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Poetry Out Loud – MI Humanities Council

Please consider having your students enroll in the Poetry Out Loud contest, supported by the Michigan Humanities Council. Students compete to memorize and recite a poem, and can compete at the state and national levels, with the potential to win at $20,000 college scholarship. Kalamazoo schools did not send participants to this contest last year, so perhaps this should be the year to do this. Get an application here. Read more about the event here.

Justice For Our Neighbors Kalamazoo announces second printing of the anthology: Immigration & Justice For Our Neighbors.

Kalamazoo, Mich. [June 15]: Less than two months after 125 people celebrated the release of the anthology, Immigration & Justice For Our Neighbors at the Arcus Center for Social Justice, the anthology has sold out of its first 400 copies and gone into second printing. The anthology, which contains poetry, essays, and interviews from 36 contributors—many from Kalamazoo and the surrounding area—explores the theme of immigration and reflects on what it means to be a neighbor. How do we show or not show hospitality to our neighbors? What does it mean to be a foreigner, a traveler in the world today? This 116 page anthology, in which proceeds benefit Justice for Our Neighbors in Kalamazoo, is edited by Jennifer Clark and Miriam Downey and published by Celery City Books. Scott Matteson designed the book’s eye-catching cover which bears the Statue of Liberty draped in flags of different countries.

“We couldn’t be more excited that the anthology is doing so well,” says Miriam Downey, co-editor of the anthology. “The feedback has been wonderful. Readers have been impressed by the quality of writing as well as the prominent poets and writers included in the anthology.” Aspiring young poets who have roots in Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Mexico, and Tajikistan are surrounded by well-known Michigan talents such as Elizabeth Kerlikowske, Buddy Hannah, Bonnie Jo Campbell, John Rybicki, Lynn Pattison, Marion Boyer, Phillip Sterling, Alison Swan, Jack Ridl, Kathryn Almy, and Hedy Habra, as well as a chorus of prominent poets and writers across America; Naomi Shihab Nye, Teresa Mei Chuc, Scott Russell Sanders, Jim Daniels (formerly of Detroit), and Ted Kooser, the 13th Poet Laureate of the United States. From the Netherlands, Bryan R. Monte joins in this symphony of welcoming all.

Avid reader and longtime community advocate Deborah Droppers says, “I applaud the anthology of essays and poems found in Immigration and Justice for our Neighbors. The anthology uses the written word to encourage thoughtful discourse on the challenges that each of our communities face while celebrating the amazing things that happen organically when people believe in the power of conversation between neighbors that are close and beyond our picket fences.”

By the end of the week, the anthology, along with discussion questions, join the Kalamazoo Public Libraries impressive list of books available for their Book Club in a Bag. Karen Trout, Reading Together coordinator for the Kalamazoo Public Library says, “KPL’s 2016 social justice resolution includes the statement: KPL values compassion and champions everyone’s right to be welcome in a safe environment in the library and in the wider community. Adding this title to our Book Club in a Bag collection–and encouraging local dialogue about the issue of immigration–is a perfect way to put this institutional commitment into action.” Book Club in a Bag is open to all Kalamazoo Public Library district resident cardholders.

In addition to finding the anthology at local libraries, it is also available at the following locations:

-Bookbug (3019 Oakland Drive in Oakwood Plaza at Oakland Dr. & Whites Rd.)
-Michigan News Agency (308 W. Michigan Avenue in downtown Kalamazoo)
-Kzoo Books (2413 Parkview Avenue in Kalamazoo)
-Tudor House Tea & Spice (352 S. Kalamazoo Mall in downtown Kalamazoo)
-First United Methodist Church (212 S. Park in downtown Kalamazoo across from Bronson Park)
-Books can also obtained by mail by completing an order form that can be downloaded by going here: http://www.umc-kzo.org/JFON
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Kalamazoo Poets Read – Jan.26 at 7 p.m.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.–The nonprofit, independent literary publication Fifth Wednesday Journal and the University Center for the Humanities at Western Michigan University are teaming up to present a reading featuring WMU professors, students and graduates.

