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Recently, Poets & Writers awarded one poet and one fiction writer with a trip to New York to meet with editors, agents, and other literary professionals as part of the California Writers Exchange contest. The winning poet, Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo of Los Angeles, blogs about her experience from NYC. (Stay tuned for another post from winning fiction writer Laura Joyce Davis as well!)

Contest winners and Deborah Treisman.The invaluable gift this trip has given me is confidence to know that I am moving in the right direction, and that as long as I keep working on my writing, I will reach my goals. Being able to walk into the offices of The New Yorker has been a crazy experience, but it has also shown me that everyone is in this “business” because they love books, and everyone works extremely hard to put out their best work because of that love. Often this work will be thankless, but as New Yorker fiction editor Deborah Treisman told me, “Don’t be afraid to be rejected.”

Opportunities like this trip will be far and few between, but hopefully, I can remember the glow of this moment when I am back at my desk agonizing over a poem that refuses to go my way. In that moment I can remember how Alice Quinn, the Poetry Society of America’s executive director, recited poetry to me, sounds dancing on her tongue, with a giant smile, and know that there are people out there hungry and excited for poetry. The next time I cry over my computer, I can think of New Directions editor Jeffrey Yang, who told me when he wrote the last poem of his collection Aquarium, he wept as he wrote the lines, and know that I am not alone. Or when I’m struggling to have my book published, I can remember that there are Johnny Temples in the world who started Akashic Books because he liked cool books, and is always looking for something exciting.

The New Yorker is looking, Akashic is looking, A Public Space is looking, Poetry Society of America is looking. All I have to do is be fearless in putting my work out there because eventually it will link up with someone who is looking for just what I am sending. When I look at it that way, it doesn’t feel so ominous. There is a publisher, there is a magazine that is looking for me, I just have to find them. And that goes for all of us.

You may remember that in my previous blog post, I asked each guest two questions. Here are some more fun answers:

Q: As a reader, what is the first book you remember getting swept up in?

Jeffery Yang (editor, New Directions): A Tree Within by Octavio Paz.

Brigid Hughes (founding editor, A Public Space): Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder; The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath; The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway.

Brett Fletcher Lauer (poetry editor, A Public Space): Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume.

Alice Quinn (executive director, Poetry Society of America): The Children’s Hour #9 edited by Marjorie Barrows. It was devoted to poetry. I remember reading “The Barefoot Boy” and Robert Browning.

Aurora Anaya-Cerda (independent bookseller, La Casa Azul Bookstore): It has to be Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. That was THE book.

Deborah Treisman (fiction editor, The New Yorker): When I was young, Oxford Book of Poetry for Children. I called it “the purple book.” In high school, it was Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov.

Johnny Temple (independent publisher, Akashic Books): Honestly, it was probably something like a Nancy Drew book. My mom would know.

Q: Besides reading and writing, what is an activity that is important to your writing/creative work?

Jeffery Yang: My mental health [is important]. I run a lot.

Brigid Hughes: Walking.

Brett Fletcher Lauer: Watching the Kardashians.

Alice Quinn: I try to memorize a poem almost everyday while I walk the dog in the morning.

Aurora Anaya-Cerda: Performing arts, going to museums, going to the theatre. It feeds my soul.

Deborah Treisman: Staying up on current events. Knowing what’s going on.

Johnny Temple: Can I say my music? The Caribbean. Traveling to book festivals in the Caribbean. The Calabash in Jamaica (and other festivals) is my favorite thing in the world of books that isn’t writing.

Photo: From left: Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo, Deborah Treisman, Laura Joyce Davis. Credit: Jamie FitzGerald.
The California Writers Exchange contest is made possible by a generous grant from the James Irvine Foundation. For more information on the contest, visit here.

P&W-funded Regie Cabico is the coeditor, with poet and novelist Brittany Fonte, of the recently published anthology of queer poetry and spoken word, Flicker and Spark (Lowbrow Press). His own work has appeared in over thirty anthologies, including Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Café, Spoken Word Revolution, and Chorus & The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry. He received the 2006 Writers for Writers Award from Poets & Writers for his work teaching at-risk youth at Bellevue Hospital in New York. He is a former Artist in Residence at NYU's Asian Pacific American Studies Program and has served as faculty at Banff's Spoken Word Program. He resides in Washington, D.C.

