and extensive study. I gained this perspective through my experiences at Howard Community College and through attending HoCoPoLitSo events. HoCoPoLitSo has done an exceptional job in the past few years bringing poets to Howard County who excite young people and act as gateways into poetry.
Here’s at least one awesome young person in whose hands we can trust the future of poetry in Howard County and beyond.
Member, HoCoPoLitSo Board of Directors
It’s not often that Columbia hosts a national poet laureate. And even less frequently can we listen to a poet laureate whose publishing contract ran to six figures with Random House. Turns out, that’s not an oxymoron. It’s a Billy Collins.
On April 24, at the Blackbird Poetry Festival, HoCoPoLitSo brought to Columbia a writer who passes for a rock star in the poetry world. Collins, “the most popular poet in America,” according to the New York Times, drew groupies from as far away as Philadelphia and western Maryland. Collins read in the afternoon with students, and at an evening reading, thanks to a partnership with Howard Community College’s student life office, and humanities and English divisions.
As co-president of the HoCoPoLitSo board Tara Hart said in her introduction, Collins has brought poetry to the people, “down from the shelves and out of the shadows.”
But Collins says he doesn’t sit down at his desk and decide, hmm, today, I think I’m going to write a poem that will bring poetry out of the shadows. Instead, he says, “I’m just trying to write a good poem.”
He’s always thinking about the reader, he says, and alternating his attention between the reader and the poet. To that end, he opened his reading with “You, Reader.” His voice, particularly well-suited to his dry wit, is without affect, so it also worked with his poems that were more reflective, even sad, like the canine soliloquy, “The Dog on his Master.” (more…)
Contact: Pam Kroll Simonson, (443) 518-4568, email@example.com
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Howard County Poetry & Literature Society (HoCoPoLitSo), in partnership with Howard Community College’s Office of Student Life, English/World Languages Division, and Arts & Humanities Division, presents the annual Blackbird Poetry Festival from Monday, April 21 to Thursday, April 24, 2014, at Howard Community College (HCC). For the first time, this year’s festival opens with a four-day Poetry Film Festival featuring showings of five acclaimed films. The last day of the film festival coincides with a full day of Blackbird Festival events, including readings by two-term National Poet Laureate Billy Collins, called “the most popular poet in America” by The New York Times; workshops for HCC students by Bruce George, poet and co-founder of HBO’s Def Poetry Jam; readings by student poets from HCC; and on-campus patrols by the Poetry Police, who will award individuals carrying a poem in recognition of national Poem-in-Your-Pocket Day. The theme of this year’s Blackbird Poetry Festival is “Poetry Unmasked,” exploring the bare truths of poetry. (more…)
Date: December 20, 2013 Contact: Pam Kroll Simonson, (443) 518-4568, firstname.lastname@example.org
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Blackbird Poetry Festival Features Billy Collins,
“The Most Popular Poet in America”
Howard County Poetry & Literature Society (HoCoPoLitSo), in partnership with Howard Community College’s Office of Student Life, English and World Languages Division, and Arts & Humanities Division, presents the annual Blackbird Poetry Festival on Thursday, April 24, 2014, at Howard Community College. The all-day event features readings by two-term National Poet Laureate Billy Collins, called “the most popular poet in America” by The New York Times; workshops for HCC students by Bruce George, poet and co-founder of HBO’s Def Poetry Jam; readings by student poets from HCC; and on-campus patrols by the Poetry Police, who will award individuals carrying a poem in recognition of national Poem in Your Pocket Day. The theme of this year’s Blackbird Poetry Festival is “Poetry Unmasked,” exploring the bare truth of poetry.
“Billy Collins is famous for conversational, witty poems that welcome readers with humor,” writes The Poetry Foundation, an independent literary group, “but often slip into quirky, tender or profound observation on the everyday, reading and writing, and poetry itself.”
“His last three collections of poems have broken sales records for poetry,” writes the Winter Park Institute for intellectual engagement at Rollins College. “His readings are usually standing room only, and his audience–enhanced tremendously by his appearances on National Public Radio–includes people of all backgrounds and age groups.”
Collins will read and discuss his work at Nightbird, the Blackbird Poetry Festival’s evening event, at 7:30 p.m. at Smith Theatre, located in the Horowitz Visual and Performing Arts Center at HCC in Columbia. A book signing and reception will follow. Collins will give a short free reading at Smith Theater with student poets at 2:30 p.m. He will also tape an episode of The Writing Life, HoCoPoLitSo’s Bravo-TV Arts for Change Award-winning interview show seen on YouTube. George will facilitate creative writing/performance poetry workshops in morning classes at HCC.
