2019 Festival

KYSO Flash Reading

7 p.m., at Zhang Archives. 1650 Oakland Dr., presented in Collaboration with Friends of Poetry

KYSO Flash readers are Amy Newday, Lynn Pattison, Kathi McGookey, Melanie Dunbar and from Kalamazoo. Timothy Hawkins and Linda Nemec-Foster from Grand Rapids. The reading is a celebration of the publication of the KYSO anthology. It will be on sale at the reading.


The 2019 Kalamazoo Poetry Festival hosted 13 workshops around Kalamazoo and two special events.

Every Scar is A Story


Workshop participants will map out physical scars and unseen scars then use that map to create poetry or flash fiction. Must be able to draw stick figures. By attending my workshop, attendees will be encouraged to understand and honor the experiences our bodies carry with them and on them. They will understand that this is an appropriate subject for poetry and that poetry is healing.

Led by Elizabeth Kerlikowske

Elizabeth Kerlikowske is the president of Friends of Poetry in Kalamazoo and the Poetry Society of Michigan. She has a long history of teaching and publishing. Her most recent book is Art Speaks, an ekphrastic text with painter Mary Hatch. She was awarded the Community Medal for the Arts in 2017.

Exquisite Body


This workshop uses a group poetry writing technique that celebrates and transforms how we see, describe, and use our body through the transmutation of words. Participants will take a typical writing game and turn it on its ear to birth something. Attendees will be encouraged to examine their body outside of its utility and find ways to expand on cliches that are typically associated with poems that make comparisons or descriptions of the body. Attendees will create individual and group poetry, as they feel comfortable, while finding ways to recognize and celebrate their vessels.

Led by Marissa Ross

Marissa Ross is a local poet, youth development professional, and organizational developer. They studied English at Western Michigan University with poetry as a secondary major and have hosted multiple poetry readings and created a variety of writing workshops, ranging from persona poems to critiquing with care. Marissa has done creative writing workshops as a visiting facilitator in youth programs as well with their own youth as young as 8 years old at a nationally affiliated literacy program for youth.

The Weight is Over


A workshop primarily for those who are overweight, obese, and struggle with weight loss. Participants will also deal with weight-related diseases and illnesses. The workshop leader will promote healthy habits, happiness, positive body image, self-love, and most of all inspire motivation for change within the attendees of this workshop. Attendees will be encouraged to take steps toward losing weight and getting healthy. The workshop will raise awareness and help people recognize the signs of weight-related illnesses such as; diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, and more. Participants will have a chance to create their own poems regarding this topic during the workshop

Led by Jovani “Joe Papi” Cooper

Jovani “Joe Papi” Cooper is best described as an Urban Renaissance man. The 34-year-old motivational speaker from Kalamazoo has been writing songs, short stories, and poetry since his early childhood days in Chicago, Illinois. As he entered his teenage years, he got into singing, rapping, and eventually fell in love with acting. He has been cast in the plays: Of Mice and Men, and Waiting to End Hell, both productions sponsored by Kalamazoo’s Black Arts & Cultural Center. He works locally at KCMHSAS (Kalamazoo Community Mental Health Substance Abuse Services) and serves his community by assisting the homeless and population and working with individuals within our criminal justice system. When he isn’t working, he is working out and doing his best to stay healthy. His consistency and effort has yielded him a significant weight-loss recently. “Joe Papi” is a husband of twelve years, and a father of three.   

When the Body Speaks


Exploring the signals our brains and bodies give us – pain, gut feelings, joy, and more – we will translate the non-verbal into the verbal. Questions we’ll think about: What signals is your body giving you and when? What do these signals mean? If your scars could speak, what would they say? What would your hands, shoulders, feet or other parts say about your life? Have there been times when you thought your body lied to you or betrayed you? In this workshop, attendees will listen to and discuss several poems about the body written by experienced authors; engage in a writing warm-up; and create a narrative poem from the perspective of a body part or emotion.

Led by Robin Church

Robin Church has a long and varied past which includes relocating many times between Detroit and Kalamazoo, children, divorces and through it all, poems. She was on the 14 year plan for her undergraduate degree in Early Childhood Education and English; and continued her slow road to academic success by taking 20 years to get a Masters Degree in Urban Education. She taught for five years with Head Start; 20 with the PEEP program in Kalamazoo Public Schools. She has occasionally been published in small literary magazines and is a board member of the Friends of Poetry. She’s conducted writing workshops at local libraries and once at the Nature Center. She believes poetry is, in all its forms, a way to build community.

