Here’s a trailer for my debut collection of poems, DRIFT (Aquarius Press/Willow Books, 2012).
Syndicated humor columnist and author, Ned Hickson was so gracious to indulge me in this experiment – a video version of the profile I did on him a while back.
Here’s an ad for the upcoming video blog post.
Get ready for the birth of Humble Bear Production, a video production company that produces book trailers and provides services for nonprofits and businesses including video storytelling, welcome videos, commercials, campaign videos and mini docs.
As America’s top Black-owned and operated record company and business, Motown Records signified a new day. The cultural icon’s chart-topping singles and often-imitated sound embodied the struggle for progress and optimism of a long-dispirited people.
Under owner/publisher Heather Buchanan-Gueringer’s direction, Willow Books’ mission is no different. The press develops, publishes and promotes underrepresented writers.
If a publisher’s personal triumphs show a press’s future successes, then I’m confident Willow Books will thrive as a luminary on the literary landscape. Heather Buchanan-Gueringer, an award-winning publisher-editor-arts consultant, is a former State Officer for the American Association of University Women (AAUW) and a past Vice-President of the Great Lakes Independent Publishers Association and American Business Women’s Association (Ambassador Tri-County Chapter).
A past COO of the Wayne County Council for Arts, History & Humanities, Buchanan-Gueringer founded Aquarius Press in 1999 and continues to publish top talent from across the nation, many through the Willow Books literary imprint.
The press cut its teeth through partnerships with universities and literary organizations such as the National Book Foundation, Poets & Writers, Cave Canem Foundation, Inc., Poets House, Springfed Arts, Wayne State University, Chicago State University and the University of New Haven, among others. The press also hosts conferences such as the Idlewild Writers Conference and the LitFest Spring Retreat, and regularly exhibits at Associated Writing Program’s (AWP) Annual Conference.
Willow Books’ mission of developing underrepresented writers stemmed from Buchanan-Gueringer’s service as a past executive director of the Detroit Writers’ Guild. She continues the literary imprint’s mission as an adjunct professor, most recently teaching at the University of Michigan-Dearborn and the College for Creative Studies.
As an arts consultant, Buchanan-Gueringer served on the planning committee for what is now the Virgil Carr Cultural Arts Center. She also founded the Metro Detroit Performing Arts Center. Buchanan-Gueringer, a musician as well, serves on the board of the Orchard Lake Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra.
In addition to Buchanan-Gueringer, Willow Books is blessed to have award-winning writer Randall Horton, PhD., as its poetry editor. Horton’s honors include the Bea González Prize for Poetry, the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Prize, and fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts and Cave Canem.
Also on Willow Books’ staff are poet/photographer Jerriod Avant (editorial assistant) and award-winning poet Curtis Crisler (contributing poetry editor). I’d say, with that staff and their credentials, Willow Books is in good hands.
I’m honored to be among its word crooners such as Makalani Bandele, Krista Franklin, Rachel Eliza Griffiths, and Derrick Harriell. The six-year-old press lost its baby teeth with its word warriors such as Kelly Norman Ellis, Tara Betts, and Tony Medina. (You’ll find Willow Books’ complete line-up on its authors’ page.)
The unsurpassed excellence and sophistication the musicians and singers brought to Motown Records lives on in the works and accomplishments of Willow Books’ award-winning authors, many of which are professors with advanced degrees.
The fairly young literary imprint flexed its new muscles with the Literature Awards, Open Reading Period, and Emerging Writer Chapbook Series. This Saturday, Willow Books will flex those same muscles with its 2nd Annual LitFest, a mini conference/retreat with readings, book fair, networking and workshops.
In partnership with the Gwendolyn Brooks Center at Chicago State University, this year’s LitFest will include manuscript sessions, a panel discussion, public readings, and an open mic. It will also feature Willow Books Literature Awards Finalists’ Reading and Awards Ceremony, where the press will announce its poetry and prose winners. (Download the brochure here)
Most events are free and open to the public but require registration. (Download and complete the LitFest Registration Form). For more info, please visit Willow Books LitFest. You can also keep up with the press by liking the Willow Books Group Page.
Those who can’t make this event, or who live out of the area, can support our work by visiting our donations page here.
Dear friends and supporters,
For the past 12 years, it has been a great pleasure sharing with you the joys and triumphs of the multitude of young writers who have participated in our programs: thousands of poems published in our literary magazines, more than 100 city-wide writing awards, dozens of college scholarships awarded, and the list goes on. But in our current economic climate, creative writing is in jeopardy. Extra-curricular activities for under-served youth have been drastically cut, and arts programs have been hit the hardest. These past few years, the D.C.Creative Writing Workshop has been the only after-school arts activity available for hundreds of young people in Congress Heights, and the one safe space open to children who have been thrown out of other programs and would otherwise be on the streets.
We’re asking for your help. On Thursday, September 20, the D.C. Creative Writing Workshop will be holding a fundraiser from 6-8 pm at the Busboys and Poets 5thand K Streets location, and we would like you to make a contribution. Our supporters are lovers of self-expression and the written word, advocates for young people who need a second chance—we know you’re not the kind of people who can write huge checks to all your favorite causes. But our program needs whatever you can afford to give.
The D.C. Creative Writing Workshop has an astonishing record of preparing our students for successful lives. One hundred percent of the participants in our Young-Writers-in-Residence program have graduated from high school, compared with a rate of less than 60 percent at their neighborhood school. And the youths who ask for our help applying to college and finding the funds to pay for it have gotten personal assistance from our writers. Our graduates are currently attending colleges like the University of Wisconsin, Trinity University, and the University of North Carolina. In just the past few weeks, we were able to send another three students off to college—kids who had dreamed of higher education, but had no idea how to pursue that goal. We want to be there for those students when they come home on their holiday breaks to describe the wonders of college life to their younger peers. And we want to be there at the start of the following school year for all the little ones who wait outside our door on the first day of school asking when Writing Club begins.
