Tag Archives: Jill Salahub

We recently featured English (double) major Avery Jones in an article for the Spring 2017 issue of the CLA online magazine. In the article she shared space with four other amazing English majors, and there just wasn’t enough room to share everything we wanted to about her, so we asked Avery to do a longer follow-up profile.

Avery Jones
English Double Major: Literature and English Education

What inspired you to get a degree in English? I decided to get a degree in English education at the age of 11. I was in the 7th grade, and I stole my mother’s copy of The Kite Runner, which had been explicitly forbidden to me. As I read through those pages, I realized two things: first, my mother was absolutely right to ask me not to read that book quite yet; and second, literature is capable of inspiring empathy beyond anything I’d ever experienced. Here I was, a young girl sitting in my mother’s Escalade with my hair braided in pigtails, weeping uncontrollably for the pain experienced by a fictional Afghani boy. I’ve always felt like the world would be such a better place if we could all take Atticus Finch’s advice: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” In this moment when I was 11 years old, I discovered a way to climb into someone else’s skin: through literature. I knew then that I wanted to be an English teacher so that I could show others how magical it was that books could put you in someone else’s life and make you feel the things they felt. I wanted to teach other kids just how powerful and important empathy is in this world.

Why CSU? I grew up in Greeley. From the time I was 14 I wanted nothing more than to get away from Greeley. I wanted to go to college far away and branch out on my own, away from my parents, away from my high school friends, and away from that terrible cow smell that permeated my childhood. But as the time came to tour college campuses, I looked all around–different cities, different states–and I came to realize something: people come from all around the country to go to school at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains at a campus that is a leader in renewable energy in a town that is so full of life and history. The place where I truly wanted to be was only 40 minutes from where I grew up. It wasn’t quite as far as I had hoped to branch out, but it was the most beautiful and welcoming place that I could find, and it was just far enough away from that awful cow smell.

How did you choose your concentration? It was always education for me, but I’ve always adored reading. It is literally the only hobby I can come up with when people say, “So what do you do for fun?” The literature seemed like an awesome way to learn how to look at lit more critically, and I figured it would make me a better teacher anyway if I could more thoroughly analyze texts. It required me to take a few extra credits every semester, but it seemed totally worth it to me to get a double concentration and take as much away from my college experience as I could as long as I’m here.

We are always trying to debunk the myth that the ONLY options for an English major are to become a writer, teacher, or work in publishing. What sort of possibility, potential do you see for yourself as an English major? While I do want to teach–one of those stereotypes you always hear in regards to English majors–I think a degree in English makes a person much more globally aware, critical-thinking, and empathetic. Who wouldn’t want to be these things? These characteristics help in every field, certainly not just teaching, writing, and publishing.

Knowing what you do about it, how would you describe the CSU English department to someone? The English department at CSU is jam-packed full of the most incredible people I have ever met. Every one of the professors I’ve had in the English department are so friendly and welcoming. You could knock on any one of their doors and just walk in to talk to them about literature, writing, theory, and definitely just about life in general. Of course, you’d have to catch them when they’re not slammed with work which is fairly rare because all of them are so involved in their work as professors and as professionals in their fields and as active community members. It seems impossible, but every semester I leave saying, “I think I have a new favorite professor!” As for the students, I have found a community so welcoming and friendly and nerdy and fun and hilarious that it often blows my mind that these people exist at all, let alone in such high numbers right here on this campus. I have truly found a place that I belong here with my fellow English majors.

Why do you think the humanities are important? See answers about empathy–forming well-rounded human beings, capable of sharing insight and beauty and kindness in this world.

What would you like to tell prospective CSU English Department students? Don’t second guess yourself. Join. Join right now. It will be the best decision you’ve ever made. It was for me. It’s a lot of writing, and even more reading, but you will improve yourself in ways you didn’t know were possible, and you will have an absolute blast along the way.

What advice do you have for current CSU English Department students? Read the material! Do it. I know it’s a lot. I know you’re taking four other classes and you are absolutely swamped. But this is what you came to college for! We get to read the greatest works ever written and talk about them in class every day with other people who are passionate about literature and writing! We have professors that care about us as students and as people; take advantage of that. Go talk to them and get help when you need it. Find ways to enjoy what you’re doing, even though I know you’re busy and stressed out. This stuff is so much fun, and we have such an awesome community around us to do all of it with.

Avery volunteers with SLICE Adaptive Swim, (for three years, with the same partner for the past two years).

