#blackwomenwriters

Moor Mother: Anthropology of Consciousness, with local guest poet/artists

  • Masks are requested for those attending in person. 

7:00 pm Presentation (Workshop)
8:00 pm Performance / Talk (Moor Mother)

Join us for the opening night of this highly anticipated 3-day Moor Mother Residency at The Lab, in San Francisco's Mission District (one half-block east of 16th-Mission BART station — map).

This evening's events, co-presented by The Lab and The Poetry Center, are free and open to the public; SOLD OUT.

Camae Ayewa (a.k.a. Moor Mother) works with local guest poet/artists alex cruse, Jemma Decristo, Kevin CK Lo, Tatiana Luboviski-Acosta, Leila Weefur, and Zêdan Xelef on a voice and sound workshop. They create a new work together and perform it — workshopping the anthropology of consciousness, and developing the sixth sense. Audiences are welcome to observe the workshop in advance of the performance. Moor Mother also performs a solo set.

Moor Mother. The songwriter, composer, vocalist, poet, and educator Camae Ayewa spent years organizing and performing in Philadelphia's underground music community before moving to Los Angeles to teach composition at the University of Southern California's Thornton School of Music. In 2016, she released Fetish Bones, her debut album as Moor Mother (alongside a book of poetry sharing that title), and has since put out an abundance of acclaimed music, both as a solo artist and in collaboration with other musicians who share her drive to dig up the untold. Jazz Codes, her latest album, follows Black Encyclopedia of the Air, along with multiple releases with the bands Irreversible Entanglements (free jazz ensemble) and 700 Bliss (duo, with dj haram), among a host of artists in conspiracy.

Audio:

Moor Mother Bandcamp

Black Quantum Futurism Bandcamp

Irreversible Entanglements Bandcamp

700 Bliss Bandcamp

Moor Mother Residency at The Lab:

Tickets for Irreversible Entanglements & 700 Bliss (December 16)

Tickets for Moor Mother Ensemble (December 17)

Drum Listens to Heart exhibition at The Wattis Institute

Black Quantum Futurism website

Kiki Petrosino and Tongo Eisen-Martin, Poetry Center Book Award Reading

Kiki Petrosino’s book of poetry White Blood: A Lyric of Virginia (Sarabande Books, 2020) was selected for The Poetry Center Book Award by Tongo Eisen-Martin. Join us for this remote-access event, as both poets read from their work and engage in conversation with one another and their online audience. London Pinkney kindly joins the poets as emcee for this online-only event. 

Kiki Petrosino is the author of White Blood: a Lyric of Virginia (2020), three other poetry books, and most recently Bright: A Memoir (2022), all from Sarabande Books. She holds graduate degrees from the University of Chicago and the University of Iowa Writer's Workshop. Her memoir, Bright, is forthcoming from Sarabande in 2022. She directs the Creative Writing Program at the University of Virginia, where she is a Professor of Poetry. Petrosino is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, a Fellowship in Creative Writing from the National Endowment for the Arts, the UNT Rilke Prize, & the Spalding Prize, among other honors. More here.

Tongo Eisen-Martin was born in 1980 in San Francisco, California, to a revolutionary mother, Arlene Eisen. His parents named him after Josiah Tongogara. Muralist Miranda Bergman is his godmother. He earned a bachelor's and master's degree in African-American Studies, all from Columbia University where he taught at the Institute for Research in African-American Studies, creating the 2012 curriculum We Charge Genocide Again! He has also taught at detention centers, including San Quentin and Rikers Island. He is the co-founder of Black Freighter Press. Eisen-Martin’s books of poetry include someone’s dead already (Bootstrap Press), Heaven Is All Goodbyes, Blood on the Fog (the latter two in City Lights Books Pocket Poets series), and Waiting Behind Tornados For Food (Materials), a UK volume including poems and a selection of prose works. The poetry LP I go to the railroad tracks and follow them to the station of my enemies came out from Rocks In Your Head Records. He was the inaugural Mazza Writer in Residence for The Poetry Center at SF State, and is currently Poet Laureate of San Francisco.

