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Give the Gift of Lit: Tickets to Billy Collins and the 36th Annual Irish Evening Available.

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Another year where you have to find that certain someone something especially special?  HoCoPoLitSo is here to help.

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

MeehanDurganPoets Paula Meehan and Theo Dorgan will read from their latest works followed by a concert of traditional Irish music with Narrowbacks and step dancers from the Culkin School.

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.

Purchase IE Tickets

The Blackbird Poetry Festival’s Nightbird Reading
With Billy Collins

April 24th • Smith Theatre – HCC

billy-collins-2012-448The 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.”

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Tripping over Lucille Clifton at Howard Community College

The latest installment in our occasional series of blog posts from friends of HoCoPoLitSo. Today, we spend a few moments with Amanda Fiore, a professor/fiction writer/occasional poet, who spent a day, recently, in our midst. Here is her telling of that story:

I was sitting at my desk, scrolling through junk mail and emptying my inbox at Howard Community College, when, to my immense pleasure and surprise, I came across a mouth-dropping subject line: Michael Glaser was coming to HCC’s campus to honor the late poet, Lucille Clifton, and conduct a free poetry workshop, Telling Our Stories — Michael S.

Michael Glaser.

Michael Glaser.

Glaser Celebrates Lucille Clifton and Poetry Teaching! Unable to believe my eyes, I scanned the email and saw that it was being put on by an organization I had never even heard of before, HoCoPoLitSo, and was amazed when after looking into it I found out it was an arts council on which Lucille Clifton had served for many years, and that it was right here, in my own back yard!

Having been a former student of both Lucille and Michael at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, I knew immediately that the event HoCoPoLitSo was planning would be close to my heart. Michael Glaser was the first person to truly encourage me as a writer, and Lucille Clifton was a woman whose spirit and no-nonsense critiques had made me laugh, cry, and embrace my poetry with an honesty that had stayed with me the rest of my life. I immediately wrote to Michael, who returned my astonishment and excitement at being reunited after all these years, and started going through all my old journals until found the one I had kept twelve years ago in workshop with Lucille. I even found the very poem I once read in class, to which she had looked me in the eye and told me, with words I’ll never forget, “you’re hiding behind your words.” It was the hardest and most important thing I had ever heard about my poetry, and I ran out of that room hating her, sitting dramatically in the dark and crying over how mean she was until about three hours later, when I realized she had been right all along. I rewrote the poem. The result was, perhaps, the first honest poem I’d ever had the courage to write, and I never questioned her again.

Though I had thought about contacting her often over the years, by the time she passed I had still never had the chance to tell her how much she meant to me, and so the thought of sitting around a workshop table with Michael again and being given a forum through which to honor Lucille was just too perfect to seem real! But low and behold, a few weeks later there we were, sitting in a circle of tables in Duncan Hall on a cool Fall afternoon. We started off by remembering the lessons Lucille’s poems teach us all and thinking about how we could incorporate those into our own work.

Micheal was just as I remembered him — so much heart and creative energy we couldn’t help but be inspired. We read and talked and each composed a poem of our own, every one written with words that either calmed or stung the air.

Amanda Fiore reads her workshop poem at the evening event.

Amanda Fiore reads her workshop poem.

Later that evening, some of us went to the reading to celebrate Lucille and were graced by a beautiful evening of poems, stories, and heartfelt emotion. By the end I not only had the opportunity to read what I had composed that day in the light of Lucille’s memory, but to meet her daughter, buy a book, and discover a group of like-minded people through HoCoPoLitSo whose energy and love for the arts mirrored my own. Afterwards, I was stunned at how satisfying and invigorating it was, with just one question repeating in my mind: how did I not know about this organization before, and why wasn’t I more involved?

One thing I know is that I will come to each of these annual Lucille events in the future, and that I will be attending many other HoCoPoLitSo events as well . . . as many as they can put on! But most of all, I am so thankful to Lucille who, even after she has passed, is still managing to connect me to poems. Thank you Lucille, I owe you so much.

Amanda Fiore

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Poetry, A Community College Student’s Perspective by Katy Day

We asked Howard Community College student Katy Day for her perspective of poetry on campus. Take a look at what she delighted us with:
KatyDayBillyCollins

HCC student, aspiring writer and newborn poetry fanatic Katy Day meets Billy Collins at the The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC.

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.

Katy Day
HCC Student

Banned Book Profile: Naked Lunch

Would you have published this banned book?

Book:  Naked Lunch

Author:  William S. Burroughs

Controversy:   First published in 1959 by Olympia Press in France, Naked Lunch (initially misprinted as The Naked Lunch) was banned in the United States because of obscenity laws.  The book’s subject matter deals with drug use, sexually explicit acts and obscene language.

