Tag Archives: kimmika Williams-Witherspoon

Report from Poets on the Porch 2015

Diane Sahms-Guarnieri by F Omar Telan at Poets on the Porch 2015

Diane Sahms-Guarnieri by F Omar Telan at Poets on the Porch 2015

The Fox Chase Reading Series has concluded its run with Poets on the Porch 2015. It was a beautiful afternoon on the porch of Ryerss Museum and Library atop the hill at Burholme Park in Philadelphia, Pa. The crowd enjoyed a great reading of poetry under cover of the porch on a warm July day. Thanks to all the poets who shared their work, our hosts, F Omar Telan and Bruce Kramer and our book table monitor Nancy Sahms.

First Set Host F Omar Telan

First Set Host F Omar Telan

The first set was hosted by F Omar Telan and energized the crowd. Poets reading in the first set were:

Poet Diane Sahms-Guarnieri

Poet Diane Sahms-Guarnieri

Poet Emari DiGiorgio

Poet Emari DiGiorgio

Poet Maria Keane

Poet Maria Keane

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Poet  Kimmika Williams-Witherspoon

Poet Kimmika Williams-Witherspoon

 

 

 

 

Poet Gene Halus

Poet Gene Halus

Poet Russell Reece

Poet Russell Reece

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Ben Heins

Poet Ben Heins

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Poet g emil reutter

Poet g emil reutter

 

 

 

 

 

 

Host of Second Set Bruce Kramer

Host of Second Set Bruce Kramer

The second set was hosted by Bruce Kramer breezing to a beautiful conclusion. Poets reading in the second set were:

Poet Alice Wootson

Poet Alice Wootson

Poet Mel Brake

Poet Mel Brake

Poet Dave Worrell

Poet Dave Worrell

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Poet Wendy Schermer

Poet Wendy Schermer

Poet Charles Carr

Poet Charles Carr

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More photographs of Poets on the Porch 2015 can be viewed at our Flickr at this link:

Scenes from Poets on the Porch 2015
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Poets on the Porch 2015 – July 11th @ 1 p.m.

THE FOX CHASE READING  SERIES

Presents

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POETS ON THE PORCH 2015 – July 11th @ 1 p.m.

Ryerss Museum and Library

7370 Central Avenue, Philadlephia, Pa. 19111

Hosted by: F Omar Telan and Bruce Kramer 

The Poets

??????????????????????????????? Diane Sahms-Guarnieri, a native Philadelphian, is the author of two full-length poetry collections: Images of Being (Stone Garden Publishing, 2011) and Night Sweat (Red Dashboard Press, forthcoming in January, 2016). She has been published in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Pennsylvania Literary Journal, Many Mountains Moving, Philadelphia Stories, Blue Collar Review, and Wilderness House Literary Review, among others. Awarded a grant in poetry from the AEV Foundation in 2013, she currently serves as Poet in Residence at Ryerss Museum and Library and as Poetry Editor of the Fox Chase Review. More about Diane can be found at http://www.dianesahms-guarnieri.com/  & https://dianesahmsguarnieri.wordpress.com/

Emari DiGiorgio makes a mean arugula quesadilla and has split-boarded the emariTasman Glacier. She teaches at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey and is a Poet-in-the-Schools through the state arts council and the Dodge Poetry Foundation. Recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Arsenic Lobster, Mead, the Raleigh Review, Smartish Pace, and Verse. http://edigiorgio.wix.com/emaridigiorgio

KeaneMaria J. Keane is a visual artist, educator and published poet.  She received her B.A. from Hunter College, N.Y.C. and a Master in Art History from the University of Delaware (Phi Kappa Phi). She is an Arts and Letters member of the National League of American Pen Women and an artist member of the historic Howard Pyle Studio in Wilmington, Delaware. She served as an Adjunct Professor of Fine Arts and Art History at Wilmington University (New Castle Campus, from 1984 to 2009.) http://www.artsicle.com/Maria-Keane

Kimmika Williams-Witherspoon, PhD  (Cultural Anthropology), M.A. kimmika(Anthropology), MFA (Theater), Graduate Certificate) Women’s Studies, B.A. (Journalism); is an Associate Professor of Urban Theater and Community Engagement in the Theater Department at Temple University. The author of Through Smiles and Tears: The History of African American Theater (From Kemet to the Americas) (Lambert Academic Publishing, 2011); The Secret Messages in African American Theater: Hidden Meaning Embedded in Public Discourse” (Edwin Mellen Publishing, 2006) She is a recipient of the 2013 Associate Provosts Arts Grant; 2008 Seed Grant, 2003 Provost’s Arts Grant; 2001 Independence Foundation Grant, the 2000 PEW fellowship, and1999,  DaimlerChrysler National Poetry Competition. Williams-Witherspoon is a contributing poet to 26 anthologies and recipient of a host of awards and citations. http://www.2deep2.com/