 

Video from recent Poetry Center Book Award readings:

jayy dodd and Lourdes Figueroa: October 28, 2021

Ashley Toliver and Jason Bayani: September 17, 2020

Lauren Levin and Melissa Mack: February 21, 2019

Bao Phi and Sarah Menefee: November 14, 2019

Orlando White and Patrick James Dunagan: April 27, 2017

Undisciplining the Fields, Ronaldo V. Wilson with Tonya M. Foster in conversation

  • NOTE: WEBINAR BROADCAST ABANDONED, USE LIVESTREAM LINK BELOW
  • Program also available via live-stream and at the same link after the event.
  • Masks are requested for those attending in person

Undisciplining the Fields: Study, Performance, and (Re:)Creation

Undisiciplining the Fields is a new conversation, reading (and sometimes performance) series that will invite writers, artists, filmmakers, and scholars from a range of fields to discuss and share their cross-disciplinary practices and thinking. Initiated by George and Judy Marcus Chair in Poetry Tonya M. Foster, in collaboration with The Poetry Center, the series is envisioned as an unruly exploration of the ways that practice expertise is developed and encouraged through interest, study, and accident; and of the ways that creativity motivates / instigates investigations of the possible. Foster's guest for this premier iteration of Undisciplining the Fields is Ronaldo V. Wilson, whose body of work in writing and drawing, movement and performance, will serve as the starting point for these two Black artists' improvised and intensified, focusing and generative colloquy. Please join us.

Ronaldo V. Wilson, PhD, is the author of Narrative of the Life of the Brown Boy and the White Man (University of Pittsburgh, 2008), winner of the 2007 Cave Canem Prize., Poems of the Black Object (Futurepoem Books, 2009), winner of the Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry and the Asian American Literary Award in Poetry in 2010.  His latest books are Farther Traveler: Poetry, Prose, Other (Counterpath Press, 2015), finalist for a Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry and Lucy 72 (1913 Press, 2018). Co-founder, with poets Dawn Lundy Martin and Duriel E. Harris, of the Black Took Collective, Wilson is also a mixed media artist, dancer and performer. Wilson is Associate Professor of Creative Writing and Literature at U.C. Santa Cruz, serving on the core faculty of the Creative Critical PhD Program, and co-directing the Creative Writing Program.

  • In her review of Narrative of the Life of the Brown Boy and the White ManClaudia Rankine writes, “Ronaldo V. Wilson’s prose poems are alternately tough and tender probes into the underbelly of their psyches. With audacity and wit reminiscent of the work of Hilton Als, bell hooks, Frantz Fanon, and James Baldwin, Wilson decodes sociopolitical narratives around race, sexuality, and class. Identity, Wilson seems to say, is only a collection of stories—the ones told about us in battle with the ones we tell ourselves. What we have here is palpable consciousness: a stunning achievement.”

Tonya M. Foster, the George and Judy Marcus Endowed Chair in Poetry at San Francisco State University, is the author of the poetry collection A Swarm of Bees in High Court (Belladonna*, 2015) and the bilingual poetry chapbook La grammaire des os (joca seria, 2016). She is coeditor of the essay collection Third Mind: Creative Writing through Visual Art (Teachers & Writers Collaborative, 2002). Forthcoming are a poetry chapbook, A History of the Bitch (AHOTB) (Sputnik & Fizzle), and the full-length collection Thingification (Ugly Duckling Presse). With the support of a Creative Capital Award, Foster is also developing a multimedia, multi-genre project titled Monkey Talk, that studies issues of race, paranoia, surveillance, and aesthetics.

Video:

Ronaldo V. Wilson in conversation and reading with Angel Dominguez for The Poetry Center, October 16, 2021

Tonya M. Foster’s Harvard Ratcliffe Institute 2021 Fellow presentation, “AHOTB

New Voice Series, featuring Raul Ruiz, with Zêdan Xelef, Alexiz Angel Romero, and Bianca White

  • This program also available via live-stream and at the same link after the event.

