Archive April 2020

Eight New Orleans Poets to Watch

There are only a couple days left for this year’s National Poetry Month and I wanted to celebrate by highlighting some New Orleans poets and their recorded readings. Some have been created during the COVID-19 quarantine and others showcase the venues we miss visiting. If you’re looking for virtual readings to watch from home, check out the online events in the Literary Events Calendar and follow me on Twitter, @nolapworg.

1. Jessica Kinnison, cofounder of the Dogfish reading series, reads poems for the Virtual New Orleans Poetry Festival 2020.

2. Sunni Patterson reads a poem with musical accompaniment for the Letters From the Porch video series, which brings musicians and performers together to offer gratitude to the medical community.

3. Slam New Orleans member FreeQuency reads her poem “Lessons on Being an African Immigrant in America” at the 2014 National Poetry Slam Finals.

4. Brad Richard reads from his collection Parasite Kingdom (The Word Works, 2019). Richard codirects the LGBTIQ reading series the Waves with poet Elizabeth Gross.

5. New Orleans poet Skye Jackson reads from her chapbook, A Faster Grave (Antenna Press, 2019), for a book launch reading at Malvern Books.

6. Justin Lamb, a former Slam New Orleans member and the program director at Bard Early College in New Orleans, performs “The Friend Zone.”

7. Megan Burns, cofounder of the New Orleans Poetry Festival and Trembling Pillow Press publisher, reads for the Unlikely Salons reading series at the Zeitgeist Theatre and Lounge in Arabi, Louisiana.

8. Gina Ferrara, host of the Poetry Buffet series, reads her poem “The Religion Once But No Longer Shared” at Cafe Istanbul in New Orleans.

Bonus: 826 New Orleans program director Kyley Pulphus offers an online writing workshop for their #agoodtimetowrite series.

Kelly Harris is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in New Orleans. Contact her at NOLA@pw.org or on Twitter, @NOLApworg.

The Houses on My Block: Calypso Editions

Hey, mi gente. I want to get right to the point and keep up the flow of discussion on the publishing houses here in Houston. Throughout the month I’ve written about Arte Público Press, Mutabilis Press, and Bloomsday Literary, so I’ll keep it going today and introduce you to Calypso Editions.

Calypso Editions is the city’s main publishing house focused on translation—getting books written by foreign authors into English. In addition, they publish books of poetry and fiction written in English and are committed to “providing a space for talented, new voices.” One of the main things that has always caught my attention about Calypso Editions is that it is a cooperative! That’s right—it is a nonprofit press that is artist-run, which makes their publishing choices all the more engaging and remarkable.

They are also a community-oriented publishing house. Back in 2017, when PEN America planned out the Writers Resist reading in New York City, Calypso Editions was one of the first organizations that was willing to stand with Houston writers as we planned our own Writers Resist events.

On May 1, Calypso Editions will release The Child Who, a book by Jeanne Benameur, translated from the French by Bill Johnston. This work of poetic prose explores the worlds of a young boy whose mother has disappeared, his father, and the boy’s grandmother. As always, Calypso Editions hopes to introduce yet another wonderful voice to a new audience of English-language readers.

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

Soft Animal Wounds Part One

It has been my pleasure to dive into books from Detroit authors during quarantine days and I’m excited to share another book with you this week. Soft Animal Wounds is the first collection by 2019 Detroit Youth Poet Laureate Mahalia Frost. Since her appointment, Frost has become a prominent figure in the Detroit youth poetry community. I am proud of her growth and her work on this collection! Here, I will give you my reflections on the first half of this book.

Soft Animal Wounds dives deep into Frost’s imaginative mind with complex images that throw the reader curveball after curveball. Themes range from self-reflection to relationships with family and the surrounding world. Even when a question isn’t asked, the reader can find a question to explore between the lines. I found myself on my toes through one of my favorite poems early in the book “Ghazal With a Trace of Something Disappearing” with lines like:

“I run inside the crimson oceans of a song”

Frost’s open honesty is felt through many of the ways she chooses to build imagery. Some may find parts painful or grotesque, but Frost finds a way to make everything tie back to a larger meaning—often with commentary on her own relationships.