For the last three years, I have been working with the D.C. Commission for the Arts on Poetry Out Loud, A National Poetry Recitation Competition. This year, I have worked primarily with McKinley Technological High School and Latin Public Charter School. My job is to help students find their unique interpretations of poetry selected by Poetry Out Loud. The competition goes from local high school, to the state level, and then to the national competition.

I am amazed by the students’ choices of poems: What lures a teen poet to John Keats or Anne Bradstreet? Students in the state and national competitions must memorize three poems and one of the poems has to be from the nineteenth century. For a long time, I resisted Poetry Out Loud as a contest that was removed from the poetry slam. I thought that the required poems were antiquated and out of touch with the students' racial and/or economic backgrounds.

For decades, I taught at-risk teens at Bellevue hospital with Tina Jacobson. I know that young people can write and perform poetry that is closer to their experience and also ends up giving voice to unrepresented and marginalized youth. I am inspired by the librarian Sarah Elwell, who is a magnet for students. Ms. Elwell tirelessly brings speakers and artists to the library to inspire them. Lisa Pegram is a teacher with whom I have worked as D.C. youth slam coach. Ms. Pegram aka Lady Pcoq is a musician, poet, and playwright who gets to engage her students in artistic explorations through the Poetry Out Loud program.

Ms. Pegram and I have students record themselves on their iPhones, create broadsides of their poems, and categorize each word of their poems by noun and verb so that they are able to understand every word they're memorizing. With Ms. Elwell, I have turned the library into a literary and performance playground. The goal is to get students to live the poem and dive into the world of the images they are reciting. I have to get them to engage in the musicality of the text and also create a story for them to fall into.

On March 5, 2013, I prepped students at McKinley High School. The Daughters of the American Revolution, the D.C. Public Library, and the Washington Teachers Union were represented as judges. Fifteen students competed, and the poems moved quickly because poems were short, unlike a slam where there is a three minute limit.

Then, it moved from fifteen to six poets. I had worked with all of the six poets but one. Students got up and forgot lines, but the student body was supportive. In the end, Tshala Pajibo, an eleventh grader, won. She was not the most polished performer, but Ms. Pajibo exhibited focus and made a physical stomp and her vocal strength, as well as her dynamic performance choices, made the audience jump. She performed Maya Angelou's poem, "I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings." When I worked with Ms. Pajibo, I asked her to "visualize" the bird and tell the story of the bird.

Ultimately, there is a value to taking something that you did not write and interpreting and finding a story in it. There is value in memorizing Emily Dickinson or William Blake in order to move through history and time. It brings a lineage to a slam poet's performance. It encourages them to write outside of the box, and it provides another set of diction for the artists to use. One of the categories in the individual poetry slam competition is the “One Minute Poem.” Poetry Out Loud is full of poems twenty-five lines and under. I hope poets who are working on their one-minute poems will take a look at these poems for inspiration. As a former musical theater major, I had to find songs that I could perform well for auditions. I have as much joy finding poems that suit me. I would love to perform the work of Robert Creeley, Stuart Dybek, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Who knew? I am grateful to Carlyn Madden at the D.C. Commission for the Arts who brings so much care to arts in education in Washington D.C.

Photo: Regie Cabico. Credit: Carlos Rodriguez.

Support for Readings/Workshops events in Washington, D.C., is provided by an endowment established with generous contributions from the Poets & Writers Board of Directors and others. Additional support comes from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

Recently, Poets & Writers awarded one poet and one fiction writer with a trip to New York to meet with editors, agents, and other literary professionals as part of the California Writers Exchange contest. The winning fiction writer, Laura Joyce Davis of Oakland, blogs about her experience from NYC. (Stay tuned for another post from poet Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo as well!)

Laura Joyce Davis, Deborah Garrison, Xochitl-Julisa BermejoI am living a writer’s dream.

We’ve only been in New York for a few days, but we’ve packed in weeks of writerly wisdom, months of ideas to contemplate. The agents, editors, and writers Xochitl and I have met have been generous, thoughtful, and helpful. Writers, there is hope as long as these good people are here!

On Monday we met with Deborah Garrison, an editor at both Pantheon and Knopf. She told us about her fifteen years at the New Yorker, where she personally read through the “slush pile” of submissions and always hoped to find a voice unlike any other. It’s the same perspective she brings to her work now, whether reading poetry, fiction, or non-fiction. She said that the most important thing for a writer is to be true to oneself, to write what you must—not the story you think will be marketable. She said that the best writers appreciate editing that makes them better, and that they know how to recognize good advice without getting defensive. This is the reason I’m not interested in self-publishing: I want to learn from someone like Garrison, to become a better writer because of the perspective she can show me. Julia Glass calls Garrison an “incredible editor,” and now I understand why.

