Tuesday, February 3, 2015

A Splendid Wake 3

On March 20th A Splendid Wake will celebrate Georgia Douglas Johnson and the “Saturday Nighters,” poet May Miller, the Federal Poets, Poetry Workshops born during Poetry and the National Conscience conferences, and the Modern Urban Griots.

A Splendid Wake arose from a desire to honor the poets of the past decades by creating an online resource that documents and preserves the remarkable literary history of Washington poetry from 1900 through the present. Articles about the poets, movements, publications, readings, sponsoring institutions, recordings and broadcasts provide a picture of the diverse and unique life of poetry that evolved over more than a century in the Nation's Capitol. This lively event is the third annual gathering that presents the work collected over the last year.


  • Regie Cabico, host
  • Kim Roberts and Michon Boston on Georgia Douglas Johnson and the Saturday Nighters
  • Miller Newman on May Miller
  • Judith McCombs on the Federal Poets with Donald Illich and Dorrit Carroll
  • Linda Pastan and Rod Jellema on poetry workshops with Siv Cedering, Primus St. John, Roland Flint, and others
  • Toni Asanti Lightfoot on Modern Urban Griots with Brandon D. Johnson, Holly Bass and Twain Dooley
  • and Sunil Freeman, in the important role of Timekeeper!


Co-editor of Flicker and Spark: A Contemporary Queer Anthology of Spoken Word and Poetry and Poetry Nation: The North American Anthology of Fusion Poetry, Regie Cabico, the evening's host, has received awards in National Slam competitions and for his work as slam coach for individual and team competitors in the U.S. and Canada. He is co-director of La-Ti-Do, a weekly spoken word and cabaret series in D.C.

Georgia Douglas Johnson—poet, playwright, and composer—brought together Kelly Miller and his daughter May Miller, Alain Locke, Carter G. Woodson, Angelina Weld Grimke, Langston Hughes, Jean Toomer, Zora Neale Hurston, and many others at weekly salons at her home on S Street in D.C. Her life and works will be presented by Kim Roberts, a true D.C. force for poetry and the author of four collections of poetry, the editor of Beltway Poetry Quarterly and the anthology Full Moon on K Street. Michon Boston will also discuss Johnson. She is a writer/producer and author of “Iola’s Letter,” a play based on the events that transformed Ida B. Wells from a journalist to a staunch anti-lynching activist. Boston’s plays have been produced at the Source Theatre, the National Black Theater Festival in North Carolina, and the Kennedy Center.

May Miller was a Washington poet, playwright and educator whose literary career began in the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. Her father, Kelly Miller, was a nationally known author and philosopher, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and a professor of sociology at Howard University. He was the first African American to attend Johns Hopkins University where he studied astronomy. W.E.B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington visited their home. May remembers having to give up her room for Paul Laurence Dunbar. When May Miller received an award for a play, the event was attended by Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, James Weldon Johnson, and Jean Toomer. Miller served as chair of the Literature Panel of the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities. Her niece, Miller Newman, will provide a picture of May Miller’s life. Miller Newman is a senior faculty member in the Department of English Composition and Reading at Montgomery College. She is a poet, essayist, and aspiring novelist with a doctorate in Higher Education Administration.

The Federal Poets Workshop, founded in 1944, is the D.C. metro area’s longest running workshop for poets. Members meet monthly at Tenley Public Library to critique poems and produce a biannual journal. Craig Reynolds, Frank Goodwyn, and Nancy Allinson have served as presidents. Don Illich is the current president. At least five workshops and two readings series have emerged from Federal Poets. Judith McCombs, vice-president of Federal Poets since 2005, is a poet and literary scholar. Her poetry has appeared in many publications and published The Habit of Fire: Poems Selected & New in 2005. She directs the Kensington Row Bookshop Poetry Readings, edits for Word Works DC, and is on the Splendid Wake board. Don Illich, current head of Federal Poets, has published poems in The Iowa Review, Nimrod, and Rattle. His poetry has been nominated four times for the Pushcart Prize. His chapbook, Rocket Children, was published in 2012.  Doritt Carroll received her undergraduate and law degrees from Georgetown University. In Caves and GLTTL STP were published by Brickhouse Books and her poems have appeared in Poet Lore, Plainsongs, and Journal of Formal Poetry.

Rod Jellema ran a series of conferences at the University of Maryland beginning in 1968, Poetry and the National Conscience, and sent letters out inviting folks to join a fortnightly writer’s workshop already in progress. The existing group—Siv Cedering, Eddie Gold, Primus St. John, and Bill Holland—were joined by Linda Pastan, Ann Darr, Roland Flint, Gary Sange, and Myra Sklarew. Others who joined occasionally were Elisavietta Ritchie, John Pauker, Henry Taylor. “Notable sit-ins or drop-ins were Gene McCarthy, Bill Stafford, and Stanley Kunitz,” says Rod Jellema, who adds, “Ann Darr estimated that the members of the workshop published more than sixty books.”  Linda Pastan and Rod Jellema will reminisce about this workshop. Jellema, professor emeriti, University of Maryland, founded the Creative Writing Program, and is the author of five collections of poems, the most recent, Incarnality: The Collected Poems. He is currently working on a history of early New Orleans jazz, Really Hot: A New Hearing for Old New Orleans Jazz. Linda Pastan has published thirteen volumes of poetry, most recently Traveling Light. Two collections have been finalists for the National Book Award. A new collection, Insomnia, is due out from Norton in fall 2015. In 2003, she received the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize for lifetime achievement.

