Brian Turner is best known for his award-winning poetry collections and memoir about the Iraq War, but with his new project he has pushed into an entirely new dimension of creative expression.
The Spoken Word Club of Laguna Woods is a place for writers, poets, playwrights, monologuists, and storytellers to read their work and develop new material. In our monthly meetings, members have an opportunity to read and hear others. There is a featured reader every month. Guests are welcomed to listen or read ($2 charge for guests per meeting). Light refreshments at the Redwoods Room in the Community Center on El Toro on the 4th Tuesday of the month at 1pm-3pm.
This week I want to introduce you to Ink Well, a Houston-based podcast that I cohost which interviews established and emerging writers from across the United States. Presented by Tintero Projects and Inprint, the two organizations collaborate to make suggestions for writers to interview, Inprint provides the recording space and the producer, Tintero Projects founders Jasminne and yours truly cohost and interview guests, and ta-da, you get a podcast series, which is currently in its third year.
With the series, we hope to find ways to showcase international, national, and regional voices talking about the writing landscape. We especially want to feature writers of color and Southern voices from the Gulf Coast to offer them an opportunity to share their work and thoughts on writing.
Our inaugural episode welcomed poet Analicia Sotelo, whose debut poetry collection, Virgin, was selected by Ross Gay as the first winner of the Jake Adam York Prize. Since then guests have included Ching-In Chen, Rigoberto González, Daniel Peña, Samanta Schweblin, and Carmen Giménez Smith.
If you’re looking for something to occupy you on a long commute and want to hear brilliant voices talking about all things literary, give Ink Well a listen. I hope you’ll be introduced to some new inspiring voices.Houston@pw.org or on Twitter, @houstonpworg.
This week I had the opportunity to speak with Jassmine Parks, a native Detroit writer and slam poetry champion who found a home in the city’s creative community and has since gone on to perform her work nationally. Her introduction to the literary world came from a beloved venue, Artist Village Detroit.
“My altar call to the lit scene in Detroit occurred at an open mic at Artist Village,” says Jassmine. “At the time I was writing poetry just to heal from generations of trauma and my therapist suggested that I attend and possibly perform at an open mic.”
Artist Village is also the venue where I attended my first writing workshop and fell in love with poetry. My writing was heavily influenced by the poets, musicians, and painters that I met there.
Jassmine spent two years as a member of the Detroit Poetry Slam Team and is now working with youth poets as a mentor for InsideOut’s Citywide Poets program. “I feel rejuvenated and inspired when creating new work,” she says. “The students I teach are resilient and have so much to say.”
Lastly, we spoke about what might be missing from Detroit’s literary world. “I would like to see a literary council in the city, something like a Justice League, a combination of multi-disciplined writers across generations and experiences that comes together to bridge the gap between opportunities and writers,” says Jassmine. “A hub to unify and mobilize the writers within the city of Detroit.”
As Poets & Writers’ first literary outreach coordinator in Detroit, I feel that we are beginning to address these needs. I, along with Lupe Mendez and Kelly Harris, the coordinators in Houston and New Orleans, are spreading the word about the resources P&W has to offer writers, and the Readings & Workshops minigrants that are available. These efforts are all a way to bring writers a bit closer to each other and I am excited to be a part of this new initiative.Detroit@pw.org or on Twitter, @Detroitpworg.
This past September, the Writers for Migrant Justice campaign readings focused on raising funds for detained and formerly detained migrants on a national level. Here in Houston, we want to continue this effort on a local level. On October 3 the Houston Writers Coalition organized a second reading, Writers for Families Together. The goal was to raise money for two local organizations—Familias Immigrantes y Estudiantes en la Lucha (FIEL) and Kids in Need of Defense (KIND)—which both aid immigrant families facing human rights violations at the Texas–Mexico border.
There were over seventy people in attendance at the reading, which was held at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in the Museum District. It was a blessed evening as we got to hear from over thirty writers—including poet and teacher Natasha Carrizosa, translator and former Houston poet laureate Robin Davidson, slam poet Loyce Gayo, novelist Daniel Peña, and myself—reading in English and Spanish. It was a truly beautiful night and we hope to continue efforts to support and aid immigrant families in our community.Houston@pw.org or on Twitter, @houstonpworg.
This week I took a moment to speak with Rose Gorman, the inaugural Tuxedo Project resident fellow, about the literary landscape of Detroit compared to her experience in New York, where she received her MA in creative writing at Binghamton University. Gorman has lived in Detroit for two years and quickly become an active organizer of book clubs and fundraising events, and is a coordinator for the Michigan Louder Than a Bomb festival.
Gorman has a ton of experience with event programming and, as the former program manager of the New York Writers Coalition, received funding for the Fort Greene Summer Literary Festival through the Reading & Workshops program. When asked about the differences between the literary events and resources in Detroit versus New York, she found it difficult to put into words. “New York is a larger place, and coming from there, Detroit has a small-town feel,” says Gorman. “It can be easier to collaborate with different kinds of artists here, while in New York everyone is already engrossed in so much of the culture that it’s harder to find time to collaborate. Everyone is hustling.”
