Archive | August, 2019

My Q&A with Yolanda Wisher

22 Aug

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Former poet laureate of Philadelphia, Yolanda Wisher not only writes her own powerful poetry that feeds souls but she also works to build platforms for other writers. She educates, and she entertains. She provokes, and she nurtures. For a decade, she has taught English to high school students, inspiring them to reflect on literature and language. She served as Director of Art Education for Philadelphia Mural Arts, founded and directed the Germantown Poetry Festival and Outbound Poetry Festival, and has led workshops and curated events in partnership with the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Free Library of Philadelphia, and the U.S. Department of Arts & Culture. Now, Wisher’s labor of love is as Curator of Spoken Word at Philadelphia Contemporary. Also, she’s one of the first groups of artists with studios at the Cherry Street Pier on the Delaware River Waterfront.

She’s pretty incredible. And, I got to interview her! We chatted about how themes emerged in her writing, bringing poetry to the masses, and her tips for completing projects when one is busy and has LOTS of ideas. You can read her responses here.

Yolanda Wisher will be joining us at this year’s Hobart Festival of Women Writers, taking place September 6-8. She’ll be teaching RAG & RIFF: The Poetics of the Quilt. Here’s a description:

The Gee’s Bend quilts are the work of several generations of Black women quilters in the rural town of Gee’s Bend, Alabama.

Their work has been shared in museum exhibitions across the country to much acclaim. The quilts, which initially served as functional objects and heirlooms, have been heralded as modern and postmodern art, gospel, and jazz.

They were born out of slavery and sharecropping, the landscape of the South, and the personal stories of the women and men whose lives are sewn into them. Like poems, the Gee’s Bend quilts play with forms—some borrowed and reimagined, some invented and organic.

What can the poet learn from the history, the matriarchal vernacular and the abstract architecture of Gee’s Bend quilts? For starters: the revelatory properties of color, the turn and bend of a line, its asymmetrical rhythms, and the individual voice that must come through the assemblage of fabric.

As Gee’s Bend quilter Mensie Lee Pettway said, “Ought not two quilts ever be the same.” In this workshop, we will riff off the history, craft, and colors of Gee’s Bend quilts as we consider our own inherited folk forms. We will use the quilters’ techniques to create our own layered and vibrant poems.

 

You can register for Yolanda’s writing workshop and mine, Wild Women on the Road,  here.

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My Q&A with Diane Gilliam

21 Aug

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Poet Diane Gilliam was born into a family that was part of the postwar Appalachian outmigration, and the region’s people populate her poetry collections One of Everything (2003), Kettle Bottom (2004), and Dreadful Wind and Rain (2017). Among her many awards and honors are the Ohio Arts Council Individual Artist’s Fellowship (2003), the Perugia Press Prize (2004), the Ohioana Poetry Book Award (2005), the Thomas and Lillie D. Chaffin Award for Appalachian Writing (2008), and the Gift of Freedom Award from A Room of Her Own Foundation (2013).

This year, she’ll be joining us for the first time at the Hobart Festival of Women Writers. I asked her about why she chose a generational approach in her first book of poetry, how poetry shapes and expands community — which she answered with a story! — and how the Gift of Freedom Award from A Room of Her Own Foundation has furthered her career. You can read her answers here.

At the Hobart Festival of Women Writers she’ll be teaching LEAPING Poetry. Here’s a bit about it:

We will be talking about energy and LEAPING in poems we admire and in poems of our own.

Some of our questions will be:  Where does vision come from?  What are some sources of energy in poems?  What can we say about the nature of a leap?  How do vision, energy and leaping manifest on the page?  What textual strategies conjure them?

I’ll provide a handout of LEAPING poems and prompts for new poems as well as for revision.  Participants are invited to bring a LEAPING poem of their own or someone else’s, and one of their own that’s in need of some LEAPING energy.

You can register for the workshop here. This year’s Hobart Festival of Women Writers will take place September 6-8. Join us in the beautiful Catskills for this writing retreat!

I’ll be teaching the writing workshop Wild Women on the Road, which you can register for here.

I’m September’s Featured Reader at the Forest Hills Library

15 Aug

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I will be the featured reader at the Open Mic and Reading Series at the Forest Hills Library in Queens (108-19 71 Avenue, Queens, NYC) on September 26, 2019, at 6:30pm.

Here’s a bit about the series:

Open Mic is for all performers of any genre to take the mic for four minutes. Spectators are also welcome. Featured readers are as follows: September: Stephanie Nikolopoulos, October: Lancelot Schaubert, November: Julia Knobloch

I am thrilled! I love, love, love libraries. I spent a big part of my childhood at the Closter Public Library, where every summer I joyously, vigorously participated in the library’s reading challenge. My family also spent a lots of Sundays at the Englewood Public Library. After I left New Jersey, I chose my first apartment in New York based partly on the fact that it was on the same block at one of the branches of the New York Public Library.

Libraries have exposed me to books I would’ve never discovered otherwise. They’ve afforded me opportunities to read more books than I could afford to buy. They’ve been a fundamental source of research for the books I’ve written and the ones I’m writing. They’ve also been a quiet place to write. A place of comfort. A place of inspiration.

I had the opportunity to attend the Open Mic and Reading Series at the Forest Hills branch of the Queens Public Library a few months ago when fellow New School MFA alum Gabriel Don was the guest reader. I’m so honored that meditative poet-librarian and talk show host Vijay R. Nathan has invited me to read.

Hope to see you there!

In the comments, let me know your favorite thing about libraries.

 

My Q&A with Nancy Agabian

14 Aug

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Nancy Agabian is a writer, teacher, and literary organizer working in the spaces between race, ethnicity, cultural identity, feminism and queer identity. She was honored as a finalist for the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially-Engaged Fiction for her recently completed novel The Fear of Large and Small Nation, which is based on her experiences as a Fulbright scholar in Armenia. In 2012 she was awarded for excellence in teaching at Queens College, where she taught as an adjunct for a decade. She currently is teaching in the Writing Program at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University. And get this — this year she’ll be joining us at the Hobart Festival of Women Writers to teach the workshop WRITING LYRICS: Image, Emotion, and Justice! Here’s a little about her workshop:

Though we use the word lyric to describe a line of text in song, rap, or poetry, the word, according to the dictionary, refers to “expressing the writer’s emotions, usually briefly”.

In this generative all-genre workshop, we will write about the emotions that arise from experiencing and witnessing racism, in and outside of ourselves, on the street, in our workplaces and schools, on TV and online.

Looking to the work of Langston Hughes, Audre Lorde and Claudia Rankine, we will do a few writing exercises to explore the use of image, metaphor, and point of view as ways to translate the emotions of our experiences into expressions of justice.

(This 2-hour workshop was featured at the Queens Public Library, sponsored by St. John’s University and The Newtown Literary Journal).

You can register for the workshop here. This year’s Hobart Festival of Women Writers will take place September 6-8.

I had the opportunity to interview Nancy for the Festival blog. We chatted about women as keepers of family history, her writing process, and how performance art has influenced her writing. You can read my interview with Nancy Agabian here.

I’ll be teaching the writing workshop Wild Women on the Road, which you can register for here.