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Upcoming Events

2019/2020  Season

CANCELLED – 12th Annual Blackbird Poetry Festival with Jeffrey Brown

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.

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.

Wilde Readings

Wilde Readings, sponsored in part by HoCoPoLitSo, is a free monthly literary reading series that provides local writers — poets, fiction, non-fiction — a chance to share their work with the community. The format showcases featured authors, as well as an open mic for interested audience members.

Wilde Readings are held the second Tuesdays of each month from September through early summer at the Columbia Association Art Center in the village of Long Reach. Readings start at 7 p.m.

“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.”

Scheduled featured readers:

September 10 – Bro. Yao Glover and Venus Thrash and you.

Hosted by Linda Joy Burke.

Bro. Yao (Hoke S. Glover III) is a poet and non-fiction writer living in Lanham, MD. His work has been published in Crab Orchard Review, African-American Review, Ploughshares, Beltway Quarterly, and other journals. He teaches at Bowie State University in the Department of Language, Literature, and Cultural Studies.

Venus Thrash is the author of The Fateful Apple, which was nominated for the 2015 PEN Open Book Award. Her poetry has been published in literary journals and anthologies. She has read at the Bryant Park Reading Room, the Black Poetry Series at UNC and the New School. She’s an alumna of The Vermont Studio Center, a Cave Canem graduate fellow and a Summer Literary Seminar in Kenya and Fire and Ink scholar. She’s co-editor of Beltway Poetry Quarterly and is on the English faculty at Trinity Washington University.

October 15 – Cija Jefferson and Joelle Biele.

Hosted by Faye McCray

Cija (pronounced Kia) Jefferson is the author of Sonic Memories, and host of Writers & Words, a Baltimore reading series. Her work has been featured in multiple publications including Linden Avenue Literary Journal, Baltimore Style, Yellow Arrow Journal, The Conversation w/ Amanda de Cadenet, and HelloGiggles. She earned her M.F.A. in Creative Writing & Publishing Arts from University of Baltimore, and B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College. Find her on IG & Twitter @cijasquips

Joelle Biele is the author of Tramp, Broom, and White Summer and the editor of Elizabeth Bishop and The New Yorker: The Complete Correspondence. A Fulbright professor in Germany and Poland, she has taught creative writing and American literature at Goucher College, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Maryland. She lives in Ellicott City.

November 12 Abdul Ali and Ned Tillman

Abdul Ali

Abdul Ali is a poet, educator, and literary activist. Ali has taught at Howard, Johns Hopkins, and Towson Universities, and his writing has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Plume, Gathering of Tribes, and the Poetry Foundation database. Born and raised in New York City, Ali is currently writing new work and focusing on literary preservation through humanities programming in Baltimore, MD. Trouble Sleeping, his debut collection of poems, received glowing reviews in Publisher’s Weekly and the Library Journal.


Ned Tillman is an award-winning author and earth scientist. He has spent his career cleaning up the environment and more recently fighting climate change. He has served as the chairman for the Howard County Sustainability Board, the Howard County Conservancy, and also serves on the Horizon Foundation Board, and the Maryland Academy of sciences.

December 10  Jona Colson and Danuta E. Kosk-Kosicka.

Hosted by Laura Shovan.

Jona Colson’s first poetry collection, Said Through Glass, won the Jean Feldman Poetry Prize from the Washington Writers’ Publishing House. His poems have appeared in Ploughshares, The Southern Review, The Massachusetts Review and elsewhere. His translations and interviews can be found in Prairie Schooner, Tupelo Quarterly, and The Writer’s Chronicle. He is an associate professor of ESL at Montgomery College in Maryland and lives in Washington, DC.