Gene HalusA native of the Lawndale neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pa., Gene Halus is an Associate Professor of Politics at Immaculata University. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from LaSalle University, he graduated with a double major from the department of History and Political Science, his Masters of Art and his Ph.D., from the Department of Politics of the Catholic University of America. Halus has been a community/social activist in the United States and Ireland. He has written several op-ed pieces for various newspapers including the Souderton Independent and the Lancaster Eagle Gazette. He has written articles on topics such as German-Americans of Northeast Philadelphia and Resurgent Ethnicity: Reconsidering Ethnicity, Whiteness, and Assimilation; At Frankford We Stand!: The Mobilization of Euro-American Ethnic Consciousness in Philadelphia Neighborhoods and Changes in City Government; and Fair Housing/Fair Lending. Halus is working on a new poetry collection titled Perkiomen using the Perkiomen Creek as the focus of the cycle of poems. His most recent book is Irish Americans: The History and Culture of a People, co-authored with William E. Watson released in November of 2014.

Russell Reece has had stories and essays published in Memoir (and), russCrimespree Magazine, The Fox Chase Review and many other print and on-line journals. His work has appeared several anthologies most recently Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors, released in 2012. All That Glitters, released in 2013 and Someone Wicked released in 2013. He has received two Best of the Net nominations and was a finalist in the 2012 William Faulkner/ William Wisdom Creative Writing Contest.  He placed first in the Delaware Press Association Annual Communications award in poetry and a 2015 fellowship from The Delaware Division of the Arts. Russ is a University of Delaware alumnus and a co-host of 2nd Saturday Poets in Wilmington, Delaware. He lives in Bethel, Delaware in rural Sussex County along the beautiful Broad Creek. You can learn more about Russ by visiting his website at www.russellreece.com

benBen Heins is the author of two chapbooks of poetry: Cut Me Free (Crisis Chronicles Press, 2014) and Greatest Hits & B-Sides (Vagabondage Press, 2012). In addition to teaching first-year writing at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey and Rowan University, he is an active member of the South Jersey Poets Collective. http://www.benheins.com

 

Alice Greenhowe Wootson grew up in a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. alice 3She attended Cheyney University and earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Elementary Education. After graduating, she married and remained in the Philadelphia area. She earned a Masters Degree in Education and Reading Specialist Certification and taught in the public schools. Alice is the award-winning author of ten romance novels and an award-winning poet; she has taught writing workshops for numerous groups. She is also a board member of the Philadelphia Writers Conference. Alice Wootson is an active member of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church of Philadelphia. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband, Isaiah. http://www.alicewootson.net/

Robert Milby 7Robert Milby, of Florida, NY has been reading his poetry in public since March, 1995.   He is the author of 6 chapbooks, most recently: Dickens’ Pet Raven (Fierce Grace Press, Wilmington, DE, 2014).  His first book of poetry is Ophelia’s Offspring (Foothills Publishing, Kanona, NY, 2007).  Second book: Victorian House:  Ghosts and Gothic Poems will be published by Black Bed Sheet Books, Antelope, CA in 2014.   Robert hosts 3 Hudson Valley, NY poetry readings and has read his work in NY, NYC, NJ, PA and New England.  He is a listed poet with Poets & Writers, Inc. of NYC.  He writes for the arts magazine, Heyday Magazine and the arts newspaper, The Delaware and Hudson CANVAS.    www.robertmilby.com

Mel Brake has won several awards for his poetry and musical talents. He was mel brakeborn and raised in Philadelphia, and proud of it. He lives in Springfield, PA because the water is fresh, clear and tasty. Many publications and journals have published his poems including Fox Chase Review, Philadelphia Poets, Mad Poets Review, E Pluribus Unum: An Anthology of Diverse Voices, Apiary Magazine, Word Riot Magazine, Poetry Ink, The New Verse News and many others https://www.facebook.com/mel.brake

John Richard SmithJohn Smith’s poetry has appeared NJ Audubon since the 1980s and in numerous literary magazines. His work has also been anthologized in Under a Gull’s Wing: Poems and Photographs of the Jersey Shore and Liberty’s Vigil: The Occupy Anthology. His poem, “Lived Like a Saint,” which appeared in The Journal of New Jersey Poets, was set to music by Philadelphian composer, Tina Davidson, as part of a choral work, Listening to the Earth, commissioned by the New Jersey Parks Commission. Another poem, “Birding,” was commissioned by New Jersey Audubon for their centennial and “Red Moon,” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize by US1. His book, Even That Indigo, was published was published by Hip Pocket Press in 2012. https://www.facebook.com/JohnSmithFrenchtownPoet?fref=nf

