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Saturday, June 27, 2015


DANIEL WEBSTER DAVIS was born the son of slaves on March 25,1862, in Virginia's Caroline County. His parents John and Charlotte Ann (Christian) Davis had been born and were slaves until emancipation. 

Soon after the civil war Davis moved to Richmond, Virginia with his widowed mother and sister. He attended local schools , and at 16, was graduated from Richmond High and Normal School. For two years he worked at odd jobs until he was old enough to teach. He began teaching in 1880. His teaching career spanned over three decades. During that time he also conducted summer normal school throughout Virginia, and taught summer school in West Virginia and the Carolina's.

Davis was ordained a Baptist minister in 1896, after attending the Lynchburg Baptist Seminary. He later became the pastor of Second Baptist Church of South Richmond, where he served until his death.

Davis was a poet,  educator, Baptist minister, popular orator, historian, and a leader of Richmond, Virginia's Black community for over three decades.

He died in 1913.

To read a comprehensive bio and sample his poetry GOOGLE his name.

Friday, June 26, 2015


Don't miss WDC's Central Keynote Speaker Jacqueline Woodson!
Jacqueline-WoodsonWriter's Digest Conference, NYC, July 31- August 2, 2015
We are pleased to announce the Central Keynote Speaker, Jacqueline Woodson, has been awarded with the Young People's Poet Laurente by the Poetry Foundation Award! This compliments her list of honors including the 2014 National Book Award Winner for her New York Times bestselling memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming, the Newbery Honor winner (four times), the NAACP Image Award, National Book Award finalist and the Coretta Scott King Award. Join Woodson, along with Writer's Digest editors Brian A. Klems, Jessica Strawser, Chuck Sambuchino and more bestselling writers, at this year's event.
UPDATE: Our recently added 4th Pitch Slam is already 50% sold out. Be sure to register now before all the slots are full. 
Click here to register now ...


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


GWENDOLYN BROOKS - (6/7/1917-12/3/2000)     Was the first Black person to win a Pulitzer prize when she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry  in 1950 for her second collection, "ANNIE ALLEN."

NIKKI GIOVANNI - (6/7/1943)   Initially gained famed in the 1960s as one of the foremost authors of the BLACK ARTS MOVEMENT. Her early work, which was influenced by a strong Black militant perspective,  had her dubbed the "Poet of the Black Revolution."

JAMES WELDON JOHNSON (6/17/1871-6/26/1938)   Established his reputation as a writer during the Harlem Renaissance for his poems and novels.

PAUL LAURENCE DUNBAR (6/27/1872-2/9/1906)   Was a poet, novelist, and playwright. He was one of the first Black writers to establish a national reputation. He published his first poems at the age of 16.

LUCILLE CLIFTON  (6/27/1936- 2/13/2010)   Was nominated twice for the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Her first poetry collection, "Good Times,"  published in 1969, was listed by the N.Y. Times  as one of the year's ten best books.

To learn more about these poets and sample their poetry GOOGLE their names and read the related entries.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


June 10, 2015

Juan Felipe Herrera Named U.S. Poet Laureate

We’re thrilled to share today’s news that Academy of American Poets Chancellor Juan Felipe Herrera is the new Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. Herrera is the first Mexican American poet to hold the position.

“Juan Felipe is someone who believes that poetry can make a difference in people’s lives and communities,” said executive director Jennifer Benka in a Washington Post article announcing the news. “He will bring an enthusiasm and electricity to the role of poet laureate that is sure to spark new and wider interest in the art form among people of all ages.”

Herrera was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2011. Chancellorship is an honorary distinction. Chancellors provide artistic guidance, champion our programs and poetry, and judge our largest prizes for poets, including our $100,000 Wallace Stevens Award.
Juan Felipe Herrera. Photo credit: Randy Vaughn-Dotta.

Born in Fowler, California, on December 27, 1948, Juan Felipe Herrera is the author of numerous poetry collections and other works that include video, photography, theater, prose, and performance, making him a leading voice on the Mexican American and indigenous experience. Read more about his life and work, watch exclusive video of the poet performing his work, and more.
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Tuesday, June 9, 2015



Giving Voice

Jacqueline Woodson, the new young people’s poet laureate, on why poetry is a party everyone is invited to.

