Readings & Workshops Blog

Missing You: Honoring Loss and Resilience in South Tucson

Teaching artist Marge Pellegrino recently led a series of P&W–supported writing workshops for the YWCA’s La Escuelita’s summer program. Pellegrino has written about grief and resilience for children. Since 1999, she has directed programming for the Owl & Panther expressive arts project that serves refugees impacted by torture, trauma, and traumatic dislocation. Her book Journey of Dreams (Frances Lincoln Press, 2009) is a Smithsonian Notable Book, Southwest Best Book, and Judy Goddard Award winner for excellence in young adult literature. Her book Too Nice (Magination Press, 2002) is available in five languages.

Missing You Workshop Cohort

The neighborhood surrounding the House of Neighborly Service’s La Escuelita knows loss. Many of the youth who participate in the YWCA’s La Escuelita summer camp have family members who have died too young. Some have relatives who have been incarcerated. Some youth come from mixed-status or undocumented families who are separated from loved ones by deportation.

The series of five P&W–supported “Missing You” writing workshops invited neighborhood youth from five to seventeen years of age to explore new ways to hold memories and reach out to those they love. They played with writers’ tools to create a small body of work that tapped spatial and linguistic intelligences. They let their illustrations fuel a “simile portrait.” They felt the cadence in their “I Miss/I Remember” list poems. They composed letters to the people they love and imagined how the voice of that person might sound in an answer. Some of the participants were particularly engaged when they stitched together narratives that captured details of a time they spent together with the person they miss.

One morning they wrote about the metaphorical trash in their lives on scraps of colored paper. They ripped the paper up, put the small pieces in a blender with water, “transforming trash into treasure,” and created a beautiful handmade paper cover for their book, which held their own story of resilience. Their last exploration held up gratitude. They wrote about things they valued about a brother, a tio, abuela, or the mother who loved them, in order to feel how gratitude can lift their spirits, like the last line of a great poem.

Each workshop ended in sharing within the cohort—a time when their words traveled on sound, when they could see others respond to what they had kept tucked in their hearts. A time when the writing and sharing could break through the isolation caused by a buildup of grief and separation. Hearing the others’ stories let them know they weren’t alone with these feelings.

The series culminated in a shy and proud reading for the community elders.

Photo: La Escuelita “Missing You” workshop with Marge Pellegrino.

Support for Readings & Workshops events in Tucson 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.

Joan Gerstein on Teaching Workshops With Incarcerated Veterans

Joan Gerstein, originally from New York, has lived in California since 1969. A retired educator and psychotherapist, Gerstein has been writing poetry since elementary school, and her writing is featured in multiple San Diego publications as well national and international periodicals. She has volunteered to teach creative writing to incarcerated veterans at the county jail for almost two years and finds it stimulating and extremely rewarding. She has led the workshop for veterans at the Vista jail for six years. Her poetry has been published in Tidepools, Magee Park Poets Anthology, A Year in Ink, Summations, and the San Diego Poetry Annual. She served as the editor of the special Veteran's Section of the San Diego Poetry Annual 2015-16. San Diego Entertainment & Arts Guild partnered with Gerstein recently for a series of P&W–supported veteran workshops.

Joan GersteinWhat makes your workshops unique?
The veterans are in a specially designed program called Veterans Moving Forward and are required to participate in all classes including my creative writing workshop. As such, the men have a wide range of writing skills and interest in the writing process. There is also much fluidity because new participants enter weekly and some depart. I offer a combination of workshops such as poetry, memoir, fiction writing, and if there are requests, classes focused on grammar and sentence and paragraph structure. I also offer my editing, typing, and submission services for those who either wish to enter a contest or are writing something of which they want my feedback. Because they are currently incarcerated and have little access to computers, I meet individually with those men, edit and type up their material, get their approval of final product, and if relevant, submit their entries to various periodicals and veteran anthologies.

What techniques do you employ to help shy writers open up?
Attending the workshop is mandatory but participation varies. I offer a vast number of different exercises to ensure that everyone can hopefully respond to at least some. Sharing of work with the group is voluntary. I often suggest that men work in pairs or groups to allow more reserved men to participate without undue attention. While they are doing assignments, I make a point of walking around the room and working individually with men who rarely share with the group.

