Special Guests

Brick City Voices

Hugo dos Santos is a Luso-American writer and translator. A Child in Ruins, his translation of the collected poems of José Luís Peixoto, was published by Writ Large Press. He is a Disquiet International fellow and his work has appeared in various publications in the U.S. and Europe, including upstreet, theEEEL by tNY.Press, Queen Mob's Tea House, Hinchas de Poesia, and elsewhere. He is the author of ironbound - a blog. 

Tehsuan Glover (aka Starski) has been writing, performing, and publishing poetry since 1999.  His work has been featured previously as part of the Dodge Poetry Festival.  He is also Publisher of The Newark Times and Brand Ambassador of Gentleman Culture.

Born and raised in Elizabeth, NJ, Cindy Goncalves is a Portuguese-American writer who graduated from Rutgers University with a B.A. in Psychology and is currently pursuing her Masters in School Counseling from Kean University. Cindy is the co-curator of the monthly, Newark-based reading series "Brick City Speaks" held at the Gateway Project Spaces. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @cindayummm. 

Advocate, Mother, Counselor, and Agitator. Leah Jackson is a published author (Release) and has been writing and performing all her life. Under the moniker, Lyric, she has shared stages with poets and performance artists such as jessica Care moore, reg e gaines, Helena D. Lewis, Jamaal St. John to name a few.  As an Academic Advisor at New Jersey City University, Leah regularly presents, locally and nationally, in topics ranging from networking to LGBTIA issues. She is a Leadership Newark 2011 Fellow and board member for Bayonne Community Health Center and ArtHouse Productions.  She is a sassy mother of two young men, who are her inspiration. Leah has been featured in the Geraldine Dodge Poetry events in Newark, NJ including the 2014 Dodge Poetry Festival.

At Gallery Aferro every first and third Wednesday Margie 'Mia X' Johnson hosts People's Open Mic, the longest running open mic in downtown Newark. She is currently elevating her poetry into a performance art show entitled #bluefloozywaterfalls. When she's not being super mom to her three children Teal, Boaz and Orchid she's teaching Newark youth personal development through creative writing and poetry. She's an art advocate, teacher, producer, youth developer, and blogger for The Newark Times. 

paulA neves is a native of Newark, NJ whose writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Fiolet and Wing, The Abuela Stories Project, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, Writers of the Portuguese Diaspora, and elsewhere. Her artwork is featured in the Glassbook Project collections Provisions, Changed Relationships After 9/11 and Domestic Violence (glassbookproject.com). A Canto Mundo fellow, she has also received scholarships/residencies from the Sundress Academy for the Arts, the Luso-American Development Foundation, and the Disquiet Literary Program. She is a member of the Kale Soup for the Soul collective (www.facebook.com/KaleSoupfortheSoul/), which has presented panels, readings and workshops nationwide. She is a graduate of the MFA program in writing at Rutgers-Newark and teaches for various university programs. For more info visit paulaneves.net. 


Born to a Mexican mother and Jewish father, Rosebud Ben-Oni is a recipient of the 2014 NYFA Fellowship in Poetry and a CantoMundo Fellow. She was a Rackham Merit Fellow at the University of Michigan, and a Horace Goldsmith Scholar at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She is the author of SOLECISM (Virtual Artists Collective, 2013), a contributor toThe Conversant, and an Editorial Advisor for VIDA: Women in Literary Arts. Her poems appear in POETRY, TheAmerican Poetry Review, TriQuarterly, Prairie Schooner, Arts & Letters, among others. She writes weekly for The Kenyon Review blog. Find her at 7TrainLove.org

Diana Marie Delgado grew up in La Puente, California. She is a graduate of the poetry programs at the University of California-Riverside and Columbia University. Her work has appeared in the Indiana ReviewNorth American ReviewPloughsharesPrairie Schooner, Fourteen Hills and other notable journals. Her chapbook Late-Night Talks with Men I Think I Trustwas the winner of the 2015 Center for Book Arts Chapbook Prize. She lives in Brooklyn, and is a proud member of the CantoMundo and Macondo writing collectives. 