What are you currently reading? I just took a capstone course this semester on the short story, so I’m slightly obsessed with short stories right now. At NCTE’s book auction I bought a set of Mark Twain’s books of short stories that I am very excited to dive into now that I have time to read for fun!

What are your hobbies or special interests, what do you enjoy doing with your free time? I love playing tennis and being outdoors. If you can’t find me, look for the nearest sunbeam, and I’ll probably be there with a good book. I also really enjoy traveling. I’m all about widening your horizons, whether that be traveling in your mind by reading different experiences, or by physically exploring the world. You can learn so much by going places you’ve never been and searching out sights and experiences that jolt you into realizing how grand this world is and how connected all of us are in it. So far I’ve traveled to Italy, Greece, Turkey, Mexico, Scotland, England, France, and Spain. This summer I’m heading off to Iceland to live in a van and travel around exploring the island for three weeks. I’m very very excited about this trip!

Where will we find you in five years?  Hopefully in 5 years I’ll have a few years of experience under my belt and really know what I’m doing as a stellar high school English teacher. By this time, I hope I’ll be getting my Masters in English as well. I love school–enough that I want to be in it the rest of my life–both as a teacher and a student.

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We’re coming to the end of National Poetry Month. It has been a challenge to limit ourselves to just a month’s worth of influential poets and poetic forms, while including space for CSU’s own poets. We’ve barely brushed the surface. If we’ve learned anything this month, it would be that poetry is a powerful magic, a potent medicine, and poets are the ones we look to when “she cannot find the words/for the nothing in her center.”

One of our favorite poets, Camille Dungy, reading some of her poetry.

One of our favorite poets, Camille Dungy, reading some of her poetry.

To end our spotlight this month, we are featuring the fourth of our CSU English faculty poets, Camille Dungy. We remain excited about the recent release of her new collection of poetry, Trophic Cascade, (March 2017). “Dungy writes about the world in which we must all survive in a time of massive environmental degradation, violence, and abuse of power.” Earlier this week, Poetry Daily featured her title poem, Trophic Cascade, a powerful piece that compares the change that happened to the ecosystem in Yellowstone after the reintroduction of the gray wolf to the personal transformation that took place for the poet once she became a mother, “After which, nothing was ever the same.” This single poem does what the rest of the collection does so well — telling beautiful and sometimes brutal stories of life, embodying both the personal and the natural world in a single unified narrative.

We recently featured Dungy on the blog during Women’s History Month. There’s also a profile we did when she first arrived at CSU. Rather than repeat ourselves, we decided this time to ask the poet herself to speak for herself about poetry and this new collection.

Can you tell us just a little about Trophic Cascade and your inspiration for this collection of poetry?

It’s often hard to summarize a book of poetry. Here’s what we say about the book on the book: “In this fourth book in a series of award-winning survival narratives, Dungy writes positioned at a fulcrum, bringing a new life into the world even as her elders are passing on. In a time of massive environmental degradation, violence and abuse of power, a world in which we all must survive, these poems resonate within and beyond the scope of the human realms, delicately balancing between conflicting loci of attention. Dwelling between vibrancy and its opposite, Dungy writes in a single poem about a mother, a daughter, Smokin’ Joe Frazier, brittle stars, giant boulders, and a dead blue whale. These poems are written in the face of despair to hold an impossible love and a commitment to hope.”

In terms of the inspiration for writing the book, I was beginning to write new poems in a moment when I was bringing a new life into this world. But I also happened to be losing loved ones, to old age and illness, but also (if I think more proudly about what and who I love) to environmental degradation, domestic and global violence, and more. Thinking about regeneration (oh joy!) in the midst of peril (oh no!) moved my writing in a particular direction, and eventually I produced the poems you’ll read in this book.

Since it’s National Poetry month, what is your favorite poetry collection? Or favorite poem?

I always have a hard time answering this question. I’m a poet and a professor of poetry. This means I read for a living and I read for pleasure. There is just no way I can narrow things down to one favorite. Because I know that this question is meant to help readers discover poetry they might love, I can give a list of five books I find myself returning to again and again.

The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton (1965-2000). Boa Editions.
The Apple Trees at Olema, Robert Hass. (Ecco)
Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, Ross Gay (Pittshburg UP)
Citizen, Claudia Rankine (Graywolf Press)
The Verging Cities, Natalie Scenters-Zapico (Center for Literary Publishing)

Why do you think poetry is so important?