Please help us continue to provide a lifeline for the young people whose voices need to be heard. We’re looking forward to seeing you at the fundraiser on September 20, where we’ll be offering an opportunity to meet our students and see their award-winning work. But if you aren’t able to attend, please consider making a donation on-line by visiting our donations page here.
I rarely post my personal business here, unless I’m writing about literature. But I just had to share these photos taken by my friend and soon-to-be celebrity photographer Marlene Lillian. Here’s her note that opens the wedding album:
I met Alan when he told me to crash Dr. Tony Medina’s Creative Writing Boot camp class at Howard University several years ago. I’m so glad I did; I wrote like I never wrote before, and along with Alan, forged some of the most endearing friendships in my life. Alan didn’t even have to ask me if I’d be interested in shooting his wedding; it was a yes before he even got it out! :) Tosin and Alan are some of the kindest people I know and I’m honored that they let me shoot the most important day of their lives. Thank you to Arica Gonzalez, my second shooter, you were amazing to work with as usual :)
You can see the rest of the photos by clicking here.
As part of the art faculty at Duke Ellington School of the Arts, I created the school’s first-ever digital poetry anthology that represents the students in the Literary Media and Communications Department. Here’s an excerpt from my introduction:
The online anthology derived its name from the famed print anthology Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Café, which has a range of voices that came out of what the New York Observer once called “a big, dark, brick-walled loft on Third Street and Avenue C.”
Founded around 1973, the Nuyorican Poets Café is a non-profit organization that started in Miguel Algarin’s East Village apartment, according to various sources.
An overflow of poets and audience members eventually led the writer, poet, and Rutgers University professor to move the café to its current location in Alphabet City, Manhattan. The café’s cofounders, according to those same sources, include the late-poet Miguel Pinero, Bimbo Rivas and Lucky Cienfuegoes.
Since its founding, the Nuyorican Poets Café’s been a source of support for the Nuyorican arts movement and is a venue for poetry, music, hip hop, video, visual arts, comedy and theatre. “The philosophy and purpose of the…Café has always been to reveal poetry as a living art,” Miguel Algarin writes in Aloud’s intro. “Poetry is not finding its way, it has found its way, back into everyday life.”
It’s in the tradition of those Nuyorican poets that the LMC students at Ellington write, aware of how pop culture, DC’s streets and neighborhoods, and—as New York Newsday’s Patricia Volk once put it—their lives “being a vital particle away from death” affect their poetry.
To read more, please click here!
Tuesday, I was interviewed on NPR along with Lauren Wilcox, the Washington Post Magazine reporter who wrote the cover story “Is Poetry Dead?” (the article I’m quote in). Check out the show here!
I don’t know about the other attendees, but I’m still swooning from Jan Beatty’s reading at Split This Rock 2010.
That year marked the second time for the biennial literary festival that Sarah Browning started as a way of providing a “permanent home for progressive poets.”
Since it started in 2008, Split This Rock has attracted high-profile participants such as Sonia Sanchez, Lucille Clifton, Dennis Brutus, Mark Doty, Carolyn Forche, and Sharon Olds. The inaugural festival even got Washington Post reporter David Montgomery to pay attention.
“The poets are in town. Dozens — no, hundreds. Hundreds of poets. Can you imagine?” Montgomery wrote in his article Averse To War: “They are everywhere.
“In long, disheveled columns, they are prowling Langston Hughes’s old neighborhood around U Street NW. They are eating catfish at Busboys and Poets (where else?) and quoting Hughes, Shelley and Whitman back and forth — ‘Through me many long dumb voices’ — over the hummus and merlot.
“They are signing fans’ battered paperbacks and shiny new ones bought on credit (autographs!). They are squinting from the stage into the cathedral depths of a filled high school auditorium, amazed at the turnout. They are sharing with preschoolers the miracle of closely observed turtles and infinity in a drop of water.”
The poets at the 2010 festival–which included Chris Abani, Cornelius Eady, and Martin Espada–came at time when the U.S. was in two wars, dealing with struggling economic recovery, and a host of other social and environmental ills. Despite those issues, the artists are still optimistic.
And Sarah Browning’s shining the bat signal again this year for all “poets, writers, artists, activists, dreamers and all concerned world citizens” to meet in DC March 22-25 and demand social justice, “imagine a way forward and celebrate the many ways that poetry can act as an agent for social change,” according to Split This Rock’s website.
Among those poets and dreamers at the 2010 conference was Jan Beatty, who gave a hell of a reading from her third collection Red Sugar. I didn’t see her coming like a southpaw’s punches. Other poets who brought down the house included Patricia Smith, Jeffrey McDaniel, and Toni Asante Lightfoot.
They’ll join for four days of readings, open mics, Poetry in the Streets, and a book fair. The theme for this year’s conference is “Poetry by and for the 99%!”–a shout out to the nationwide occupiers protesting from their tent towns.
“As people’s movements ignite here at home and throughout the world in response to economic inequality, political repression, and environmental degradation, the festival will consider the relationship of poets and poetry to power and to the challenges to power,” according to the web site.
This year’s festival, marking the 10th anniversary of June Jordan‘s death, will honor the life and work of the late-poet, essayist, teacher and activist.
For more information or to register now, go to http://www.splitthisrock.org.