Tag Archives: poetry

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.

My Q&A with Poet Marilyn McCabe

3 Jul

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I had the great honor of interviewing poet Marilyn McCabe, who will be teaching a writing workshop this September at the Hobart Festival of Women Writers. We talked about MFAs, her video-poems, and the Adirondacks.

Marilyn McCabe is a poet with a penchant for video-poems, an essayist, a fiction writer, and a singer of jazz and classical music. A Room of Her Own Foundation awarded her poem On Hearing the Call to Prayer Over the Marcellus Shale on Easter Morning the Orlando Prize in the autumn of 2012, and Los Angeles Review published it. Judge Gray Jacobik selected her poetry book Perpetual Motion for publication for the Hilary Tham Capital Collection by The Word Works in 2012. The same publisher went on to publish her second full-length collection of poems, Glass Factory, in 2016. She blogs at https://marilynonaroll.wordpress.com.

Check out the interview here.

Read more of my interviews with guest authors at Hobart Festival of Women Writers here.

Register for the Festival here, and don’t forget to sign up for my writing workshop Wild Women on the Road!

What are your thoughts on MFAs? Are they great for connecting with authors, mentors, and agents … or not worth the hefty price tag?

Here are a few of my posts on MFAs:::

 

 

The Mad Are Holy: Mental Health in Ginsberg’s “Howl”

26 Jun

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So excited to share with you that Geez published my essay “The Mad Are Holy” in their current issue about the poetics of resistance. I explore how Allen Ginsberg’s seminal poem “Howl” was met with legal resistance because of its language and sexual content, but how the poem was a call to embrace the people society had determined were “mad.”

Special thanks to my editor Aiden Enns and the entire team at Geez for putting together this great issue focused on the Poetics of Resistance. You can purchase the magazine here.

Recap: RA Araya’s Music Jam at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe

12 Mar

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Stephanie Nikolopoulos reading at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, accompanied by flash-back-puppy and Elinor Speirs. Photo by David Lee.

 

On February 16, 2019, RA Araya’s Music Jam rocked the Nuyorican Poets Cafe (236 E 3rd Street, NYC).

The initial advertised lineup included Good Leaf, acoustic “Piedmont style” guitar picking vocals original compositions; Chris Barrera, guitar vocals original compositions; Cherylina, harmonium vocals yoga chanting; Professor Nancy Mercado, poetry; Alvaro Kitsa-to Andrade reads John Trudell’s poetry; Jeff Wright, poetry guitar vocals; FOAMOLA!! Sparrow, Violet Snow, Sylvia Mae Gorelick, Lawrence Fishberg, Gabriel Quigley; Michael Robinson, vocals guitar; Willie Martinez, drums and timbales, vocals; Gabriel Castellar, lead guitar; Angelo Segarra and his salsa merengue cumbia band, congas timbales piano sax bongos vocals; Antoine Alvear, piano; Joi Sanchez, poetry vocals; Paul Skiff, poetry drumming; Lorena Mnemosyne Cabrera, belly-dance; Alexie F., comedy; Ronnie Norpel, novelist actress comediane, Tract 187: Culture-Clatch hostess; Sasha Smith, poetry; Ahda Hann, performance art; Stephanie Nikolopoulos, poetry; Rachel Printy, poetry; Sebastian Gil, trumpet; Lydia Cortés, poetry; James Peach, free-style hip-hop; RÁ Araya, poetry vocals congas tabla harmonica….; Lighting Design by Julia McCabe; Photography, documenting this event by Katie Grammes.

Some weren’t able to make it, but there were a few surprise guests, including Bowery Poetry Club founder Bob Holman, and the open mic readers.

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Poet Jeffrey Cyphers Wright

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Poet Bob Holman

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writer Rae Printy

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poet Ahda Hann

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Paul Skiff read his ode to Loisaida (the Lower East Side of Manhattan, as Puerto Ricans renamed neighborhood after our friend poet and educator Bimbo Rivas wrote his poem “Loisaida” in the 1970’s. Avenue C in Manhattan was renamed Loisaida Street after Bimbo Rivas passing. It was a very deep emotional moment to all of us that know and knew all the Nuyorican and bohemian poets Paul Skiff mentioned, deep history.” ~RA Araya

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Ronnie Norpel, author of Baseball Karma and the Constitution Blues

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It was a sold-out show, full of energy!

It was such an honor to read my poetry with these legends! RA has been a huge supporter of my writing over the years, and I’m so thankful for all the opportunities he’s given me. As I always say, he is my Allen Ginsberg.

A heartfelt thanks for  Elinor Speirs for playing classical jazz violin while I read my poetry. She will be the musical guest for this upcoming jazz-poetry event I’m producing.