I identified with Gorman’s experiences with Detroit feeling like a small city. There is an unspoken effort to connect to a larger group of like-minded creatives here. The beauty of Detroit is in the richness of our creative community. We welcome new writers to the city and it’s important that we continue to share experiences, resources, and knowledge with each other.Justin Rogers is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in Detroit. Contact him at Detroit@pw.org or on Twitter, @Detroitpworg.
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.
Last week the National Book Foundation released the longlists for the 2019 National Book Awards. The awards are presented annually for the best books of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, translated literature, and young people’s literature published between December 1 of the previous year and November 30 of the current year. Ten semifinalists have been nominated in each award category; the finalists, who will each receive a $1,000 prize, will be revealed on October 8. The winning authors will each receive $10,000 and will be announced at an awards ceremony in New York City on November 20.
The semifinalists in poetry:
Dan Beachy-Quick for Variations on Dawn and Dusk (Omnidawn Publishing)
Jericho Brown for The Tradition (Copper Canyon Press)
Toi Derricotte for “I”: New and Selected Poems (University of Pittsburgh Press)
Camonghne Felix for Build Yourself a Boat (Haymarket Books)
Carmen Giménez Smith for Be Recorder (Graywolf Press)
Ilya Kaminsky for Deaf Republic (Graywolf Press)
Ariana Reines for A Sand Book (Tin House Books)
Mary Ruefle for Dunce (Wave Books)
Arthur Sze for Sight Lines (Copper Canyon Press)
Brian Teare for Doomstead Days (Nightboat Books)
The semifinalists in fiction:
Taffy Brodesser-Akner for Fleishman Is in Trouble (Random House)
Susan Choi for Trust Exercise (Henry Holt)
Kali Fajardo-Anstine for Sabrina & Corina: Stories (One World)
Marlon James for Black Leopard, Red Wolf (Riverhead Books)
Laila Lalami for The Other Americans (Pantheon Books)
Kimberly King Parsons for Black Light: Stories (Vintage)
Helen Phillips for The Need (Simon & Schuster)
Julia Phillips for Disappearing Earth (Knopf)
Ocean Vuong for On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous (Penguin Press)
Colson Whitehead for The Nickel Boys (Doubleday)
The semifinalists in nonfiction:
Hanif Abdurraqib for Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest (University of Texas Press)
Sarah M. Broom for The Yellow House (Grove Press)
Tressie McMillan Cottom for Thick: And Other Essays (New Press)
Carolyn Forché for What You Have Heard Is True: A Memoir of Witness and Resistance (Penguin Press)
Greg Grandin for The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America (Metropolitan Books)
Patrick Radden Keefe for Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland (Doubleday)
Iliana Regan for Burn the Place: A Memoir (Agate Midway)
Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor for Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership (University of North Carolina Press)
David Treuer for The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present (Riverhead Books)
Albert Woodfox with Leslie George for Solitary (Grove Press)
The semifinalists in translated literature:
Naja Marie Aidt for When Death Takes Something From You Give It Back: Carl’s Book translated by Denise Newman (Coffee House Press)
Eliane Brum for The Collector of Leftover Souls: Field Notes on Brazil’s Everyday Insurrections translated by Diane Grosklaus Whitty (Graywolf Press)
Nona Fernández for Space Invaders translated by Natasha Wimmer (Graywolf Press)
Vigdis Hjorth for Will and Testament translated by Charlotte Barslund (Verso Fiction)
Khaled Khalifa for Death Is Hard Work translated by Leri Price (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
László Krasznahorkai for Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming translated by Ottilie Mulzet (New Directions)
Scholastique Mukasonga for The Barefoot Woman translated by Jordan Stump (Archipelago Books)
Yoko Ogawa for The Memory Police translated by Stephen Snyder (Pantheon Books)
Pajtim Statovci for Crossing translated by David Hackston (Pantheon Books)
Olga Tokarczuk for Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones (Riverhead Books)
The semifinalists in young people’s literature:
Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson for The Undefeated (Versify)
Laurie Halse Anderson for Shout (Viking Books for Young Readers)
Akwaeke Emezi for Pet (Make Me a World)
Cynthia Kadohata for A Place to Belong (Caitlyn Dlouhy Books)
Jason Reynolds for Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks (Atheneum)
Randy Ribay for Patron Saints of Nothing (Kokila)
Laura Ruby for Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All (Balzer + Bray)
Martin W. Sandler for 1919: The Year That Changed America (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)
Hal Schrieve for Out of Salem (Triangle Square)
Colleen AF Venable and Ellen T. Crenshaw for Kiss Number 8 (First Second Books)
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.Detroit@pw.org or on Twitter, @Detroitpworg.