Darrel Alejandro Holnes is a poet and playwright from Panama. His poems have recently been published in Poetry Magazine, American Poetry Review, Callaloo, Best American Experimental Writing, and elsewhere in print and online. He is a CantoMundo fellow and he teaches at New York University. Find more information about him at darrelholnes.com and @iamdarelo on Instagram. 

Emmy Pérez, originally from Santa Ana, California, has lived along the Texas-Mexico border for the past 16 years. She is the author of the poetry collections With the River on Our Face (University of Arizona Press 2016) and Solstice (Swan Scythe Press 2011 & 2003)Her work has also appeared in Prairie Schooner, North American Review, Indiana Review, Crab Orchard Review, The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry and other publications. A graduate of the University of Southern California and Columbia University, she has been an active member of the Macondo Writers’ Workshop for socially engaged writers since 2008. She is a past recipient of poetry fellowships from CantoMundo, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the MacDowell Colony, the Ucross Foundation, and the Atlantic Center for the Arts. She is also a recipient of the James D. Phelan Award for her prose writing. Currently, Pérez is an associate professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley where she teaches in the MFA in creative writing program and is interim director for the Center for Mexican American Studies. 

Carina del Valle Schorske is a poet, editor,  translator, and scholar-in-training.  She is the recipient of poetry fellowships from CantoMundo, the MacDowell COlony, and Breadloaf.  She is currently a Ph.D. student in Comparative Literature at Columbia University.

Vanessa Angelica Villarreal was born on the Rio Grande in McAllen, Texas. Her work has appeared in Waxwing, Caketrain, DIAGRAM, The Western Humanities Review, DREGINALD, The Poetry Foundation Harriet blog, The Feminist Wire, and elsewhere. She is a CantoMundo Fellow, and her book, Beast Meridian was a finalist at Nightboat, Futurepoem, Saturnalia, and Willow Books, and is forthcoming from Noemi Press in 2017. She came up in Houston, Texas.

Deborah Paredez is the author of the poetry volume, This Side of Skin, and the critical study, Selenidad: Selena, Latinos, and the Performance of Memory.  Her poetry and essays have appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Review of Books, Poetry, Feminist Studies, Callaloo, TDR: The Drama Review, and elsewhere. She is co-founder and co-director of CantoMundo, a national organization for Latina/o poets.  She lives in New York City where she is a professor of creative writing and ethnic studies at Columbia University. 

Cave Canem

LeRonn P. Brooks is a poet and writer whose work has appeared in Callaloo, Callaloo Art, Bomb Magazine, The Village Voice, and The International Review of African American Art as well as publications for The Aperture Foundation, The Studio Museum in Harlem, The Spelman Museum of Art and the Mississippi Museum of Art, among others. He has received fellowships from Cave Canem Foundation and Callaloo Journal and is a curator and art consultant for the Bronx Council on the Arts. He is also the creator and executive producer of Culture/Context, an online conversation series currently featuring major African American and African artists and is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Africana Studies at Lehman College of CUNY.

M’Bilia Meekers was raised in New Orleans, Louisiana with roots in Belgium and Sierra Leone. She has received fellowships from Poets & Writers and the Cave Canem Foundation. Her work has previously appeared or is forthcoming in The New Yorker, Guernica, Tinderbox, and Poet Lore. She lives in Brooklyn and is an MFA candidate in Poetry at New York University.

Sharon Dennis Wyeth’s narrative, lyric and dramatic poetry explores themes of identity, trauma and the intersection of cultural memory and the unconscious. Her work has appeared in Cura Magazine, Squaw Valley Review, Drunken Boat and in multiple Cave Canem Anthologies. She was a recipient of the Lucille Clifton Fellowship at the Squaw Valley Community of Poets in 2010. She is also the author of children’s and YA literature, both contemporary and historical.