What has been your most rewarding experience as a teacher?
The men are extremely appreciative as a group and individually. I look forward to and thoroughly enjoy my weekly workshops and feel especially rewarded when I work individually with the writers, and their submissions are accepted. 

What affect has this work had on your life and/or your art?
I’m not sure this has affected my work except as possible subject matter to use in my writing, however the experience has enriched my life and given me a greater understanding of the challenges facing discharged military. My students range from men in their young twenties to veterans of the Vietnam War, of every race and background, from all over the United States as well as foreign countries. I have definitely gained a greater appreciation of their sacrifices and challenges.

What are the benefits of writing workshops for veterans?
This is a creative outlet for many. For men who already enjoy writing and do it regularly, it is an opportunity to hone their craft and a showcase for them to share their material. If they want, I work with the men individually to fine-tune their writing. I offer several opportunities for the men to submit poetry and prose to various contests or veteran publications. For all the men, I hope to expose them to various styles of writing as well as many writers. For example, I may read excerpts from A Place to Stand by Jimmy Santiago Baca, so the men can see that anyone can overcome odds including incarceration, and even become a great writer. The various exercises we do, individually and in small and large groups, encourage critical thinking. Most participants, even those that insist they “can’t write,” will find some success and surprise themselves.

Photo: Joan Gerstein  Photo credit: Joan Gerstein
Major support for Readings & Workshops in California is provided by the James Irvine Foundation and the Hearst Foundations. Additional support comes from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

Growing a Poetry Group and Finding Our Poetic Voices

Currently an adjunct college professor at SUNY Empire State College, Linda Griggs is the founder, host, and coordinator of Palace Poetry Group, which is in its tenth year of existence. She has been a mentor at Empire State College; a mental health counselor; and a transition supporter for Vietnamese “boat people” and refugees from war in Ethiopia and Somalia, using arts and crafts and, sometimes, poetry. With her husband, she is a backyard gardener, making the earth productive and healthy. Griggs self-published the chapbook Love Poems of the Universe (2003), wrote and illustrated The Night of the Starfish People (Willet Press, 2011), and is the author of the chapbook The Balance of Love (Willet Press, 2012).

Palace Poetry Group is free and open to the public at DeWitt Community Library in DeWitt, New York. Our group started in 2007 and has a monthly poetry reading with a different featured reader every month and an open mic. The goal of this poetry group is to help poets find their poetic voices and, in that process, encourage each other. Once a year, we have an additional special reader and a workshop for poets.

I found it was important to be sensitive to the poetic needs of group members and to find featured readers who could challenge those needs. Thanks to Poets & Writers’ grants, we are constantly inspired by excellent poets who expand members’ world views and expose them to different ways of poetic expression.

Three poets who received P&W grants in 2016 were Joseph Bruchac, Michael Czarnecki, and Barbara Crooker. All have different ways of expressing poetry while clearly illustrating their views on the world. Joseph and Michael are master storytellers. Joseph told his stories and read his free verse poems about nature, justice, spirituality, and Native American culture, describing how these themes relate to the good of all of us. Michael used free verse as well as the poetic expressions of haiku and haibun, a Japanese literary form combing condensed prose and haiku, to express experiences he’s had traveling throughout the United States—recording his feelings and his approach to looking at nature and life. Barbara Crooker read her free verse poems choosing ordinary experiences and perceptions of nature to express caring, compassion, and joy in life.

Each featured reader expressed interest in audience members listening to them, using anecdotes and humor to express their ideas. For example, Joseph Bruchac used humor and stories to lead audience members to an understanding of Abenaki culture and beliefs. He listened carefully to each poet in the open mic—including a poet who read in Spanish, a language he is fluent in—and said something positive about each of the poems. Palace Poetry Group members were able to look anew at the way they wrote and fine-tune their own poetry, thus developing their poetic voices, the goal of our group.