The great poet Audre Lorde says, in her essay “Poetry is Not a Luxury”: “Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought.” I agree. Poetry is a path toward empathy. Poetry is a path toward a deep brand of knowledge. Poetry is a means toward inscribing beauty on a broken world. Poetry is a register of life. I could go on…

In one sentence, what advice would you give a student who is an aspiring poet?

Read more poetry.


And that seems like the perfect thing to leave you with at the end of this month of celebration. Consider this your charge for not just the next month but for the next 365 days: Read more poetry. (And if you need any recommendations, just ask us).

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The English department and friends recently gathered to celebrate and honor our amazing students. These students hold a total of 169 University and departmental scholarships and 6 literary awards for the 2016-2017 academic year. In addition, the English Department selected 13 winners of the Creative and Performing Arts Awards.

English graduate students who earned distinction on their Final Project, Portfolio or Thesis, presented by Debby Thompson.

  • For Distinction in Rhetoric & Composition on the Final Project: Laura Price Hall (Summer 2016) (unable to attend)
  • For Distinction on Thesis – Poetry: Kylan Rice
  • For Distinction on Thesis- Creative Nonfiction: Susan Harness (unable to attend) and Morgan Riedl 
  • For Distinction in TESL/TEFL Final Project: Jennifer Stetson- Strange

Left to right: Morgan Riedl, Jennifer Stetson-Strange, and Debby Thompson

Zambia Community Education and Health Scholarship, presented by Cindy O’Donnell-Allen to Veronica Sawyer.

This scholarship helps lessen the financial burden for a CSU English student accepted into the Zambia Education Abroad Program. Students in this service-learning program spend part of their summer in Livingstone, Zambia focus on Community Education and Public Health projects; they teach subjects like English, Math and Science or work supporting public health project in clinics & neighborhoods in the surrounding communities.

This award is given to a full or part-time, sophomore, junior or senior undergraduate in the College of Liberal Arts majoring in English accepted into the Zambia Education Abroad Program with an overall 2.5 GPA and a 3.0 GPA in their major.

Cindy O’Donnell-Allen and Veronica Sawyer

Sigma Tau Delta English Honor Society certificates, presented by Dan Beachy-Quick. Members must be English majors with an overall GPA of 3.0 as well as a 3.0 in English courses. They must have completed at least 3 semesters of college coursework and at least 2 – 300 level English courses. Membership includes access to numerous scholarships, fellowships, publications, and job opportunities, in addition to university involvement.  Membership was awarded to Alex Keenan, Geneva McCarthy, Scott Miller, Krissa Nixson, Natalie Pace, and Emma Vola.

Left to right: Dan Beachy-Quick, Geneve McCarthy, and Scott Miller

Undergraduate Awards for the Creative & Performing Arts Scholarship Awards in Creative Writing, presented by Dan Beachy-Quick. 

  • FICTIONAlyssa Meier, 1st place for her story “Canary in the Mine,” Philip Wiley 2nd place for his story “The Narrator,” and Lauren Hallstrom – 3rd Place for her story “Snapshots During a Power Outage.”
  • CREATIVE NONFICTION – 1st Tier Anna LaForge, for her story “Butterfly,” Scott Miller, for his story “The Marmot on the Rocks, or Deep Time”
  • CREATIVE NONFICTION – 2nd Tier Hilary Elizabeth Pearce, for her story “My Bathroom is Full of Dead Spiders,” Geneva McCarthy, for her story “Distance to the Sun”
  • POETRY – 1st Tier: Angela Natrasevschi:  “Luna Agate,” “Transient,” “Suspended Landing,” “Provenance of Natrasevschi,” “Solarium” (unable to attend), and Rachel Telljohn: “Comeback Machine,” “Can’t Get Back,” “Snow in Therapist’s Office,” “Cochise County, Gardens of Rest,” and Geneva McCarthy:  “Poem in Air,” “Under Glass,” “Charting,” “Worms Do Work Inside,” “Elegy”
  • POETRY – 2nd  Tier Hannah Armfield: “Our Emily Dickinson,” “edge,” “The Laundry’s Mistress,” “fragmentation,” “passing dearborn, mi” (unable to attend), Anonymous: “and the prophet dripped…,” “Van Gogh’s Lover,, “New York Girl,” “the sluggish vitreous…,” Seth Bodine: “Divinity is a New Pair of Shoes,” “Galaxies,” “Airports,” “Funeral Speak,” “Mind Closet”

Left to right: Dan Beachy-Quick, Lauren Hallstrom, Alyssa Meier, Anna LaForge, Scott Miller, Hilary Elizabeth Pearce, Geneva McCarthy, Rachel Telljohn, Seth Bodine

MFA Awards – AWP Intro Journals Project for Fiction, Poetry and Nonfiction, presented by Dan Beachy-Quick.

