Poetry Organizations from Across the U.S. Join Together to Form Historic Coalition & Launch March 2017 Programs on Migration

Posted on

Dec 06 2016

Twenty-two nonprofit poetry organizations from across the United States have formed a historic coalition dedicated to working together to promote the value poets bring to our culture and communities, and the important contribution poetry makes in the lives of people of all ages and backgrounds.

With support from Lannan Foundation, poetry organizations convened last November in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to begin discussing how they might join forces to enhance the visibility of the art form and its impact on people’s everyday lives. Contrary to the public perception that interest in poetry is waning, over the past few years, these organizations have witnessed increases in the number of students participating in poetry recitation and spoken word events, visitors to poetry websites, individuals attending poetry readings, and young poets taking to social media to share their work.

Now, more than ever, these organizations believe that poetry has a positive role to play in our country. It is through reading, writing, and discussing poems that we learn about one another on our most human level, inspiring empathy, compassion, and greater understanding of one another. Poetry Coalition members believe that by collaborating on programs, they will spotlight the art form’s unique ability to spark dialogues, create opportunities to engage in meaningful conversation, discover unexpected connections with each other, and inspire new readers.

As its first public offering, throughout the month of March 2017, Poetry Coalition members will present multiple programs on the theme: Because We Come From Everything: Poetry & Migration, which borrows a line from U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera’s poem,  “Borderbus.” Here are some of the Poetry Coalition members’ March plans:

The Academy of American Poets will feature a week of poems by contemporary poets related to the theme of migration in its Poem-a-Day Series, which is distributed to more than 350,000 readers each morning via email, social media, and syndication.

The Alliance for Young Artists & Writers will engage recent alumni of their National Student Poets Program to conduct a Tumblr Takeover at awawards.tumblr.com during March. During the takeover, National Student Poets will contribute original poems and share others’ poems on the theme of migration. Highlights from the takeover will be featured on the Alliance’s other social media channels, activating our network of tens of thousands of young poets to share, repost, and add to the poetic conversation with the hashtag #WeComeFromEverything.

Asian American Writers’ Workshop, a national community space and online magazine publisher, will award fellowships for emerging Muslim American writers to tell the stories of their communities, conduct front-line events, and publish stories online featuring first- and second-generation immigrant writers, and hold Asian-language community arts events in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, and Chinatown, Manhattan.

Beyond Baroque, a Los Angeles literary center dedicated to cultivating new writing and expanding the public's knowledge of poetry and literary art, will host a series of readings focused on the immigrant experience. Featured events include a March reading by the Chinese-American poet Chen Chen; a May anthology reading by poets from the Central American diaspora (presented in collaboration with Tia Chucha Press); and a July reading by poets from the Middle Eastern diaspora.

CantoMundo, a national organization that cultivates a community of Latina/o poets, and Letras Latinas, the literary initiative at the University of Notre Dame’s Institute for Latino Studies, have jointly invited CantoMundo poets to write essays or conduct interviews about the theme of Latina/o poetry and migration, which will be published daily on the Letras Latinas Blog.

Cave Canem Foundation, a national organization committed to cultivating the artistic and professional growth of black poets of African descent, will invite its 400-member fellowship to submit original poems on the topic of migration. Textual and video files will be assembled into an online anthology, which will be shared on social media and archived on the organization’s website.

The Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival will copresent “The Birds of May,” at the Princeton Environmental Film Festival, followed by a discussion with conservationists and a poetry reading. The film documents efforts to save the endangered Red Knot during its 9,500 mile migration by restoring one of its few resting and feeding places, along New Jersey’s Delaware Bayshore, destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, and to protect its major food source: the eggs of the over-fished horseshoe crabs who migrate there each year. Poets, teachers, and students in attendance will also participate in banding the birds during the height of their migration and write about their experiences.

Kundiman, a national organization promoting Asian American poets and writers, will collaborate with Split This Rock and Letras Latinas to host a joint reading featuring poets Wo Chan and José B. González on March 19 at Busboys and Poets in Washington, D.C. Kundiman fellows will also participate in a Migration Postcard Poem Project, for which they will design, write, and mail postcard poems highlighting the migration theme for their readers, both new and old, advocates and adversaries. Select poems on the theme of migration will be featured on the Kundiman website and social media channels.

Letras Latinas, the literary initiative at the University of Notre Dame’s Institute for Latino Studies, will partner with Best American Poetry Blog contributor Emma Trelles to publish, during the month of March, a selection of poems by Latino and Latina poets that engage with the theme of migration. Letras Latinas will also work with Notre Dame’s Creative Writing Program to hold a campus-wide event on March 30 that will feature students, faculty, staff and community members sharing poems around the theme of migration and in support of their DACA students.
Mass Poetry, which supports poets and poetry in Massachusetts, will feature poems about migration in its Raining Poetry project. Using a biodegradable water-repellent spray and stencils made by local artists, the organization will place poems throughout the streets of Salem. The spray vanishes once dry, so the poems are invisible—until it rains. Once wet, the area around the poems will darken, enabling passersby to read them.