Photos: (top, left to right) Lindsey Bellosa, Linda Griggs. Photo credit: Martin Willitts. (middle) Palace Poetry Group tenth anniversary cake. Photo credit: Martin Willitts. (bottom, front row, left to right) Jane Schmid, Donna M. Davis, Paul R. Davis, Eileen Rose, Linda Griggs, Martin Willitts. (back row, left to right) Michael Cheslik, David Harper, David Forrest Hitchcock, Paul Shephard, Stephen Brace. Photo credit: Sue Harper.

 

Support for the Readings & Workshops Program in New York is provided, in part, by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, with additional support from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

Rachel Valinsky on the Wendy’s Subway Reading Room

Rachel Valinsky is a cofounder of Wendy’s Subway, a nonprofit library and writing space in Bushwick, Brooklyn. As an independent curator, writer, and translator, she has presented projects at Judson Memorial Church, Lisa Cooley, and Spectacle Theater, and written for East of BorneoMillennium Film JournalBOMBC Magazine, and the Third Rail. She is the editor of Warm Equations (Édition Patrick Frey, 2016) and a contributing editor at Éditions Lutanie, Paris. Valinsky is currently a doctoral student in Art History at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

Since the founding of Wendy’s Subway in December 2013, we have been steadily growing a space for writing and thinking across disciplines. In January 2016, we moved to a new storefront space, which comfortably houses our collection of over three thousand books, periodicals, and printed matter, as well as the Laurin Raiken Archive, an extensive resource for the study of art history and criticism. During the day, the space is open for writing, and on some evenings, we host public programs, including readings and screenings, interdisciplinary talks and lectures, discussion and reading groups, as well as writing workshops. Open to the public, we welcome readers to consult our non-circulating library. Likewise, our membership actively contributes to the operations of the organization, by taking part in the daily life of the space, writing together, and conceiving of projects that are developed independently or as a group, with peers and friends from Wendy’s and beyond.

In 2015, we launched a mobile Reading Room project. Designed by Tyler Polich and Hannah Wilentz, the Reading Room has been presented at a variety of locations in and outside of New York, in each case directly engaging with the context and site of the invitation. It has addressed the topics of experimental writing, visual art, and digital media (for Brown University’s Interrupt 3 conference and “From Line to Constellation” group exhibition) and place and revolution (for Open Engagement's 2015 conference at the Carnegie Mellon School of Art), among others. At NADA New York in May 2015, Wendy's Subway partnered with the Mexico City-based library Aeromoto to present a selection of books by Latin American publishers, paired with books in our collection. Central to the mission of the Reading Room is to develop close partnerships and conversations with exhibiting or presenting artists.

As I write this, we’re preparing for a Political Therapy workshop, led by artist Liz Magic Laser and certified life coach Valerie Bell, which is meant to help participants confront and express their mounting frustrations in the face of this year’s presidential election. The workshop will take place in the Reading Room we’ve installed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) for the Next Wave Festival, which lasts all fall. Here, the collection of nearly four hundred books on display focuses on performance, dramaturgy, theater, dance, choreography, and poetics while also highlighting titles chosen by the artists performing in the festival and the visual artists whose work is exhibited across BAM’s many locations. In the lower lobby of the BAM Fisher Building, the Next Wave Reading Room is a fixture of the festival, open to the public every day for browsing and extended reading.

This is the first time, however, that we have been able to organize a series of public programs with the Reading Room that systematically extend the collections’ reach to wider audiences. With readings and workshops every month of our stay at BAM, we’ve brought in diverse communities of writers, artists, performers, and enthusiasts of all kinds for interdisciplinary programs.

This past October, a program pairing six writers and performers, one of several in this series to receive generous support from Poets & Writers, drew over a hundred audience members. The Reading Room was packed, yet the surprising and meaningful resonances that echoed across each set of readings made for a very intimate evening—one that reminded me of the intimate feel of our space in Bushwick, where we can comfortably accommodate forty people. Supporting writers gave them more resources to develop connections across their work—connections which reverberated across the Reading Room and speak to the collaborative mission of Wendy’s Subway.

Follow the projects and adventures of Wendy's Subway on Instagram.