The reading is at 7 p.m. Thursday, January 26, in the University Center for the Humanities, Room 2500 of Knauss Hall. The event, which is free and open to the public, will feature four outstanding Kalamazoo writers with ties to WMU who have had their work published in Fifth Wednesday Journal. Dr. William Olsen, WMU professor of English, director of the creative writing program and award-winning poet, will serve as moderator.

Those taking part in the reading are:

  • Matt Morgan, who is originally from Mississippi and now lives in Kalamazoo, where he is working on a master’s degree in poetry at WMU. His poem, “The Weight of,” appears in the current issue of Fifth Wednesday Journal.
  • Dr. Nancy Eimers, WMU professor of English, teaches creative writing. Her fourth poetry collection, “Oz,” was published in 2011. She is the author of “A Grammar to Waking,” “No Moon” and “Destroying Angel.” She is the recipient of a Nation Discovery Award, a Whiting Writers Award and two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships. Her poems have appeared in many magazines and anthologies.
  • Andrew Wickenden earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from WMU in 2013 and lives and works in the Kalamazoo area. His stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Glimmer Train, Fiction, Fifth Wednesday Journal and elsewhere.
  • Dr. Hedy Habra, who teaches Spanish at WMU, has a passion for art. She is the author of two poetry collections, “Under Brushstrokes,” a finalist for the USA Best Book Award and the International Book Award, and “Tea in Heliopolis,” winner of the USA Best Book Award and finalist for the International Book Award. Her story collection, “Flying Carpets,” won the Arab American National Book Award’s Honorable Mention and was a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award. She is the recipient of the Nazim Hikmet Poetry Award and a five-time nominee for the 2016 Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net.

Fifth Wednesday Journal is based in Illinois and published twice a year in print. Its mission is to bring the finest fiction, poetry, essays, photography, interviews and book reviews into people’s everyday lives. For more information, go to fifthwednesdayjournal.com/fwj-reading-in-kalamazoo-michigan/.

Fifth Wednesday Journal, Humanities Center present reading at WMU

KALAMAZOO, Mich.–The nonprofit, independent literary publication Fifth Wednesday Journal and the University Center for the Humanities at Western Michigan University are teaming up to present a reading featuring WMU professors, students and graduates.

The reading is at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 8, in the University Center for the Humanities, Room 2500 of Knauss Hall. The event, which is free and open to the public, will feature four outstanding Kalamazoo writers with ties to WMU who have had their work published in Fifth Wednesday Journal. Dr. William Olsen, WMU professor of English, director of the creative writing program and award-winning poet, will serve as moderator.

Those taking part in the reading are:

  • Matt Morgan, who is originally from Mississippi and now lives in Kalamazoo, where he is working on a master’s degree in poetry at WMU. His poem, “The Weight of,” appears in the current issue of Fifth Wednesday Journal.
  • Dr. Nancy Eimers, WMU professor of English, teaches creative writing. Her fourth poetry collection, “Oz,” was published in 2011. She is the author of “A Grammar to Waking,” “No Moon” and “Destroying Angel.” She is the recipient of a Nation Discovery Award, a Whiting Writers Award and two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships. Her poems have appeared in many magazines and anthologies.
  • Andrew Wickenden earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from WMU in 2013 and lives and works in the Kalamazoo area. His stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Glimmer Train, Fiction, Fifth Wednesday Journal and elsewhere.
  • Dr. Hedy Habra, who teaches Spanish at WMU, has a passion for art. She is the author of two poetry collections, “Under Brushstrokes,” a finalist for the USA Best Book Award and the International Book Award, and “Tea in Heliopolis,” winner of the USA Best Book Award and finalist for the International Book Award. Her story collection, “Flying Carpets,” won the Arab American National Book Award’s Honorable Mention and was a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award. She is the recipient of the Nazim Hikmet Poetry Award and a five-time nominee for the 2016 Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net.