  • Poetry nominees: Cole Konopka, David Mucklow & Kelly Weber
  • Fiction nominee:  Ben Greenlee
  • Creative Nonfiction nominee: Dana Chellman won for her essay “How to Get to Heaven from Colorado” and will be published in Iron Horse Literary Review.

Left to right: Kelly Weber, Dan Beachy-Quick, and David Mucklow

Academy of American Poets Prize, presented by Dan Beachy-Quick.

  • 1st Place: Cedar Brant
  • Honorable Mention: Sam Killmeyer

Cedar Brant and Dan Beachy-Quick

Next we recognized the 18 students winning department awards in 14 categories for the 2017-2018 academic year. Recipients of department awards received a certificate, inscription on the departmental perpetual plaque, and scholarship or fellowship funding.

The Tremblay-Crow Creative Writing Fellowships alternate between MFA students in fiction and poetry, presented by Dan Beachy-Quick.

  • The poetry recipient for Fall 2016 is Kristin Macintyre.
  • The fiction recipient for Fall 2017 will receive their award in Spring 2018. 

Kristin Macintyre and Dan Beachy-Quick

The Sarah Sandra Collins Creative Writing Memorial Scholarship, presented by Dan Beachy-Quick, given to Rachel Telljohn.

Sarah Sandra Collins attended Colorado State University in 1970 and 1971. She discontinued her studies in Psychology and English to become a CSU police officer, due to lack of funds and a desire to help people.  Sarah was a profoundly honest and courageous person with great loyalty and generosity towards those she loved. Undaunted by difficult decisions in her work or personal life, she sometimes found herself enmeshed in controversy…an African American poetry writing police sergeant who converted to Orthodox Judaism in her thirties. She wrote poetry and short stories, serious and whimsical, throughout her life. The purpose of this Scholarship is to provide financial assistance for a CSU full-time undergraduate student and encouragement for the lifelong pursuit of creative writing.

Criteria: 1) Junior or Senior  full-time undergraduate student 2) In financial need 3) Enrolled in any major and previously or currently, in a creative writing course 3) A role model of character, integrity, courage, self and social responsibility, appreciation and respect for diverse people, ideas, talents, abilities, and cultures as evident from the writing samples and personal statement submitted with the scholarship application; and 4) An exceptionally talented writer in the genre of poetry, drama, fiction, or nonfiction essay as demonstrated in the written materials submitted with the scholarship application.

Dan Beachy-Quick and Rachel Telljohn

The Community Engagement Scholarship is awarded to full-time undergraduate or graduate students who are majoring in English with a demonstrated interest in Community Service Activities. It was established by Pattie Cowell, former chair of the English department and of the Women’s Studies Interdisciplinary Program, and her partner Sheryl Pomering, whose career included education and counseling for children and women in Fort Collins and Larimer County. There are two recipients of this scholarship.

Aparna Gollapudi presented the first award to Lauren Hallstrom.

Aparna Gollapudi and Lauren Hallstrom

Airica Parker presented the second award to last year’s recipient Jarion Hamm, Jr.

Airica Parker and Jarion Hamm, Jr.

The Karyn L. Evans Scholarship is awarded to undergraduate students in memory of Karyn L. Evans and created through a gift from her estate. Three of the four recipients were at the ceremony. Tara Tolar-Payne was unable to attend.

Kristina Quynn introduced the first two recipients, Emma Kerr and Aleah Harris.

Kristina Quynn and Emma Kerr

Kristina Quynn and Aleah Harris

Cedar Brant introduced the third recipient, Hannah Heath.

Cedar Brant and Hannah Heath

Diane Keating Woodcox and Larry G. Woodcox Scholarship. Endowed by an alumna of the English department, this scholarship is awarded to a full-time junior or senior undergraduate major with an overall minimum 2.5 GPA. The student must have held gainful employment or have participated in a paid or unpaid internship and exhibit exceptional focus and determination as a student. Preference is given to a graduate of a Colorado high school.   

Aparna Gollapudi presented the award to Natalie Choules.