Challenge:  In 1962, Grove Press published the unedited American edition of The Naked Lunch, that is, as it was originally written for publication.  It was banned in both Boston and Los Angeles, and European publishers were harrassed for printing and distributing the book.  However, in 1966 the Massasschuetts Supreme Judicial Court reversed the decision finding that it did not violate obscenity laws.  The book was deemed to have social value.

Impact:  While his book dealt with “risque” subjects under the McCarthy Era, Burrough’s book also tackled the problems of drug addiction and protesting the death penalty.  The book ‘s overall theme deals with failings of society through the exploration of the main characters encounters with the books more risque subject matter.

Burrough’s Naked Lunch was said to have influenced Thomas Pynchon, J. G. Ballard, and William Gibson.

It is included on Time magazine’s “100 Best English-language Novels from 1923-2005”.

Join HoCoPoLitSo and Howard Community College in their celebration of Banned Book Week at “Freedom to Read: The Historic Role of Grove Press in the Publication of Banned Books,” with Jeannette Seaver and Michael Dirda, Tuesday, October 2, 2-3:20 PM in Monteabaro Recital Hall in the Horowitz Visual and Performing Arts Center at Howard Community College. The event is free and open to the public.

HoCoPoLitSo, HCC Celebrate Banned Books Week – 9/30-10/6

Co-chair of the HoCoPoLitSo board and Division Chair of English/World Languages at Howard Community College, Dr. Tara Hart previews a few upcoming Banned Book Week events in Howard County:

My New Jersey high school reading list made sure I met and never forgot Ray Bradbury’s perverse firemen, called to burn wherever books were found. Pop culture let rebellious ‘80s teens share Kevin Bacon’s Footloose character’s horror at finding that his new hometown is a place that incinerates piles of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five in front of the public library. Much more recently, Terry Jones’s treatment of the Koran lit a global flame that continues to profane what many hold sacred. Also, “Hundreds of books [including, ironically, Fahrenheit 451] have been either removed or challenged in schools and libraries in the United States every year. According to the American Library Association (ALA), there were at least 326 in 2011.  ALA estimates that 70 to 80 percent are never reported,” (www.bannedbooksweek.org). We may not understand, or feel we understand all too well, what drives those who burn or strive to hide books, but the good news is that the drive to protest such destruction and suppression is loud and sustained.

The Howard County Poetry and Literature Society (HoCoPoLitSo) celebrates National Banned Books Week (September 30 – October 6, 2012) and our freedom to read by partnering with Howard Community College to present an important conversation between Jeannette Seaver, widow of publishing giant Richard Seaver, and Michael Dirda, Pulitzer-Prize-winning critic for the Washington Post, about the historic role of Grove Press in the publication of banned books through discussion of Richard Seaver’s extraordinary memoir, entitled The Tender Hour of Twilight: Paris in the 50s, New York in the 60s: A Memoir of Publishing’s Golden Age (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012).

“Dick” Seaver had a unique gift for recognizing, appreciating, and advocating for the translation and publication of previously unknown authors, especially Samuel Beckett, and was a unique presence in the publishing age that ultimately delivered to American readers, triumphing through much literal trial and other’s error, essential titles that continue to be challenged by contemporary citizens, including Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Naked Lunch, The Story of O, The Tropic of Cancer, Last Exit to Brooklyn, and The Autobiography of Malcolm X.  The memoir resonates, in spite of his modesty, with a spirit of highly intelligent discernment and sense of vocation that played an enormous role in revolutionizing the American literary landscape, leading it from priggishness to possibility.

Michael Dirda is a well-versed expert on such landscapes and an ideal conversational host for Ms. Seaver, who is fascinating in her own right as an accomplished musician and later publisher who shared her husband’s intellectual and professional life and has her own opinions of and experiences with many of the literati mentioned in the book. It promises to be an engrossing, important, provocative, and academically enriching event, so come join today’s literati at “Freedom to Read: The Historic Role of Grove Press in the Publication of Banned Books,” with Jeannette Seaver and Michael Dirda, Tuesday, October 2, 2-3:20 PM in Monteabaro Recital Hall in the Horowitz Visual and Performing Arts Center at Howard Community College. The event is free and open to the public. Also check out HCC’s “parade” of banned books and the media clip festival that week.

Dr. Tara Hart
Board co-chair, HoCoPoLitSo

For more information, see

For event details, visit

Clear the Calendar: Blackbird Poetry Festival, April 26th – Addonizio, Cirelli, Ayala, Mother Ruckus

Mark your calendars, it’s time for the Blackbird Poetry Festival: April 26, 2012!

