Willow Launches Weeksville Summer Arts Residency

“The Future of the Arts, with an Eye on the Past.” That’s the motto for Willow’s grand vision for its upcoming decennial (okay, that’s still a strange word to me–i.e., Willow’s 10th anniversary). Watch for announcements on our upcoming multidisciplinary Arts Residencies. Our new era kicks off with the first-ever Weeksville Summer Arts Residency July 27-29. This will be a one-of-a kind experience, with master classes, craft talks, readings, and performances, and a tour of the Hunter Fly Road Houses of Weeksville, a 19th century African American community of founded in 1838 in Brooklyn, New York.hunterfly

After years of putting on events, it started dawning on Randall and me exactly where we’ve been hosting, especially after the LitFest in Chicago’s Bronzeville. Somewhat unconsciously, we’ve been centering our events in locales that have cultural and historical significance. I know it was probably rooted in me in my early years with the Detroit Writers Guild and our first major project, a poetry photo book on Detroit’s Paradise Valley. I’ve been hosting various events in the district ever since, particularly at the Carr Center, and in 2010 we expanded activities into its historic counterpart, Idlewild, where our conference enabled modern-day writers to trace the paths of great writers, thinkers, entertainers, and athletes, including Zora Neale Hurston, W.E.B. DuBois, Charles W. Chestnutt, and heavyweight champ Joe Louis. During its golden age, roughly 1915-1960, these two exclusive African American communities produced  a surge of entrepreneurial, intellectual and artistic development. This fall, we will be hosting the Paradise Valley/Idlewild Residency at the Carr Center, featuring Denise Miller. We will also return to Chicago’s Bronzeville.

Next February, we’ll be taking a stroll to some of Duke Ellington’s homes in the U District of Washington, D.C. during AWP. Our list of destinations will grow…grow with us.

The Weeksville application deadline is June 30 via Submittable. Limited scholarships are available.

 

 

The E Project: Take Your Pick (But Choose Wisely)

A chat with Kirsten Porter, editor of the upcoming The Collected Poems of E. Ethelbert Miller

Choices. Please do not ask me if I want Chinese take-out or pizza. In a crowded movie theater, do not tell me to choose where we will sit. Packing for a trip, I will throw in my suitcase six blouses in different shades of purple and end up wearing only one. I can teach a course on indecisiveness.

But now I must master the art of decision making as editor of a book of collected poems. How do other editors navigate through so many choices? As I mentioned in my previous post, I turn to my own bookshelves for ample research to answer this question. My home office becomes the site of a new building project as I make towers of books—the collected poems of Walt Whitman, Gwendolyn Brooks, C.K. Williams. My floor disappears under a stack of selected works by William Stafford, Maya Angelou, and Dylan Thomas. My Pomeranian narrowly misses knocking over the leaning tower of poems by Elizabeth Bishop, Langston Hughes, and Louise Glück. When I finish building, I begin to research the collections to understand my editorial options.

And then I breathed. For me, the art of decision making for this collected poems project was rooted in the knowledge that there were many choices to make but no set rules for the blueprint of my book. For as many collections as I pored over, no two editors followed the same arrangement. This was a relief—I had freedom to make my own choices. This was a small moment of panic—I had freedom to make my own choices. 

So, I began making decisions, one choice at a time. An epigraph to start off the collection? Sure. How about using two? Quotes by artist Andy Warhol and author André Gide were strong openers for Ethelbert’s Collected Poems. Acknowledgements at the beginning or end? Let’s start the book with gratitude, thanking those who have supported this project and are eagerly awaiting its publication. (Note to self: don’t forget to thank your parents here.) And now for the arrangement of the poems.

I had to take special consideration on many of these choices based on the project at hand. With such a large body of poems spanning over forty years of work, I needed to create some organizational features. The book was demanding sections—fourteen sections, to be exact. The first section would be called the Early Poems; this was work dating back to the 1970s when Ethelbert’s career as writer and literary activist was just beginning. These first poems, many of which few readers have seen before, were pulled from Ethelbert’s personal collections and from his archives at the Gelman Library in Washington, D.C. The next twelve sections would be from already published collections, both hard-copy and online publications. The last section would be called the New Poems. Like the early poems, this final assemblage of new poems would be a gift to those familiar with Ethelbert’s work and new readers alike as most of the poems in this section were not published before.

Choices. Many to make, and these were just a few editorial decisions I needed to sift through, weighing out the pros and cons while holding tight to the vision I had created for this project with Ethelbert. In the end, maybe I’m not as indecisive as I thought.

Okay, let’s do pizza tonight. Deep dish or thin crust? Which toppings? Extra cheese?

Oh, you decide.  

Join me next time for some archive diving. Like Adrienne Rich, we’ll go “diving into the wreck.” Scuba gear optional!

*Coming Spring 2016: The Collected Poems of E. Ethelbert Miller