Fifth Wednesday Journal is based in Illinois and published twice a year in print. Its mission is to bring the finest fiction, poetry, essays, photography, interviews and book reviews into people’s everyday lives. For more information, go to fifthwednesdayjournal.com/fwj-reading-in-kalamazoo-michigan/.

Call for Submissions: Immigration & Justice For Our Neighbors Anthology

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Justice For Our Neighbors in Kalamazoo seek poetry, memoir, essays, and interviews that explore the theme of immigration and justice for our neighbors. How do we show or not show hospitality to our neighbors? What does it mean to be a foreigner, a traveler in the world today? We invite writers of all ages and cultures to help us delve into this theme and look forward to reading your work.

Guidelines: No cover letter necessary. In the body of the email (no attachments, please) include:

-author contact information (name, address, phone, and email)

-brief bio (not to exceed 50 words)

-your poem(s), memoir, essay or interview within the body of the email. Previously published work will be considered as long as it is accompanied by information of when and where it was first published.

-Write the words IMMIGRATION SUBMISSION in the subject line and send your submission to jfonanthology@gmail.com. Or, if you prefer, mail your submission to:

210 Grandview Avenue, Kalamazoo, MI 49001.

Deadline for submissions: December 5, 2017

Contributors accepted will receive one copy of the anthology. (Anticipated date of publication is April 2017.) Profits from anthology sales will go to Justice For Our Neighbor (Kalamazoo).

About Justice For Our Neighbors (JFON): JFON is a ministry of hospitality that welcomes immigrants into our communities by providing affordable, high-quality immigration legal services, and engaging in advocacy for immigrants’ rights. As part of a nationwide outreach project of UMCOR and the United Methodist Church, JFON depends on local support for 100% of its operating funds. To support the critical grassroots work being done in the Kalamazoo area, all proceeds from the anthology will go to JFON (Kalamazoo). For more information about JFON, go here: http://jfonwestmichigan.org/.

Kalamazoo’s Diane Seuss among 2016 Pulitzer Prize Nominated Finalists

The 2016 Pulitzer Prize Winners and Nominated Finalists were announced on Monday, April 18 at 3pm eastern daylight time via live-stream on pulitzer.org. Directly after the live-stream, lists of winners and finalists, along with prize-winning stories, columns, editorials, cartoons and photos became available on pulitzer.org.

The press conference took place at 3 p.m. eastern daylight time in the World Room, Pulitzer Hall, Columbia University, New York City. This was the 100th announcement of the Prizes. 

The announcement was made by Mike Pride, administrator of The Pulitzer Prizes

The Prizes were announced on  Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other channels.N9sExtO-

Among the winners is poet Diane Seuss, author of “Four-Legged Girl,” published by Graywolf Press.

The Pulitzer committee called the book: “A richly improvisational poetry collection that leads readers through a gallery of incisive and beguiling portraits and landscapes.”

The book, her third, was named a finalist in the 2016 Pulitzer Prize competition.

Seuss teaches at Kalamazoo College and has also taught many local poets in classes for the community.

The winner in Poetry was Ozone Journal, by Peter Balakian. (University of Chicago Press).  Alive: New and Selected Poems, by Elizabeth Willis (NYRB) also was a finalist in the Poetry category.

The jury for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry was made up of Nikky FInney,  (John H. Bennett, Jr. Endowed Professor Of Creative Writing And Southern Letters, University Of South Carolina; Al Filreis,Kelly Professor Of English, University Of Pennsylvania; and Rafael Campo, Associate Professor Of Medicine, Harvard University.

“Four-Legged Girl” can be purchased at the following Kalamazoo area booksellers: Bookbug, Kazoo Books, and Michigan News Agency.

Two award-winning poets on tap in WMU Gwen Frostic Reading Series

Source:  WMU

KALAMAZOO, Mich.–Western Michigan University will mark National Poetry Month as two award-winning poets, whose work has been published widely, visit the campus later this month to take part in the Spring 2016 Gwen Frostic Reading Series.