Dave Worrell studied literature and philosophy at Union College in beautiful Dave WorrellSchenectady, New York. His poems have appeared in The Fox Chase Review, US 1 Worksheets, Mad Poets Review and Wild River Review. He has performed poems at Chris’ Jazz Café in Philadelphia and Cafe Improv in Princeton.  His latest collection is We Who Were Bound. https://www.linkedin.com/in/daveworrell

Wendy Schermer was born in Detroit, grew up in Philadelphia, and is now a Schermer
resident of Arden, Delaware, where she has lived for the past eight years. Wendy shares her home with a dog and two cats who have been steadfast companions since her two sons became adults and made lives of their own in Philadelphia and Brooklyn, respectively. Although Wendy works full-time for the State of New Jersey’s Judiciary, her real love is writing.

rhdavis-1Robert Hambling Davis is a fiction editor of The Fox Chase Review. He has been published in The Sun, Antietam Review, Memoir (and), Philadelphia Stories, Santa Monica Review, and elsewhere. He’s been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes, and received three Delaware Division of the Arts grants, two for fiction and one for creative nonfiction. He was a fiction semifinalist in the William Faulkner Creative Writing Contest in 2002 and 2012, and a creative nonfiction winner in 2013. Robert helps direct the Delaware Literary Connection, a nonprofit serving writers in Delaware and surrounding areas. He is a member of the Delaware Artist Roster, and has given writing workshops and readings in the Mid-Atlantic.

Charles Carr is a native Philadelphian. Charles was educated at LaSalle and charlesBryn Mawr College, where he earned a Masters in American History.  Charles has worked in social and community development services for 40 years.  Charles has also been active in raising funds for various missions and organizations serving the poorest of the poor In Haiti.   In 2009 Cradle Press of St. Louis published Charles’s first book of poetry: paradise, pennsylvania. In January of this year, Haitian Mud Pies And Other Poems published by The Moonstone Arts Center was released.  Charles’ poems have been published in various print and on-line local and national poetry journals.   Charles also hosts the Moonstone Poetry series at Fergie’s Pub in Center City Philadelphia once per month.

Your Hosts

kramerBruce Kramer is a writer from Philadelphia. Most of his work has appeared in boring technical documents, medical publications, and marketing propaganda, but he has also been published in the occasional magazine and literary publication. He believes in cold beer, rock and roll, and baseball. He sometimes acts like he is named after Bruce Springsteen, but he knows he is named after somebody much cooler. He has poetry forthcoming from Barrelhouse Magazine

F Omar Telan shares a New York Innovative Theatre Award for Outstanding TelanbyCristinOKeefeAptowiczPerformance Art Production for Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind with the New York Neo-Futurists. A selection of his plays are anthologized in 225 Plays from Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind.

His poetry has been published in “A Gathering Of The Tribes”, “Apiary Magazine”, “The Fox Chase Review”, “Our Own Voice”. He has read his poetry at the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church (NYC), the Kelly Writers House (Philadelphia), the National Asian American Poetry Festival (NYC), the Philippine Embassy (DC), and the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival (Waterloo Village, NJ).

With Asians Misbehavin’ he has performed in the New York Fringe Festival, the Philadelphia Fringe Festival, and at Roundhouse Performance Centre (Vancouver). He directed “The Edge Of The World” which was performed at La Mama E.T.C. (NYC) as part of the Asian American Theater Festival.

He graduated from Emerson College and the Radcliffe Publishing Course. http://www.telan.org/

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-g emil reutter lives and writes in the Fox Chase neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pa. (USA). He can be found at https://gereutter.wordpress.com/about/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poets on the Porch 2015 – Preview

You can watch some of the poets reading at Poets on the Porch 2015 on youtube at the links below. Poets on the Porch 2015 will be held on July 11th @ 1 p.m. at Ryerss Museum and Library, 7370 Central Avenue, Philadelphia, Pa. 19111

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Diane Sahms-Guarnieri

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qir5_xPSNiU

 

 

emariEmari DiGiorgio

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1WsS2eLVgAM

 

 

kimmikaKimmika Williams-Witherspoon

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CFpGUWnKME0

 

benBen Heins

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-6V5YNTuQ-I

 

 

Robert Milby 7Robert Milby

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIF8Pwnn9AQ

 

 

mel brakeMel Brake

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7wjzTEaDKaw

 

 

Dave WorrellDave Worrell

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=518yT85jOV8

 

charlesCharles Carr

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3Jj8zmv8m4

 

 

In the Words of Poets- Why Poetry Readings?