The way Toni Asanti Lightfoot tells it, The Modern Urban Griots got their start on a cold February night in 1994 at a place called “It’s Your Mug Cafe” at 2601 P Street, N.W. in Georgetown. She says that this series “had a broad impact. It influenced the establishment of numerous poetry events on U Street, N.W., as well as Blackman’s Freestyle Union hip-hop workshops and created a commitment to community and education.” The group included Brandon D. Johnson, Holly Bass, Twain Dooley, and Lori Tsang, among others. Beloved hecklers were The Brock Crew, Kenny Carroll, Brian Gilmore, and Joel Dias Porter (DJ Renegade). The group performed at the Whitney Museum in NY, the Nuyorican, and smaller venues around the city. In recent times the group reunited at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage. Toni Asanti Lightfoot, is a poet, educator, activist, and has an MS in Traditional Oriental Medicine. Her work has been anthologized and can be seen on YouTube. She is editor of Dream of a Word: A Tia Chucha Press Anthology. Holly Bass, a Cave Canem fellow, writer and performer, studied modern dance and creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College and earned a master’s degree in Journalism from Columbia University. In 2011, The Root and 2012 Best Performance Artist in Washington City Paper named her one of the Top 30 Black Performance Poets internationally.  

Brandon D. Johnson, founding member of Modern Urban Griots and The Black Rooster Collective, received a BA from Wabash College and a JD from Antioch School of Law. He is a Cave Canem Graduate Fellow, the author of Love’s Skin, Man Burns Ant, the Strangers Between, and has work published in numerous anthologies. Twain Dooley, born in D.C., served on active duty during Desert Storm, and after a two-year stay in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (as a civilian), returned to Washington and began to perform for a variety of audiences. Author of several books, he has opened for Amiri Baraka and Jimmy “JJ” Walker, won top honors on the DC/Baltimore Slam Team, and is currently working on the story of his life, “None of This Makes Sense.”

What: 3rd Annual Public Program Celebrating Poetry in the Nation’s Capital from 1900 to the Present
When: Friday, March 20th, 2015 from 6:30-8:30 P.M.
Where: George Washington University Gelman Library, Suite 702, 2130 H Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. (near Foggy Bottom Metro stop).
Cost: Free and Open to the Public
Splendid Wake-up Blog: http://splendidwake.blogspot.com
For more program information contact Joanna Howard asplendidwake@gmail.com

Friday, January 23, 2015

Now on View at The Writer's Center: Painters 12

The Writer’s Center is proud to announce its winter/spring exhibition—Painters 12: Picture=Thousand WordsPainters 12 is a group of experienced artists who paint together at the Corcoran College of Art and Design, which is now part of George Washington University. Each artist has developed a unique style, process and way of working with materials.

“The artists in this group show have been painting for many years.  During the past five years at the Corcoran, the group has developed into an ‘artistic home’ that provides community, critical inquiry and continued discussion of contemporary art,” said Corcoran faculty Mira Hecht. “In this environment, each painter finds encouragement and inspiration to deepen his or her practice.” 

Participants are: Fran Beard, Cheryl Bearss, Arleen Cheston,  Jean Eckert,  Anne Fisher,  Aurie Hall,  Jim Hambuechen,  Lois Kampinsky,  Densie Paolella,  Suzanne Stack,  Kay Walsh and  David Yuravlivker.

The Writer's Center hosts the work of artists to inspire an exchange between the visual and literary arts. Parties interested in purchasing a work on view may contact the artists directly. The Center does not make a profit on the art it exhibits.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Public Speaking for Writers

By Sidney Rocke
Excellent writing and excellent public speaking don't always go hand-in-hand. In fact, sometimes there's a wide gulf between the two. I saw this vividly illustrated here at the Writer's Center. I regularly heard writers provide moving, compelling, and fascinating material in presentations at the Center. Unfortunately, the material was often diminished by poor public speaking skills. This problem spanned all writing genres--even poetry, the writing aimed most at the ear, was sometimes delivered in a flat, unappealing monotone. As a litigator and sometimes writer this struck me as strange. But after speaking to many writers about this issue, I learned that my observations were no aberration. 

Many writers tend to have focused introspective personalities and simply don't feel comfortable with public speaking. That's why I created a public speaking course specifically geared to writers.The aim is to instill confidence and skills that will enable writers to enhance the presentation of their material. Previous students have used these reinforced speaking skills on book tours and public readings. Other students have improved their ability to make business or academic presentations. If you think that you could benefit from a boost in public speaking skill, I invite you to explore Public Speaking for Writers, which starts at The Writer's Center in February. After all, you’ve put blood, sweat, and…more blood into perfecting that piece you’ve been working on for so long. You should be able to effectively and confidently speak from and about it.