Anne Marie Macari and Gerald Stern will read from their works at 8 p.m. Thursday, April 14, in Rooms 157-159 of the Bernhard Center. Their presentation is free and open to the public.

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Macari is the author of four poetry books, including “Red Deer” and “She Heads into the Wilderness.” She also co-edited “Lit from Inside: 40 Years of Poetry from Alice James Books.” She has received the APR/Honickman Prize and founded and teaches at the Drew University Master of Fine Arts Program in Poetry and Poetry in Translation. Her poems have been published in many literary journals and magazines, including TriQuarterly, Bloomsbury Review, Shenandoah, The American Poetry Review, The Cortland Review and The Iowa Review.

Macari was born in Queens, New York, and lives in Lambertville, New Jersey. She is a graduate of Oberlin College and holds a master’s degree in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College.

Stern is the highly acclaimed author of 16 poetry books, including “Divine Nothingness,” “In Beauty Bright” and “This Time: New and Selected Poems,” which won the National Book Award for Poetry in 1998. He was named a finalist in 1991 for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for “Leaving Another Kingdom: Selected Poems.” He also received The Wallace Stevens Award, the Medal of Honor in Poetry, the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize in Poetry and the Frost Medal. In 2000, New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman appointed him the state’s first poet laureate.

Stern has taught literature and creative writing at Temple University, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Raritan Valley Community College and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Since 2009, he has been distinguished poet-in-residence and a member of the faculty of Drew University’s graduate program in poetry. He is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and Columbia University and attended the University of Paris for post-graduate study.

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The Frostic Reading Series presents acclaimed creative writers from across the nation and beyond. Every year, a diverse range of readings that encompasses poetry, fiction, nonfiction and drama attract both campus and off-campus audiences.

For more information, visit here.

Coming up soon in the Gwen Frostic Series at WMU

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Next up in the Gwen Frostic Series

Daneen Wardrop & Bonnie Jo Campbell
Thursday, January 28th @ 8:00 p.m.
WMU Bernhard Center 157-159
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New Issues Poetry & Prose Reading
Featuring Adam LeFevre & Judy Halebsky
Thursday, March 24th @ 8:00 p.m.
WMU Bernhard Center 157-159
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Gerald Stern & Anne Marie Macari
Thursday, April 14th @ 8:00 p.m.

WMU Bernhard Center 157-159
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WMU doctoral student’s poetry book published, wins big award

Release #1516-042; Sept. 3, 2015–Contact: Mark Schwerin, (269) 387-8413

Iliana Rocha

Iliana Rocha

KALAMAZOO, Mich.–A book of poems by a Western Michigan University doctoral student in English has just been published by the University of Pittsburgh Press after winning the 2014 Donald Hall Prize for Poetry.

The award, sponsored by the Association of Writers and Writing Programs and named after American poet, writer, editor and critic Donald Hall, came as a big surprise to author and student Iliana Rocha, who is now entering her fourth year of studies at WMU.

“I was really surprised because, up until that point, I had been submitting to book contests, and I hadn’t been a finalist for anything,” Rocha says. “So it was like, ‘OK, we’ll see how this process goes.’ And then, kind of out of the blue, I was getting ready to go work at the Writing Center on campus and I get a call from AWP and they said, ‘You won!’ I didn’t have a clue, because I didn’t know I was a finalist or that I was on any kind of short list.”

Rocha’s book is titled “Karankawa.” Raised in Victoria, Texas, Rocha was inspired by the Karankawa Indians, who lived along the Texas coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Her aunt lived in the region of Texas generally inhabited by the Karankawa Indians, and her passing was the impetus for the collection.

Her book examines some of the ways people construct or reconstruct their individual histories.

“When I was doing research about them, the discussion surrounding the Karankawa centered around how they were subjected to many false myths–and then I knew I wanted to apply that to the mythos of my family by rewriting significant births (including my own) and deaths,” Rocha says. “Ultimately, my collection is an elegy and love letter to Texas, and I use the Karankawa as a framework to interrogate grand narratives about the self, family and place.”

