Celebrating Black Poets: Jamaal May


Jamaal May

Website: http://www.jamaalmay.com/

Buy his most recent book, Hum

Jamaal May’s poetry has won numerous awards. Starting in the slam tradition, he writes the kind of poetry that is powerful both on the page and off. He’s currently a Kenyon Review Fellow and co-directs Organic Weapon Arts with Tarfia Faizullah.

I first encountered Jamaal May’s work when reading “The Gun Joke” in a workshop this fall. It is a life-changing poem, and essential reading. Find Jamaal May’s “The Gun Joke” at Apogee.

Celebrating Black Poets: Jericho Brown

In honor of Martin Luther King Day, I’m celebrating some amazing poets. I have scheduled several posts to appear throughout the day. I hope you are as inspired as I am by these amazing writers. 
Jericho BrownJericho Brown
Buy his newest book here.
I first saw Jericho Brown at Poetry at Round Top last year. Hearing him read in the chapel on Sunday morning was a life-changing experience. He’s a poet who manages to be vulnerable and yet completely powerful at the same time. Reading his work on the page is incredible, but go hear him read if you get the chance. You won’t regret it.
Jericho Brown won the American Book Award for his first collection, Please. He holds both a Ph.D. (University of Houston) and an M.F.A. (University of New Orleans). He has received numerous awards for his work.
Read some of Jericho Brown’s poems here.

Celebrating Black Poets: Fatima Hirsi

In honor of Martin Luther King Day, I’m celebrating some amazing poets. I have scheduled several posts to appear throughout the day. I hope you are as inspired as I am by these amazing writers.
Fatima Hirsi
It is an honor to be able to call Fatima Hirsi a friend. Every time I see her perform, I develop new admiration for her work. She is one of the few poets whose work consistently moves me to tears. Whenever I take one of her workshops, I am amazed at the poems that result.
Fatima Hirsi currently lives in Texas, where she works at a bookstore and teaches writing workshops to children at the Writer’s Garret. She recently completed a Sidewalk Poetry tour of the western United States.

Celebrating Black Poets: Ebony Stewart

In honor of Martin Luther King Day, I’m celebrating some amazing poets. I have scheduled several posts to appear throughout the day. I hope you are as inspired as I am by these amazing writers.
Ebony Stewart
Ebony Stewart is a spoken word artist who is the only adult female three-time Slam Champion in Austin. She has coached the Neo-Soul Slam team, Austin Poetry Slam team, and the TheySpeak Poetry Slam team. She teaches Sex Education and is currently on her RISE! Tour, promoting sexual health and positive body image through performance and workshops.
Watch Ebony Stewart’s video for “Sway.”

Free Weekly Writing Prompt #1

I’ve decided to post a free weekly writing prompt on this blog. My goal is to post a new prompt every Sunday. (I might miss some weeks, but I’ll really try.) If you post the result online, I would love to see the result, but no pressure! 

This week’s prompt:

Retell a familiar/famous story, in which a secondary character is actually the protagonist. How does this person perceive the actions that happen in the story? How do they perceive themselves?

Fun With Search Terms

Every now and then, I like to go check out the search terms that people use to find this blog. This morning, I decided to go look at what people had searched for over the past year. I’ve posted my favorites below. Some were funny. Some were odd. Some were sweet. Some made me think. My favorite, though, was the search for “what is the name of one feminist poet.” I am glad Google pointed that person to the right place.

Screenshot 2015-01-13 09.54.55 Screenshot 2015-01-13 09.56.53 Screenshot 2015-01-13 09.58.23 Screenshot 2015-01-13 09.59.21 Screenshot 2015-01-13 10.00.11

Poetry Formatting Tutorial for Online Submissions

Submissions for the 2016 Texas Poetry Calendar are already flying in, and each time I check out a fresh batch of poems, I feel honored to be trusted with this project.

Dos Gatos Press went to online-only submissions a few years ago. For the Poetry Calendar (and for most publications I’ve encountered), your poems must be submitted in one cohesive document, with a different poem on each page. Every submission cycle, there are poets who have questions about how to put everything into one document.

To help those poets out, I shot a brief tutorial. I use Word 2013, but this technique has worked in every word processor I’ve used, including OpenOffice. Check it out below, and feel free to share!

Ain’t No Party Like a Poetry Party

Okay, my New Year’s plans are a little livelier than that. But if you’re poetry-minded  and want to spend New Year’s Eve being creative, you are invited to join the New Year’s Poetry Party.

New Year’s Poetry Party

What: A night to write the last poems of 2014 and start the New Year on a creative high note.

Where: My home. Please RSVP to literaryaustin@gmail.com for address.


  • Your favorite writing supplies
  • A snack or beverage to share
  • Poems from 2014 (yours or someone else’s) to read

Note 1: I have a very social dog named Simon. He has short fur, doesn’t shed much, and loves to sit in people’s laps.

Note 2: Please RSVP by noon on December 29th so I have enough time to do all the prep I need. Please also let me know if you’ll be there for the whole evening or just part of it, so I can plan accordingly. (You only need to RSVP if you’ll be attending.)

9:00-10:30 p.m.
Workshop: Making Myth New

Mythologies provide enduring sources of inspiration for poets. This workshop will start by looking at mythological archetypes across different cultures, as well as reading a selection of mythological poems. We’ll focus on the ways in which myths are continuously made new and the way the stories behind them transcend time. Finally, we’ll have time to write, using myth to explore either current events, or the mythic capacities within our own stories and lives.

10:30-11:30 p.m.
Collaborative Writing

Let’s end the year by working together!
Exact structure and prompt will depend on how many RSVPs I get.

Socializing and Reading

Share your workshop pieces, your favorite poems you wrote in 2014, and your favorite poems you read in 2014.

Midnight: Toasting!

The usual festivities!

12:01 until We’re Too Tired

Writing the first poems of the New Year.
Sharing our work and the work of others.

Save the Date for Feminist Poetry in 2015

I’m ready to take the Austin Feminist Poetry Festival in a bigger direction. Which means writing a set of bylaws and getting a board together so that I can form a nonprofit corporation, and ultimately get 501(c)3 status. I’ll also be working on upping fundraising efforts and possibly doing one or two fundraisers this year to help get things going.

I’ve also set the dates for next year: September 25th and 26th, 2015. (Here’s hoping I’ll have finally managed to not conflict with any other poetry events in Austin!) I hope to see you out there!

In the meantime, check out one of the highlights from this past festival: Kelsey Erin Shipman and Funk Riot performing “Seven Ways I Love You.”