Archive October 2016

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.

By Craig Czury


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 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.