Born in Los Angeles, Margaret Rhee is the author of chapbooks Yellow (Tinfish Press, 2011) and Radio Heart; or, How Robots Fall Out of Love (Finishing Line Press, 2015). She co-edited Glitter Tongue: queer and trans love poems and currently editing Azalea, an anthology of Korean American women's poetry (Tupelo Press, 2016). Her literary fellowships include Kundiman, Squaw Valley, and the Kathy Acker Fellowship. In 2014, she received her Ph.D. from UC Berkeley in ethnic and new media studies. Currently, she is an visiting assistant professor in Women and Gender Studies at the University of Oregon.  

Wo Chan is a queer Fujianese poet and drag performer. A recipient of fellowships from Poets House, Kundiman, and Lambda Literary, Wo’s work has been published in cream city review, BARZAHK, and VYM Magazine. As a member of Brooklyn-based drag alliance, Switch & Play, Wo has performed at venues including Brooklyn Pride, The Trevor Project, and the Architectural Digest Expo.  

Hossannah Asuncion was raised near the 105 and 710 freeways in Los Angeles. She currently lives near an A/C stop in Brooklyn. She is a Kundiman fellow and her first book, Object Permanence,  is out October 2016 from Magic Helicopter Press as part of The Ted Hawkins Innovative Poetry series.  

National Student Poets

Stella Binion
Maya Eashwaran
Gopal Raman
Joey Reisberg
Maya Salameh

NJCTE High School Writing Contest Poetry Winners

Caitlin Chan
Alexa Dersovitz
Lauren Harvey
Eva Lebovitz
Maressa Park
Melody Xiao 

Rutgers University - Newark MFA Program

Nadia Choudhury
Jeremy Clark 
Amy Dougher
Tracy May Fuad
Cheswayo Mphanza
Dimitri Reyes
Colin Schmidt
Grey Vild 

Warrior Writers

Lovella Calica is a writer, photographer and multi-media artist. With backgrounds in Human Development, English and social justice organizing, she offers a unique perspective and develops creative, collaborative ways of organizing and communicating. She is the founder and director of Warrior Writers, a creative community for veterans articulating their experiences. She has edited four anthologies of veterans’ writing/artwork entitled: Move, Shoot and Communicate, Re-Making Sense, After Action Review and Warrior Writers. Lovella has received three Art and Change grants from the Leeway Foundation and was honored with the Transformation Award in 2009. She self-published her first chapbook of poetry Makibaka: Beautifully Brave and Huwag Matakot: Do Not be Afraid. Her next book of poetry and creative non-fiction is due out this summer. Lovella is a co-founder of the Pilipino-American artist collective, Tatlo Mestiz@s and served on the board of Culture Trust Greater Philadelphia. She has trained staff of arts organizations and universities around the country on how to better work with and understand veterans. Lovella has worked closely with veterans for over 10 years, primarily post 9/11 veterans. She is part of the caregiver program at the Philadelphia VA and is helping build a support network for caregivers.

Chantelle Bateman is a mother, writer, and mixed medium visual artist currently residing in Philadelphia, PA. After returning home from Iraq in 2005 and battling years of undiagnosed post-traumatic stress, she met other veterans who were using art as a tool for healing and direct action. Now, as a creative activist, facilitator, and community organizer she works to support processes of transformative justice and healing. She's a member of the Warrior Writers steering committee, a volunteer organizer with Iraq Veterans Against the War, and on the Steering Committee of FAAN (Fostering Activism and Alternatives Now). A 2013 Leeway Foundation Art & Change Grant recipient, her creative works have been published in two Warrior Writers books, After Action Review and Warrior Writers Fourth Anthology, featured in the film, Out of Step, and exhibited at the National Veterans Art Museum in Chicago

Nicole Goodwin is the author of Warcries, as well as the 2013-2014 Queer Art Mentorship Queer Art Literary Fellow, as well as the winner of The Fresh Fruit Festival’s 2013 Award for Performance Poetry. She published the articles “Talking with My Daughter…” and “Why is this Happening in Your Life…” (Personal essay/Review for award-winning documentary Tough Love) in the New York Times’ parentblog Motherlode. Additionally, her work "Desert Flowers" was shortlisted and selected for performance by the Women Playwriting International Conference in Cape Town, South Africa.