The Imagination’s Tongue


“The Imagination’s Tongue”: The Embodied Image as Meaning in a Poem — In Denise Levertov’s poem, “O Taste and See,” she writes “The world is/not with us enough./O taste and see.” Sometimes in our poems we tend to rely too much on abstract language and explanation, which distances readers from “the world” so that it is “not with us enough” in the poem. So in this workshop we will focus on learning how to make the world more present in our poems through the use of concrete imagery and sensory detail. We’ll explore some poems that do this well, and then you’ll get a chance to try it for yourself. Attendees will be encouraged to understand what concrete images are and how to create one by practicing it in their own poetry.

Led by Marci Johnson

Marci Rae Johnson is a freelance writer and editor. She is also the Poetry Editor for WordFarm press. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in Main Street Rag, The Collagist, Rhino, Quiddity, Hobart, Redivider, Redactions, The Valparaiso Poetry Review, The Louisville Review, and 32 Poems, among others. Her first collection of poetry won the Powder Horn Prize and was published by Sage Hill Press in 2013, and her second full length collection was released by Steel Toe Books in 2016. Her chapbook won the Friends of Poetry chapbook contest for Michigan authors in 2014 and was published by Celery City Chapbooks.

Restorative Justice, Healing & Finding Your Voice


In this workshop Pretty Fire uses her background and experience as a poet, performer and dramatist to lead participants to use their own personal stories and poems and the dramatic technique introduced to devise and perform poetic works to find their voices, life empowerment, and self-advocacy. Partcipants will become the subversive hero/heroine in their own stories, say the things they need say, and embody their message. Attendees will be encouraged to heal and be empowered through writing and speaking their own truths into the world.

Led by Pretty Fire the Poet (Tanisha Pyron)

Tanisha Pyron considers herself to be a modern day griot, focused on telling stories that redefine and re-appropriate “Black Americana”, highlighting and finding the beauty in the contradictions, pain and pride within “our stories” and thus hopes to discover and re-claim the beauty within her own. To her the art and the artist are one. As she seeks to unlock and express what is contained in her own heart and to heal and celebrate her own beauty and spirit. The art will speak to who it needs to.

Hospice Bed Poetry


This workshop will provide a discussion of the techniques useful in having conversations with hospice, nursing home, and all health-challenged elders that lead to poetry based on memory, past experiences and goals yet unattained. Those who attend this workshop will be encouraged to: Spend time with older adults who are likely to die within the year; learn interview skills useful for older adults; learn the importance of listening skills will be emphasized; practice techniques in recognizing the poetic links in an older adult’s lifeline/storyline.

Led by Alan Harris

Alan Harris is a hospice volunteer who helps patients write memoir, short stories poetry and letters. He was the 2016 Sparrow Home Hospice Volunteer of the Year. Harris has a Masters in Health Care Administration (Western Michigan University), a Masters in Creative Writing as well as a graduate certificate in Gerontology (Wayne State University). He is the recipient of both the 2014 John Clare Award in Poetry and the 2015 Tompkins Poetry Prize. Harris is the author of the chapbook, “Hospice Bed Conversations” (2017). His most recent publication is a full-length book of poetry entitled “Fall Ball, poetry for the late innings.”

Embodying Other: Writing Persona Poems


Writing in the persona form offers a poet unique and particular advantages for creativity. In this workshop we will examine examples of persona poems, explore the freedoms and limitations of writing persona poems, experiment with writing prompts and discover ways to embody a fresh perspective in our poetry. By attending this workshop, attendees will learn to recognize various types of personal poems, understand the advantages and limitations of the form, and will be encouraged to create their own persona poems.

Led by Marion Boyer

Marion Starling Boyer has three published poetry collections: The Clock of the Long Now (Mayapple Press) and two chapbooks, Green (Finishing Line Press) and Composing the Rain (Grayson Books). Her fourth book, The Sea Was Never Far, is forthcoming this spring from Main Street Rag. Boyer’s work has been nominated for a Pushcart, the Lenore Marshall Award, and the “Best of the Net.” A former Kalamazoo Poetry Festival board member, Boyer recently moved from Michigan to Ohio where she continues to be active in poetry organizations and readings in the Cleveland area.