Photos: (top) Wendy’s Subway Reading Room at BAM Fisher designed by Tyler Polich and Hannah Wilentz. Photo credit: Greg Bosse. (bottom) Drawing of several Wendy’s Subway board members and friends at the Los Angeles Contemporary Archive, AWP Offsite Program. Drawing by Matt Longabucco.

Editor's Note: Wendy’s Subway cofounder Carolyn Bush passed away on September 28. Contributions to a fundraiser in her honor will go in part to Wendy's Subway, "to continue the legacy she started."

Support for Readings & Workshops in New York City is provided, in part, by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, and the Department of Cultural Affairs, with additional support from the Louis & Anne Abrons Foundation, the Axe-Houghton Foundation, the A.K. Starr Charitable Trust, and the Friends of Poets & Writers.

Joy Ladin on Lambda Literary's Retreat for LGBTQ Writers

Joy Ladin is the author of seven books of poetry, including Impersonation (Sheep Meadow, 2009) and Transmigration (Sheep Meadow, 2015), which were both Lambda Literary Award finalists. Her memoir of gender transition, Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey Between Genders (University of Wisconsin Press, 2013), was a 2012 National Jewish Book Award finalist. Her work has been recognized with a National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship and a Fulbright Scholarship, among other honors. She holds the Gottesman Chair in English at Yeshiva University in New York. This past July, Ladin led a P&W–supported poetry workshop as part of the Lambda Literary Foundation's annual Writers Retreat in Los Angeles. Here, she blogs about the importance of this retreat for emerging LGBTQ writers.

Joy Ladin

Outside of MFA programs and writing conferences, it’s pretty queer to be a poet in most places in the United States. I learned that when, during my first job after college, a fellow office worker backed away from me when I told her that I was a poet.

But to many LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or otherwise queer) poets, the poetry world seems just as “straight” as the non-literary world, just as invested in norms that focus attention paid on the work and lives of heterosexual white people (particularly men) and make it hard for LGBTQ people and people of color to feel seen, valued, or understood.

That's why the Lambda Literary Foundation’s annual Writers Retreat for Emerging LGBTQ Voices (supported in part by a grant from Poets & Writers’ Readings & Workshops program) is so important. For many of the LGBTQ writers who attend, the retreat is a weeklong oasis in which they can find the understanding, encouragement, and recognition that all writers need to survive and thrive. As Nico Amador, a poetry fellow, said, “In so many workshops queer and trans writers have to spend more time than we’d like on…educating our straight or non-trans peers enough so that they can engage with a reading of our work that honors our intentions and points of view. At Lambda, it was enlivening to be able to sit at a table with others who could move seamlessly through the varied thematic and poetic discussion in the workshop—applying a queer reading when relevant and leaving it out when it wasn’t. The space this created allowed us to take seriously the goals of each person's work, to offer a diversity of thought, and pose questions that could [help] each of us to grow in our work as poets.”

This past summer, for the first time, I learned firsthand what the writers retreat offers LGBTQ writers, when I led the poetry workshop. After decades of writing and teaching in classrooms where my transgender identity is treated as an awkward subject to avoid, I found myself in a place where my experience as a trans writer was valued. Not that I felt surrounded by “writers like me”: Even within the poetry workshop, we were all very different in our writing concerns, styles, backgrounds, and the complex constellations of our identities. At the retreat, we didn't have to minimize or hide our differences; we could share and celebrate them as sources of poetry, insight, humanity.

But as Julia Tranchina, another poetry fellow wrote: “The best part of the retreat was working on poetry. Breathing, biting, imbibing poetry with other poets.” Those are feelings every poet I've ever met can understand.

Lambda Retreat Poetry Cohort

Photos: (top) Joy Ladin. Photo credit: Lisa Ross. (bottom) Joy Ladin and poetry cohort. Photo credit: Lambda Literary.