Giving Voice
Image courtesy of Jacqueline Woodson
If it’s true, as James Baldwin once wrote, that “these are all our children: we will all profit by or pay for what they become,” then everyone owes a debt of gratitude toJacqueline Woodson, who has written more than 25 books and helped positively shape the lives of thousands of young readers. Woodson has won numerous awards, including a 2014 National Book Award for Young People's Literature for her 2014 memoir in verse, Brown Girl Dreaming. She often writes in the voices of the silenced or unheard, chronicling the beautiful and the difficult with equal care and compassion.
On June 1, Woodson will begin her two-year tenure as the young people’s poet laureate. The Poetry Foundation recently corresponded with Woodson on a range of subjects, from imposter syndrome to the poetry of the everyday. An edited, condensed version of that exchange follows.
You said in an earlier interview that when you first approached poetry, you were “afraid” of it and had to read several writers to get past this feeling. What did you find daunting or inaccessible about poetry, and who were the poets who invited you in?
The line breaks threw me. I thought there was some unwritten rule about how I was supposed to digest a poem. I think too it had to do with imposter syndrome—“How could I possibly ever understand this thing? How could this thing ever be mine?”Langston Hughes invited me in. As did Countee Cullen, Eloise Greenfield, Nikki GiovanniMaya Angelou, and Audre Lorde. Later on, Nick FlynnTim Seibles,Cornelius EadyMarie Howe, and Michael Klein helped me deepen my understanding.
What expectations, limitations, and possibilities do you find inherent in poetry that distinguishes it from other genres? As the new poet laureate for young people, how will you advocate for and (re)present it?
I think one thing I want to do as young people’s poet laureate is make sure all people know that poetry is a party everyone is invited to. I think many people believe and want others to believe that poetry is for the precious, entitled, educated few. And that’s just not true. Our children’s first words are poems—poems we and our listeners are delighted to hear and eager to understand. Rap is poetry. Spoken word is poetry. Poetry lives in our everyday. I’ve read some of the most poetic tweets, listened to poetic voice messages and snippets of dialogue between teenagers. In terms of what distinguishes poetry from other genres—it wastes no time, and I love that. Poetry doesn’t meander—well, a lot of poetry doesn’t. It says, “Understand me now because what I need to say is urgent.” And this urgency, this sense of getting the moment on the page and then letting silence fill the white space, is one of the many things I love about poetry. I would love for everyone to listen to the poetry inside of them. I would love for everyone to believe that they have a poem to write, say, sing, rap, dance—and then execute that poem. I’m thinking about collaborations across race and class and gender. I’m thinking about old poets and young poets sharing stages. I’m thinking about young poets getting published and about young people discussing Ferguson and Guantanamo Bay and high-stakes testing and helicopter parenting and housing and health care—my lists go on and on—through poetry. I’m thinking about giving voices to and back to young silenced people.
So I guess I have some big plans and am so excited to get busy having talks and raising awareness and meeting the young poets across this country.
One of the many things I appreciate about your work is the unflinching way in which you approach and incorporate subject matter that has often been kept out of mainstream literary discourse—absent or incarcerated parents, the lure of youthful drug abuse, broken families. When you write, do you have a specific audience in mind? Are you writing for readers who recognize themselves in your words or for those whose horizons have never included the subject matter addressed?
Rudine Sims Bishop talks about the need for both windows and mirrors in literature. Mirrors allow readers to see reflections of themselves on the page. Windows allow readers to enter into worlds they may never experience in real life. I think language is powerful and important. For example, I don’t believe there is such a thing as a “broken family.” A reader coming to that phrase and seeing a divorced mom or foster mom or care-giving cousin in the mirror of that doesn’t see it as a positive thing because that phrase suggests something is “not right” with the family. I believe there are so many ways we can have families, and none are wrong as long as love is there. So this—and many other ideas—I try to bring to the page. I enter worlds that are realistic with the hope that the readers who come into my books will have both mirrors and windows. I don’t have a specific person in mind, because I know different readers coming to the same book can have very different reading experiences. I am also always hoping to fill some gap in the body of literature—too often, that gap is reflected in the lack of books written by and featuring diverse characters and situations.
You’ve written more than 25 books so far in your career, ranging from picture books to novels in verse to fiction for adults and young adults. How do you know what form is best for a specific story, where it most authentically belongs?
I usually follow the voice of a character. If a character feels young and the story feels very immediate, I know that it will be either a picture book or a middle-grade novel. If the landscape feels vast and the story feels distant, I know the book will be for young adults. If I have a deep sense of a future place from a present perspective, I know the work is for adults.
In an odd synergy of time and place, my daughter’s class at school has been studying your work this semester, which made me a minor celebrity for conducting this interview—thanks for that! I asked them what they wanted to know, so this last question comes from the students in Ms. Mallory’s second and third grade class at the Bloomington Project School: how do you decide what physical or emotional journey to take your characters on? Do you tell them, or do they tell you?
The stories always seem to know more than I do about what they’re trying to say; we walk the roads together, my characters and I. The final story meets somewhere in the middle of what I intended it to be and what the characters decided it would be.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