The Poetry Center presents the New Voice Series, in its second annual iteration. The series features a poet alum of SF State, in combination with a current SF State Creative Writing graduate student poet, and (this year) two undergraduate student poets at SF State, to each read their work and engage in conversation. Participants in the series are selected by Poetry Center student staff. For this year's event, Raul Ruiz will appear as featured poet, along with Zêdan Xelef, Alexiz Angel Romero, and Bianca White. Please join us!

  • Please note: proof of vaccination and mask are required in order to attend in person.
  • And then one day we decided we weren’t children anymore, we decided we weren’t going to drag our lives across this country of fences to live out the heartbreaking demands of walls. We weren’t going to become men, weren’t going to wake up in the burning mouth of last night’s whiskeys for the rest of our yellow days like our fathers and the broken guns before them. We weren’t going to wait until our dust forgave us in death to touch with eager hands our wings. We weren’t going to forget the piano part of our bodies, the part of us every flower touched when we slept, the corner of our hearts more secret than poems (do you think you’ve ever held a poem in your hand? Prove it. Prove it with the eager shadow of your shadow)
    —Raul Ruiz

Raul Ruiz is a Spanish interpreter who lives and works in San Francisco. An MFA graduate of SF State (2015), Ruiz has a chapbook titled Mustard forthcoming in 2022 from Drop Leaf Press.

Zêdan Xelef is a poet, translator, and cultural preservationist from Mesopotamia. His poems and translations have appeared in Poetry, Los Angeles Review of Books, Words Without Borders, World Literature Today, Tripwire Journal, Asymptote, Epiphany, and Plume, among others. His translation of Selim Temo's Selected Poems from Kurmanji, in collaboration with Alana Marie Levinson-LaBrosse, comes out from Pinsapo Press in Fall 2022. He attends the MFA program at San Francisco State University. 

Alexiz Angel Romero is a queer, gender-nonconforming, Latinx poet from Oxnard, CA, studying for their BS in Chemistry and minor in Queer Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University

Bianca White is currently a Creative Writing and Liberal Studies major at SFSU. She lives in the East Bay with her mom and sisters. Her poem "Now that I'm Blooming: Things I Hope to Learn" can be found in Transfer Magazine Issue 122. You’ll find her drinking boba milk tea and writing more poetry!

Nathalie Khankan, Saretta Morgan, and Sarah Riggs, at Medicine for Nightmares

  • This program also available via live-stream and at the same link after the event.

Supported by the National Endowment for the Arts

Join us for this in-person event in San Francisco's Mission district, with poets Nathalie Khankan, Saretta Morgan, and Sarah Riggs, reading their work then engaging in conversation with one another and the audience. 

  • Please note: proof of vaccination and mask are required in order to attend in person.

Bios

Nathalie Khankan is the author of QUIET ORIENT RIOT published by Omnidawn, recipient of the 2021 California Book Award in poetry. Born in Copenhagen, Denmark, she was founding director of The Danish House in Palestine, and is now a lecturer, teaching Arabic language and literature, in the Middle East Languages and Cultures Department at UC Berkeley. Straddling Syrian, Finnish, Danish, and Palestinian homes and hemispheres, she now lives in San Francisco.

Saretta Morgan is a writer and artist. She lives in Phoenix, Arizona where she teaches Creative Writing at Arizona State University and contributes to the humanitarian aid efforts of No More Deaths Phoenix. She is the author of the chapbooks room for a counter interior (Portable Press @ Yo-Yo Labs, 2017) and Feeling Upon Arrival (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2018). Currently her work addresses Black migration to the United States Southwest and its relationship to contemporary migration and border politics. Saretta holds degrees in writing from Columbia University and Pratt Institute. Most recently she has received grants and fellowships from Arizona Commission on the Arts, Headlands Center for the Arts, the Jerome Foundation and the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics. She is at work on Alt-Nature, her first full-length collection. 