 

Major support for Readings & Workshops in California is provided by the James Irvine Foundation and the Hearst Foundations. Additional support comes from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

Natalia Mount on Pro Arts Gallery in Oakland

Natalia Mount is a dynamic cultural producer with extensive experience in arts leadership, innovative programming, development and communications. Mount has worked at nationally significant institutions such as MoMA PS1 and Clocktower Productions, both in New York City. Currently, Mount is the executive director of Pro Arts in Oakland.

Pro Arts Gallery Hybrid Series Once a month, poets, writers, visual artists, and musicians come together at Pro Arts Gallery in downtown Oakland and collaborate on a cross-genre presentation of new work entitled the Hybrid Series. To date, Pro Arts has hosted poets and writers Sara Mumolo, Emily Hunt, Harmony Holiday, Norma Cole, Gillian Olivia Blythe Hamel, Candace Eros Díaz, and Louise Mathias.

Conceived and curated with the aim to serve as a departure from the more conventional mode of presentation of material, the Hybrid Series swaps the standard practice of same-genre groupings—such as the poetry reading, artist talk, music performance or lecture—for that of a community gathering, a format that is open, fluid, and accessible to diverse audiences. The main idea of the Hybrid Series is to actually connect ideas, text, image, and sound. We believe that the hybridization across life-spheres and aesthetic experiences yields positivity and promotes cultural symbiosis and plurality across genres, elevating the artist above the hierarchies inherent in the myopic nature of academically grounded work. Along with our other programs, the Hybrid Series at Pro Arts is designed to expand the possibilities for experimentation and innovation in contemporary art. After only four installments of this series so far, we are convinced that the platform we have created to accommodate the series can and will continue to foster new collaborations among artists. 

To give a taste of what you might expect should you attend, I will summarize here our first Hybrid Series event that took place on March 12, 2016. We opened the night with an artist talk by Adia Millett who discussed her practice as it related to her solo exhibition entitled Re-Connect (installed at Pro Arts at the time). Topics that prompted larger conversation with the audience revolved around questions related to feminist aesthetics, abstraction, and community identity. Next, Elisabeth Nicula presented her new work entitled Sense Memories, an exploration into image and experience. For Sense Memories, Nicula searched through her hard drive and cell phone for snapshots that she had forgotten, treating her digital cache as a source of found objects that are discrete moments from her life, remembered by machinery. Human memories are imperfect, exaggerated, or conflated, but exist in the fullness of an inner life.

SL Morse performed “The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus”—a conceptual rendering of the seminal work translated into Morse code. SL Morse performs modernist literature through Morse code translations from text to musical notation for a drum kit. “The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus” followed the arc of the essay, where Sisyphus is condemned to ceaseless, pointless labor, has a temporary reprieve, then returns to pushing a heavy rock up a hill that always falls down, finally reconciling himself to his fate that absurd labor is preferable to nonexistence.

Last, audiences enjoyed a reading by Oakland-based poet Sara Mumolo, who read from her collection of poems, Mortar (Omnidawn, 2013). In accompaniment to her reading, Sara chose to screen various repetitive yet entertaining videos, found on the internet and YouTube. This gesture both complemented her words and provided another access point to her ideas. By straddling both worlds (text and moving image), Sara was able to break away from the mold of a traditional format for poetry reading—shifting her perspective, the perspective of the audience, and the notion of what poetry reading might entail.

Photo: Pro Arts Gallery Hybrid Series.  Photo credit: Pro Arts.

Major support for Readings & Workshops in California is provided by the James Irvine Foundation and the Hearst Foundations. Additional support comes from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

Road Dog for Poetry

Craig Czury has spent three decades conducting poetry, life-writing, and writing as healing workshops in schools, universities, community centers, juvenile detention centers, homeless shelters, and mental hospitals. Czury is a lecturer at Albright University, an editor, publisher, tireless arts advocate, and the author of over twenty books of poetry, most recently, Thumb Notes Almanac: Hitchhiking the Marcellus Shale (FootHills Publishing, 2016), a poetry documentary woven from his hitchhiking interviews and observations taken while hitchhiking through the heart of "fracking" in his home region of Northeastern Pennsylvania. He is the cohost and artistic director of the Old School Poetry Series at the Springville Schoolhouse Art Studios, where he lives, works, and plays bocce.

