A poet’s spontaneous stroll through a gallery in the Philippines has led to a history-making collaboration. Angela Narciso Torres, Poetry Grand Prize Winner of the 2013 Willow Books Literature Awards, will be releasing her prize-winning collection on September 30, Blood Orange. The richly detailed cover of the book is the result of a collaboration between Narciso Torres and acclaimed Filipino artist Hermes Alegre, who was unveiling a brand new painting, “Catalina,” at an exhibition of The Saturday Group of Artists at EDSA Shangri-la Plaza, Manila, Philippines. The next installment of his Aura series, Alegre’s painting immediately caught the eye of Narciso Torres, who happened to be visiting her ancestral home this past summer and heard about Alegre’s exhibition.
“The minute I saw the painting, I knew,” Angela said. “I had been searching quite a while for the right image to capture the spirit of this collection. Now, I feel the pieces have fallen into place.”
Part memoir, part love letter to the Philippines of her youth, Blood Orange has received critical acclaim for its ability to be “at once vividly present in the moment and fully attuned to the under-dwelling currents of history.”
The Willow Books Literature Awards recognize literary excellence in prose and poetry by writers from culturally diverse backgrounds. The Grand Prize winners were selected from a field of ten finalists. The prose winner is Angie Chuang and the Editor’s Choice winner is Rich Villar.
As our team prepares for the release of the long-awaited new book of poetry by Gary Copeland Lilley, we find ourselves taking a moment to pause and reflect on the tragic event that informs this collection, the Wilmington Insurrection of 1898. The 115th anniversary of this event will occur this fall, and Gary’s mission is to shed more light upon this pivotal moment in American history. High Water Everywhere tells the somewhat lesser-known story of discord in Wilmington, North Carolina in the wake of Reconstruction after the Civil War: white supremacists staged a coup d’etat two days after a fusionist government consisting of a white mayor and biracial city council were elected to office. This act of overthrowing an elected government is arguably the only known coup in United States history. Hear the story in Gary’s own words from an interview in 2011:
A few years ago I read a tiny notice in a prominent newspaper apologizing for its participation, as part of the propaganda wing, in a campaign that led to the 1898 massacre of African-Americans in Wilmington, NC. I had never heard of it. It is not taught or talked about in the state. I was born in North Carolina, and returned to the state when I was twelve to live in a segregated community and to attend its segregated schools. I did not understand why we blacks were living under a system of apartheid. That was in 1963.
History shows that following the Civil War the south experienced the social conflicts that arise with fundamental change: the hopes of newly freed citizens juxtaposed against the desires to preserve the old antebellum ways. The self-proclaimed White Supremacy Campaign ended Reconstruction and put muscle into Jim Crow. Its leaders became the state’s governors and congressmen. That North Carolina event, the political maneuvering and the massacre, altered the trajectory of freedom, and it remains the only coup d’etat in American history. I have chosen, I am compelled, to bring that history forward, further into the light, through the medium that I have—poetry. With that goal I have tried to create a series of poetic dispatches. (from “Notes on the four poems,” Willow Springs Literary Magazine, 2011)
With High Water Everywhere, Gary has honored his promise to tell such an important story.
Recently, Willow Books of Aquarius Press held its 2nd Annual LitFest in Chicago, bringing together some of the top writers and innovators in the country for a day of workshops, panels, and readings. We were honored to have a great emcee, Jay Scott Smith, who really brought our Literature Awards Finalists’ Reading to life. Speaking of the Finalists’ Reading, we were beyond honored to have our finalists there in person to read from their works. The audience was moved from tears to laughter throughout the afternoon by the diverse works read; neither Randall nor I could have ever imagined the broad range of exemplary works presented that day. Several of the finalists also brought their families and friends to share in the festivities, which was moving as well.
There are countless thanks to go around, but we especially want to thank all of you who helped spread the word about the event and who tuned in for the live streaming broadcast of the awards. Your support is what enables us to continue to carry out our mission. If you didn’t get to join us this time, look for details about next year’s activities on this site or visit our Willow Books Facebook page.