Walt Nygard was born in Portland, Oregon and raised on U.S. Army posts of the American West and in Germany.  He is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran of Vietnam, Okinawa and the Philippines, 1969 – 1970. Following graduation from the University of New Mexico – English/Art – Walt managed the legendary Albuquerque saloon, Okie's Rathskellar. With the end of the 70's, Walt found himself with a family, a blue-collar writer and artist living in New Jersey. In 2008, Walt produced a veteran's poetry reading at the Puffin Cultural Forum, Teaneck, NJ.  Featured in the New York Times, that reading became a series that has included prose and non-fiction as well as poetry, spoken word, music and gallery art.  The eighth reading/exhibit was in July, 2016. In addition to writing and trying to sell his novel “The Morning Hike”, a volume of  short stories and a bit of poetry, Walt's been a member of Combat Paper NJ since its inception in 2011. As a paper/printmaker, he participates in workshops and exhibits. Walt's oldest son is a veteran of both the Afghan and Iraq Wars.

Actress, Poet and Motivational Speaker Toni Topps is a native of the city of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection, Philadelphia, Pa. As an actor Topps can be seen in national commercials for Carnival Cruises and she has starred as the lead actress in the critically acclaimed play Baby Mama Drama, which opened in her hometown of Philadelphia. Topps is featured in the Welcome Veterans documentary scheduled for a 2016 fall release. She just returned this past June of 2016 from Boston Ma. performing her Poetry at the Longfellow House (Sponsored by William Joiner Institute for the Study of War and Social Consequences) at the University of Massachusetts Boston, with the Warrior Writers. Topps will be collaborating with Global Patch Adams Outreach, Gesundheit Institute, to share her gift of poetry and community outreach abroad in Guatemala. Topps is dedicated to helping people overcome their obstacles in life and she travels the east coast as a motivational speaker and Poet teaching others how to navigate in difficult times through her words.

Valerie Stemac served in the United States Air Force from 2011 to 2016 as a Mental Health Technician.

She is assigned to Joint Base Andrews and spent 6 months working the inpatient psychiatric unit at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in 2014. She will always hesitate to call herself an artist but has written as a hobby her whole life. She plays with photography, printmaking, and textiles. Her work typically focuses around the process of unweaving her own history of trauma and the ways that human beings find connection and community through shared pain.

Michael Miller is a Chester, PA native who served eight years in the Marine Corps and seven years in the Army. After a tour in Afghanistan he was honorably discharged and opened his own business in his hometown. A poet himself, he wanted to focus on his diverse community and create change through the arts. Open Mike’s Internet Cafe showcases various art forms and is growing strong in it’s second year.

Sarah N. Mess  served in the US Army from 1992-2000. She served under fire with the 42nd Field Hospital in Mogadishu, Somalia in 1993. She was one of the first two women to be treated at the Lyons NJ VA Combat PTSD unit. Sarah is a mother, wife, Combat Paper maker and Warrior Writer. Her poetry presentations have electrified audiences at Cooper Union and other venues in New York City, Puffin Cultural Forum in Teaneck and other locales across New Jersey. Selections of her Combat Paper art and poetry are featured in Warrior Writers, the organization’s fourth anthology. 

Born and raised in a small coastal town in eastern North Carolina, there were not many options for Omar Columbus after graduating high school.  He enlisted in the United States Air Force in 1994 and served honorably until 2006.  He began his career as a Vehicle Operator and later retrained into Operations Intelligence. Deployed to Prince Sultan Air Base, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in December of 2002 in support of “Operation Southern Watch” and was there to launch the very first air strikes of “Operation Iraqi Freedom."  Then the invasion began. Now he’s a war veteran living NYC.  He’s a photographer.  He’s a writer.