Perfectly Imperfect


Whether openly admitted or not, we all struggle to maintain high self-esteem. We get caught up on how others see us when we should be happy with ourselves, flaws and all. With focus on settling comfortably into our skin, Perfectly Imperfect encourages attendees to dare to be different, turning what society views as flaws into strengths by speaking/writing life into situations that cause pain. Workshop facilitator One Single Rose will perform a few spoken word pieces to familiarize attendees with each form of poetry that will be presented during the workshop sessions. Perfectly Imperfect workshop attendees will be encouraged to write haiku, rhyme, and free verse focusing on motivation and inspiration to build self-esteem. Attendees who wish to share their pieces will be given an opportunity to do so during the workshop session. An additional component will be the creation of a collaborative piece written by the group and workshop. Attendees will be encouraged to write past the pain of why society attempts to dictate who people should be instead of appreciating people for who they are can be therapeutic.

Led by Rosemarie Wilson

Rosemarie Wilson a.k.a. One Single RoseTM is a multi-award winning poet and playwright, spoken word artist, singer, actress and filmmaker from Detroit.  She is currently a featured artist and songwriter with Defected Records, the United Kingdom’s #1 house music record label and she’s one of the first poets published under the Broadside-Lotus Press merger, two of the oldest African-American presses in the United States. One Single RoseTM performs nationally and internationally wherever her words are welcomed. For more information on One Single Rose, please visit www.onesinglerose.com.

The Breath and the Body


Using breathing techniques and non-verbal communication to improve writing and performance: Using ancient breathing techniques we can help clear the chatter or mental blocks of the mind allowing us to get in the best space to write. Learning and understanding the importance of non-verbal communication we can improve our performance and get the audience on our side before we even begin our performance. Subtle changes in our life make huge differences and subtle changes in our approach to writing can take us from good to great. Attendees will understand how the mind can sometimes work against us when preparing to write. We will practice techniques to reconnect us to our bodies so we can create and write from a clear space. And then with a better understanding of our bodies we can use better body language to perform and recognize our true potential as artists.

Led by Gabriel Giron

For the last eleven years Gabriel Giron has made a living performing as one-half of the group Kinetic Affect, a national poetry and speaking duo. For the last nine years he has also been the Executive Director (as well as co-founder) of Speak It Forward, Inc. a writing and performance-based nonprofit whose mission is “dedicated to transforming the lives of youth and adults by using spoken-word poetry as a vehicle to raise awareness, challenge stereotypes, break down barriers and instill a sense of empowerment and community”. For more info please see: www.kineticaffect.com and www.speakitforwardinc.org

The Body of Language: Form & Structure in Poetry


The workshop uses examples and exercises to show how form and structure provide not only the skeletal and muscular underpinning of poetry, but also how they help to shape thought and actually draw from the writer’s subconscious unexpected verbal gifts, creating verbal and rhetorical tension that can surprise, enlighten, and delight, as the best poetry aims at doing. The workshop will provide attendees with examples of how form and structure provide verbal and rhetorical tension, as well as how technique itself acts as inspiration. They’ll also have the opportunity to work on at least one exercise that will produce a poetic draft: bouts rimes, a sonnet exercise that demonstrates the power of form to stimulate one’s creativity. They will see that poets–like “magicians”–must believe in technique and practice so that others can believe in magic.

Led by Arnie Johnston

Arnold Johnston lives in Kalamazoo and South Haven. His poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and translations have appeared widely in literary journals and anthologies. His plays, and others written in collaboration with his wife, Deborah Ann Percy, have won some 150 productions, as well as numerous awards and publications across the country and internationally; and they’ve written, co-written, edited, or translated over twenty books. Arnie’s latest projects are Where We’re Going, Where We’ve Been, a full-length poetry collection forthcoming from FutureCycle Press, and Swept Away, a novel forthcoming from Caffeinated Press. His other books include two poetry chapbooks—Sonnets: Signs and Portents and What the Earth Taught Us—The Witching Voice: A Play about Robert Burns; Of Earth and Darkness: The Novels of William Golding; and The Witching Voice: A Novel from the Life of Robert Burns. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild, Poets & Writers, the Associated Writing Programs, and the American Literary Translators Association. He was chairman of the WMU English Department (1997-2007) and taught creative writing (poetry, fiction, and playwriting) for many years at Western Michigan University in the program he co-founded. He is now a full-time writer.

Moving Words Together


Using contemporary and classic poetry we will explore connecting sound and movement to connect to the text as well as find similarities in theme. Participants will also create poetry through group collaboration and then make those new words move. Attendees will be encouraged to understand the connection between physical movement and the movement of words; practice group storytelling and poetry creation; connect emotion to text; and move the body in response to text.