Why poetry readings? We gleaned some answers from poets we interviewed for our, 10 Questions Interview Series .

472“After a year of touring, I actually started to feel more confident reading my poems to an audience.  With confidence, I believe my “reading” performance has been enhanced.  I have come to the conclusion that there are poems that are “page” poems and “audience” poems.  To elaborate, “page” poems are more complicated and/or heady poems and are meant for a reader to read and re-read slowly, calmly, and in the confines of solitude.  “Audience” poems are those poems that are more musical and/or narrative in nature, which make it easier for the listener to follow, as you read with rhythm, feeling, proper breathing, and annunciation.  By reading and re-reading poems aloud, you learn how to accent the poem where you want the listener to really hear and feel what you are reading. “– Diane Sahms-Guarnieri – Philadelphia, Pa.

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Jack Veasey“Largely that they enable you to finish the act of communication. If you write because you have things to say, that’s essential. Otherwise, you’re just talking to yourself. As far as getting reactions and feedback go – that really isn’t the reason you do it. And you have to be happy with it by your own standards regardless of whatever reaction it gets, or doesn’t get. You don’t do it for the reaction, but you do create the work, most of the time, in order to be able to share it. Then it’s out of your hands.”- Jack Veasey, Hummelstown, Pa.

kimmika“I perform because I have to! The poetry keeps me alive. It demands to be written and it demands to be heard…I’m just the vehicle. I’ve always said, if I couldn’t be a poet, I would probably be a preacher. I don’t know. I see the world this way…as poetry, and songs and stories. My first language is poetry. I write because if I didn’t I don’t know if I would be able to breathe. And I guess I perform for the same reason I still pray…everybody has got to have something to believe in!”- Kimmika Williams Witherspoon, Philadelphia

jane“I’m glad to speak the poems and hear how they sound in a larger auditory space rather than mumbled in front of the computer screen, but I’m always nervous. Some of my poems have visual quirks that can’t be relayed.” – Jane Lewty, Amsterdam, Netherlands

stephen-page-in-front-of-wheat-photo“Reading aloud to an audience is a public event, a gift shared with more than one person in linear time.  I discovered by reading my own stuff aloud, especially while I practiced reading aloud to myself, I caught the glitches in the lines, the skips in the meter, the loss of the music I thought was there.  Thus, by reading aloud, or preparing to read aloud, I was better able to edit my work.” – Stephen Page- Buenos Aires, Argentina

va 1“In fact I love doing live readings. It gives you an opportunity to connect with the pulse of your readers. Gives you instant feedback about your work and the joy of seeing your words settle in people’s hearts. The experience is quite matchless! I’ve had youngsters approach me with endearing trepidation after my readings asking if they could keep in touch with me…I’ve had older, established poets come forth and comment on what they see as strengths in my poetry. These are all the delightful fall outs of live readings! Also, when you read live, you portray not just your work but the entire ethos to which you belong. The way you dress, the way you carry yourself and the way you interact with fellow poets also helps to convey your sensibilities as a poet. It’s a wholesome experience that goes beyond the scope of mere words”. – Vinita Agrawl, Mumbai India

john dorsey“I travel constantly. As far as how important it is, that really depends on why you’re out there. Do you want to sell books? Are you attempting to build lifelong friendships? Unless you have really bad social anxiety, I think everyone should try to get out there. I myself need the book sales to eat more often than not, but the friendships that I’ve made outweigh $10 here, $20 there  or some silly idea of fame, when 99 percent of people could care less about poetry anyway.” – John Dorsey, Cleveland, Ohio

linda-nemec-foster-2“Let’s be honest:  being a poet can be a lonely profession.  The creating, crafting, and revising of poems demand concentration, time, energy, and discipline.  For me, it is very important to “get out into the world” and share my work with audiences on a regular basis.  Some poets don’t like to give readings and/or are not very good at public presentations.  I’ve heard some famous poets give awkward, poor readings and some relatively unknown poets give wonderful readings.  The bottom line is that a poem should be strong on the page and in the voice.  After all, poetry started as a purely oral tradition long before the invention of paper, the letterpress, or the laptop.” Linda Nemec Foster, Michigan

thad 4“I’m usually able to make a connection. I remember reciting a piece on the top deck of a boat on the way from Hong Kong to Lama Island. Two people were listening, one from Australia and one from England. We were just lying there in the warm air. I was interrupted by our cruise host, but after the host left, the Englishwoman said to me, “Do the rest of it. I want to hear how it ends.” – Thaddeus Rutkowski, New York

Kristina 124 (1)“I have been writing since I was a young girl. Reading my work aloud, however, is something I have only done in the last eight to ten years. At first, I was very reluctant to stand up in front of an audience and read. I prefer the quiet, solitary process of writing. But, at some point, I realized that my poems needed to be heard. I had something to say and, even if it only reached one person, I needed to say it.” –Kristina Moriconi- Montgomery County, Pa.

