*This piece was orginally published in January 2018*
To say 2017 was a tumultuous year is a vast understatement. Our news cycle seems to spit out one fiery, divisive meteor after another. Political turmoil and scandal aside, 2017 was a monumental year for poetry in Philadelphia. Poets are creating some of the most dynamic, powerful, and charged projects I have seen since I signed on to APIARY in 2012. I’m thinking of The Pigeon Presents: Vanishing Point (I cried), Yolanda Wisher’s Pirate Jenny’s Conspiracy (I danced), presses like Empty Set Press and Thread Makes Blanket, Philalalia, Bedfellows Issue 7 and more, and more, and more. I simply cannot keep up. Our poets keep writing, publishing, producing, and making, because there is still so much to fight for. With this in mind, I asked eight poets who are working to advance the state of poetry in Philly what their aspirations were for 2018 and how they hope to change our city for the better. Thank you to all who participated and Happy New Year.
"Any and all aspirations I have for Philly poetry in 2018 lean on the bones of the community that this city has been cultivating around art for years now. Considering the originality and vision of the various poetry movements we've witnessed over this last lap of '17, I think the bloodforce behind their pulse has always been the people, their kinship, their solidarity. It's what shows up when times like these send fissures rippling through the fabric. It's what holds it steady. I hope for my own upcoming work and projects to foster the kind of instantaneous community that I have always experienced in Philly poetry spaces when walking into a room of strangers and leaving with a feeling of family. Poetry and art wield that kind of power, and this city lends us its hand to curl into a fist and raise toward the sky. I hope to continue to contribute to that kind of vulnerable resilience."
Contact Sanam at http://sanamsheriff.com/
"2018 will surely be an astounding year for Philadelphia poetics and community as a whole. I hope the city will continue to cultivate growth from all poets, no matter one's prior writing and performance experience. I'm excited to see more collaboration as a whole between various members and orgs in the scene, and (shameless plug) my org Black Boy Fly, is actively seeking to work with those interested! On the collegiate side of things be on the lookout for events, such as CUPSI, which will be hosted at Temple University this year from April 4th-7th. Temple's own Babel Poetry Collective will also be celebrating our 10th Anniversary with a showcase this Spring on April 20th."
"The year 2017 may have felt like a battleground—and in many ways, it was—but coming out on the other side of it, I have nothing but profound optimism for Philadelphia's growing community of writers and poets in 2018. Even and especially in the midst of days full of stress, uncertainty, and sometimes despair, I have been profoundly inspired at readings and magazine and book launches across the city, from the Philly Poetry Fest at the Rotunda to Painted Bride's series at the Black Sheep, to APIARY 9's celebratory and defiant launch party, to the poetry found in the city's thriving street art on brick walls and in parking lots, in new installations and in murals that have stood for years. Through all of this culminating this past year, the community of poets in Philadelphia have rallied together and learned that we are not so small in number, that across the city we have in common not only our love of words and creativity and expression, but the common values of upholding human dignity and taking heart—the desire to show one another that we are not alone. For 2018, I wish the same, only more."
Contact Gina at https://ginatomaine.com/
"In 2018 I hope that the poetry community in Philadelphia commits itself to healing, accountability, and sincerity. In my own work, I see this manifesting itself in the continued assertion of a multiplicitous selfhood, and the understanding of poetry as a survival mechanism - not a choice, but a personal/civil responsibility. I hope that we are able to support a community grounded in intracommunal dialogue specifically surrounding the issues most relevant to youth. I hope that we are able to honor the voices we have yet to hear from."
Contact Husnaa at husnaahashim.com
"What I hope to see in 2018 is a continued exchange between the individual pockets of Philadelphia's poetry communities. Some of the most invigorating readings I've been to lately have been ones where indy poets read with slam poets and read with tenured faculty poets and read with teenage poets and read with elder poets. More of that, please! I also want to see (and put into practice myself) more mentoring. Poets like myself with institutional privileges (like an MFA degree) can certainly give back & pass on knowledge more than we perhaps do."
Follow Berry on Twitter @theBGrass.
"I want the walls up between different Philly poetry communities to be forcefully taken apart, because that kind of work is active and requires the labor of EVERYBODY. I want workshops for everyone who craves developing their craft, whether performance or written it would be great to have a glut of spaces that serve as sources of growth for poets. I want poets to take stock of their privilege; in any space where you identify as the majority or you come from a group that inherently holds privilege, think about who else could be brought in the room, how you can bring them in the room, what you can do to reach out to underrepresented people, and how you can eradicate the –isms that exist in your space/open mic/reading/slam etc. HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYBODY!!!"
Blackness: A Definition Story is Kirwyn’s forthcoming chapbook from Thread Makes Blanket.
"I hope for Philly poetry to take bigger risks on new or undervalued talent. I’d like to press forward with “experimental” writing in its literal sense: conducting experiments in writing, many of which we will watch fail, many of which will succeed in ways we did not expect. Investing time, money, and care into our own writing at the edge and the writing of those who do not sit in our recycled center will lead to an immense wave of creative making in Philly. We pride ourselves on being the strong little guy of poetry, and I hope in 2018 we take that further."
Gabriel’s new book, Jazzercise is a Language, drops March 2018!
Cynthia Dewi Oka
"My 2018 wish list for Philly poetry: a poetics of resilience, disobedience, and radical determination to dismantle American narcissism and habits of domination. A poetics that strives toward generosity and vital ways to see each other through - rather than in spite of - pain, fear, and ignorance. A poetics that pokes holes in our shells of identity and provokes us to glimpse other possible versions of selves and events. A poetics that implicates (therefore involves) rather than absolves us. A poetics that is curious rather than certain, imagines rather than defines; a poetics that is porous and willing to drift into uncharted waters. We are living in the twilight of white supremacy, and I want to see Philly poets make music on the page, on stage, in dream-time with more and more migrant, un-American, troublesome voices of the future."