“...I remember her calling me wound / when we went to the doctors they said mother’s body / was trying to kill her & I sat there quiet like a good wound”

As I near the midpoint of this collection, I am further impressed by the poetic forms that are being explored by Frost. She seems to take a liking to the ghazal form and even has a poem that requires the reader to turn the book horizontally. Dialogue, footnotes, and other writing techniques truly show the growth and dedication of this young poet.

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

We Need Diverse Books Emergency Fund Open for Applications

To help writers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be highlighting emergency funds available to writers. For more sources of support, read our running list of resources for writers in the time of coronavirus.

We Need Diverse Books is issuing grants of $500 to members of the children’s literature publishing community “who are experiencing dire financial need,” specifically diverse authors, illustrators, and publishing professionals whose incomes have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Writers and illustrators who have lost income due to canceled school or library visits, and who have published at least one book-length title for children or teens at a traditional publishing house, are eligible; children’s publishing professionals who have been furloughed or recently laid off from a publisher or literary agency are also eligible. All applicants must identify as people of color, as Native American, or as LGBTQIA+, or have a disability or belong to a marginalized religious or cultural minority; additionally, they must be U.S. residents and at least eighteen years of age.

Using online the online application system, submit information about personal finances, a statement of need, and a recent bank statement. Author and illustrator applicants must also list publication history and provide evidence of the cancellation of at least three school or library visits. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

We Need Diverse Books estimates that applications will be processed within two to three weeks. Applications will be capped at seventy but may be reopened after the judging committee has reviewed the first round.

We Need Diverse Books first emerged as a social media campaign and protest in 2014, which called out the publishing industry for the lack of diversity in children’s literature. We Need Diverse Books has since become a nonprofit organization with the vision to build “a world in which all children can see themselves in the pages of a book.”

Upcoming Deadline for the Poetry London Prize

Submissions are open for the 2020 Poetry London Prize. This international award, given for a single poem written in English, is run by the British literary magazine Poetry London. The winner will receive £5,000 (approximately $6,170). A second-place prize of £2,000 (approximately $2,468) and a third-place prize of £1,000 (approximately $1,234) will also given. All three winning poems will be published in the magazine’s Autumn 2020 issue and on its website.

Using only the online submission system, submit poems of no more than 80 lines with a £8 entry fee (approximately $10) per poem, or £4 (approximately $5) per poem for Poetry London subscribers, by May 1. For low-income poets, limited free entries are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Poet, critic, and translator Ilya Kaminsky will judge. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

The winners will be notified by July 17 and will be awarded their prizes at the Poetry London Autumn 2020 issue launch reading in September. Previous first-place winners of this competition include poets Romalyn Ante, Liz Berry, and Richard Scott.

BOMB Poetry Contest Open for Submissions

BOMB is open for submissions to its 2020 Poetry Contest. The annual award is given for a group of poems, and the winner will receive $1,000 and publication in BOMB Magazine.

Using Submittable, submit up to five poems totaling no more than 10 pages with a $20 entry fee, which includes a yearlong subscription to BOMB Magazine, by May 3. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

Poet Simone White will judge. White is the author of several books and chapbooks, most recently Dear Angel of Death (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2018); she teaches at the University of Pennsylvania. The winner will be announced on July 31.

Previous winners of the poetry contest include Savannah Cooper-Ramsey, Marwa Helal, and Daniel Poppick.

Published since 1981, BOMB Magazine features conversations between artists of all disciplines. The quarterly print publication is part of the larger nonprofit BOMB, which also produces online content.

Let’s Read Part Two: Poetry From New Orleans

To continue celebrating National Poetry Month, here is the second half of my recommended New Orleans book list to read during quarantine. I hope you enjoy and remember to support your local writers, small presses, and bookstores however you can as we all get through this difficult time together.

1. Poems Don’t Have to Be Perfect: 2019 Pizza Poetry Anthology by 826 New Orleans. The poems (some about pizza) from this anthology by young writers ages 6–18 are collected by the nonprofit 826 New Orleans at their annual Pizza Poetry event, which publishes student poems on the boxes of local pizza joints.