Sarah Riggs is a poet, author most recently of a collection of letter poems, The Nerve Epistle (Roof Books, 2021, New York) and of Murmurations (Apic, 2021, Algeria) a bilingual book composed of parts of her two Chax Press Books, her first collection Waterwork and her political Eavesdrop, translated into French by Jérémy Robert with Marie Borel. Riggs received a 1913 Poetry Prize for her poetry book Pomme & Granite, as well as a Griffin International Poetry Prize with Etel Adnan for Adnan’s Time (Nightboat Books, 2019), which Riggs translated from the French. Riggs’ drawings, paintings and films have shown internationally, including in France and the U.S., where she has lived, in Montreal where her mother is from, and in Morocco, where her life partner Omar Berrada is from. Together in 2004, Riggs and Berrada founded Tamaas, which means “contact” in Arabic, an international arts organization with a focus on earth arts justice which runs an annual poetry translation seminar and publication, as well as the podcast Invitation to the Species,  projects through art, dance, and poetry, and is currently producing Alystyre Julian’s film Outrider on and with poet and performer Anne Waldman. Find out more at tamaas.org and at sarahriggs.org

Mazza Writer in Residence erica lewis and Christine No, reading and in conversation

  • This program also available via live-stream and at the same link after the event.

Supported by the Sam Mazza Foundation

We've moved to an in-person reading—audience welcome!—at The Poetry Center, though you can still attend by webinar (or watch via live-stream), for the concluding event in erica lewis's weeklong Mazza Writer in Residence program for Spring 2022. She'll be joined by Oakland-based poet Christine No, each reading from their work and engaging in conversation with one another and the audience. 

  • Please note: proof of vaccination and mask are required in order to attend in person.
  • This book [mary wants to be a superwoman, erica lewis] made me suck my teeth and say goddamn, and yes, and thank you. This book hit me right in the ancestors, spoke to me like a sister. erica lewis is aware that time is fiction, in a way that only black women know. A collage of music and memories, language that’s lived before, people we carry and people we try to forget, causes and effects, the proverb that “everything is everything.” This work is both archival and built from scratch. It’s a stunning altar to the past, a balm for the present, and a prayer for what will be.
    —Morgan Parker
     
  • Whatever Love Means is a searing ode to abandonment. The poems collected here detail a woman’s pursuit of survival despite the psyche’s cruelest intentions. “Woke up still,” Christine No writes, “a woman hell-bent on her own fantastic demise.” Where one is most vulnerable, one is most resilient, and No’s excavation of exactly that erupts amid these pages. Here, “even the dead are dancing.”
    —Jeanann Verlee

Bios

erica lewis lives in San Francisco where she runs lil’ homie apothecary. Her books include the precipice of jupiter (2009) and camera obscura (2010, both with artist Mark Stephen Finein); murmur in the inventory (2013); the first two books of the box set trilogy: daryl hall is my boyfriend (2015) and mary wants to be a superwoman (2017); and all the real tears (2017). Her work has appeared in various anthologies, journals, and in numerous chapbooks (Afterhours Editions/The Song Cave, Belladonna, Lame House). She was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. 

Christine No is a Korean American poet, filmmaker and daughter of immigrants. She is a Sundance Alum, VONA Fellow, Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net Nominee, and has served as Assistant Features Editor for The Rumpus, a Program Coordinator for VONA; and currently serves on the board of Quiet Lightning, a literary nonprofit in the Bay Area. Christine is interested in the power of storytelling at the intersection of healing and social justice. You can find her work online and in print; and, her first full length poetry collection Whatever Love Means is available via Barrelhouse Books.

Related event

Mazza Writer in Residence erica lewis and Divya Victor, reading and in conversation

Mazza Writer in Residence erica lewis and Divya Victor, reading and in conversation

  • This program also available via live-stream and at the same link after the event.

