In Houston, poet laureates were in the news two weeks in a row. First, Mayor Sylvester Turner announced the opening of the application process to become the 5th Houston Poet Laureate. I cheered, but some complained. Then 22-year-old Amanda Gorman, the first National Youth Poet Laureate, stole the show at the Presidential Inauguration, perhaps even outshining J-Lo and Lady Gaga.
I wrote an essay about those two events because I believe that there is an important role that Poet Laureates can play in American civic life. The divisions in society were exacerbated in the past four years. Amanda Gorman’s poem gave people hope that our nation can face our problems and begin to heal. The essay appears in the Houston Chronicle, and here’s the link. Let me know what you think.
The Pandemic provided more time for reading, and here are six of my favorites books from the past year. Most but not all were published this year. These are books I loved that I read this year. Each of them made a tremendous impact on me.
OBIT by Victoria Chang (Copper Canyon)
Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz (Graywolf)
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (Vintage)
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (Ecco)
Caste by Isabel Wilkerson (Random House)
The Salt Path by Raynor Winn (Penguin)
What were your favorite reads this year? Please share yours in the comment section.
I retired from my leadership position at Writers in the Schools (WITS) in September, and the editors of Teachers & Writers Magazine invited me to write an essay about what I learned. When I became the Executive Director in the late 90s, the most talked-about book in our library was Wishes, Lies, and Dreams by Kenneth Koch. When I left in 2020, the text on everyone’s mind was Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paolo Freire. In Teachers & Writers, I use these two “book ends” to explore what I learned about teaching and writing. Please check out The Presence of Joy.
In a very creative collaboration, Gemini Ink and The McNay Art Museum offer up a fun, free way to celebrate the pop art exhibition featuring Robert Indiana, best known for his famous LOVE sculptures.
Take a moment and your phone, and you can access a short poem by texting one of these key words: “LOVE, AMOR, POP, ART, VOTE, SOLDIER, HOPE, LEGACY” to this number (830) 468-9600. A few seconds later, a poem will pop up just for you!
The McNay poetry bot sends out 86 different poems by local writers. They were selected through a competition. The one (below) is by Lucy Griffith.
I got some wonderful poet news this week: I won the Best Book Award, and “Into The The” will be published by @BacklashPress in March 2021. I AM SO EXCITED! Thank you to the editors with an awesome mission. I’m so proud to join your fold! Check out their manifesto here: https://backlashpress.com/manifesto/
Joe Campana, Roberto J. Tejada, Justin Jannise, Lyric Hunter, Paige Quinones, and I will read poetry at the CAMH on July 25th at 7 pm. The event is curated in conjunction with the Stonewall at 50 exhibit on display. Find out all the details here.
Color:Story 2019 is art exhibit that exemplifies this concept– that the arts, when combined, create something greater than the sum of their parts. Artists Leslie Gaworecki and Marlo Saucedo asked poets to submit their work for this project. They chose seventeen writers and created paintings based on the selected poems.
The opening for Color:Story 2019 will be Saturday, 5 – 8 pm, at the Silos at Sawyer Yard in Gallery 200. It will be on display until March 23, 2019.
In the realm of good news, Teeth & Teeth made the list of “Best Loved Books in 2018,” according to Headmistress Press. Thank you to everyone who purchased the book. I’m very grateful to Natalie Diaz, who selected it for publication.