2. City Without People: The Katrina Poems (Black Widow Press, 2011) by Niyi Osundare. The Nigerian-born poet connects his roots with the African influences of New Orleans and recalls the people who helped him when he lost his home to Hurricane Katrina.

3. Louisiana Midrash (University of New Orleans Press, 2019) by Marian D. Moore. Moore writes about her African American Jewish experience in this wonderful collection of poetry.

4. Memory Wing (Black Widow Press, 2011) by Bill Lavender. Lavender has written more than ten books of poetry and is the publisher of the popular local press Lavender Ink. This collection reads like a memoir taking us deep into his family life and experiences in Arkansas and New Orleans.

5. Fractal Song (Black Widow Press, 2016) by Jerry Ward. Esteemed professor and scholar, Ward writes poems with imagery that bring the fractures of life together.

Kelly Harris is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in New Orleans. Contact her at NOLA@pw.org or on Twitter, @NOLApworg.

The Houses on My Block: Bloomsday Literary

I keep reading about independent bookstores closing due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and I’ve also been thinking about the state of small presses during this time. With this in mind, I am glad to have the opportunity in this blog to present to you more of the publishing houses that make Houston tick.

I started the month by featuring Arte Público Press and Mutabilis Press, so I’ll keep it going and introduce you to the rookie on the block, Bloomsday Literary.

Bloomsday was established just about five years ago, and in that short time they have made a strong mark on the publishing world. Their latest publications include former Houston poet laureate Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton’s Newsworthy and Jabari Asim’s Stop & Frisk: American Poems, both hard-hitting books on contemporary themes that we need in this day and age.

On top of publishing amazing works of literature, Bloomsday hosts and runs F***ing Shakespeare, a podcast series where they talk all things literary with writers from all over the country. The podcast is a refreshing way to advocate for writing, interview authors, and highlight the work of wonderful writers like recent guests Jericho Brown, Edan Lepucki, and Phong Nguyen. I secretly want them to invite me to be a guest!

Coowners Kate Martin Williams and Jessica Cole, along with chief creative officer Phuc Luu run Bloomsday and they are delightful folks. They are always on the literary scene around these parts hunting around for the next writer to make shine bright.

Get your hands on their books and listen to their podcast interviews archived on their website.

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

Virtual Mic Check

This time last month the state of Michigan was taking the first steps into enforcing social distancing measures due to the coronavirus pandemic. While we cannot enjoy day-to-day life as we once knew it, some innovative minds have begun to produce virtual events and miniseries to keep the readings, open mics, and literary festivals going online. Here are a few Detroit shout-outs that you will want to catch!

Lyrics & Libations Poetry Series has shifted to a weekly Instagram Live open mic every Wednesday at 7:30 PM EST. You can find host Caesar Torreano on Instagram, @caesartorreano. Just log in to read!

In collaboration with poet and host Joel Fluent Greene, the Detroit Historical Museum is presenting an Instagram miniseries that covers the beauty of poetry in the city and celebrates National Poetry Month. Beginning today, April 20, through April 29 there will be live Instagram events at 7:00 PM EST featuring readings and talks with local writers like Arrie Lane and M. L. Liebler. I will take part in the April 28 program “Pockets of Joy” alongside youth and recent alums I’ve worked with through the InsideOut Literary Arts’ after-school program Citywide Poets. You can find the museum on Instagram, @detroithistorical.

And speaking of Citywide Poets, they are holding a weekly #SaturdayShare Open Mic at 3:00 PM EST every Saturday via Instagram, @citywidepoets. You can find me hosting these live events where we share daily prompts and poems. While the program primarily serves teen writers, we encourage adult writers to join us to continue building community across generations.

The team at InsideOut Literary Arts is also putting on Essential Words: Louder Than a Bomb Youth Poetry Festival Online, which is going fully virtual in order to stay engaged with youth and the community. Beginning on April 30 and ending on May 7, the festival will provide a variety of daily interactions both publicly via Instagram and privately via Google Meet and other online meeting platforms. Writers ages 13-19 as well as adults are encouraged to register in order to take part.

Consider joining these excellent events and I hope to see you soon online!