Howard Community College and HoCoPoLitSo are proud to present “Poetry In Harmony,” the 4th annual Blackbird Poetry Festival. This year’s festival, mainly on location at the College will feature Michael Cirelli, Kim Addonizio, Naomi Ayala and Mother Ruckus. There will be readings (including by faculty and students), workshops, performances and the ‘Poetry Police” who cite students caught without poetry on hand for National Poem in Your Pocket Day.

The day’s events are mostly free and open to the public, others for students only. The evening will feature a “Poetry in Harmony” Coffee House reading with Michael Cirelli, Kim Addonizio and a performance by musical group Mother Ruckus; tickets for this performance will be $15 general admission, $10 for seniors and students with id (now available for purchase online, click here).

Festival schedule:

  • 9:30 – 10:30 Naomi Ayala speaks at Howard County School System (HCPSS) Professional Development Day Session I
  • 10:40 – 11:40 Naomi Ayala speaks at HCPSS Prof. Dev. Day Session II
  • 10:00  Poetry Police start to patrol HCC at campus looking for National Poem in Your Pocket Day violations
  • 11:00 – 12:20 Kim Addonizio meets with HCC’s Creative Writing Class (closed)
  • 11:00 – 12:20 Michael Cirelli meets with students and community (open and free)
  • 2:30 – 4:30    Readings by: Naomi Ayala, Michael Cirelli, Kim Addonizio and regional poets, HCC students and faculty (open and free)
  • 7:00 Doors open for “Poetry in Harmony,” a coffeehouse-styled reading
  • 7:30 – 9:30 Readings by Michael Cirelli and Kim Addonizio, and a performance by musical group Mother Ruckus, which includes performance poet Gayle Danley and songstress Sahffi. ($15, $10 for seniors and for students with an id)

Performer bios:

Clockwise form top left: Kim Addonizio, Mother Ruckus, Naomi Ayala, Michael Cirelli.

Michael Cirelli has been a National Poetry Slam individual finalist, winning the finals in both San Francisco and Berkeley. Cirelli has performed all over the country while teaching writing workshops to teenagers up and down the West coast. While in L.A., he was the director of PEN Center West’s, Poet In the Classroom program. He is currently the Director of Urban Word NYC. He is also the director of the Annual Spoken Word & Hip-Hop Teacher & Community Leader Training Institute at the University of Wisconsin that won the 2007 North American Association of Summer Sessions “Creative and Innovative Program Award.” His collection of poetry, Lobster with Ol’ Dirty Bastard was a New York Times Book Review independent press best seller. Vacations on the Black Star Line is his second work.  blog.grdodge.org/2010/05/21/poetry-fridays-2010-festival-poet-michael-cirelli/

Kim Addonizio has been called “one of our nation’s most provocative and edgy poets.” Her latest books are Lucifer at the Starlite, recently a finalist for the Poets Prize and the Northern CA Book Award; and Ordinary Genius: A Guide for the Poet Within.  Kalima Press recently published her Selected Poems in Arabic. Addonizio’s many honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, two NEA Fellowships, and Pushcart Prizes for both poetry and the essay. Her collection Tell Me was a National Book Award Finalist. Other books include two novels, Little Beauties and My Dreams Out in the Street. Addonizio offers private workshops in Oakland, CA, and online, and often incorporates her love of blues harmonica into her readings.www.kimaddonizio.com

Naomi Ayala makes her residence in Washington, DC where, until recently, she served as the coordinator for curriculum and instruction at the National Council of La Raza’s Center for Community Educational Excellence, and the Program Director for Celebra la Ciencia: The Hispanic Community Science Festivals Project of the Self Reliance Foundation and the Hispanic Radio Network.   As a freelance writer and consultant, Ms. Ayala currently helps develop, edit and promote curricula and other educational materials – in both her native Spanish as well as English – for innovative education programs and national organizations.  She runs professional development workshops for teachers, conducts specialized residencies in public and private schools (K-12), while presenting her poetry to diverse audiences around the U.S.  She is a member of the Board of Directors of Teaching for Change.  Ms. Ayala is the author of two books of poetry, Wild Animals on the Moon, selected by the New York City Public Library as one of 1999’s Books for the Teen Age, and This Side of Early. Her poetry has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies around the U.S. and beyond.

Mother Ruckus  Sahffi and Gayle Danley: featuring a combination of slam and song. Mother Ruckus has performed at the International Festival in Baltimore and the Teavolve Café. To get a sense of their sound, check out: www.sahffi.com. Sahffi is part of a group called t3n (pronounced ten) www.t3n.us/p/music.html

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