Sidney Rocke, J.D., is a former federal prosecutor and Maryland Assistant Attorney General. He has handled numerous trials and court appearances nationwide and regularly testified before Congress and state legislatures. He also taught in a variety of settings, including the FBI Academy and Georgetown University. He has written for The Washington Post, The Baltimore Sun, and LegalTimes. He received his law degree from The George Washington University, and a B.A. in Communication Studies from the University of Massachusetts.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Emerging Writer Fellows Announced

The Writer’s Center is pleased to announce the winners of the 2014-2015 Emerging Writer Fellowships: Karina Borowicz and Tanya Olson. This annual award is comprised of a reading at the Center and a cash honorarium. Fellows living within a 250-mile radius of the center will receive a $250 honorarium; all others will receive $500.

“We are so pleased to offer this opportunity to two such talented writers,” said Sunil Freeman, Assistant Director of the Center.

Karina Borowicz is the author of two poetry collections, Proof (Codhill Press, 2014) and The Bees Are Waiting (Marick Press, 2012), which won the Eric Hoffer Award for Poetry and was named a Must-Read by the Massachusetts Center for the Book.  Her poems have appeared widely in journals and have been featured on the web and in radio. Trained as an historian, Borowicz also holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of New Hampshire. She makes her home in the Connecticut River Valley of Western Massachusetts.    

Tanya Olson lives in Silver Spring, Maryland and is a Lecturer in English at University of Maryland Baltimore County. Her first book, Boyishly, was published by YesYes Books in 2013 and received a 2014 American Book Award. In 2010, she won a Discovery/Boston Review prize and was named a 2011 Lambda Fellow by the Lambda Literary Foundation.

Requirements for the fellowship include the publication of one or two full-length single-author books in a single genre, and no more than three books published to their credit (including as editors of anthologies) in any genre.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

POET LORE Nominates…

It’s that time of year again! Poet Lore, The Writer’s Center’s semi-annual poetry magazine, reveals which of its amazing contributing writers have been nominated for the 2014 Pushcart Prize. Founded in 1976, the Pushcart Prize has become “one of the most influential projects in the history of American publishing,” according to Publishers Weekly. Every year, Pushcart Press invites small press editors to submit up to six works that they have published that year.  Pushcart editors then use these nominations in the making of their prestigious annual anthology, The Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses. Recipients of the Pushcart Prize over the years have included Junot Diaz, Raymond Carver, Tim O’Brien, and Peter Orner.
Poet Lore is proud to announce its six nominees for the 2014 Pushcart Prize, whose poems and author bios are listed below. All of these poets use language and form in such a way that leaves the reader completely entranced and embody Poet Lore’s mission to create poetry that fuels our natural need for discovery. Congratulations to all the nominees!

Cornelius Eady - "Otis Redding, Being Pulled from Lake Monona"

CORNELIUS EADY is the author of eight books of poetry, including Hardheaded Weather: New and Selected Poems (Putnam, April 2008). His second book, Victims of the Latest Dance Craze, won the Lamont Prize from the Academy of American Poets in 1985; in 2001 Brutal Imagination was a finalist for the National Book Award. He has received the Prairie Schooner Strousse Award and fellowships from the NEA, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation. He co-founded the Cave Canem summer workshop/retreat for African American poets and is a professor at Notre Dame University.

Patrick Ryan Frank - "Body Double"

PATRICK RYAN FRANK is the author of How the Losers Love What’s Lost, which won the 2010 Intro Prize from Four Way Books, and The Opposite of People, due out in 2015. He was a recent Fulbright fellow to Iceland.

Joseph Ross - “When Your Word is a Match”

JOSEPH ROSS is the author of two books of poetry: Meeting Bone Man (2012) and Gospel of Dust (2013). His work appears in many anthologies and journals. He teaches English and creative writing at Gonzaga College High School in Washington, DC, and writes regularly at JosephRoss.net.

Sherod Santos - "I Was at One Time Close to Home"

SHEROD SANTOS’s latest book is The Intricated Soul: New and Selected Poems (W.W. Norton, 2010). He lives in Chicago.

June Frankland Baker - "During the Downpour, at the Pond"
JUNE FRANKLAND BAKER lives in Richland, Washington. Her poems have appeared in such anthologies as The Blueline Anthology and Woven on the Wind, and in numerous magazines, including CommonwealNotre Dame ReviewPoetry NorthwestSlant, and Tampa Review.

Christopher Presfield - “Elegies for the Fallen” 

CHRISTOPHER PRESFIELD is the co-author of Gray Air (Cedar Hill Publications, 1999) and Dawn in the Big House (Pygmy Forest Press, 2006). His poems have also appeared in Poet LoreAlaska Quarterly ReviewPoetryBriar Cliff ReviewRattle, and else­where. He has received five PEN Prison Writing Awards of varying placement over the years.