Tickets to Nightbird are $50 for the first five rows in the center aisle and $30 for orchestra and balcony ($15 for students). Tickets can be purchased at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/523094 or www.hocopolitso.org . For more information, call HoCoPoLitSo at (443) 518-4568 or email email@example.com. Seniors in Columbia can request transportation by calling the Senior Events Shuttle at (410) 715-3087. HCC is an accessible campus. Accommodation requests should be made to HoCoPoLitSo by April 17, 2014.
HoCoPoLitSo is a nonprofit organization designed to enlarge the audience for contemporary poetry and literature and celebrate culturally diverse literary heritages. Founded in 1974 by National Book Award finalist Ellen Conroy Kennedy, HoCoPoLitSo accomplishes its mission by sponsoring readings with critically acclaimed writers; literary workshops; programs for students; and The Writing Life, a writer-to-writer interview show seen on YouTube, HCC-TV, and other local stations. HoCoPoLitSo receives funding from the Maryland State Arts Council, an agency funded by the state of Maryland and the National Endowment for the Arts; Howard County Arts Council through a grant from Howard County government; The Columbia Film Society; Community Foundation of Howard County; the Jim and Patty Rouse Charitable Foundation; and individual contributors.
For a pdf of this press release, click here: Blackbird 2014 Press Release.
This year, HoCoPoLitSo would like to make your life a little easier, giving you the opportunity to really delight your special someones with tickets to see Billy Collins or the 36th Annual Irish Evening, featuring Paula Meehan and Theo Dorgan. Happy Holidays.
36th Annual Evening of Irish Music & Poetry
Featuring Paula Meehan & Theo Dorgan, The Narrowbacks, Step dancing
March 14, 2014 • Smith Theatre – HCC
Dublin’s informal poet laureate, Ms. Meehan was recently named Irish Professor of Poetry. The post was created following the late Seamus Heaney’s Nobel Prize for literature in 1998. She is only the second women appointed to this position.
Theo Dorgan, a former director of Poetry Ireland, is also a poet, playwright, translator, editor and broadcaster. In 2010 he received The O’Shaughnessy Prize For Irish Poetry.
The Blackbird Poetry Festival’s Nightbird Reading
With Billy Collins
April 24th • Smith Theatre – HCC
The Nightbird reading featuring two-term National Poet Laureate Billy Collins closes the annual Blackbird Poetry Festival. Called “the most popular poet in America” by The New York Times, Collins headlines the festival, which this year has the theme Poetry Unmasked.
“Billy Collins is famous for conversational, witty poems that welcome readers with humor,” writes The Poetry Foundation, “but often slip into quirky, tender or profound observation on the everyday, reading and writing, and poetry itself.”
We asked Howard Community College student Katy Day for her perspective of poetry on campus. Take a look at what she delighted us with:
As I scurried through the halls of Duncan Hall at Howard Community College, on my way to Introduction to Creative Writing, I ignored the framed student poetry scattered throughout its walls, all the way up to class. After all, how good could a student’s poem be, especially to someone like me who didn’t even like poetry?
In class, I was already envisioning my name sprawled across a half dozen book covers in large font as my professor, Ryna May, informed the class that we would all be required to submit a piece of our writing to the school’s literary and arts magazine, The Muse.
I loved my Creative Writing class even more than I had anticipated. Each week I put more hours of work into my short stories than I did for any of my other three classes. Combined. I dreaded, however, the two weeks Professor May had dedicated to poetry. How would I be able to get through two entire weeks without writing a single story? More importantly, how would I be able to write poetry if I couldn’t even understand it?
I don’t think I was the only person in the class with these concerns and Professor May was already on top of that. She gave us all copies of the previous edition of The Muse and asked us to find a poem that we liked. I read through all of them and was shocked by how much I actually liked some of them. I realized it wasn’t that couldn’t understand poetry; I just hadn’t come into contact with it at any point during my adult life. I was blown away by the seemingly endless possibilities offered by a single page of words. I didn’t have a favorite. I had a list.
May showed us videos of current poets like Billy Collins and Taylor Mali; genius on her part. I will never be able to thank her enough for that. She sat back as we watched, casting her line out into the sea of non-poetry believers and patiently waited. She didn’t give us an opportunity to ignore poetry. She captivated us through sight, sound and pleasure as we all soaked in these universal, current poets. So this is what poetry is today, I thought. By the end of the videos, we were all swarming around the bait, snapping wildly at it. She had us hooked.