ROAD DOG FOR POETRY
By Craig Czury

BECAUSE

Because I will never know where it is you find
your courage to speak without fear of punishment
   fear of ridicule  or invasion

Because I am always a stranger  new in town
                        new in school  new among best friends

But when we speak to each other from that place
inside ourselves where we're not afraid
      even if it's the kitchen where we don't sleep at night
our words don't turn back on us like a cracked mirror
in the world that wears masks

Because

Because when your voice sifts through me
I need to talk with you from a familiar table
               table set by the silenced  not allowed voices

so we can sit  talk and find out where we are

I’ve been a road dog for poetry ever since I was awarded the First Book Award from the Montana Arts Council in 1980. Invitations to conduct poetry writing workshops in schools began coming in and I found out that I was really good at stepping into a classroom and exciting students with language, getting them to write their own poems. For the next twenty-five years I made my living as an itinerant poet in schools, prisons, homeless shelters, mental hospitals, and community centers through various state arts councils and arts foundations, until No Child Left Behind knocked us all out of the water. In 2005 I went back to school to get an MFA in creative writing at Wilkes University and began teaching as an adjunct professor at Albright College, a small private school in Pennsylvania—not at all the same game as stepping into a room, making it spontaneously combust with poetry, and driving off to my next unknown excitement.

With the publication of my new book, Thumb Notes Almanac: Hitchhiking the Marcelus Shale, I took a leave of absence from my college teaching, bought a ’99 Volvo station wagon to bunk in, and, thanks to my publisher Michael Czarnecki of FootHills Publishing for introducing me to Poets & Writers, and my agent Kimberly Crafton, I set up a reading series throughout upstate New York. Within six months, I rolled into Cuba, Peru, Rome, Macedon, Utica, Bath, Endicott—global names of towns fitting the global consciousness of poetry. The salary I earned from my P&W–sponsored workshops and readings, afforded me airfare to Italy for a reading tour in May and June, where Thumb Notes Almanac had been translated and published into Italian. And when I returned, P&W kept me afloat to not only work on my next book of poems, but to encourage others, in out-of-the-way communities, to explore and take more seriously their own writing.

In the words of poet Carol Elaine Deys at Books Etc. in Macedon:

Expansive, eternal and occasionally soundless
in the world of choice - the every day world -
the world which requires us to sustain.
We write.
We determine as whole and well on Planet Earth.
We sustain, because we must.
The Voice of the Poet remains intact despite all
rumors to the contrary -
and we shall be blessed because of it.

Photos: Craig Czury.  Photo credit: Kimberly Glemboski

Support for the Readings & Workshops Program in New York  is provided, in part, by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, with additional support from Friends of Poets & Writers.

Señal Tour of Latin American Poets and Translators

Silvina López Medin was born in Buenos Aires. She is the author of three books of poetry: La noche de los bueyes (Madrid, 1999), awarded the International Young Poetry Prize by the Loewe Foundation; Esa sal en la lengua para decir manglar (Buenos Aires, 2014); and 62 brazadas (Buenos Aires, 2015). Her play Exactamente bajo el sol opened at Teatro del Pueblo in 2008. With poet Mirta Rosenberg, she has also translated Anne Carson’s Eros the Bittersweet. She collaborates with Señal, a chapbook series for contemporary poetry from Latin America, published by Ugly Duckling Presse, BOMB Magazine, and Libros Antena Books.

We are very pleased to announce the Señal Tour, a set of bilingual readings and discussions with authors and translators from the Señal Series, featuring poets Luis Felipe Fabre from Mexico, Florencia Castellano and Pablo Katchadjian from Argentina, and their translators John Pluecker, Alexis Almeida, Rebekah Smith, Victoria Cóccaro, and Stalina Emmanuelle Villarreal (reading Sor Juana). The Señal Tour will take place from October 8 to October 14 in Oakland, San Francisco, Chicago, and New York, starting with a curated reading at the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) Conference and ending at the beloved Poetry Project.