Winning the award comes with a $5,500 prize in addition to publication. It was a huge accomplishment, especially for a student, says her faculty advisor, Dr. William Olsen, WMU professor of English.

“Iliana is an outstanding poet,” Olsen says. “There is simply no greater honor for an emerging writer than to have won the AWP Prize. The Association of Writers and Writing Programs is the nation’s foremost and largest organization of writers in the nation, and the Poetry Prize guarantees Iliana’s book immediate readership.”

Before coming to WMU, Rocha earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Houston and a master’s degree in creative writing from Arizona State University in Tempe, where she was poetry editor for Hayden’s Ferry Review. Her work was chosen for the “Best New Poets 2014” anthology and has appeared in Blackbird, Yalobusha Review, Puerto del Sol and Third Coast.

Rocha has been working on her poetry collection for 10 years. She credits working with Olsen and his colleague and fellow poet Dr. Nancy Eimers, professor of English, with honing her book into an award-winner.

“Honestly, I feel my poetry collection was picked up because of the feedback I got back from Bill and Nancy,” Rocha says. “I had shown them an earlier version of the book, and they would meet with me one on one. Just having the time in a Ph.D. program to write is really special.”

Native American poet Joy Harjo selected Rocha for the Hall prize. She says the book “embodies a fresh kind of creation story emerging from the Americas. We are struck by an unabashed presence of a fearless singer.”

Winning the prize is certainly impressive for a student, Eimers says.

“This is a very big deal,” Eimers says. “The contest is open to both published and unpublished poets, so that means that Iliana was in competition not just with young writers, but with established poets. While we have had a number of students with impressive accomplishments, this is the first time one of our current students has won this award.”

Rocha plans to graduate in April 2016 and will apply for various post-doctoral fellowships, as well as travel abroad fellowships. She’ll also be applying for teaching positions.

“Ideally, it would be a job where I could teach poetry full time,” she says. “But those jobs are few and far between. I’m still going to apply and hope for the best.”

— Western Michigan University

“Courage to Create” MLK Poetry Competition

All Kalamazoo Public School youth grades 7-12 are invited to compete in the inaugural year of the “Courage to Create” MLK Poetry competition.  Below are some important dates and events to remember:


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  1. Free “Warm-Up” Event at Kalamazoo Institute of the Arts from 6 to 8  p.m. Friday, Feb. 6 :  There will be a free, public “Warm-up at Art Hop” (February 6th) event for families at the K I A.  All KPS youth, teachers and families interested in exploring writing and poetry writing exercises may attend the February 6th Art Hop Exhibit “Insight/Second Sight II”  and participate in free writing exercises designed to encourage emerging poets of all ages to compose their own poems using art pieces in the K.I.A. galleries as inspiration. “Courage to Create” judges will also be in attendance at the event to answer questions about the competition.  The information about the Kalamazoo Institute of the Arts activities during the Art Hop on February 6 is available at the KIA website here.
  1. Poetry submissions due Friday, Feb. 13.   Submissions will be accepted from youth in Grades 7-12 until Feb. 13.  There are two primary categories: “Free/Open Verse” (student-poets submits their own original poem in any form) and “Inspired Recitation” (student-poets submit a poem composed by another author, that he or she would like to perform at the Feb. 26th Ceremony.  Winners will be selected from each grade level for each of these categories. Theme: “Confronting Injustice”.  Please see the attached flyer for more information.
  1. Final Public Round from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m Thursday,Feb. 26. Final Public Round of the “Courage to Create” Competition on WMU’s campus.  This event is part of the MLK Visitation activities at WMU and will feature the works of the KPS finalists of the competition.  Youth will read with local community leaders at the event on the theme “Confronting Injustice”.   Prizes will include Kindle FIREs, gift certificates and other college-themed prizes.

maya02 Please feel free to share this information with any parents and youth that may be interested in submitting poetry/encouraging entries to the “Courage to Create” competition!