Archive September 2019

Where to Write in Detroit

As a writer, I know how quickly our own writing seems to age. It often feels difficult to generate new work. Communing with fellow creatives is sometimes the best way to put pen to paper. With that in mind, I want to highlight a couple spaces for writers that I have found in the area.

Riverwise is a community-based magazine focused on highlighting local activism and personal Detroit stories. Alexis Draper has been organizing the Riverwise Writing Workshop series, which are held all over the city allowing for more accessibility to folks seeking out classes. The workshops range from general creative writing techniques to focusing on discussions about social issues in our community. A recent workshop called “Uncomfortable Spaces” was offered for free at the Artists Inn and was led by local poets Kahn Santori Davidson and Natasha T. Miller.

The Detroit Writing Room is an up-and-coming venue that opened in June offering coworking and event space in downtown Detroit. They have writing coaches that anyone can schedule an appointment with for feedback and editing on business materials or literary work. Many of the writing coaches are local creatives and professionals, including Anna Clark and Ashley Calhoun, both of whom I highly recommend! 

There are so many organizations and spaces that I could mention, but here are just a few more: Bottom Line Coffee House is home to a number of workshops led by local writers and visual artists, and they have great coffee and pastries. The Room Project is a work space for women and nonbinary writers and artists, and this October and November they will be offering creative nonfiction workshops. InsideOut’s after-school program, Citywide Poets begins this October for any teens looking to develop their writing. 

I hope these are resources that you can use and share with fellow writers! 

Justin Rogers is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in Detroit. Contact him at Detroit@pw.org or on Twitter, @Detroitpworg.

Hot Houston Part Two

¿Que dice mi gente? In my last report, I talked about what I experienced this summer since taking on the role of literary outreach coordinator in Houston.

In July, I got a healthy dose of poetry from the Public Poetry reading series. Public Poetry is a program run by local poet and founding director Fran Sanders. Their programs and projects aim to bring poetry to audiences all across this brilliant city.

Presented in partnership with the City of Houston and the Houston Public Library, Public Poetry readings happen the first Saturday of every month at 2:00PM at four libraries a year, three consecutive months at each library. On July 6, I attended a beautiful reading featuring poets Calvin King, Autumn Hayes, Katherine Hoerth, and Melissa Studdard at the Bracewell Neighborhood Library on the south side of town.

In August, I got to take up some table space reppin’ Poets & Writers at the magazine launch for Defunkt Magazine. It was an honor and a pleasure to be on hand to catch the literary work and art at the launch for their first issue.

Defunkt describes itself as “a magazine which showcases compelling, accessible, and culturally relevant work—anything the mainstream is ignoring or marginalizing.” So far, I think they are living up to the name. They have rolling submissions and are currently accepting poetry and prose for their next issue. If you’re looking for more journals to submit to, check out the vetted and extensive Literary Magazines database.

Okay mi gente, check in next week and for all things September!

Lupe Mendez with Joshua Nguyen at the Defunkt Magazine launch event.
 
Lupe Mendez is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in Houston. Contact him at Houston@pw.org or on Twitter, @houstonpworg.

Mixing It Up

I have been speaking to numerous venue owners in Detroit about what it means to host a series in the city. Open mics allow for a variety of artists to take the stage while I have seen other shows and reading series offer a workshop afterwards. These are the shows that introduced me to the world of poetry. It’s been enlightening to explore all the different literary series offered in Detroit and to see how they impact audiences.

Recently I had a conversation with Dan Wickett, a local poet and event organizer, about hosting the Brain Candy series. The series showcases one poet, one prose writer, a musician, and a visual artist performing together at the local comic bookstore Green Brain Comics. When asked about how he chooses the artists and curates events, Wickett says that his hope is for audiences to find something unexpected to enjoy. “I’m exposing different art forms to those that show up to see a painter or a musician,” he says. “I’m also hoping to develop a community of artists that helps each other, supports each other’s events, and that finds hints of their own work in those around them.”

Brain Candy is presented by Green Brain Comics and the Emerging Writers Network, and has shows every third Monday of the month. For more information on events in your area, and to post your own, visit the Literary Events Calendar.

A reading for the Green Book Comics Brain Candy series.
 
Justin Rogers is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in Detroit. Contact him at Detroit@pw.org or on Twitter, @Detroitpworg.

Hot Houston Part One

¿Que dice mi gente? I’m really excited to fill you in on what went on here in Houston this summer. We do a lot. Seriously.

I celebrated with the nonprofit organization Inprint as they formally announced the readers for the 2019/2020 season of their Margarett Root Brown Reading Series. This is one of the city’s dopest reading series—always a treat—and they do it up. This year to unveil their line-up they hosted a happy hour mixer for the public at the Night Heron, a slick little spot in town.

The season runs from September 16, 2019 through April 27, 2020 and features ten renowned authors, including Colson Whitehead, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Natalie Diaz. I plan to be in attendance and will bring you more on the series.