Of course, once the door to poetry is opened, there are endless other doors and hallways to get lost in. Like a mouse venturing through the walls of an old colonial house for the first time, many paths in poetry can lead to a dead end. People are easily scared off by it, but May was always there, pointing us in a promising direction.
At the end of the course, she encouraged me to submit my work to The Muse. After waiting three excruciatingly long months, I finally heard that they’d be publishing one of my short stories and one of my poems. I was ecstatic.
Professor May also invited me to read a poem at the Blackbird Poetry Festival, an event organized by both Howard Community College and HoCoPoLitSo. At the festival, I knew that a lot of students were being exposed to poetry in their adult lives for the first time, and I loved being a part of that. I was nervous, of course. Who wouldn’t be nervous doing their first poetry reading in front of their teachers, classmates, their mother, and RIVES, who was front and center, chanting my name as I walked to the podium.
Despite the fact that I was trembling with fear on the inside, I made it through the reading and was immediately praised by Tim Singleton, Board Co-Chair of HoCoPoLitSo, who announced after my performance that he liked it so much he would have liked to hear it twice. Professor May said I did great and assured me that I didn’t look nervous at all. One student told me after the event that my poem was his favorite. Rives even said that he loved my poem and I had excellent stage presence. Reading my poetry was like a rollercoaster ride. I was scared out of my mind but so high off of the adrenaline afterwards that I couldn’t wait to do it again.
Luckily I didn’t have to wait long because The Muse reading was only a couple of weeks later. That was a whole different experience of elation, as I picked up the first publication that contained my own work. I can’t express how lovely instructing the audience to turn to page 47 in their book to find MY POEM felt.
Howard Community College didn’t just introduce me to poetry. It provided me with all of the assurance and reassurance I needed as a writer. It gave me door-opening experiences that have fueled me to continue my journey as a poet. The dedicated and passionate English Literature professors gave me an outstanding jumpstart into poetry. Now when I’m strolling around in Duncan Hall and I come to a framed poem on the wall, I take a few moments to read it, and I’m always pleasantly surprised.
The Blackbird Poetry Festival Presents Poetry Seen, Celebrating Poetry and the Visual Arts — Tuesday, April 23rd
This Tuesday, the 2013 Blackbird Poetry Festival invites you to be a part of Poetry Seen, exploring the intersections of poetry and the visual arts. The day-long festival on the campus of Howard Community College features writers Rives, Rachel Eliza Griffiths, and Kendra Kopelke in readings and workshops through the afternoon, the return of the Poetry Police, as well as readings by faculty and students. The festival concludes with the evening Nightbird event where Rives and Rachel Eliza Griffiths will be joined by music group Rocket Sled in a coffeehouse-style reading (see below for details).
Rives: A performance poet, storyteller and frequent speaker at TED Talks, Rives has also appeared on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam and was the co-host of Tommy Hilfiger’s Ironic Iconic America, a Bravo TV series on pop culture.
Rachel Eliza Griffiths: a poet and photographer who was awarded the 2012 Inaugural Poetry Award by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association for her most recent poetry book, Mule & Pear. In 2011, Oprah’s O Magazine featured Griffiths as an emerging poet in its first poetry issue. Griffiths’ photographs will be on display during the Blackbird Festival.
Kendra Kopelke: widely acclaimed poet and powerful voice on the Baltimore literary scene was named 2001’s “Best Poet” by BaltimoreMagazine and is the author of many books of poetry, including Hopper’s Women (inspired by the paintings of Edward Hopper).
Rocket Sled: an alternative country-rock music duo with Ed Tetreault, the engineer for several Grammy-nominated releases, and musician and Baltimore music promoter Will Hill.
|10:00AM||Poetry Police start to patrol HCC campus looking for National Poem in Your Pocket Day violations|
|11:00–12:20PM||Rachel Eliza Griffiths meets with HCC’s student writers (closed)|
|11:00-12:20PM (Burrill Galleria)||Rives meets with students and community (open and free)|
DH-100 (Kittleman Room)
|Main Stage Reading in Duncan Hall (Kittleman Room 100): Kendra Kopelke, Rachel Eliza Griffiths, and Rives along with regional poets, HCC students, and faculty (open and free)|
DH-100 (Kittleman Room)
|Nightbird Reading with Rives and Rachel Eliza Griffiths and a performance by musical group Rocket Sled.