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Robert Milby 7 “I enjoy reading in states outside of my home state, New York. Performance is vital.  To paraphrase the great Harry Chapin:  “You must seduce the audience over and over.” It is important to keep the crowds’ interest.  A poet can connect with his or her audience in many ways. It is up to the novice and/or younger poet to go to readings and study the poet onstage.  Take notes if need be.” Robet Milby, Hudson Valley New York

 

Readers Choice – Top Ten Interviews for 2014

Our list of the top ten interviews at The Fox Chase Review Blog for 2014 based on readership.

thad-2

10 Questions for Thaddeus Rutkowski

kimmika

10 Questions for Kimmika Williams-Witherspoon

jane

10 Questions for Jane Lewty

stephen-page-in-front-of-wheat-photo

10 Questions for Stephen Page

Kristina 124 (1)

10 Questions for Kristina Moriconi

louise-halvardsson

10 Questions for Louise Halvardsson

va-1

10 Questions for Vinita Agrawal

philip_dacey_at_ssu

10 Questions for Philip Dacey

Diane Sahms-Guarnieri

10 Questions for Diane Sahms-Guarnieri

rebecca-schumejda-2

10 Questions for Rebecca Schumejda

 

10 Questions for Kimmika Williams-Witherspoon

DSC_0577 (1)Kimmika Williams-Witherspoon, PhD  (Cultural Anthropology), M.A. (Anthropology), MFA (Theater), Graduate Certificate) Women’s Studies, B.A. (Journalism); is an Associate Professor of Urban Theater and Community Engagement in the Theater Department at Temple University. The author of Through Smiles and Tears: The History of African American Theater (From Kemet to the Americas) (Lambert Academic Publishing, 2011); The Secret Messages in African American Theater: Hidden Meaning Embedded in Public Discourse” (Edwin Mellen Publishing, 2006) She is a recipient of the 2013 Associate Provosts Arts Grant; 2008 Seed Grant, 2003 Provost’s Arts Grant; 2001 Independence Foundation Grant, the 2000 PEW fellowship, and 1999, DaimlerChrysler National Poetry Competition. Williams-Witherspoon is a contributing poet to 26 anthologies and recipient of a host of awards and citations.

Interview with g emil reutter

Kimmika on the Porch

GER: You instruct a course at Temple University, Poetry as Performance. Please share with us the development of the course, student reaction and the benefits they receive from the course?

KWW: Poetry As Performance (TH1008) was one of the first courses that I wrote for the Theater Department at Temple. I think I started teaching the course in 1996. I had always called what I did as a performance artist Performance Poetry—combing spectacle and the theatricality of theater with original poetry recitation. By that time, Spoken Word was just coming into being, but the Spoken Word genre was a completely different performance style limited to Slam competitions and three (3) minute “spits” constructed to solicit the most audience response.  My work as a Performance Poet was more akin to poetic monologues and dramatic vignettes. So I convinced my colleagues in the Theater Department at Temple that a class like Poetry As Performance would get actors away from notions of the Hallmark-card style of performing poetry and could capitalize on the youth Rap/Hip Hop/Spoken Word movement that was emerging, while still training students in the elements of theater and performance studies.

In 2006, in addition to my course at Temple, I got special permission from my Dean (then Concetta  Stewart) to  pilot the course at Bryn Mawr College when they wanted to begin a similar course offering there. Each class teaches poetry style, performance technique and community-based learning culminating in free performances each semester on WRTI- radio, now TUTV and in Randall Theater for the university and North Philadelphia community.

My classes, first Performance Poetry and then Poetic Ethnography, TH 2008 have been wildly popular with the student body and not limited to just theater students. In any given semester, at least two thirds of the class come from English/Creative Writing programs, Dance, Tyler school of Art, biology, communications and the like. Alumni students and senior scholars have even come back to audit the course when they couldn’t fit it in to their schedule before graduating. I have former students replicating what I’ve taught them in public schools and community programs across the nation—keeping young people engaged in theater, poetry and the written word—even at time when so much of k thru 12 access to the arts is consistently (and strategically) being cut back and curtailed.

new_photo_AIPF_2_Kameka_WilliamsGER: Your history in the theater and poetry are somewhat entwined. Have the different art forms interacted for you and if so how have they impacted each form?