Danuta E. Kosk-Kosicka is a prize-winning poet, translator, and photographer. She is the author of two books: Oblige the Light from CityLit Press; Face Half-Illuminated, Apprentice House. Translator and editor for four books by Lidia Kosk, including Meadows of Memory, coming out in October. Her translations of poems by Lucille Clifton, Josephine Jacobsen, and Linda Pastan have appeared in Poland. Published in Notre Dame Review, Spillway, Subtropics, and elsewhere. She is co-editor of Loch Raven Review. More at: danutakk.wordpress.com.

January 14 – Melanie Hatter & Sherri Cook Woosley Hosted by Faye McCray.

Melanie S. Hatter is an award-winning author of two novels and one short story collection. Selected by Edwidge Danticat, Malawi’s Sisters won the inaugural Kimbilio National Fiction Prize, published by Four Way Books in 2019. The Color of My Soul won the 2011 Washington Writers’ Publishing House Fiction Prize, and Let No One Weep for Me, Stories of Love and Loss was released in 2015.

Sherri Cook Woosley has a M.A. in Language and Literature with a focus on comparative mythology from the University of Maryland. Her short fiction has been published in Pantheon Magazine, Abyss & Apex Magazine, and Flash Fiction Magazine. Walking Through Fire is her debut novel and combines her experience of being a parent of a child with cancer with Sumerian mythology. It has been longlisted for both the Booknest Debut Novel award and Baltimore’s Best 2019 in the novel category. Sherri lives, writes, and teaches yoga in Harford County, MD.

February 11 – Pantea A. Tofangchi & Rissa Miller Hosted by Laura Shovan

Rissa Miller is a working artist living in Maryland. She is rarely found without hot green tea in her hands. She studied writing at New York University/Tisch School of the Arts and photojournalism at Western Kentucky University. In her career, she has worked for five publications, including The Baltimore Sun. Currently, Rissa is the Senior Editor at Vegetarian Journal magazine.

Pantea A. Tofangchi is an Iranian-American poet, writer and graphic designer. She is the Art Director and graphic designer for Passager and Passager Books, Advertising Media Plus and The Business Monthly. She writes poems (in English), essays, stories and plays (mostly in Persian.) Her work has been published in Welter, Little Patuxent Review, Ploughshares, Atlanta Review in which she won the International Merit Award, and other journals. She was selected as a finalist for The National Poetry Series’ 2016 and Georgia Poetry Prize 2018.

March 10 – Reuben Jackson & Edgar Silex Hosted by Linda Joy Burke

Reuben Jackson is Archivist with the University of The District Of Columbia’s Felix E. Grant Jazz Archives. From 1989 until 2009, he was Archivist and Curator with the Smithsonian Institution’s Duke Ellington Collection, and host of Vermont Public Radio’s Friday Night Jazz from 2012 until 2018. Reuben’s poetry has been published in over 40 anthologies, and in two volumes of poetry: 1991’s fingering the keys, and 2019’s collection of new and selected poems entitled Scattered Clouds.

Edgar Gabriel Silex graduated Cum Laude from the University of Maryland University College, and has an MFA in Poetry from the University of Maryland. He is the author of two poetry books, a chapbook, and short fiction and received grants from the NEA, NEH, and MSAC. He’s widely published and anthologized appearing in Rattle, Callallo, Gargoyle, Hayden’s Ferry Review, among others. Recent work is found in K’in, Chiron Review, Weatherbeaten, Gargoyle and Free State Review. He lives in Baltimore.

April 14 – Teri Cross Davis and Hayes Davis Hosted by Ann Bracken.

Teri Cross Davis is the author of Haint, (Gival Press) winner of the 2017 Ohioana Book Award for Poetry. She has received fellowships to attend Cave Canem, the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, Hedgebrook, the Community of Writers Workshop, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. She is the 2019/20 HoCoPoLitSo Writer-in-Residence and the poetry coordinator for the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Hayes Davis’ first volume, Let Our Eyes Linger, was published by Poetry Mutual Press. His work has appeared in New England Review and other journals, and many anthologies. He was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2016 and 2017, and was a member of Cave Canem’s (CAH-vay CAH-nem) first cohort of fellows. He teaches high-school English in Washington, DC, and lives in Silver Spring with his wife, poet Teri Ellen Cross Davis, and their children.

