Workshop gives Black poets a voice

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Thanks to a grant from the Aims C. and Betty Lee Coney Memorial Fund of the Pittsburgh Foundation, emerging African-American poets in the Pittsburgh area finally have a chance to have their writing voices heard.

“We’ve had a relationship with the Pittsburgh Foundation for two years and our organization has roots in Pittsburgh. There’s a demand in Pittsburgh for what we do,” said Cave Canem Foundation, Inc. Executive Director Alison Meyers.

The Pittsburgh Foundation works to improve the quality of life to residents in the Pittsburgh region by addressing community issues, connecting donors to critical needs of the community and promoting responsible philanthropy. Established in 1945, The Pittsburgh Foundation is one of the nation’s oldest and is the 15th largest of more than 700 community foundations across the United States. Since its creation, The Pittsburgh Foundation has awarded more than $600 million in grants to charitable organizations in Pittsburgh and throughout the United States.

Cave Canem Foundation, Inc., North America’s home for Black poetry, is conducting the eight-session workshop at the Hill House Association, 1835 Centre Ave­nue, through Nov. 15.

Cave Canem Foundation, Inc. was created in 1996 by fellow poets Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady as a way to remedy the under-representation of African-American poets in writing workshops and MFA programs.

It initially started with 26 poets and has grown to become an influential movement with a renowned facility and a high-achieving national fellowship of 344. Headquartered in Brooklyn, Cave Canem’s numerous programs include a yearly week-long writing retreat at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg; a showcase reading in June sponsored by City Asylum/Pittsburgh; regional workshops, national readings and panels; a first-book award co-sponsored with the University of Pittsburgh Press, Graywolf Press and The University of Georgia Press; and a second-book award co-sponsored with Northwestern University Press.

“We are about the artist and the poem. Some of the most important poetry produced in this country was written by Black poets,” Meyers said. “We provide a safe place for poets of color to do their work. The workshop is dedicated to nurturing and it’s important for individuals to develop their own writing.”

The workshop “Living the Writing Life” will be taught by Cave Canem Foundation, Inc. fellow, Christina Springer.

Springer is a text artist who uses the mediums of poetry, dance, theater film and other forms of expression.  She has taught creative writing at City Lit College and The University of East London. Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies including Gathering Ground: A Cave Canem Reader, The Complete Idiots Guide to Slam Poetry CD and the Comstock Review.

The admission-free workshop offers adult African American poets the opportunity to hone their craft and explore new ways of living a writing life.

“I’m excited about helping eager adults. It’s about finding tools to have the time to do your work in your busy life,” Springer said. “Sometimes as artists we are not aware of how much energy we give away. The poets are asked to approach this playfully and joyfully with an expectation to build on their future.”

(For more information on the Cave Canem Foundation, Inc. visit http://www.cavecanempoets.org.)

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