KWW:  I have been very fortunate, Although I fell in love with words and started writing poetry when I was about 8 years old (really corny stuff like: Dear Lord God above/bless my boyfriend/and preserve our love…) I had no idea what love was and my father would have killed me if I really had a boyfriend at eight years old but you get the point. A library aide all through my public school career (Gompers Elementary, Beeber Junior High and the Philadelphia High School for Girls) I had unlimited access to books and I read all the time. I feel in love with rhyme, and rhythm and meter and because I grew up watching my mother reciting religious prose pieces in church, I knew the value in authors performing original work.  I stumbled onto theater quite by accident. I was living in Houston and couldn’t find work in my field as a journalist but because I had won a bunch of awards  at the Barbara Jordan Debate and Forensics Competition in Houston the year before, I could get a job in theater. Acting and directing in other people’s plays made me want to write my own…and the performance poetry morphed into playwriting.

I tell people that poetry is the language I am most comfortable in and playwriting is my method of social activism. I am no August Wilson, but like Wilson, I think my plays have a poetic quality and I know that playwriting has greatly enhanced my ability to capture character in my performance work. Couple all that with my doctoral training as a Cultural Anthropologist and I bring a unique skill set to theater and performance studies as a hybrid researcher, scholar, performance artist,, playwright, poet.

GER: Over the years you have received numerous honors and grants in the arts. How have these impacted your career in poetry and theater?

KWW: That’s a little tricky. You’re right, I’ve won some major awards in writing over the years for my work as a Performance Poet and as a playwright…the Venture Lifetime Achievement Award. (2014); The Miriam Maat Ka Re Award for Scholarly research (2013); The Spoken Soul 215 Award. (2013); “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the National Black Arts Spoken Word Tour; (2011); 2010 the Kennedy Center “Distinguished Achievement” Award for Project Co-Conception, Playwriting and Performance. of “SHOT” at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival; the 2000 PEW Charitable Trusts Arts Grant for scriptwriting; the 1999 Winner of the DaimlerCrysler National Poetry Competition; the 1999 Winner of the DaimlerChrysler Regional Poetry Competition (Philadelphia); 1996 PEW Exchange Residency Grant; 1995-96 Scholars Fellowship from the American Antiquarian Society; the 1993-94 PEW Playwright Residency Exchange Grant; the 1991 American Poetry Center Performance Poet Residency Grant; the 1990 American Poetry Center Residency Grant; the 1990 “Playwriting Fellowship” from the Theater Association of Pennsylvania; and the 1987 Award in Literature from the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. And that’s just a few of them. 

You would think that having won as many awards as I have over the years that my position as a Performance Poet and Playwright in the city would be secure but that didn’t happen.  Like everybody else, I struggle to get my work performed and published and have had to resort to sometimes, producing my own work. Even when I won the PEW in 2000, I thought…now, the theater community has to recognize me and my work; but that didn’t happen! Now, some people might  say that it’s because I am an African American female…I don’t know…perhaps! We don’t really talk about the inequity of arts production and access to resources in this city so I don’t know if my career trajectory would have been different if I wasn’t a woman of color who writes about her community? But I do wonder sometimes if a white male had done the amount and variety of things that I have done, what would have been different?….Hmmm.

 

kimmikpose

GER: You have been active in the poetry community of Philadelphia for many years. What changes have you seen in poetry in the city and what advice would you give to emerging poets?

KWW: Oh so much has changed. On any given night but particularly on Monday nights at the Bacchanal you could hear Will Perkins, Eugene Howard, Lamont Steptoe, Bob Small, Rosemary Cappello, Gerome Robinson, Etheridge Knight, Mbali Umoja, Rikki Lights and so many more. Now, there are only a few of us left.

Those poets didn’t sound alike like–they do now. Each poem and each poet was different! There was a vibrancy and an urgency to record what was happening in the world around us poetically. Now when I’m asked to judge competitions, so many of the young people sound the same—there’s so little nuance. With slam competitions, moneymaking has become a motivating force in the work and after awhile, some of the work can seem formulaic.