I also traveled back to my hometown of Galveston for Speak Up, Speak Out 2019, an annual regional youth poetry slam hosted by Iconoclast Artists. The daytime event kicked off the summer nicely. Al puro cien. I was invited to serve as a judge and witnessed a lively slam. Several teams from different parts of the state were on hand for the competition (shout-out to the slam team at César E. Chavez High School!). It is so refreshing to get a chance to see youth take the stage and show their poetic “teeth” in the literary world. This community is vibrant and I look forward to sharing more from Houston.

The 2019/2020 Margarett Root Brown Reading Series poster.
 
Lupe Mendez is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in Houston. Contact him at Houston@pw.org or on Twitter, @houstonpworg.

Citywide Poets at ArtBlock

Last week I helped organize InsideOut’s annual Citywide Poets orientation, which preps the writing mentors who will lead after-school sessions in local high schools and community centers in Detroit from October through May. This year the program is bringing together eighteen writers to participate as mentors, including Nadine Marshall, Jassmine Parks, Brittany Rogers, and Devin Samuels.

In addition to our growing numbers, what made this year’s orientation awesome was the place where we gathered, a new community arts center in the Northwest Goldberg neighborhood called ArtBlock. This space offers an outstanding first impression with its colorful mural on the north wall of the building. Inside the building, there are three separate mural-covered rooms fit for anything from readings to workshops to parties. ArtBlock is available for community groups and local nonprofits to use free of charge, which was a great help to InsideOut. I look forward to this year’s Citywide Poets programming and to seeing future events at ArtBlock.

ArtBlock mural by artist Fel3000ft. (Credit: Justin Rogers)
 
Justin Rogers is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in Detroit. Contact him at Detroit@pw.org or on Twitter, @Detroitpworg.

¡Saludos Desde Houston!

Hola mi gente, my name is Lupe Mendez and I am an educator, writer, and activist originally from Galveston, Texas. I am the founder and current director of Tintero Projects, a grassroots organization that helps provide opportunities for Latinx writers and other writers of color along the Texas Gulf Coast. I received an MFA in creative writing from the University of Texas at El Paso and have been a part of the Houston literary scene for more than twenty years. You can check out my Poets & Writers Directory profile for more about my writing.

As the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in Houston, I am excited to provide information to local literary organizations and writers about the resources P&W offers—from applications for minigrants through the Readings & Workshops program to free online resources such as the Literary Events Calendar.

I also have the opportunity to speak about the brilliant writing scene represented in the fourth largest city in the United States. Houston is a powerhouse with exciting open mic events (Notsouh, the First Friday reading series), an active slam scene (Houston VIP, Write About Now), and excellent literary organizations and writing programs (Inprint, Nuestra Palabra, University of Houston).

I look forward to reporting on what’s happening out in Houston. Nos vemos pronto.

Lupe Mendez.
 
Lupe Mendez is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in Houston. Contact him at Houston@pw.org or on Twitter, @houstonpworg.

The Slam at the Cube

LaShaun “Phoenix” Kotaran is a longtime figure in the slam community and has recently been chosen to host a new poetry slam series in Detroit. It is exciting to see poetry back in a venue that hasn’t had a poetry event in over ten years—Detroit Symphony Orchestra. This immaculate building offers a dynamic recital hall known as the Cube for performances.

I had a chance to speak to Phoenix about adding this new gig to her extensive hosting career. While Phoenix is excited about the opportunity, she feels that the literary offerings in the city have shrunken, especially since the city’s bankruptcy. “It’s been tough to partner with venues in downtown Detroit and Cass Corridor,” Phoenix says. However, the new slam series at the Cube brings hope of fresh growth. “Detroit Symphony Orchestra is very Detroit, very white and blue collar. It is Detroit grit. This is the perfect space to cultivate culture,” she says.

The first Cube Poetry Slam went down last month and featured incredible local poets and an acoustic set by singer and songwriter Peter Collins who made his Detroit debut. This fall, the series continues with an all-female lineup. I will be watching this series very closely and reporting about it in the near future!

LaShaun “Phoenix” Kotaran and poets read at the Cube. (Credit: Justin Rogers)
 
Justin Rogers is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in Detroit. Contact him at Detroit@pw.org or on Twitter, @Detroitpworg.

Raise a Glass to Poetry

I recently had the pleasure of attending a new poetry series hosted by Detroit poet Caesar Torreano. Lyrics & Libations is held at Detroit Vineyards, a new venue and winery featuring Michigan-grown wine. This unique venue offers an elegant, spacious feel complete with a bar and one-of-a-kind floating tables. The staff are welcoming and friendly, and the unique wine options keep everyone smiling and warm as they listen to local poets—many of which are established in the community—share their work.

The space offered me the opportunity to chat with artists and organizers who I haven’t crossed paths with in a number of years. Caesar managed to offer the same inspiring allure I recalled from the first time I walked into one of his events over seven years ago.

I highly recommend checking out Lyrics & Libations, which happens every Wednesday starting at 7:00 PM at Detroit Vineyards. There are exciting featured poets to listen to and meet, fine wine, and an open mic for anyone who wants to share and join in. I’ll be back to participate again soon!

Justin Rogers is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in Detroit. Contact him at Detroit@pw.org or on Twitter, @Detroitpworg.