Supported by the Sam Mazza Foundation

Join us online as erica lewis, Poetry Center Mazza Writer in Residence for Spring 2022, is joined by Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and Pen American Open Book Award poet Divya Victor. They'll each be reading from their poetry then joining in conversation with emcee, Tatiana Luboviski-Acosta

  • mary wants to be a superwoman [erica lewis] is a tapestry of woven continuums. Its images contain a methodical new naturalism where one’s past is the frontier, alternating with the brutal urgency of a witness who would save your life. erica lewis’ poems investigate the practice of identity and the sums of nonlinear biographies. Like a relaxed musician, she has the small secrets of the day at her fingertips.
    —Tongo Eisen-Martin
     
  • Divya Victor’s Curb is extraordinary: it is a sobering poetic look at how white supremacy “curbs” the brown civilian who can slip between Muslim and Black, between terrorist and illegal. If they’re not targeted for what they are, they’re mistaken for what they’re not—with sometimes fatal consequences. Victor explores the murders of South Asians in America with piercing acumen, re-arranging historical documents into wholly original compositional strategies that draws me in but also pushes me back. I can never know what happened, only perceive the disquieting absence of lives annihilated by structural violence. Layered, rich, and epic, Curb is an incredible collection that must be read and re-read.
    —Cathy Park Hong

Bios

erica lewis lives in San Francisco where she runs lil’ homie apothecary. Her books include the precipice of jupiter (2009) and camera obscura (2010, both with artist Mark Stephen Finein); murmur in the inventory (2013); the first two books of the box set trilogy: daryl hall is my boyfriend (2015) and mary wants to be a superwoman (2017); and all the real tears (2017). Her work has appeared in various anthologies, journals, and in numerous chapbooks (Afterhours Editions/The Song Cave, Belladonna, Lame House). She was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. 

Divya Victor is the author of CURB (Nightboat Books); KITH (Fence Books/ Book*hug); Scheingleichheit: Drei Essays  (Merve Verlag); NATURAL SUBJECTS (Trembling Pillow, Winner of the Bob Kaufman Award), UNSUB (Insert Blanc), and THINGS TO DO WITH YOUR MOUTH (Les Figues). Her work has been translated into French, German, Spanish, and Czech. She has been a Mark Diamond Research Fellow at the U.S Holocaust Memorial Museum, a Riverrun Fellow at the Archive for New Poetry at University of California San Diego, and a Writer in Residence at the Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibit (L.A.C.E.), and her work has been performed and installed at Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) Los Angeles, The National Gallery of Singapore, the Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibition (L.A.C.E.) and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Victor has been an editor at Jacket2 (United States), Ethos Books (Singapore), Invisible Publishing (Canada) and Book*hug Press (Canada). She is currently Associate Professor of English at Michigan State University.

Related event

Mazza Writer in Residence erica lewis and Christine No, reading and in conversation

Gabrielle Daniels and Hung Q. Tu, a celebration of new works from Dogpark Collective

  • This program also available via live-stream and at the same link after the event.

Co-presented by The Poetry Center and Dogpark Collective

Join us in person (or via live-stream) at our friends' place in the Mission, Medicine for Nightmares, as we celebrate two new works from Oakland publisher Dogpark Collective, with readings by Gabrielle Daniels and Hung Q. Tu

  • Please note: proof of vaccination and mask are required in order to attend in person.

Gabrielle Daniels was born in New Orleans in 1954 and moved to California at the age of seven. Her grandmother, the late Rev. Ruth Matthews Taylor, was a Spiritualist Minister. Daniels’ essays, stories and poems have appeared in the print and online magazines Big Scream, Equinox: Writing for a New Culture, Kenyon Review, Love You Madly, Mango, Open Space, Poets Reading the News, Rigorous, San Jose Studies, Silver Birch Press, Sinister Wisdom, and Soup, and the anthologies This Bridge Called my Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, edited by Cheríe Moraga and Gloria E. Anzaldúa, Sister Fire: Black Womanist Fiction and Poetry, edited by Charlotte Watson Sherman, Another Wilderness: New Outdoor Writing by Women, edited by Susan Fox Rogers, and Writers Who Love Too Much: New Narrative Writing 1977-1997, edited by Dodie Bellamy and Kevin Killian. Her reviews have appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, American Book Review, Off Our Backs, and Women’s Book Review. Gabrielle’s book Something Else Again: Poetry and Prose, 1975-2019 has been published in its US edition by Dogpark Collective. Photo credit Ron Kuka.

