The Poet’s Role in Social Justice

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.

Favorite Books 2020

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.

School, Joy & Revolution: Takeaways from my Time at WITS

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.

Riffing on Reading Novels, the Longer the Better

Ever had a “damp, drizzly November” in your soul? Check out my essay about reading, listening, pandemic, isolation, and self-healing on RIFF, a publication by Writers at Large.

Huge thanks to Thea Temple and the editors at RIFF.

Pop Goes the Poem

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.

Where the Arts Collide: Color:Story Exhibition Opens Saturday

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.


Art by Leslie Gaworecki that incorporates text from “Pop Poem 17” by Robin Reagler

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.

The Silos at Sawyer
1502 Sawyer Street, Houston, Texas 77007