Aparna Gollapudi and Natalie Choules

English Faculty/Staff Graduate Scholarship. This scholarship is awarded to an outstanding graduate student enrolled in any program in English with a good academic standing and with a cumulative GPA of at least 3.5 and demonstrated financial need.

Jenny Levin presented the award to Kathryn Haggstrom.

Jenny Levin and Katie Haggstrom

The Donna Weyrick Memorial Scholarship honors the memory of Donna Weyrick, a 1962 graduate of the Department of English.  These endowed scholarships for undergraduates are made possible by contributions from the Weyrick family and friends.

Sharon Grindle presented the award to Hilary Pearce.

Sharon Grindle and Hilary Pearce

The Judith A. Dean Memorial Scholarship was created in memory of Judith A. Dean, a graduate in the master’s program in the Department of English, and prominent professional in the English teaching field and the organizations that support it.  Judith Dean earned an MAT at Colorado State in 1978 and taught at high schools in Colorado, Idaho, and New Mexico.  She served two terms as President of the Colorado Language Arts Society, and several years on the Society’s executive committee—strong measures of her prominence in public education in Colorado.

Aparna Gollapudi presented the award to Sara Graydon.

Aparna Gollapudi and Sara Graydon

The Smith-Schamberger Literature Fellowship is given to a new or returning full or part-time graduate student in the MA literature program.

Paul Trembath presented the award to James Rankin.

Paul Trembath and James Rankin

The TESL/TEFL Scholarship is funded by the INTO CSU English Language Program. It is awarded to an outstanding student in the TESL/TEFL graduate program.  

Nancy presented the award to Alireza Poordastmalchi, who also recieved the Ann Osborn Zimdahl Memorial Scholarship, awarded in memory of Ann Osborn Zimdahl, a 1981 graduate of the CSU M.A. TESL/TEFL program. Ann taught in the Intensive English Program and contributed to the international community of the University and Fort Collins. Her career also extended overseas where she held several different teaching appointments. Ann was strongly committed to cross-cultural understanding and enthusiastically shared her love of new cultures with her students both here and abroad. There were two recipients.

Nancy presented the award to first recipient Alireza Poordastmalchi. This particular award is given to an outstanding graduate student in the TESL/TEFL program who is committed to international education and language teaching, in support of the second year of study.

Nancy Berry and Alireza Poordastmalchi, who was the recipient of two scholarships

Sasha Steensen introduced the second recipient of the award, this time for an outstanding graduate student in any program in English, Kelly Weber.

Kelly Weber and Sasha Steensen

Cross-Cultural Understanding Scholarship is awarded to an outstanding graduate student who has demonstrated a commitment to international/cross-cultural issues and education.

Gerry Delahunty presented the award to Tiffany Akers.

Gerry Delahunty and Tiffany Akers

Tiffany Akers also received the the James J. Garvey Graduate English Language Scholarship, given in memory of Professor James Garvey, is presented annually to a graduate student who is enrolled in the second semester or beyond of the TESL/TEFL graduate program or is a student in the Rhetoric and Composition or English Education graduate programs, and who has shown a strong interest in advanced language study.  Recipients of this award may be first-generation students.

Again, Gerry Delahunty presented the award to Tiffany Akers.

Gerry Delahunty and Tiffany Akers

The James J. Garvey Undergraduate English Language Scholarship, also given in memory of Professor James Garvey, is presented annually to an undergraduate student who has a documented interest and coursework in the study of the English language. Recipients of this award also demonstrate a commitment to diversity in education, and may be first-generation students.

Gerry Delahunty presented the award to Anna LaForge.

Gerry Delahunty and Anna LaForge

The last set of awards were for outstanding writing in two categories at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. Debby Thompson presented The Outstanding Literary Essays Awards to six students, 3 each at the undergraduate and graduate levels.


  • 1st Place:  James Rankin, “Beyond the Anthropocentric: An Ethological Approach to the Tusk That Did the Damage”
  •  2nd Place: Cedar Brant “’The landscape crossed out with a pen, reappears here’: A comparative look at the excavation and recreation of histories in the poetry of Derek Walcott and Ocean Vuong”
  • 3rd Place: Cherie Nelson, “Possessing the Scales: Complications of Sin and Justice in Measure for Measure”

Left to right: Debby Thompson, Cheri Nelson, Cedar Brant, and James Rankin


  • 1st Place: Charlotte Conway “Erotic Violence and Female Subjectivity in the Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale and Fifty Shades of Grey”  
  • 2nd Place: Danny Bishop, Talking in Circles: The Catatonic Hero in Infinite Jest and the Postironic Novel”
  • 3rd place: Brianna Johnson, “Hamlet and Modern Ear: The Importance of Understanding Classical References”