We didn’t make money with poetry when I first started. We all had day jobs. That wasn’t the goal. Sure some of us made a little money along the way; but that wasn’t the end all, be all of why we wrote and performed. We wrote because we had to…we were called to…we needed to—even if no one else heard us but one another. There was no YouTube or SLAM winner-take-all-purses. We wrote and performed together each week because the muse demanded that we capture that moment, that feeling, that character or that event so it wouldn’t be lost to forgotten memory.

secret messagesGER: The Secret Messages in African American Theater: Hidden Meanings Embedded in Public Discourse was released in 2006. Please share with us the development of the book?

KWW: Secret Messages is the published version of my dissertation. I did my field research at Freedom Theater during Walter Dallas’ tenure as Artistic Director. That work is all about the development of African American Theater, the inequity of African American arts production and their limited access to resources—unless, of course, those Black arts organizations produce work that appears benign or reinforces social stereotypes.  That work also talks about the necessity for most artists of color to develop a hidden transcript or seemingly playing out the expectation of blackness in their public performance while infusing their art with code words, African retentions and cultural references that still have meaning to their community. In this way writers, actors and musicians can infuse their work with dignity—even when forced to play out notions of the Black coon, thug, “gangsta”, mammy or angry Black woman.

GER: Her praying knees: my mother believed that prayer held the world together was published in the Other Side. Tell us about your mother, her impact on you and the belief that prayer can hold the world together?

KWW: Well Mommy got it from her mother, Mama Curry—Beatrice Charlow Curry. Every day at 12 o’clock, no matter what you were doing, every body had to come in, kneel down and pray—and after the prayer, old to young (even the mailman if happened to be there at the time) we all had to recite the Lord’s prayer in unison. As a result, my mother was a praying woman. I still recite the prayer that she taught us, that her mother taught her and all of my children know it as well.  Prayer was a very important component of my upbringing knowing how to pray has gotten me through more difficult times and situations than I care to think about. Prayer taught me to have faith. We all need to believe in something–some higher power. I wouldn’t presume to tell people what that higher power should be; but for me, I value the time that I can talk to God and the ancestors.

Now,  as an adult, as a wordsmith and as an anthropologist, I also recognize that prayer is a component of word power—some West African cultures call it Nommo (power of the word). Praying, the repetition of the words in your prayer becomes a power in of itself. The repetition of the prayer becomes a mechanism for actualization—the word, the prayer can eventually call the thing into being. Just like incantation or prescription, the doctor tells the patient to take this medicine and it will make you fell better. The patient re-reads the prescription each time they take the medication and believes. Pretty soon the patient feels better—even when the medication is a placebo!

Not only did my mother Lillian Curry Hawes, teach me about prayer and faith and words and believing; but she also taught me to love books and learning and she is the reason why I perform. Both my parents grew up in the segregated south. While my father had to quit school after the sixth grade because he was the oldest son of nine children and had to go to work to help his parents, my mother loved school and learning. One of eleven children herself, in order to go from one grade to the next in the segregated schools of Dade County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in the 1920’s, each child had to be able to recite a body of literature appropriate to that grade—the Preamble to the Constitution, the Gettysburg Address, the books of the Bible. Mommy knew so much history and literature committed to memory—she made you want to learn it too.

She knew almost all of the Harlem Renaissance Writer’s work by heart and she would recite poems and prose as she worked around the house. You could not come downstairs for breakfast on Sunday morning, while Mommy cooked both Breakfast and dinner at the same time (so that dinner would be ready when we got home from church)  and hear Mommy reciting James Weldon Johnson’s The Creation, stirring grits at the stove and not be affected. She also wrote these wonderfully profound Christian prose pieces that she would preform at church for Women’s Day, the pastor’s anniversary and conventions and I would watch the congregation sitting on the edge of their sits, listening to her recitation, enthralled with every word—and I wanted to be able to do that! Not only was my mother an incredibly warm and godly individual but also she was a phenomenal orator and performer all on her on. Mommy has been gone since 1992. I miss her every day and I still perform one of her pieces called The Bible that she wrote when she was a little girl.

smiles and tears

GER: Through Smiles And Tears: The History of African American Theater was a follow up to The Secret Messages in African American Theater. How does this book differ from the first?

KWW:  Through Smiles and Tears is an expanded history of African American Theater beginning with a discussion of performance traditions in Ancient Kemet (Egypt) , southern and West Africa through to the Americas. The book covers plantation performance, African American contributions to dance, minstrelsy, serious drama in the early 1900’s, the anti-lynching plays and African American women playwrights of the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, the Little Theater Movement, the Black Arts Movement (BAM) through to the millennium and August Wilson.

KWillams-Witherspoon 1GER: What poets do you read and what poets have inspired you?