When I met Tea Obreht (author of The Tiger’s Wife) last week at the AWP writer’s conference, she told me that her agent Seth Fishman was amazing—not just a great agent who works hard, but also a really nice guy. She was right. I met Fishman on Monday, and he immediately put me at ease, but also gave great advice. Keep publishing in literary journals, he said, because the people reading those journals are the same people who are going to buy your book. He also emphasized that authors should do everything they can to get the entire publishing staff excited about their books; editors sometimes move to other jobs, but your book will be okay if you have a team of people rooting for it. Fishman is a relatively young agent, but he’s made an impressive start to his career in a short time.

On Tuesday I met with Gail Hochman (agent for Michael Cunningham and Julia Glass). “I’ve been doing this for a hundred years,” she said. Looking at the towers of papers in her office and hearing about clients who have called her while she was in the airport or the maternity ward, I don’t doubt that she’s packed a hundred years of work into the thirty-plus years she’s been doing this. She talked about the challenges of selling books, about how a story and its characters have to grab the reader in the first few pages or it won’t sell. When I asked her what she wished every young writer knew, she said to remember that everyone reading your book (even your agent) is a real person; they have a full life beyond their work with you, so cut them some slack.

It’s been a true gift to meet with people like Garrison, Fishman, and Hochman. I hope I get to the opportunity to work with some of them. But even if I don’t, they’ve given me a little more faith in the world of writing, and on any day, that’s worth a lot.

Photo: (left to right) Laura Joyce Davis, Deborah Garrison, and Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo.

The California Writers Exchange contest is made possible by a generous grant from the James Irvine Foundation.

It’s been a good week—and a good year—for Claire Vaye Watkins, whose debut short story collection, Battleborn, was published by Riverhead Books last fall. On Thursday morning it was announced that Watkins would receive an American Academy of Arts & Letters Prize of $10,000; the night before, she beat out Junot Díaz and Don Chaon for the 2012 Story Prize, the coveted annual award of $20,000 given for an outstanding collection of short fiction. 

At a reading and awards ceremony at the New School in New York City on Wednesday night, Watkins’s debut was selected for the Story Prize—given since 2004 for a collection published in the previous year—over Díaz’s This Is How You Lose Her (Riverhead), and Chaon’s Stay Awake (Ballantine). The award is the largest monetary book prize given for fiction in the United States. Chaon and Diaz each received $5,000. 

Story Prize founder Julie Lindsey and prize director Larry Dark selected the three finalists from among ninety-eight books submitted for consideration. Final judges Jane Ciabattari, Yiyun Li, and Sarah McNally selected Watkins as the winner. The 2011 award went to Steven Millhauser for his collection We Others (Knopf).

Watkins will also receive the American Academy of Arts & Letters Rosenthal Family Foundation Award, a prize of $10,000 given to an emerging writer for a work published in the previous year. Watkins joins a host of established writers to win 2013 Arts & Letters Awards, including Lydia Davis, Jennifer Egan, D.A. Powell, and Kevin Powers. 

Adding to Watkins’s ever-growing list of literary accolades, she was also selected this week as a 2013 One Story Literary Debutante. Earlier this year, she was chosen as one of the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35, and Battleborn was named a Best Book of 2012 by the San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe, Time Out New York and Flavorwire. The debut also received a Best Short Story Collection nod by NPR, and won the 2012 Silver Pen Award from the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame.

Watkins’s stories and essays have appeared in GrantaOne Storythe Paris Review, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, Best of the West 2011and elsewhere. She has received fellowships from the Sewanee and Bread Loaf Writers' Conferences. An assistant professor at Bucknell University, Watkins is also the co-director, with Derek Palacio, of the Mojave School, a nonprofit creative writing workshop for teenagers in rural Nevada.

Recently, Poets & Writers awarded one poet and one fiction writer with a trip to New York to meet with editors, agents, and other literary professionals as part of the California Writers Exchange contest. The winning poet, Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo of Los Angeles, blogs about her experience from NYC. (Stay tuned for a post from winning fiction writer Laura Joyce Davis as well!)

Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo with fellow writers.It is now 4:41 p.m., I’m sitting in my room on the seventh floor of the Gershwin Hotel in Midtown, and I have to be in the lobby ready to go to my first New York reading by 6 p.m. I got back to my room at 10:30 last night after a delicious Indian dinner with Yale Younger Poet Eduardo C. Corral, my fellow contest winner Laura Joyce Davis, and staff from Poets & Writers. Eduardo laughed at the lamb chops I ordered over dinner: “You know how to do it.”

But now I have only a little over an hour before I must make my way through the cold and ugly rain that has burst onto Manhattan Island today in order to get to the Center for Fiction for the reading. This is how the trip has been since we landed Sunday night: a whirlwind, a storm.

So what do I say? I can say that spending the last two days talking poetry and literature with fabulous people over fabulous food has been, well, fabulous. A definite highlight was sharing a glass of wine with Yusef Komunyakaa at a little corner café and as we talked about theatre, Son Jarocho, and poetry. But so much of this trip has been a highlight. Getting to sit in on a meeting with a real New York lit agent with a no-bull attitude, papers on her desk piled to her chin, was other-worldly. It has all felt unreal, and every once in awhile I have a little giggle to myself and think, I can’t believe this is happening. 

Eduardo C. Corral talks about running in the cotton fields around his home in Casa Grande, Arizona, as a child and imagining it was snow. He remembers shivering in the middle of August and even asking his mother for a coat. Matthea Harvey remembers chasing fairies in the hedges around her house, and fantasizing about glow-in-the-dark teddy bears that she wished were hers. Yusef Komunyakaa shares a story about watching an eighty-year-old woman dance Son Jarocho and believes it is the first time he has seen duende in the flesh. These are the memories I will take back to Los Angeles with me.

But then there is the quiet moment I enter my hotel room and throw off my coat. The moment I am alone, and my heart and eyes almost instantaneously swell. I breathe and really take in everything that has been going on around me. I’m truly lucky to have this moment and all the moments that brought me to this one. And I can’t stop feeling thankful. Thankful to Poets & Writers, thankful to my friends who keep texting me good luck for tonight, to the L.A. poets that always have my back, to my parents who have always encouraged me pursue my dreams. I feel like a silly little girl, but all I can really say right now is thank you.

And, just for something a little fun, here are two questions I’ve been asking everyone, along with their answers.

Q: As a reader, what is the first book you remember getting swept up in?

Deborah Garrison (literary editor at Knopf and Pantheon): It’s a little embarrassing, but The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilders. I’m rereading it right now with my youngest. I’ve read it at least eight times.

Eduardo C. Corral (poet): To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

Gail Hochman (literary agent): Little Women by Luisa May Alcott. No question about it.

Matthea Harvey (poet and children’s book author): Fantastic Toys by Monika Bisner. I remember lying in bed and wondering if I could have one toy, which one would I choose?

Q: Besides reading and writing, what is an activity that is important to your writing?

Deborah Garrison: Commuting, walking. There are not a lot of places that I can be contemplative. Walking the dog; times when I am unplugged.

Yusef Komunyakaa (poet): Maybe shooting pool.

Eduardo C. Corral: For me, in New York City, walking around, listening, dragging your finger against a wall. Being in the city.

Matthea Harvey: Going to art museums and galleries. Walking around the city. Taking photographs of nothing particular.

Photo: From left: P&W staff member Jamie FitzGerald, Laura Joyce Davis, Yusef Komunyakaa, Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo, and P&W Staff member Cathy Linh Che.

The California Writers Exchange contest is made possible by a generous grant from the James Irvine Foundation. For more information on the contest, visit here.

Create a timeline that marks the major events of your life. Analyze it, looking for patterns or events that led to a series of others. Based on what you see, write an essay that explores one period of time—it could be a year, two years, a decade, or more. Think about how that time period informs the narrative of your life that you present to your friends, family, and acquaintances.

Yale University Press has announced the winner of the 2013 Yale Series of Younger Poets prize. Given annually since 1919 to a poet under the age of forty, the prize is the oldest literary award in the United States. 

Eryn Green of Denver received the 2013 prize for his collection, Eruv, which will be published by Yale University Press in April 2014. Judge Carl Phillips says that the winning work “reminds us how essential wilderness is to poetry—a wilderness in terms of how form and language both reinvent and get reinvented; meanwhile, the sensibility behind these poems points to another wilderness, the one that equals thinking about and feeling the world—its hurts, its joys—deeply and unabashedly, as we pass through it.”