Left to right: Debby Thompson, Brianna Johnson, Danny Bishop, and Charlotte Conway

Outstanding Writing Award in Composition, Rhetoric, and Literacy recognizes outstanding writing and research in composition, rhetoric, and/or literacy studiesThis award is intended to recognize innovative ideas, critical thinking, and stellar communication in the broad area of writing studies. Multimodal and print submissions are welcomed. Awards of $100 for first place and $50 for second place are given at both the graduate and undergraduate level.

Doug Cloud presented these awards to the recipients.

  • 1st Place: Undergraduate: Sydnie Louderback, Title: “Rams Bleed Emerald and Gold”
  • 2nd Place: Undergraduate: Nicole Miller, Title: “How to Create A Viral Political Picture Meme”

Sydnie Louderback

  • 1st Place: Graduate: Kelly Martin, Title: “Twactivism: An Investigations of Activism on Twitter”
  • 2nd Place: Graduate: Kira Marshall-McKelvey, Title: “Girl Talk: Gender Performance and Online Identity on YouTube

Doug Cloud, Kira Marshall-McKelvey, and Kelly Martin

Department Chair Louann Reid closed the ceremony saying, “Thank you to all participants, faculty, scholarship committee, donors, and office staff. I want to recognize especially three people: Sheila Dargon who supported the scholarship committee and arranged this reception, Jill Salahub for taking pictures, and Marnie Leonard for the creative centerpieces!” and inviting attendees to stick around, chat and eat more food.

Some of the crowd

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Maybe we are biased, but we have some of the best alumni. They are a diverse group of amazing humans doing interesting and important work in the world. We miss them after they are gone, and love nothing more than to brag about them, to share with you all the good stuff they are doing. When thinking about poetry, there are two alumna in particular that come immediately to mind: Chloe’ Leisure (MFA Creative Writing: Poetry, Spring 2006), and Felicia Zamora (MFA Creative Writing: Poetry, 2012).

Chloe’ Leisure was born and raised in Marquette, Michigan. She teaches community and elementary enrichment creative writing classes in Fort Collins, Colorado. She is the author of the chapbook, The End of the World Again (2015), and her poetry has appeared in publications including Fort Collins Courier, Matter, PANK, Paterson Literary Review, A Poetic Inventory of Rocky Mountain National Park, and Permafrost. She received her MFA from CSU and was the 2014 Fort Collins Poet Laureate.


A few more interesting things about and from Chloe’:


Felicia Zamora’s bio on her website says, “Felicia Zamora’s books include Of Form & Gather, winner of the 2016 Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize (University of Notre Dame Press 2017), & in Open, Marvel (Free Verse Editions/Parlor Press), and Instrument of Gaps (Slope Editions). She won the 2015 Tomaž Šalamun Prize from Verse, and authored the chapbooks Imbibe {et alia} here (2016) and Moby-Dick Made Me Do It (2010). Of Form & Gather was listed as one of the “9 Outstanding Latino Books Recently Published by Independent and University Presses” by NBC News… She is an associate poetry editor for the Colorado Review and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Colorado State University. She lives in Colorado with her partner, Chris, and their three dogs, Howser, Lorca, and Sherlock.”

A recent update from Felicia shared that her manuscript Galaxy Inside Your Inadequately Small Heart was selected as a finalist in the 2017 Alice James Award and the 2017 Lena-Miles Wever Todd Prize for Poetry. Her poem “In all the pretty roam” was featured on Zòcalo Public Square on Friday, March 17 and her poem “Virgule” was selected by The Georgia Review for publication. Zamora read her poetry for the AKO Collective’s Day Without A Woman recognition event on March 8.

A few more interesting things about and from Felicia:

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Today we are continuing our focus on spoken word poetry and poets. These are some of our favorite spoken word poems. What are some of yours?

Video: “What Teachers Make” by Taylor Mali

Video: Rachel Rostad – “Names”

Video: Neil Hilborn – “OCD”

Video: Sabrina Benaim – “Explaining My Depression to My Mother”

Video: Beautiful Body by Natalie Patterson

Video: Lily Myers – “Shrinking Women”

Tomorrow we’ll conclude our week focused on spoken word poetry with some local open mic opportunities.