Led by Nicki Poer

Nicki Poer serves as executive director of Read and Write Kalamazoo (RAWK), a nonprofit organization that celebrates and amplifies youth voices through the cultivation of reading and writing skills all free of charge to youth and their families. Prior to RAWK, she was the Director of Education at the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre for almost ten years where she created the Academy of Theatre Arts. Nicki holds an MFA in Acting from the University of Montana and a BA in Theatre with a Music Minor from Millikin University. She has previously taught acting, musical theatre, poetry in performance, theatre history, improvisation, and movement at University of Montana, Missoula Children’s Theatre, Kalamazoo Civic Theatre, and Hartford Stage along with performing and directing on stage for over 25 years.

A Conversation: Sexual Consent


The workshop will open with a discussion with the group about brave versus safe spaces, what sexual consent is, what it means to each individual, and what it should mean in 2019. The participants will write down their personal definition of sexual consent, and who taught them that definition, if anyone. After this, there will be an informative portion that will include the legal definition of what proper sexual consent is. The last part of the workshop will be a discussion where volunteers will read or have the workshop leader read the definition they wrote at the beginning aloud. Then, volunteers are asked to speak on how their definition has changed over the course of the workshop. A cool down conversation will end the workshop, this will explore what the group learned, and how to incorporate those tools into their daily lives regardless of the platform they occupy. There will be literature available on topics not spoken of related to sexual consent. There will be bilateral stimulants available for those who need something to play with during the workshop. Attendees will be encouraged to advocate, protect, and practice sexual consent.

Led by Mallory Kruizenga

Mallory Kruizenga is a sexual assault victim advocate at YWCA Kalamazoo, and has previously worked as a sexual assault prevention educator. She has worked in the field of social work for over six years, and has facilitated sexual assault education many times with high schools and universities in the upper peninsula. YWCA Kalamazoo strives to eliminate racism, empower women, stand up for social justice, help families, and strengthen communities. Their services are completely free and open to anyone that is struggling with sexual assault, domestic violence and human trafficking. The shelter at YWCA Kalamazoo serves over four hundred adults and six hundred children yearly.

Moving UniVERSE/AniMotion

Read and Write Kalamazoo (RAWK) and KVCC’s Center for New Media collaborate to celebrate poetry and amplify youth voices and imaginations. Using their poetry written in  RAWK workshops, middle school writers then teamed with CNM animators and storyboard artists to set their words in motion. The students’ animated poems are presented as part of the festival and poetry workshops were facilitated by Jason Conde, RAWK’s director of education in December 2018. Read and Write Kalamazoo (RAWK), a nonprofit organization that celebrates and amplifies youth voices through the cultivation of reading and writing skills all free of charge to youth and their families.

Poetry Society of Michigan Reception

A reception in honor of the Poetry Society of Michigan, at the Van Deusen Room, Kalamazoo Public Central Library, 315 S. Rose Street, 3 p.m.

Poetry Society of Michigan hosts a reception for anyone connected to festival. There will be a Tribute Reading to honor some of those who have kept the organization going for over 70 years.

Celebration of Community Poets

with MC Ed Genesis

Artist, musician, entrepreneur, community leader and organizer Ed Genesis has professionally pursued his love of music since 2006. As a community organizer he has worked with S.E.E. Change and Michigan United on mass incarceration and school to prison pipeline issues.

A reading by poets from across Kalamazoo.

Invited poets include:

  • Oliver Baez-Bendorf
  • Nicholas Baxter
  • Darien Buress
  • Nathan Dannison
  • Cameron Decker
  • Danna Ephland
  • Lex Fate
  • Fire Youth
  • Friends of Poetry
  • Buddy Hanna
  • Sherridan and Nancy Harris
  • Alex Hoyle
  • Jessica Ivey
  • Tasleem Jamilia
  • Daja Johnson
  • Gail Martin
  • Urban Zone Youth
  • Susan Blackwell Ramsey
  • Julie Stotz-Ghosh
  • Sue Silverman
  • Scrambled Eggs Readers

Your Turn Open Mic

with MC Dana (Great Dane) Hudson

Dana Hudson is a creative from Detroit with a passion for empowering and uplifting the voices of others to influence cultural change. In 2015, she began going by the name Great Dane, a name given to her after helping a friend who was being assaulted by her partner. In 2016, she published a vulnerable and honest poetry chapbook, Testimony. In 2018, she went on to create and host “For the Good” Open Mic, a monthly show that features activists and artists who use their platform to bring awareness to and  push forward conversations about social change. She competed on the Retort United National Slam Team in August 2018 and received three National Spoken Word Awards nominations. She currently works as a teaching artist in Kalamazoo and as the Slam and Open Mic Organizer for Fire Historical and Cultural Arts Collaborative, an organization focused on amplifying youth voices.