Hung Q. Tu lives in San Diego, California. He is the author of Verisimilitude (Atelos) and Structures of Feeling (Krupskaya). The New Boma is out now from Dogpark Collective. And do check out Hung Q. Tu in Conversation with Caleb Beckwith, of Dogpark Collective, at Small Press Traffic's latest Traffic Report. 

  • Hung Q. Tu's poems push the mind into a nest of steel rods all hitting the surface of an unknown shape at the same moment: political and quotidian, in language demotic and arcane they acutely render the beauty of scorn.
    —Tom Raworth, on Structures of Feeling

Note: Maryam Gunja, also previously scheduled for this event, is unable to attend. 

Visit Dogpark Collective

Poetry Center Book Award Reading: jayy dodd and Lourdes Figueroa

With emcee Tatiana Luboviski-Acosta

  • Video live-streamed to our YouTube channel. Media captioning available there after the event.

Join us as jayy dodd, whose book The Black Condition ft. Narcissus (Nightboat Books, 2019) — "an irreverently tender profile of Black trans life surviving and thriving during contemporary political turmoil" — was selected to receive the Poetry Center Book Award, reads from her work. She’ll be joined by award judge Lourdes Figueroa, in Oakland, who will read from her own work and engage in conversation. With emcee, Tatiana Luboviski-Acosta.

  • ...far more than a critical mirror or melancholy echo, dodd’s Narcissus emerges as a generative principle, birthing the most vulnerable of possibilities, and deftly intimate, if joyously irreverent, a critique. Their book is beautiful, voluptuous, daring, and demanding of new shapes for becoming, loving, and where necessary, destroying. jayy dodd is a genius and I will say that again. —Trish Salah
     
  • If Amiri Baraka the poet, the pure technician, musician, chronicler of all that is black, blue, purple, and lyric, were to metamorphosize and return as a blxk trans femme in spirit they would be jayy dodd. dodd’s poetry captures the magic and the ‘tude, the swing, swagger, and tender hands of their experience. It’s an epic, a record, recording, A&B side, CD with a bonus track, most importantly it is gospel bristling with raw and tender truths and yearning. —Pamela Sneed

jayy dodd is a blxk trans womxn from Los Angeles, California– now based in Portland, OR. she is a literary & performance artist. her work has appeared / will appear in Broadly, The Establishment, Entropy, LitHub, BOAAT Press, Duende, and The Poetry Foundation among others. she is the Executive Director for Dovesong Labs (a development of Winter Tangerine), editor of A Portrait in Blues (Platypus Press 2017), author of Mannish Tongues (Platypus Press 2017) and The Black Condition ft. Narcissus (Nightboat Books 2019). she has been a Pushcart Prize nominee and co-editor of Bettering American Poetry. her visual & written work has been featured in West Hollywood, Portland’s Institute of Contemporary Art, Teen Vogue, and Entropy. she is also a volunteer gender terrorist & artificial intellectual. find her talking trash online or taking a selfie.

Lourdes Figueroa is the author of ​Ruidoso = To Learn Speak (Alley Cat Books Resident Writers Collection, December 2019) and yolotl (Spooky Actions, October 2012). Her artistic work involves "a series of poems, images & collaborations that are a dialogue of my lived experience when my family worked as migrant farmworkers in Yolo County, California... Overall, this is the writer that I am. My work tastes of pesticides, love, sweat, blood, and llanto. It relates to everything that we eat and are, it is about the stink of el azadón, the queer & brown in el azadón, everything to do with la x on our bodies, the femicides around us, the femicide of our earth & the nopal on my forehead. Quite honestly it is a life of migration = love. The poems are in constant conversation with each other. As the descendants of the nopal, they are the ancient un/remembered human heart. What inspired me to write was and is, survival." More at lourdesfigueroa.net

Event contact: 

The Poetry Center

Event phone: 

415-338-2227

Event sponsor: 

The Poetry Center

Mark Nowak and Worker Writers School: Coronavirus Haiku, a reading and conversation

With emcee, Tanya Hollis

Supported by the National Endowment for the Arts

Copresented by The Poetry Center and the Labor Archives and Research Center

  • Video live-streamed to our YouTube channel. Media captioning available there after the event.