Eryn Green is a doctoral candidate at the University of Denver and received an MFA from the University of Utah. His work has appeared in Jubilat, Colorado Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, and elsewhere. In addition to the publication of his book, he will also receive one of five writing fellowships offered at The James Merrill House in Stonington, Connecticut.

Green’s book will be the 108th volume in the Younger Poet series. Will Schutt’s Westerly, also chosen by Phillips, received the 2012 prize, and will be published in April. Past winners have included John Ashbery, Jack Gilbert, Robert Hass, Adrienne Rich, and Jean Valentine. 

Submissions for the 2014 prize will open this fall. Visit the website for more information and complete guidelines. 

You walk into a dimly lit room at a party where you’ve arrived with a friend. The walls of the room are lined with reptile cages. Across the room you see someone you recognize, and when you turn to your friend he or she is gone. What happens next?

Today there are fifteen lines of poetry that will present themselves to you in various ways. Some will be visual, some will be spoken. Look and listen carefully. Take the time to record them. Then refine them and use them to craft a poem. 

Claremont Graduate University has announced the winner of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, given annually to a mid-career poet for a book published in the previous year. At $100,000, the Kingsley Tufts Award is one of the largest monetary poetry prizes in the United States.

The 2013 award has been given to Marianne Boruch of West Lafayette, Indiana, for her collection The Book of Hours, published by Copper Canyon Press. Heidy Steidlmayer of Vacaville, California, received the $10,000 Kate Tufts Discovery Award for her debut collection, Fowling Piece (Tri-Quarterly). The Kate Tufts Award is given annually for a first book by a poet.

“We are delighted to honor these poets and celebrate their achievements,” said Wendy Martin, director of the Tufts Poetry Awards program and vice provost at Claremont Graduate University, in a press release. “These awards will help them gain wider recognition and will sustain their continuing commitment to writing outstanding poetry.”  

The winners were selected from a list of finalists for each award. Boruch’s most recent books include the poetry collections Grace, Fallen from (Wesleyan, 2008) and Poems: New and Selected (Oberlin, 2004), and a memoir, The Glimpse Traveler (University of Indiana, 2011). Steidlmayer’s poems have appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, Michigan Quarterly Review, and elsewhere. She has received a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award and the 2012 Ploughshares John C. Zacharis Award.

Now in its twenty-first year, the Kingsley Tufts award was established at Claremont Graduate University by Kate Tufts to honor the memory of her husband. The award is presented for a work by a poet “who is past the very beginning but has not yet reached the pinnacle of his or her career.” The Kate Tufts Discovery Award was established in 1993 and is given annually for a debut collection.

The winners will be honored at a ceremony at the Garrison Theater in Claremont on Thursday, April 18. David Barber, Kate Gale, Ted Genoways, Linda Gregerson, and Carl Phillips judged.

Timothy Donnelly received the 2012 Kingsley Tufts Award; past winners include Robert Wrigley, Tom Sleigh, Matthea Harvey, Yusef Komunyakaa, and Chase Twichell.

To be considered for next year's awards, books published between September 1, 2012, and August 31, 2013, may be submitted by September 15. Visit the Claremont Graduate University website for more information and complete submission guidelines.

Write an essay about a story or anecdote from your family lore that has never added up. Imagine various details of or revisions to the story that would make it make more sense.

Write a contemporary adaptation of a fairy tale using first-person narration from the point of view of the villain.

Write a poem in the form of a letter to an imaginary friend in which you ask them for help that begins, Dear Friend. Keeping the person or creature or entity you’re writing to in mind, include details and images that reveal your imaginary friend’s characteristics as you craft your entreaty.

The recipients of the inaugural Windham Campbell Prizes in fiction, nonfiction, and drama were announced this morning at Yale University. Each of the nine winners of the new prize will receive $150,000 to support their writing.

The winners in fiction are Tom McCarthy, James Salter, and Zoë Wicomb; the winners in nonfiction are Adina Hoffman, Jonny Steinberg, and Jeremy Scahill; the winners in drama are Naomi Wallace, Steven Adly Guirgis, and Tarell Alvin McCraney. 