Señal is a chapbook series for contemporary poetry from Latin America in bilingual editions, published collaboratively by BOMB Magazine, Libros Antena Books, and Ugly Duckling Presse. Founded in 2015, Señal publishes two chapbooks a year, linked either thematically, conceptually, or trans-historically, troubling received ideas on what the terms “contemporary” and “Latin America” might represent.

When Señal was created, our goal was to bring more Latin American poetry to English readers, to make more porous the boundaries that bring so much English-language literature into other languages, and celebrate work not written in English, here in the United States and in many other countries. We do this with the books we publish, and in bringing together poets, translators, and editors to read, share, and discuss.

Now, with this tour, we are proud and excited to have poets and translators getting together to present, listen, and exchange ideas. In a time where things tend to be virtual, we love the prospect of all these different voices and languages actually coming together to speak and read in person, interact with an audience, and keep things live.

This is a huge international poetry event for a small press (four cities, six venues, three international poets, five translators), which means a great effort and need for resources, and we couldn’t have done it without the support of Poets & Writers. Their generous help has been essential to make it happen. Now we are eager to meet the Spanish and English-speaking members of the audience, who are, or hopefully will become, Señal readers and lovers of Latin American poetry.

RSVP on Facebook for the Señal Tour:

October 9: Señal at ATA, San Francisco

October 11: Señal at Poetry Foundation, Chicago

October 12: Señal at Sector 2337, Chicago

October 13: Señal Reading at NYU

October 14: Señal Reading at the Poetry Project

Photo: Silvina López Medin. Photo credit: Martin Sonzogni.

Support for Readings & Workshops in New York City is provided, in part, by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, with additional support from the Louis & Anne Abrons Foundation, the Axe-Houghton Foundation, the A.K. Starr Charitable Trust, and the Friends of Poets & Writers.

LibroMobile Puts the Focus on Literacy and Community

Sarah Rafael García is the current artist-in-residence at the Grand Central Art Center in Santa Ana, California. As part of her residency, García is creating the LibroMobile, a bookmobile that integrates literature, visual exhibits, year-round creative workshops, and live readings. In addition, García is the author of Las Niñas: A Collection of Childhood Memories (Floricanto Press, 2008), coeditor of the anthology pariahs, writing from outside the margins, founder of the reading and writing youth empowerment program Barrio Writers, and a 2016 Macondista. Below, she blogs about the mission of LibroMobile, as well as recent and upcoming P&W–supported events. 

Sarah Rafael GarciaLibroMobile, a project of Red Salmon Arts in Santa Ana, California, is a bookmobile designed to cultivate diversity by offering affordable books by writers of color; bilingual and Spanish books for children, youth, and adults; as well as books that speak to culture and social justice issues relevant to the local community. LibroMobile also includes a community board to post local resources and a traveling Little Free Library—a book exchange for those who cannot afford to buy a book off the bookmobile. 

The design of the LibroMobile is reminiscent of the iconic paletero carts or fruit vendors that are part of Downtown Santa Ana. LibroMobile’s literary events and creative writing workshops provide Santa Ana residents of all ages opportunities to meet award-winning writers of color, and to write, revise, and submit their own work for possible publication.

This past month, with the help of Poets & Writers’ Readings & Workshops program, LibroMobile launched its inaugural exhibit and literary event, Macondistas en SanTana, featuring Macondo Writers’ Workshop attendees (known as Macondistas) Reyna Grande and Emmy Pérez. Pérez led a free workshop for participants sixteen years old and older and was later joined by Grande, where both performed alongside the AntenaMóvil, a literary project whose designers helped in the conceptualization of the LibroMobile.

Emmy Perez WorkshopThe LibroMobile resides at Grand Central Art Center (GCAC) and travels throughout Santa Ana visiting a variety of communities, including Alta Baja Market at Calle Cuatro and the monthly Artwalk in the Artist’s Village, doing its work to build community and promote literacy. Upcoming events include: A Bilingual Children’s Reading Hour with authors René Colato Laínez and Amy Costales on September 24, and Poetry of Resistance: A Tribute to Francisco X. Alarcón, a free P&W–supported workshop and reading with Javier Pinzón and Odilia Galván Rodríguez on October 27.