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For this week of National Poetry Month, we are featuring spoken word poetry and poets. Today, we wanted to share some spoken word projects you might be interested in.

Button Poetry was founded in 2011, launching the first Button website and blog soon after. They have being promoting and producing spoken word poetry, creating high quality videos and books and recordings, ever since.


All Def Poetry is a YouTube channel presented by Russell Simmons that shares weekly performances by emerging and established spoken word artists. “Fresh, riveting, and featuring some of the best voices in the genre.”


Project VOICE is “a team of highly accomplished writers, performers, and educators,” using spoken word poetry to “entertain, educate, and inspire” They say on their website that, “Through award-winning performances and innovative workshops, Project VOICE is dedicated to promoting empowerment, improving literacy, and encouraging empathy and creative collaboration in classrooms and communities around the world.” In related news, Speakeasynyc is “is the leading youtube channel for great spoken word poets from around the US,” including the poets involved with Project VOICE.


Poetry Slam, Inc. is “a non-profit organization that organizes the National Poetry Slam, the Individual World Poetry Slam, and the Women of the World Poetry Slam. PSi is also charged with overseeing the international coalition of poetry slams.” Their YouTube channel has a great collection of videos from these events and more.


Stayed tuned: Tomorrow we’ll be sharing some of our favorite spoken word poems. For today, have fun diving into these great projects and their collections.

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For this week of National Poetry Month, we are featuring spoken word poetry and poets.

Andrea Gibson is an award-winning poet and activist born in Calais, Maine. Gibson has lived in Boulder, Colorado since 1999. Gibson also goes by Andrew and uses gender-neutral pronouns. Their website bio says,

Andrea Gibson is not gentle with their truths. It is this raw fearlessness that has led them to the forefront of the spoken word movement…Gibson has headlined prestigious performance venues coast to coast with powerful readings on war, class, gender, bullying, white privilege, sexuality, love, and spirituality.

Now, on their fifth full-length album FLOWER BOY and their second book THE MADNESS VASE, Gibson’s poems continue to be a rally cry for action and a welcome mat at the door of the heart’s most compassionate room.

A four-time Denver Grand Slam Champion, Gibson finished fourth at the 2004 National Poetry Slam, and third at both the 2006 and 2007 Individual World Poetry Slam. In 2008, Gibson became the first poet ever to win the Women of the World Poetry Slam.

When asked in a 2015 interview “Which poets and/or artists have influenced your work?”, Gibson said,

Oh, so many. Spoken word artists who have influenced me a great deal are Sonya Renee, Rachel McKibbens, Derrick Brown, Anis Mojgani, Patricia Smith…that list is so long I could keep writing names for the next hour. The first poet whose work I truly fell in love with was Mary Oliver, and her books are still the place I find the most comfort in.

Video: Andrea Gibson performing “Angels of the Get Through,” featuring musical accompaniment by Kaylen Krebsbach

Video: Andrea Gibson performing “A Letter to My Dog, Exploring the Human Condition,” featuring accompaniment by her dog, Squash

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Image by Rajah Bose / Flickr

Naomi Shihab Nye is the author of numerous books of poems, as well as the author of several books of poetry and fiction for children. Born to a Palestinian father and an American mother, she spent her adolescence in both Jerusalem and San Antonio, Texas. Her experience of difference has influenced much of her work, and she’s called herself a “wandering poet.”

Her poetry is known for looking at the ordinary, deeply and with fresh eyes. Poet William Stafford said of Shihab Nye, “her poems combine transcendent liveliness and sparkle along with warmth and human insight. She is a champion of the literature of encouragement and heart. Reading her work enhances life.”

Naomi Shihab Nye told Contemporary Authors: “I have always loved the gaps, the spaces between things, as much as the things. I love staring, pondering, mulling, puttering. I love the times when someone or something is late—there’s that rich possibility of noticing more, in the meantime…Poetry calls us to pause. There is so much we overlook, while the abundance around us continues to shimmer, on its own.”

Burning the Old Year
By Naomi Shihab Nye

Letters swallow themselves in seconds.
Notes friends tied to the doorknob,
transparent scarlet paper,
sizzle like moth wings,
marry the air.

So much of any year is flammable,
lists of vegetables, partial poems.
Orange swirling flame of days,
so little is a stone.

Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.
I begin again with the smallest numbers.

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,
only the things I didn’t do
crackle after the blazing dies.