Special thanks to artist David Lee for capturing photographs of me reading at the Nuyorican and to writer Rae Printy for video some of you might’ve seen on social media.

Also thanks to all the friends who supported the event, including author Norma Jaeger Hopcraft.

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Photo by David Lee.

 

 

Find about my other upcoming events, in the Appearances section.

If you’re interested in booking me for a reading, book club, or writing workshop, you can contact me at snikolop {@} alumna.scrippscollege.edu.

“Tomorrow Jams More” Nuyorican Recap

3 Apr

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When RA Araya puts on an event, you want to be there. He’s the glue. He’s the person pulling creative types from various artistic backgrounds and bringing them together for events that are so full of joyous community spirit and memorable work. The result is that he creates once-in-a-lifetime events — no two are the same! — that leave you energized and inspired. You’ll also probably leave with a new friend or two.

I call RA my Allen Ginsberg. Like the Beat poet, RA is a poet who works tirelessly on behalf of other poets and writers. He gave me my first ever reading for Burning Furiously Beautifuland I owe much of the opportunities I’ve had to read in New York City to him.

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This past Saturday, RA organized fbp’s “Tomorrow Jams More” plus open mic and Katie Henry Band at the world-famous Nuyorican Poets Cafe.

flash-back-puppy (fbp) and the Katie Henry Band rocked the room. It was a total jam session. The two bands merged and morphed and picked up new musicians along the way and exchanged instruments at various points:::

Chris Barrera was on vocals and guitar; RA Araya on harmonica; Ciro Visconti II on lead guitar; Jonathan Toscano bass; Misia Vessio on drums and vocals; Rick Villa on timbales, congas, and bongos; Jonathan Fritz on guitar; Katie Henry on piano, guitar, and vocals; Antar Goodwin on bass; Adrian Norpel on guitar; Pablo O’Connell of the DSA on oboe. They created something beautiful separately and together.

 

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As the band jammed, readers took to the mic.

I was the first reader up! RA had specially requested that I read Homer in his original Ancient Greek (well, technically, Homeric Greek), so I read the opening of The Odyssey. Moving from the ancient Greek bard to another intrepid traveling poet, I then read from the Kerouac biography I coauthored with Paul Maher Jr. I closed my set with the debut of a poem I recently wrote having to do with the Syrian refugee crisis.

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photo of me by Sue J. Chang

Ronnie Norpel read a riveting section from her novel Baseball Karma & the Constitution Blues! I don’t want to spoil it but buy her book! Later, she came back and did some comedy. Ronnie is also the host of one of my favorite reading series: Tract 187 Culture Clatch. Held at The West End, the reading series often has a theme. I read a while back at the We’re All Kerouacky reading she organized. This month it’s baseball. Ronnie is amazing. She is a genuine soul who makes you feel instantly connected and included. My hope is that she writes a memoir next!

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Lama John Heaviside performed poetry. This was the first time I’d heard his poetry, and now I’m eager to hear more! His poetry had grit and power. He knew how to work the audience.

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Beatrice Pelliccia performed in Italian and English. Half the time I didn’t know what she was saying (the Italian half, of course!), and yet I was still so absorbed in her performance. She brings a real passion to her work.

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There were also several poets not on the program who ventured to the open mic. I loved, loved, loved listening to them read.

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The Katie Henry Band was phenomenal. Katie Henry’s vocals are powerful, taking you on a journey as you listen. You can listen to her here. Hailing from Vernon, New Jersey, Katie “discovered” Eric Clapton when she was six years old. Today, she is a regular on the tour circuit on the East Coast.

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Thanks to all who read, performed, cheered, and chatted!

 

Celebrate National Haiku Writing Month with Kerouac

27 Feb

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Most writers know about NaNoWriMo–National Novel Writing Month in November. But did you know that February is National Haiku Writing Month?

To celebrate NaHaikWriMo, I’ve been reading haikus by Jack Kerouac and writing a few of my own.

Interestingly, Jack Kerouac’s Book of Haikus was published in Persian before On the Road was translated.

Here are a few articles from around the blog on Kerouac and haiku:

 

My Literary Highlights of 2015

31 Jan

Even more than art, literature is fundamental to my life. Reading was so important to my development as a child and continues to expand my horizons to this day. I earn my living as a writer and an editor, but even my social calendar revolves around literary events. Literature is very much a part of my identity, and I make a priority for it in my life.