May 12 – Diane Wilbon Parks and Rus Van Westervelt. Hosted by Ann Bracken.

Diane Wilbon Parks is a poet, visual artist, and author. Diane has written a children’s book and two poetry collections; her most recent, published collection is The Wisdom of Blue Apples. She is completing her third and newest collection of poetry. Diane is one of six PG County Poets whose poetry has been highlighted throughout Maryland. She celebrated the permanent installation of one of her poems and art pieces on a sign at the Patuxent Research Refuge – North Tract. Diane has been a featured poet on Prince George’s CTV’s Awarding Winning Program, Sojourn With Words, Danny Queen’s, Pod Cast, Color Me Poetry, and at many venues throughout the DMV. Diane has read for Grace Cavalieri’s “The Poet and The Poem” at the Library of Congress; she holds a degree in Information Systems Management. She is a U. S. Air Force Veteran and resides in Maryland with her husband, daughter, son and dog, Cooper.

Rus VanWestervelt writes on the fine line between fact and fiction. He earned his MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Goucher College and has written for the Baltimore Sun, Catholic Review, and Baltimore’s Child, among others. His true passion, however, is writing novels, including his latest, Fossil Five (2019, The JAR Writers’ Collective). Rus was also the director of the 9/11 project, which culminated in the anthology, September Eleven: Maryland Voices. Follow Rus at www.thebaltimorewriter.org.

June 9 – Christine Lincoln and Kim Roberts Hosted by Linda Joy Burke

Christine Lincoln is Poet Laureate Emeritus of York, Pennsylvania. She is the author of Sap Rising, and her stories have appeared at Symphony Space and Word Theatre, performed by actors Don Cheadle, Gary Dourdan, and Lizan Mitchell. Christine has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show and has been featured as a “Phenomenal Woman” in O Magazine. Most of all, Christine is an artist activist. She resides in Ghana and uses her art to heal her community.

Kim Roberts is the author of A Literary Guide to Washington, DC: Walking in the Footsteps of American Writers from Francis Scott Key to Zora Neale Hurston (University of Virginia Press, 2018), and five books of poems, most recently The Scientific Method (WordTech Editions, 2017). She is the editor of a forthcoming anthology of early DC poets (title still to be determined, University of Virginia Press, April 2021). http://www.kimroberts.org

Already this season:

A Harlem Renaissance Speakeasy: Featuring Live Jazz and Poetry from the 1920s

October 5, 2019 – 7:30 p.m.

Rouse Company Foundation Student Services Hall
Howard Community College

Join HoCoPoLitSo as it begins its 45th season and Howard Community College’s Arts Collective begins its 25th with this unique historical exploration of the art that transformed our world!
Arts Collective and HoCoPoLitSo partner to create a transcendent evening of live jazz, poetry, and visual art from the 1920’s Harlem Renaissance.  Explore the power of words and music from artists such as Langston Hughes, Georgia Douglas Johnson, Duke Ellington and others within a speakeasy atmosphere evocative of the era. Period attire encouraged!
Experience the magical and powerful performances by local poets, musical theater performers, and a jazz quintet (“Petra Martin and The Jazz Masters”) who will perform some of the most sophisticated and inspired literary and artistic achievements of the period.
This event will also feature speakeasy inspired Hors D’ Oeuvres and desserts (by “My Sweets and More”), a Cash Bar, Signature Cocktails (“The Bees Knees” & “Sweet Lucille”) & more!
Tickets are $45.00 and include Speakeasy-inspired hors d’oeuvres, deserts. Cash bar available. (Ticket link: https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pe/10434325)

Featured artists:

Dr. Calvin Ball, Howard County Executive: Honorary Event Chair
Linda Joy Burke: Emcee & Hostess – as Georgia Douglas Johnson

Poet Portrayals include:

Petra Martin (Photo: Nichol Belvedere)