Tickets: $15, $10 for seniors and for students with an id. Purchase tickets online or at the door.
The Nightbird: a coffee house reading with poets Rives and Rachel Eliza Griffiths and music by country-rock music duo Rocket Sled, on Tuesday, April 23, 2013, at 7:30 p.m. in the Kittleman Room of Duncan Hall on the campus of Howard Community College. The theme of this year’s Blackbird Festival is “Poetry Seen,” exploring the intersections of poetry and the visual arts.
Audience members will be seated at tables during the Nightbird reading; coffee and tea will be served. Books will be sold, and authors will be available for signings. Tickets are general admission – cost $15 ($10 for students and seniors). Tickets will be available at the door or online at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/353577.
All events are at Howard Community College, 10901 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia, MD 21044; Parking available in Lot A & West Parking Garage.
The Blackbird Poetry Festival is sponsored by HoCoPoLitSo (Howard County Poetry & Literature Society) in partnership with the Howard Community College Division of English and World Languages and the Office of Student Life. Proceeds from the Nightbird reading benefit HoCoPoLitSo’s live literary programs.
Poet, publisher, and HoCoPoLitSo board member Truth Thomas takes a look at the year ahead for the organization and sees the promise of fertile ground.
Fertile ground is a wondrous thing. That is one of the first lessons I remember learning as a child growing up in Knoxville, Tennessee, along with the fact that my late grandmother could cook anything and make it taste good. Indeed, in the right hands, even a small stretch of land can yield a multitude of edible miracles. In the context of literary activist organizations, the Howard County Poetry and Literature Society (HoCoPoLitSo) represents a similar patch of fertile ground.
The first grand HoCoPoLitSo New Year harvest is the poetry of Derrick Weston Brown, our 2012-2013 writer-in-residence. Brown holds an MFA in creative writing from American University and is brilliance personified. He is a highly published poet, Cave Canem Fellow, Tony Medina workshop alumnus, and the author of an inspiring collection of coming-of-age poems entitled Wisdom Teeth. It gives me great joy to announce that he will be visiting every high school in Howard County to captivate our young people with the sunshine of his work.
In addition to the poetry of Derrick Weston Brown, the New Year brings the literary bounty of our 35th Annual Evening of Irish Music and Poetry. This year, the award-winning, internationally acclaimed author Colum McCann will be featured. McCann has published five novels, numerous short stories and a storehouse of articles. His book, Let the Great World Spin, won the National Book Award in 2009. I have always loved Irish Evening, because by virtue of it, I have been blessed to see the profound similarities between African Americans and Irish people. Both groups of folks have come through suffering with unbent backs of beauty. The event will be held at 7:30 p.m., March 1, 2013, at the Smith Theatre, Horowitz Center for Visual and Performing Arts on the campus of Howard Community College.
The literary crop of events that will spring forth from the Howard County Poetry and Literature Society in 2013 is one of great volume, quality and diversity. On March 19, HoCoPoLitSo partners with the Howard County Library—the fairest of them all—to welcome Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Edward P. Jones into our midst.
On April 23, HoCoPoLitSo connects with HCC to host the Blackbird Poetry Festival. This year, the festival highlights the sterling poetry and photography of author Rachel Eliza Griffiths—a Cave Canem Fellow, as well as the poetry of author Kendra Kopelke, director of the MFA program at the University of Baltimore. There are many more events planned that I will refrain from mentioning, at this time, because a little suspense makes life worth living. Suffice it to say that one of those events has something to do with the Columbia Festival of the Arts in June, and that the writers invited will stir ovations in every heart. Yes, I think that is enough to say, for now.
Poet and board member
Speak Water, the latest collection of poems by Truth Thomas, is available online from Cherry Castle Publishing. A kindle e-version is available through Amazon.
HoCoPoLitSo executive director Carla Du Pree says her group “promises a night of poetry, slam and song from contemporary poets who aren’t afraid to push the boundaries of our comfort zones. Addonizio’s red dress poem, ‘What Women Want,’ has people writing about what they want in that same saucy manner of hers. Cirelli directs one of the leading youth literary organizations in the country, and Mother Ruckus … sings for women and the men who can handle them.'”
This year’s Festival features Kim Addonizio, Michael Cirelli, Naomi Ayala and Mother Ruckus. Click here to read the article in full, including insight into the poet performers, then, we’ll see you at the Festival’s Nightbird reading, 7:30 pm in the Kittleman Room – Duncan Hall 100, for a wonderful evening of poetry adventure through slam and song.