 

BurroughsAnne Waldman, Penny Arcade, Jan Herman, Steve Dalachinsky, and Aimee Herman read at Burroughs 101, hosted by Three Rooms Press, at Cornelia Street Cafe. (Anne Waldman pictured)

HettiePam Belluck, Hettie Jones, Margot Olavarria, Marci Blackman, and Beth Lisick read at Women on Top, hosted by Three Rooms Press, at Cornelia Street Cafe. (Hettie Jones pictured)

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Big Sur (an adaptation of Kerouac’s novel) on Netflix

brunchEpic four-hour brunch at The District with two writer friends, talking about “ethnic” literature, faith, and relationships.

SunsetAfter Sunset: Poetry Walk on the High Line.

Budapest1My friends surprising me by taking me to a book-themed restaurant on my first night in Budapest.

BookCafeBrunch with friends at the most exquisite bookstore, Book Cafe & Alexandra Bookstore, in Budapest.

ElenaReading Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend, a recommendation from my friend Jane.

BEABook Expo America.

AmramDavid Amram telling stories about Jack Kerouac and other literary figures and amazing us with his music at Cornelia Street Cafe.

MisakoBrunch with my friend Misako Oba, whose new book of photography and memoir, which I helped edit, was published.

DurdenDrinks with one of my favorite people at Durden, a bar based on author Chuck Palahniuk’s novel-turned-movie Fight Club.

PoetryNew York City Poetry Festival with my writing group partner.

OdysseyWatched Homer’s The Odyssey performed, put on by the Public Theater, in Central Park.

Reading from Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” (coauthored with Paul Maher Jr.) at WORD Bookstore in Jersey City.

HobartTeaching a writing class at the Hobart Festival of Women Writers.

WritersThe Redeemed Writer: The Call and the Practice, a conference I co-led in organizing through the Center for Faith & Work. (Pastor David Sung pictured)

BrooklynBrooklyn Book Festival.

ReggioBrunch at Caffe Reggio, where Jack Kerouac and friends used to hang out.

BindersFullOfWomenSpeaking on the panel Lessons Learned: Published Authors Share Hard-Earned Insights with Nana Brew-Hammond, Kerika Fields, Melissa Walker, Ruiyan Xu, and Jakki Kerubo at BinderCon.

LibraryMeeting regularly with one of my best friends to read and write together at the New York Public Library.

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Checking out the Ernest Hemingway: Between Two Wars exhibit at the Morgan Library & Museum with a friend who is a huge Hemingway fan.

OTRSpotting a first edition copy of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road at the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin.

Light

Reading Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See.

Like literature?

Burning Furiously Beautiful on sale at Barnes & Noble.

Burning Furiously Beautiful on sale at Amazon.

My Pinterest posts called Lit Life.

I’m on Twitter.

 

 

 

 

Road Trip: Under the Balls in Washington, DC

28 Sep
I road tripped out to DC for the weekend recently to see one of my dear friends from Scripps. She and her husband are both museum people so I always get to soak in a museum with them and learn fascinating history. It was fantastic seeing the greater DC area through their eyes, as most of my previous trips have been boringly touristy. I never realized how much I liked DC til this trip!
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 Crème Brule donuts @ Astro 
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 The Beach exhibit @ the National Building Museum
 
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Veggie tacos @ District Taco
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Like the Beat Generation reader I am, I spotted Amiri Baraka’s book in the window @ Busboys and Poets (named after Langston Hughes!)
 
My friends were the perfect hosts! We talked about our mutual love of Dateline, accosted people with adorable dogs, and confided in one another about working in the arts.  
 
I can’t wait to go back to visit them.

Poet Esther Cohen on Collaboration

19 Aug

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I had the opportunity to interview poet Esther Cohen for the Festival of Women Writers. She is an amazing talent, and I learn so much just from listening to the types of questions she asks. As someone who has studied writers in collaboration, I was particularly interested to ask Esther about her collaborative projects.

Here’s a snippet from our Q&A:

Nikolopoulos: You’ve done several collaborative projects. For your book Unseen America, you gave cameras to the working class so that they could document their lives and you helped tell their stories. For Don’t Mind Me: And Other Jewish Lies, you worked New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chas. For Painting Brooklyn Stories, you contributed bio-poems to Nina Talbot’s portraits. What is it about collaboration that appeals to you? 
 
Cohen: Yes I have done many collaborative projects, all my life. I’ve written poems with visual arts like the wonderful Nina Talbot, I was lucky enough to collaborate with amazing cartoonist Roz Chast, and I’ve been doing an ongoing project for many years with my favorite photographer Matthew Septimus (our work is on the ON BEING blog on the NPR site at http://bit.ly/1Mb5MZa.) Other people often bring our own work Somewhere Else. Matthew’s pictures, for instance, take my words into another place, a place they want to go.

You can read the rest of the Festival of Women Writers blog.

And just in case you missed it, here’s the interview novelist and Festival co-founder Breena Clarke did with me.