poetry challenge twenty-two

write a poem completely composed of dialogue without using any speech verbs.


Jacqueline Woodson Named Young People's Poet Laureate

Award recognizes a career devoted to writing exceptional poetry for young readers
CHICAGO – The Poetry Foundation is honored to announce that Jacqueline Woodson has been named the Young People’s Poet Laureate. Awarded every two years, the $25,000 laureate title is given to a living writer in recognition of a career devoted to writing exceptional poetry for young readers. The laureate advises the Poetry Foundation on matters relating to young people’s literature and may engage in a variety of projects to help instill a lifelong love of poetry among the nation’s developing readers. This laureateship aims to promote poetry to children and their families, teachers, and librarians over the course of its two-year tenure.

"Jacqueline Woodson is an elegant, daring, and restlessly innovative writer," said Poetry Foundation president Robert Polito. "So many writers settle on a style and a repertoire of gestures and subjects, but Woodson, like her characters, is always in motion and always discovering something fresh. As she once told an interviewer, 'If you have no road map, you have to create your own.' Her gifts, adventurousness and generosity, suggest she will be a terrific young people's poet laureate." 

Jacqueline Woodson was born in Columbus, Ohio, and grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, and Brooklyn, New York. She is the author of more than 30 books for children and young adults, includingFrom the Notebooks of Melanin Sun (1995), which was named a Coretta Scott King Honor Book and won a Jane Addams Children’s Book Award; Miracle’s Boys (2000), which won the 2001 Coretta Scott King Award and a Los Angeles Times Book Prize; Hush(2002), a National Book Award finalist; Locomotion (2003), also a National Book Award finalist; Coming on Home Soon (2004), a Caldecott Honor Book and a Booklist Editors’ Choice; and Behind You (2004), included in the New York Public Library’s list of best Books of the Teen Age. Three of Woodson’s books have been named Newbery Honor Books: Show Way (2005), Feathers (2007), and After Tupac & D Foster (2008). Her recent books include the young adult novel Beneath a Meth Moon (2012) and Brown Girl Dreaming (2014), a novel in verse about Woodson’s family and segregation in the South, which won a National Book Award and was named a Newbery Honor Book.

In an op-ed for the New York Times, Woodson described how she wrote the book: “As I interviewed relatives in both Ohio and Greenville, S.C., I began to piece together the story of my mother’s life, my grandparents’ lives and the lives of cousins, aunts and uncles. These stories, and the stories I had heard throughout my childhood, were told with the hope that I would carry on this family history and American history, so that those coming after me could walk through the world as armed as I am.”
Woodson was awarded a Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults, a St. Katharine Drexel Award, and an Anne V. Zarrow Award for Young Readers’ Literature. Jonathan Demme is adapting Beneath a Meth Moon for the screen. Woodson currently lives in Brooklyn with her family.

“Woodson’s lyrical, deeply empathetic work is enthralling to all readers, making her the ideal ambassador for young people’s literature,” said Katherine Litwin, Poetry Foundation library director. “We couldn’t be more honored and excited to have her join us for the next two years in this important role.”

In recognition of Woodson’s achievements, the Poetry Foundation’s website,, is featuring her in a Poetry off the Shelf podcast and an interview.


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

poetry challenge twenty-one

WRITE A "MEMOIR" POEM.  Record the events of your life in verse.




In 2009, Alexander recited a poem she wrote for the presidential inauguration of Barrack Obama, becoming only the 4th poet to read at such an event. 

To read her bio and sample her poetry please GOOGLE her name.