KWW: Again, because I was a library aide all through my public school years, I worked in the school libraries before school, during lunch and free periods and sometimes after school. Books were my friends growing up so I read all the classic writers but were drawn to narrative story poets like Clement Clarke Moore; Edgar Albert Guest and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. But my favorite poets were Paul Lawrence Dunbar, James Weldon Johnson, Langston Hughes, and Robert Haydon. The people who have inspired me were the women who let me be part of their circle here in Philly—Sonia Sanchez, Toni Cade Bambara, Kristen Hunter Lattany, and Sharon Goodman. Etheridge Knight was wonderful, E. Ethelbert Miller encouraged me when I would give him rides to 30th Street Station when Sonia had him  come up every week to teach a workshop to us all. As a playwright, Al Simpkin taught me a lot. John Allen was a warm and wonderful man, Ed Shockley recommended me for the MFA program and then my mentors Robert Hedley and Tom Patterson have been so instrumental to me in my career in the academy. I have been very fortunate!
boom

GER: Please tell us about Countdown to Boom?

KWW: Count Down to Boom was a dance drama that I wrote and co-directed which commemorates the 50th anniversary of the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963, where four little Black girls, Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, Denise McNair and Cynthia Wesley were killed in one of the most horrific acts of domestic terrorism perpetrated against Blacks during the Civil Rights Movement. Count Down to Boom: We All Fall Down was the second collaboration with another Temple mentor, Dr. Kariamu Welsh, that premiered  in April 2013 at Temple University’s Performing Arts Center, as part of the second Philadelphia International Arts Festival (PIFA) thanks to the generous support of Dean Robert Stroker of the Center for the Arts, a Vice Provosts’ Arts Grant, and the departments of Dance and Theater. Count Down to Boom was subsequently remounted at the State Museum in Harrisburg, in February 2014 for Black History Month sponsored by Life Esteem, Inc., The City of Harrisburg Office of Arts, Culture and Tourism; “Some One to Tell It To”, the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts; the State of Museum of Pennsylvania, the American Literacy Corporation, Penn State Harrisburg Outreach, the Subcommittee of the Diversity Education Equity Committee, The Nathaniel Gadsden Writer’s Workshop and Giant Foods. 

facfellows_kimmikaGER: You perform in theater and you perform your poetry at various venues. Do you have favorite venues and what benefits do you receive when interacting with audiences during your performance?

KWW: I have had favorite moments performing. Performing  on the stage of the Majestic Theater in Detroit in front of 4000 audience members was a rush that I’ll never forget. Performing in London in a bookstore in Covent Gardens and at the base of the Washington Monument during the National Black Family Reunion was one for the record books.  When my play, A Woman’s Choice opened at the Cannon Theater in Beverly Hills I thought I had made it! You know…big or small, I love what I do. There have been some monetary benefits along the way but in real life I perform because I have to! The poetry keeps me alive. It demands to be written and it demands to be heard…I’m just the vehicle. I’ve always said, if I couldn’t be a poet, I would probably be a preacher. I don’t know. I see the world this way…as poetry, and songs and stories. My first language is poetry. I write because if I didn’t I don’t know if I would be able to breathe. And I guess I perform for the same reason I still pray…everybody has got to have something to believe in!

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You can read the poetry of Kimmika Williams-Witherspoon in The Fox Chase Review at these links: http://www.thefoxchasereview.org/s14-kwilliamswitherspoon.html http://www.foxchasereview.org/11June/KimmikaWilliams-Witherspoon.html

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Kimmika Williams-Witherspoon at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=dp_byline_sr_book_1?ie=UTF8&field-author=Kimmika+Williams-witherspoon&search-alias=books&text=Kimmika+Williams-witherspoon&sort=relevancerank

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gg emil reutter lives and writes in the Fox Chase neighborhood of Philadlephia, Pa. (USA) https://gereutter.wordpress.com/

 

 

 

The Summer 2014 Edition of The Fox Chase Review is now live

Pennypack Creek between Veree Road and Pine Road- Philadlephia, Pa

The Summer 2014 Edition of The Fox Chase Review is now live for your reading pleasure

Poetry by: Vinita Agrawal, Andrea Applebee, Jose Angel Araguz, Peter Baroth, Mike Cohen, Erin Dorney, Zach Fishel, Kristina Moriconi, Ariana Nadia Nash, Salvwi Prasad, Zvi A. Sesling, Kimmika Williams Witherspoon

Fiction by: Katie Cortese, Beverly Romain and J. Erin Sweeney

The Fox Chase Review can be found here:  http://www.thefoxchasereview.org/