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

Poets & Writers COVID-19 Relief Fund Open for Applications

Poets & Writers’ Board of Directors has established the Poets & Writers COVID-19 Relief Fund to provide emergency assistance to writers experiencing financial need due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The fund will provide grants of $1,000 each to approximately eighty writers in April. As funding allows, a second round of grants may be awarded.

Writers who are listed in the Poets & Writers Directory as of April 10, 2020; who have received a mini-grant through the Poets & Writers Readings & Workshops program; or who have received the organization’s Amy Award, the Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award, the Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award, or the Galen Williams Fellowship are eligible.

Submit an online application, consisting of a brief set of questions about eligibility and financial need, by Sunday, April 19. Visit the website for complete guidelines. Contact relief@pw.org with any questions. The initial cohort of applicants will be notified of the status of their application by the end of April.

Poets & Writers seeded the fund with $50,000 from the organization’s reserves; donors including Zibby Owens and Michael Pietsch have provided additional support. The emergency fund is an extension of an overarching mission to foster the professional development of poets and writers, to promote communication throughout the literary community, and to help create an environment in which literature can be appreciated by the widest possible public.

Let’s Read Part One: Poetry From New Orleans

During this pandemic, as many of us are quarantined in our homes, we may be looking for ways to find a silver lining in all of this. Might I suggest more reading? In honor of National Poetry Month, I wanted to share a few poetry books written by New Orleans authors to remind us about this beloved city. I hope you’ll enjoy some poems from this list of books (I’ve included links to their listings in the New Orleans Public Library), and maybe it will inspire you to make your own list of poetry books about the cities you love.

1. From a Bend in the River: 100 New Orleans Poets (Runagate Press, 1998) edited by Kalamu ya Salaam. This classic anthology gives voice to a diverse group of poets, and includes poetry from both established and emerging writers.

2. Hearing Sappho in New Orleans: The Call of Poetry From Congo Square to the Ninth Ward (Louisiana State University Press, 2012) by Ruth Salvaggio. In this book Salvaggio, inspired by a volume of Sappho’s poetry she finds while going through her belongings just after Hurricane Katrina, explores the history of lyric poetry in New Orleans.

3. My Name Is New Orleans: 40 Years of Poetry & Other Jazz (Margaret Media, Inc., 2009) by Arthur Pfister. This collection of poetry captures the sounds and smells and culture of New Orleans from a native who was a fixture of the poetry scene in the city for decades.

4. Geometry of the Heart (Portals Press, 2007) by Valentine Pierce. Ms Valentine, as I affectionately call her, is a veteran to the New Orleans poetry scene. Her work showcases years of knowledge and wisdom.

5. Red Beans and Ricely Yours (Truman State University Press, 2005) by Mona Lisa Saloy. This is a classic book of Southern poetry—and a winner of the PEN Oakland-Josephine Miles Literary Award for poetry—from one of our city’s beloved folklorists.

Kelly Harris is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in New Orleans. Contact her at NOLA@pw.org or on Twitter, @NOLApworg.

The Houses on My Block: Mutabilis Press

Last week I started highlighting the publishing houses here in Houston by looking at Arte Público Press. Today I want to write about Mutabilis Press. This nonprofit literary press is all about supporting the poetry world, especially poets in the greater Houston area.

The press was founded in 2003 by poet and artist Carolyn Tourney Florek and is a great source of literary work, including first books from some of the best poets that Houston has to offer. I personally own Why Me? (Mutabilis Press, 2009), the debut collection of poetry by Inprint founder Rich Levy, and it’s a great collection. Mutabilis also publishes poetry anthologies and makes it a point to find ways to gather as many Houston area poets as possible to write on a variety of themes. Their latest anthology, Enchantment of the Ordinary, edited by Galveston poet and dear friend of mine John Gorman, collects poems from Houston area authors with a connection to the state of Texas. I love the idea behind this anthology.

It is a blessing to be able to thumb through the anthologies and poetry collections published by Mutabilis and find the names and words of poets who I call friend. If you have the means to support this wonderful press, please take a look at their catalog and order books from them directly or from your local independent bookstore. Either way your purchase helps keep the lights on for these publishing houses.

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