Poetry Fest in Houston

Good day mi gente. October has been a busy month for Houston writers. I wanted to take a moment to give a shout-out to the Houston Poetry Fest. The thirty-fourth annual event was held at the University of Houston–Downtown campus over three days, from October 11–13, with readings, panel discussions, and lectures. Featured guest poets included Gayle Bell, Sharon Klander, Alex Lemon, Kevin Prufer, and Michael D. Snediker, who read from their work. Joining them at the readings were “juried poets,” who are selected by judges through a submission process.

In addition to the main event, satellite readings were also held before and after the festival dates in the city, offering writers and attendees more opportunities to participate in the literary festivities. The satellite readings included a “Salute to LGBTQ+ Poets,” a Sylvia Plath tribute, bilingual events, and a youth poetry slam. Although I wasn’t able to attend this year, it is great to see the Houston Poetry Fest expanding and still going strong.

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

Readings in Town

Recently I had the chance to attend a couple of readings that blew me away. There is a new Spanish-language reading series presented by Inprint and Tintero Projects called Escritores en la casa. The September event featured Rose Mary Salum, founder and editor of the bilingual magazine Literal, Latin American Voices. The Inprint house was packed and the audience asked thoughtful questions during the discussion that followed the reading.

I was also able to attend a P&W–supported event with poet Ilya Kaminsky reading from his newest collection, Deaf Republic. Sponsored by the University of Houston’s creative writing program, the monthly Gulf Coast reading series invites students from the program to read with a featured visiting writer. Kaminsky held the audience’s attention with a haunting selection of his book, a lyric narrative-in-poems set in a time of war. The event took place at the beautiful Lawndale Art Center, which hosts art shows and is a spectacular space for readings. It was one of the most unique readings I have ever attended.

Hear Kaminsky read from Deaf Republic in Episode 24 of Ampersand: The Poets & Writers Podcast.

Ilya Kaminsky reads at the Gulf Coast reading series in Houston.
 
Lupe Mendez is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in Houston. Contact him at Houston@pw.org or on Twitter, @houstonpworg.

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.

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.

Writers Justice League

¿Que dice la buena vida, mi gente? On September 4, I joined the Houston Writers Coalition—a newly formed group of activist writers, professors, and creators—for an event supporting the Writers for Migrant Justice campaign. Organized by poets Christopher Soto, Jan-Henry Gray, Anni Liu, and Javier Zamora, the campaign brought writers together in more than forty cities across the United States to protest the government’s immigration policies and raise funds for the Immigrant Families Together Project, an organization that provides legal aid to undocumented families.

Here in Houston we participated by hosting a marathon reading—simply put, a reading with no introductions, prefaces, book signings, or discussions, just our words. Over forty writers gathered at the Holocaust Museum Houston, each of us reading an original piece or a piece from a notable writer on the topic of immigration. We raised a good deal of money for the campaign and auctioned off two mini-libraries, which each included a set of books signed and donated by local authors.

There are a few moments when a writer can say that they can make a direct impact outside of the written word, and that day, as we held simultaneous readings in multiple cities, writers stepped up to the plate and stood up for a just cause.

It was breathtaking.

Farnoosh Moshiri reads at the Writers for Migrant Justice event in Houston. (Credit: Lupe Mendez)
 
Lupe Mendez is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in Houston. Contact him at Houston@pw.org or on Twitter, @houstonpworg.

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