LibroMobile is indebted to Poets & Writers, Red Salmon Arts, the GCAC, and the City of Santa Ana’s Investing in the Artist Grant Opportunity for empowering this project to provide diverse books and host marginalized literary voices that can effectively support, inspire, and challenge our Santa Ana residents to read, write, and build community.

For more information about LibroMobile and upcoming events, visit the Facebook page and website.

Photo 1: Sarah Rafael Garcia. Photo 2: Workshop participants.

Major support for Readings & Workshops in California is provided by the James Irvine Foundation and the Hearst Foundations. Additional support comes from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

Young Poets Grow in the South Bronx

Joy Leonard, teaching artist and program director at New Settlement's Program for Girls & Young Women serves adolescent girls in the Southwest Bronx with arts and leadership development classes after school, on weekends, during school breaks, and in the summer. Participants in the program are young women of color, 99 percent from low-income families, often attending underperforming schools. The program strives to connect young women with established artists and educators, who will introduce them to relevant, high-quality materials and guide their development as artists, while also supporting their engagement with social justice issues. In her other life, Leonard is a mother of two boys, an actor, director, and executive producer of the Synaesthetic Theatre Collective.

This spring we were fortunate enough to find (with the help of the Readings & Workshops Program at Poets & Writers, Kamilah Aisha Moon: author, poet, and gifted teacher. Kamilah led a seven-session workshop series titled Drop the Mic for program participants ages fourteen to twenty. Kamilah began each session with a group reading of two or three selections of poetry, linked by themes or similar poetic devices, and then led the group in a conversation about what they noticed, what resonated with them, and how language was used. She would then offer the group a writing prompt for the evening, related to the readings and conversation.

Participants wrote about their names, their perceptions, and evoked places of memory. Inspired by Langston Hughes’s “Mother to Son” and Gwendolyn Brooks’s “We Real Cool,” they experimented with writing from the perspective of someone else, in a voice not their own. Kamilah selected relevant pieces from a wide range of poets, with a heavy concentration of women and people of color, but she also kept the young women tuned in with critical discussions of motifs in popular songs, like Beyonce’s “Lemonade,” and encouraged them to relate to works that moved them. In response to Nina Simone’s “Blackbird,” one young poet wrote:

Why you wanna fly, Blackbird? You ain’t ever gonna fly.

Flying is for the Good, never for the ‘hood.

Us, suspended in the air – you, paying your fare. Ha!

So why you wanna fly, Blackbird? You ain’t gonna make it.

All that you can do is get on a plane, so please, face it.

Birds of a feather flock together. You the one getting blown away in the bad weather. Ha!

Kamilah effectively drew them into expressing opinions and considering why poets had chosen the language, rhythms, and images used in each piece. While the group was often loud, raucous, and challenging to channel in conversation—you know, teenagers—once Kamilah explained the prompt for each evening, they settled down to commit themselves to paper with a seriousness and focus that sometimes surprised the program staff. Everyone wanted Kamilah to read their work and provide feedback. They wrote funny, daring, surprising pieces, and over the course of the workshop it was clear they felt comfortable enough to risk expressing themselves in new ways.

The Program for Girls & Young Women is indebted to Poets & Writers, and Bonnie Rose Marcus, in particular, for enabling us to work with Kamilah Aisha Moon, a poet and teacher with the experience and compassionate personality to effectively support, inspire, and challenge our young poets.

For more on the Program for Girls & Young Women, visit their Facebook page. For samples and video clips of the young poets performing work created in the workshop, visit the Drop the Mic 2016 website.

Photo (top): Joy Leonard. Photo credit: Chris Nichols. Photo collage (bottom): Kamilah Aisha Moon and participants. Photo credit: Kamilah Aisha Moon, Rachel Eliza Griffiths.

Support for Readings & Workshops in New York City is provided, in part, by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, and the Department of Cultural Affairs, with additional support from the Louis & Anne Abrons Foundation, the Axe-Houghton Foundation, the A.K. Starr Charitable Trust, and the Friends of Poets & Writers.

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