Shawn Sebastian Naar – as Langston Hughes
Chania Hudson – as Gwendolyn Bennett
Alan King – as Claude McKay
Faye McCray – as Alice Dunbar Nelson
Nana Owusu – as Countee Cullen

Jazz Quintet:

Petra Martin and The Jazz Masters
Petra Martin (Vocals)
Jon Ozment (Piano)
Wes Biles (Upright Bass)
Jeff Neal (Drums)
Vaughn Ambrose (Sax)

Musical Theatre Performers:

Valerie A. Higgs, Mayumi B. Griffie, Jamar Brown

Event Creatives:

Set and Projections Design: Emma K. McDonnell
Sound Design: Austin Sapp
Light Design: Eric Moore
Costume Stylist: Jessica Welch
Stage Crew: Keith Becraft, Daniel Johnston, Sarah Luckadoo, Jessica Welch


My Sweets and More

Between The Leaves

October 28, 2019 – 7:00 p.m. • Free

The Enchanted Garden
Miller Branch Howard County Library

In partnership with the Howard County Library System, we are celebrating the completion of the Between The Leaves Project with a poetry reading at the Miller Branch of the Howard County Library on October 28 at 7 p.m. Please join us.

The Between The Leaves Project brings poetry to the garden in the form of signs bearing excerpts from poems and novels that relate to growing food in such places. The garden, a lovely quarter-acre just outside the library branch, is maintained by volunteers, from library teens to Master Gardeners. Food grown in the garden is harvested and donated to the Howard County Food Bank.

{“type”:”block”,”srcIndex”:1,”srcClientId”:”312faad0-3150-402c-8bf0-2ac058b92074″,”srcRootClientId”:””}For this occasion, local authors, board members of HoCoPoLitSo, and staff and friends of the library will read poems that will leave us hungry for more. Hear works by Robert Frost, Lucille Clifton, Nikki Giovanni, Gary Snyder, Pablo Neruda, and other authors.

Snacks will be served and books with the poems, as well as excerpts from novels and short stories, will be available for borrowing.

Drop in to The Enchanted Garden and chew on a few tasty words with us. We’d love to see you there.

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HoCoPoLitSo’s 42nd Annual Irish Evening

Alice McDermott – O’Malley’s March – Teelin Dance Company

February 21, 2020 – 7:30 p.m.
Smith Theatre – Howard Community College

HoCoPoLitSo’s annual Irish Evening on February 21, 2020, will feature award-winning author Alice McDermott, Celtic rock band O’Malley’s March and the Teelin Dance Company. McDermott, three-time Pulitzer Prize nominee and National Book Award winner, will read, followed by a rousing concert of electric Irish folk music and championship step dancing. Click here for tickets.

“Everything that her readers, the National Book Award committee, and the Pulitzer Prize judges love about McDermott’s stories of Irish-Catholic American life is back,” a Kirkus starred review noted about her most recent novel, The Ninth Hour.

The Associated Press said “[T]he story is exhilarating, largely because of McDermott’s lyrical language and unforgettable characters . . .[T]he nuns of the Little Nursing Sisters of the Sick Poor . . are as fierce, funny, complicated and brave as any women in our fictional universe today.” The Guardian noted “McDermott’s award-winning body of work constitutes its own fictional world; she returns again and again to the Irish in the U.S., to the heartlessness and the consolations of Catholicism. … her new book unfolds without sentimentality or pity, but with a frankness of gaze that elevates her characters rather than diminishes them.”

The evening program begins at 7:30 p.m., but Irish coffee, Guinness, and other beverages and snacks will be offered for sale beginning at 7 p.m. and during intermission. Book sale and signing by the author after her reading. After intermission, O’Malley’s March, fronted by former Gov. Martin O’Malley, will play traditional Irish music and Celtic rock, with guitar, fiddle, harp, bodhran, electric bass, trombone, accordion, bagpipes and tin whistle.

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

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