~“Burning the Old Year” from Words Under the Words: Selected Poems

Video: Naomi Shihab Nye reads and talks about her poem “Kindness”

Also, you might want to list to this really great interview with Naomi Shihab Nye on On Being, Your Life Is a Poem.

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Canadian author Margaret Atwood in Toronto, 2012. (Image credit: Reuters/Mark Blinch)

Margaret Atwood is probably best known for her novel, A Handmaid’s Tale, often referred to as a work of “speculative fiction.” However, what many people may not know about her is she’s also an accomplished poet, having published 15 collections of poetry. Margaret Atwood is a poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist, and environmental activist, and the author of more than forty books of fiction, poetry, and critical essays. She’s internationally acclaimed and awarded, with her work being translated into French, German, Italian, Urdu, Estonian, Romanian, Serbo-Croatian, Catalan, Turkish, Russian, Finnish, Dutch, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Portuguese, Greek, Polish, Japanese, Icelandic, Spanish, Hebrew, and several other languages. All of the fiction is available in paperback in Canada, the U.S., and the U.K.

The Woman Who Could Not Live With Her Faulty Heart
Margaret Atwood

I do not mean the symbol
of love, a candy shape
to decorate cakes with,
the heart that is supposed
to belong or break;

I mean this lump of muscle
that contracts like a flayed biceps,
purple-blue, with its skin of suet,
its skin of gristle, this isolate,
this caved hermit, unshelled
turtle, this one lungful of blood,
no happy plateful.

All hearts float in their own
deep oceans of no light,
wetblack and glimmering,
their four mouths gulping like fish.
Hearts are said to pound:
this is to be expected, the heart’s
regular struggle against being drowned.

But most hearts say, I want, I want,
I want, I want. My heart
is more duplicitous,
though to twin as I once thought.
It says, I want, I don’t want, I
want, and then a pause.
It forces me to listen,

and at night it is the infra-red
third eye that remains open
while the other two are sleeping
but refuses to say what it has seen.

It is a constant pestering
in my ears, a caught moth, limping drum,
a child’s fist beating
itself against the bedsprings:
I want, I don’t want.
How can one live with such a heart?

Long ago I gave up singing
to it, it will never be satisfied or lulled.
One night I will say to it:
Heart, be still,
and it will.

~From Selected Poems II (1976-1986) by Margaret Atwood, 1987.

Video: Margaret Atwood reads “Night Poem”

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Luci Tapahonso is a Navajo poet and a lecturer in Native American Studies. Born in 1953, she was raised on her family farm on the Navajo reservation in Shiprock, New Mexico with her eleven siblings. English was not her first language, but rather something she learned second to her native Navajo language, Dine. She learned English at home before starting school, which she attended in the area, graduating from high school in 1971.

Tapahonso was a a journalist and investigative reporter before beginning her studies at the University of New Mexico in 1976. She intended to study journalism there, but met faculty member, novelist and poet Leslie Marmon Silko, who convinced her to switch her major to creative writing. She went on to earn her MA in creative writing, and then to teach.

Silko helped Tapahonso publish her first story, “The Snake Man”, in 1978. Her first collection of poetry, put together when she was an undergraduate, was published in 1981. Several more collections followed, as well as individual poems published in various journals. Her 1993 collection Saánii Dahataal (the women are singing), written in Navajo and English, was the first collection to bring her acclaim and recognition, which continued with her 1997 blue horses rush in. Her book of poetry A Radiant Curve was awarded the Arizona Book Award for Poetry in 2009.

In 2013, Tapahonso was named the inaugural poet laureate of the Navajo Nation. Announcing the appointment at a press conference, Elmer Guy, president of Navajo Technical College, said that the goal of designating a chief poet is “to encourage other Navajo poets, writers, film makers and artists to realize how important their work is to the continuance and growth of Navajo contemporary culture. Luci represents the best of what it is to be Diné, honoring our traditions, while at the same time forming a contemporary voice that speaks beautifully to all people.”

Tapahonso continues to teach; has served on various boards, committees, and commissions; and is a sought after speaker. She received the 2006 Lifetime Achievement award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas and a Spirit of the Eagle Leadership Award for her key role in establishing the Indigenous Studies Graduate Studies Program at the University of Kansas. The Native Writers Circle of the Americas named Tapahonso the 1999 Storyteller of the Year. She has also received a Kansas Governor’s Art Award, and Distinguished Woman awards from the National Association of Women in Education and the Girl Scout Council of America.


Video: a 2013 interview with Luci Tapahonso

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