Join us as Mark Nowak and Worker Writers School poets Lorraine Garnett, Davidson Garrett, Seth Goldman, Christine Lewis, Alando McIntyre, and Kele Nkhereanye present Coronavirus Haiku, new from Kenning Editions, and talk about their life as “frontline workers” during the Covid 19 crisis and their engagement with the Worker Writers School. Copresented by SF State's Labor Archive and Research Center and The Poetry Center. With emcee Tanya Hollis, Interim Director, LARC.

     Stimulus package     
     Can't buy the acre nor the mule.
     Oh, our pow'r wanes.
                                          —Alando McIntyre

     ok, key, wallet, mask
     stay away, too close, hold that train!
     S*** I forgot the milk
                                         —Paloma Zapata

     Covid 19 took
     A mother away, her kid
     Waits for her return

     No way to explain
     No more hugs and no more kisses
     Now: just ashes
                                     —Nimfa Despabiladeras, two haiku in memory of Arlena Juanico

The Worker Writers School supports writers from one of New York City’s most ubiquitous yet least-heard populations: low-wage workers. Mark Nowak, a writer and founding director of the school, presents a selection of haiku written by “frontline workers” during the Covid 19 crisis. The poets included here had already been studying examples of the form and its connection to political resistance from seventeenth-century Japan to the Black Arts Movement of the twentieth century, as well as it's capacity to amplify voices of everyday life. These “coronavirus haiku” convey moments of protest, solace, wonder, certainty, love, and strife. The writers in this anthology hail from the school’s worker center partners in New York City including Domestic Workers United, New York Taxi Workers Alliance, Damayan Migrant Workers Association, Street Vendor Project, and Retail Action Project: Thomas Barzey, Kerl Brooks, Estabon Chimilio, Nimfa Despabiladeras, Lorraine Garnett, Davidson Garrett, Seth Goldman, Christine Lewis, Doreen McGill, Alando McIntyre, Kelebohile Nkhereanye, Alfreda Small, and Paloma Zapata.

Mark Nowak is a poet, cultural critic, playwright and essayist, from Buffalo, New York. Nowak is the author of three poetry collections: Coal Mountain Elementary (Coffee House Press, 2009), Shut Up Shut Down (Coffee House Press, 2004), and Revenants (Coffee House Press, 2000). A portion of his critical book, Social Poetics (Coffee House Press, 2020), chronicles his work with the Worker Writers School.

  • “Whether unpacking Mikhail Bakhtin’s ‘unity of the emerging idea,’ demonstrating the practical application of alliteration, or recalling his daughter teaching youth prison poets origami, Mark Nowak testifies to the urgency and intimacy of poetry in our prisons, union halls, and workers’ centers. Social Poetics tracks what happens when people gather around poems: conjunctions, dialogues, imaginative militancy, solidarities. This supple, comprehensive book is a study in the poetics of bearing witness, bearing tools, and bearing possibilities.” —Terrance Hayes
  • Social Poetics materializes imaginative militancy. With a litany of the social as pervasive and intimate, and political memories of life-and-death struggles for justice, Nowak crafts a transformative workshop for the collective. This is an important record of how the people’s power, poetry, and history maintain us and the beauty of our world(s).” —Joy James

Worker Writers School

Labor Archives and Research Center

Image: Mark Nowak and Workers Writer School poets at PEN America

Event contact: 

The Poetry Center

Event phone: 

415-338-2227

Event sponsor: 

The Poetry Center and the Labor Archives and Research Cente