Description of Events: "What Is It, Then, Between Us?": Poetry & Democracy

1:00-2:30 p.m.

 Ain’t I a Child?: A Conversation on Juvenile Justice

Poet Reginald Dwayne Betts, the first former felon to be admitted to the Massachusetts Bar Association, is joined by Lynda Seward, Henal Patel, Retha Onitiri, Mark Hopkins and Youth Poets Lord “Logic” Redding and Aminah Ferguson from the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice for a conversation and poetry reading exploring the impact of the juvenile justice system.

Poetry and Pride

Janet Aalfs, Rigoberto González and Rachel Wiley

Contemporary American poetry would not be what it is without the contributions of poets from the LGBTQ+ community. Poets of the present generation have lived through a revolution in Gay rights. How have the poetry and LQBTQ+ communities intertwined and overlapped during the lives of poets who witnessed these times?

Unseen: Democracy and the Working Poor

Poets Jan Beatty, Catherine Doty and Joe Weil

Clichés and negative assumptions abound regarding America’s poor. Yet, some of our most influential poetry was created by those who come from a class typically excluded from the halls of the academy. Join us for a lively discussion of the complexities of poverty in America, and how the unseen (or denied) distinctions of class influence the daily (and creative) lives of the working poor

The Stakes of Erasure (Writing Activity)
Tracy K. Smith recently published "Declaration," a poem which takes language directly from the Declaration of Independence to speak to the Black American condition. Participants will work with the document that serves as the philosophical foundation for our republic to discuss the ways in which many, due to the bodies they inhabit, are not allowed full participation nor given full protection under the laws of the land.  This will lead to the creation of their own erasure poem, which could explore elements of marginalization they see in their own lives or those of people they love.


3:00-4:30 p.m.

Crossing Borders: Immigrant Stories & Rights

Poet Rigoberto Gonzalez, who grew up on both sides of the Mexican/U.S.A. border and is the son of migrant workers, joins staff from Wind of the Spirit, a local Immigrant Resource Center, in a conversation and reading on the past and present lives of immigrants in America.

The Skin You’re Living In: Race and Violence

In “Blink Your Eyes,” Sekou Sundiata’s poem about a traffic stop, he writes that what might happen in the blink of an eye, “all depends on the skin you’re living in.” Poets Reginald Dwayne Betts, Cortney Lamar Charleston and khalil murrell explore being poets and black men in 21st century America.

A Bridge Across Fear: When Poets Work Toward Change

Janet Aalfs, Jan Beatty, Joe Weil, Rachel Wiley

Poet and activist Audre Lorde  wrote,“Poetry is not only dream and vision; it is the skeleton architecture of our lives. It lays the foundations for a future of change, a bridge across our fears of what has never been before.” Whether as a union shop steward, body-positivity activist, creative writing instructor to incarcerated women, or a women’s empowerment activist, these poets have chosen to step into public, political and civic spheres. Join them in a conversation on how poetry can help us build bridges across fear.

Class Dismissed: Writing Activity

Catherine Doty
Beginning with reading and reflecting on poems brought by the facilitator for discussion, this writing activity will invite participants to identify and capture the first time they felt dismissed, excluded or peripheral in any way, large or small, or themselves acted upon feelings of superiority toward an individual or group of others, and how the experience may have shaped the adults they became.


6:30-8:00 p.m.

In Praise: A Hundred Ways to Kneel and Kiss the Earth

An invitation to share gratitude across race, gender, belief system, age and sexual orientation. Poets Janet Aalfs, Jan Beatty, Reginald Dwayne Betts, Cortney Lamar Charleston, Catherine Doty, Rigoberto Gonzalez, Joe Weil and Rachel Wiley are joined by the alternate folk group Parkington Sisters in this celebration in poetry and song.