Sponsored by Yale and established with a gift from the estate of the late writer Donald Windham, the Windham Campbell Literature Prizes recognize English-language writers at all stages of their careers. The prizes are named in honor of Windham and his longtime partner, the journalist and publisher Sandy M. Campbell. The prizes are administered by the Beinecke Rare Book Room and Manuscript Library, which also houses Windham’s papers. The awards join a list of esteemed literary prizes already sponsored by Yale, including the Bollingen Prize for Poetry and the Yale Series of Younger Poets.

“Yale is a place that hopes to inspire and recognize greatness in every field,” said Peter Salovey, president-elect of Yale University, in a press release. “The Windham Campbell Prizes allow us to fulfill that ambition in the field of world literature in ways we are only beginning to understand.”

There is no application process for the Windham Campbell Prizes. Established professionals in each category are asked to nominate names for consideration, and a selection committee meets at Yale to name up to nine writers to receive prizes. 

The winners of the inaugural prizes will receive their awards at a ceremony at Yale during the Windham Campbell Literary Festival from September 10 to September 13 in New Haven.

“I look forward to the dialogue the winners will inspire on the Yale campus and around the world,” Salovey said. “We will learn much from our prize-winners, particularly in these first years of awarding the prize.”

In the video below, Salovey announces the prize and the first annual winners.

P&W-funded Regie Cabico is the coeditor, with poet and novelist Brittany Fonte, of the recently published anthology of queer poetry and spoken word, Flicker and Spark (Lowbrow Press). His own work has appeared in over thirty anthologies, including Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Café, Spoken Word Revolution, and Chorus & The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry. He received the 2006 Writers for Writers Award from Poets & Writers for his work teaching at-risk youth at Bellevue Hospital in New York. He is a former Artist in Residence at NYU's Asian Pacific American Studies Program and has served as faculty at Banff's Spoken Word Program. He resides in Washington, D.C.

I recently flew to Oakland to jump-start the debut of Cupid Ain’t @#$%!: An Anti-Valentine’s Day Poetry Movement. The series, started by J. Mase the III, has a strong, queer spoken-word bent, with poets of color and queer allies coming together to rail not just about love, but also about political identity through a humor and candor that you don’t get in a lot of poetry readings. In its fifth year, the series has gone to Philadelphia, New York, Washington, D.C., and Oakland. Having performed as a gay Filipino poet for the last twenty years, it occurred to me that the Cupid Movement is giving voice to a queer culture that embraces queer allies and also fosters an intergenerational queer positive environment.

I flew in from Washington, D.C., and into The Living Room Project, an Oakland-based organization devoted to healing, wellness, and serving the queer community. I rode the BART with poet Baruch Porras Hernandez, who curates the Queer Open Mic, the longest running series in the Bay. We were later joined by J. Mase, who flew in from Chicago, as well as trans comedian Natasha Muse. The Cupid show brought in an intimate crowd of a dozen or so: mainly queer folks who heard about the show from queer artists they had been following from New York. Deb Malkin, a college friend and her girlfriend, Cholla Soledad, showed up and made the reading a Valentine’s Day compromise—since Cholla is an anti-V-day cupid-downer. Deb is a Libra romantic. As a poet who performs constantly, you never know who will come or how many folks will show up.

Mase’s poem “Neighbor” was a big hit. The poem is about a homophobic neighbor who gives Mase nasty stares: “Queer people fuck better...and you know it because you live next door...to me.” Baruch’s poem on being “thin” is the best queer poem on body image: “If I were thin I would move a pile of needles naked from one room to another...and sleep with so many skinny boys in my bed because I’d be thin and we can lie in a line on the bed...” Natasha Muse broke her stand-up set into progressions during which she spoke of coming out as trans, starting out as Ewan McGregor and then ending up looking like Nicole Kidman, so watching Moulin Rouge hits her in a very personal way. Natasha concluded her set by talking about becoming a mom and living with her female spouse. The evening had some of the best comedic queer material that I have come across. The owner of The Living Room Project, Micah Hobbes, was impressed by the talent and acknowledged humor as a healing tool.

Photos: (Top) Regie Cabico. Credit: Carlos Rodriguez (Bottom) From left to right: J Mase III, Natasha Muse, Baruch Porras-Hernandez, Regie Cabico.

Support for Readings/Workshops events in Washington, D.C. is provided by an endowment established with generous contributions from the Poets & Writers Board of Directors and others. Additional support comes from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

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