O, Miami will wrap a Miami-Dade County bus with twelve original poems written by elementary school children who participate in their Sunroom poet-in-residence program at Poinciana Park, Orchard Villa, and Holmes Elementary schools in Miami, Florida. Each poem in this project, called Wheels and Words, tackles the concepts of home, migration, and/or transit. The bus, designed by Seth Labenz, chief designer at Topos Graphics, will circulate all over the county beginning in March 2017, but will be primarily assigned to Liberty City, where the poems were written. A special ceremony and reading to commemorate the bus will take place on March 27, 2017 at Poinciana Park Elementary School, with special guest, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

The Poetry Center at San Francisco State University will be conducting the entirety of its March programs under the collective theme, with featured artists including Whiting Award-winning poet Layli Long Soldier, citizen of the Oglala Sioux Nation; Iranian-American composer/musician Hafez Modirzadeh in collaborative performance; and Margaret Randall presenting her newly published anthology of Cuban poets.

The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine and an independent literary organization based in Chicago, will host a reading in collaboration with Kundiman and Letras Latinas featuring poets Tarfia Faizullah, Hieu Minh Nguyen, Emmy Pérez, and José B. González on March 29.

The Poetry Project will be curating a special edition of their online publication The Recluse with work relating to the theme of migration. The Recluse is published annually each June, and edited by the staff of The Poetry Project. For submission guidelines, please visit their website.

The Poetry Society of America, in collaboration with City Lights Bookstore, will present a poetry reading and discussion exploring the Syrian refugee crisis on Thursday, March 23rd at 7:00 p.m. Poets Jack Hirschman and Jack Marshall will read poems of theirs and others. Journalist Jeanne Carstensen will join them in conversation.

Poets House, a national poetry library and literary center, will partner with Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty to invite young people to write poems on the theme of migration and immigration. The organization will also host a celebration of an anthology of Cuban poetry.

Split This Rock, an organization of poets and social justice activists based in Washington, D.C, in addition to collaborating with Kundiman and Letras Latinas to host a joint reading, will also feature poems on the theme in their Poem of the Week series and promote others published in The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database on social media.

The University of Arizona Poetry Center will present multiple programs addressing overlaps between poetry and figurative and literal migration, including issues of translation, the private and public life of poetry, and poetry’s role in addressing human migration, borders, and cultural interplay. Programs will include a featured reading with United States Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera and a panel discussion between him and Arizona Poet Laureate and Academy of American Poets Chancellor Alberto Ríos at the Tucson Festival of Books.

The National Youth Poet Laureate initiative is a program of Urban Word, an award-winning youth literary arts and youth development organization, in collaboration with local youth literary arts organizations across the country; and championed by the leading national literary organizations, including the Academy of American Poets, Poetry Society of America, PEN Center USA, and Cave Canem. Through a competitive selection process focused on creative excellence and civic engagement, the program currently names Youth Poet Laureates in 35 cities around the country. In solidarity with the Poetry Coalition, the National Youth Poet Laureate program will incorporate a unit on poetry and migration into the curricula that we offer our local and regional partners.

The Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University will present weekly programs (broadcasted also online) featuring original poetry and short video interviews of refugee and immigrant children and adults who have been resettled in NE Ohio, in partnership with the International Institute of Akron, Project Learn, Urban Vision, and  Akron Public Schools. With a major grant from the Knight Foundation this project, Traveling Stanzas: Writing Across Borders, will distribute these poems on posters, designed by KSU Visual Communication Design students and alumni, and displayed on NE Ohio mass transit, as well as in videos and greeting cards available on the project website.

Poetry Coalition members invite all interested poetry organizations and groups to attend an informational session at the AWP conference in Washington, D.C. in February 2017, and to produce their own programs on the topic of migration during March 2017. To be in touch or join an email distribution list about future events and initiatives, they can email academy@poets.org.

Poetry Coalition Members (as of 1/31/16):

Academy of American Poets
Alliance for Young Artists & Writers/National Student Poets Program
Asian American Writers’ Workshop
Beyond Baroque
CantoMundo
Cave Canem Foundation
Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival
Kundiman
Lambda Literary
Letras Latinas at Notre Dame’s Institute for Latino Studies
Mass Poetry
O, Miami
Poetry Center and American Poetry Archives at SFSU
Poetry Foundation
The Poetry Project
Poetry Society of America
Poets House
Split This Rock
University of Arizona Poetry Center
Urban Word//National Youth Poet Laureate Program
Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University
Woodland Pattern

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