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Furious Flower: Seeding the Future of African American Poetry

Wed, 24 Sep 2014 8:00 AM - Sat, 27 Sep 2014 9:00 PM

Seeding the Future of African American Poetry: Sept. 24-27, 2014Held only once a decade, this much-anticipated gathering of poets and scholars features readings by many of the best established and emerging African American poets writing today—and all of these readings are free and open to the public.

For more information, including a pdf of the conference program booklet, and to reserve your place at the Furious Flower Poetry Conference, please visit, or call us at (540) 568-8883.

James Madison University and the Furious Flower Poetry Center are committed to creating events that are accessible to all. If you need an accommodation related to a disability or condition please contact us at least two weeks in advance to ensure that we are able to best meet your needs. You can email or call Elizabeth Hoover: or 540-568-2694.

Photos, videos, blogs and more:

Features from The Fight & the Fiddle on photographers C. B. Claiborne and Erica Cavanagh with links to photo albums on Flickr

Student work (JMU, October 2014):

“With Good Reason” features the conference - Furious Flower Honors Rita Dove” (WMRA, October 10, 2014)

Kelli Stevens Kane, who stepped in at the last minute to host our open mic, considers her impromptu performances at the conference - “My Furious Flower of Improv” (October 5, 2014)

Shirley Hershey Showalter’s thoughts about this event and civil rights - “Black Like Me: What I Learned by Listening to Black Voices Then and Now” (October 1, 2014)

Patricia Spears Jones’ reflections on poetry after-hours at the conference, and writing and reading and sex - “Let’s Talk About the Midnight Ramble” (Poetry Foundation blog, September 29, 2014)

JMU’s profile of Lifetime Achievement Award honoree Yusef Komunyakaa - “Furious Flower Poet Shows Us the Power of Words” by Anna Lee Goocher (The Breeze, September 28, 2014)

Photos from the reception at Duke Hall Gallery showcasing the artwork of Wole Lagunju (The Breeze online, September 25, 2014)

Dr. Joanne Gabbin on Harrisonburg’s public radio - “Once a Decade Black Poetry Conference Returns” (WMRA, September 22, 2014)

Mention of the conference in the Washington Post - “More Poetry News” (Style blog, September 22, 2014)

Why the 2014 Furious Flower Poetry Conference was called a “Return to ‘Black Poetry Planet’ ” (JMU, March 18, 2014)

Furious Flower Poetry Center’s Facebook page

JMU’s 2014 Furious Flower Poetry Conference Coverage page

Schedule of Events

The following is subject to change as we get closer to the conference. Last updated September 22, 2014. Most of the events are free and open to the public. Those *with asterisks* require registration or tickets.

If you intend to drive onto the JMU campus, please consult our parking guide.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

1 – 5 p.m. Registration, Festival Conference Center (upper level)

6 – 7:30 Gallery opening and reception, Duke Hall Gallery

Meet the artist and view his work: Time collapses as Nigerian artist Wole Lagunju merges images from the Victorian era with Yoruba Gelede to create intriguing paintings, and pop culture becomes bedfellows with archetypal imagery in his kaleidoscopic works. Such genre-bending speaks to the notions of identity, gender, power, and difference. It also generates conversations about multiculturalism, globalization and transcultural ethos.

8 p.m. *Opening concert,* Forbes Center for the Performing Arts

Fusion: Poetry Voiced in Choral Song: featuring Aurelia Williams (soloist), Morgan State University Choir directed by Eric Conway), and JMU Chorale (directed by Jo-Anne van der Vat-Chromy) with original music composed by Randy Klein and based on the poetry of Margaret Walker, Michael Harper, and Yusef Komunyakaa

(Your ticket for this concert is included with conference registration. If you want to purchase additional tickets, you can do so here.)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Registration, Festival Conference Center Lobby

8 – 8:30 a.m. *Continental breakfast,* Festival Conference Center Ballroom

8:30 – 9:15 a.m. Opening session, Festival Conference Center Ballroom

Documentary: Furious Flower I and II

Occasion by Joanne Gabbin, Executive Director of Furious Flower Poetry Center, JMU

Welcome by Jonathan Alger, President of James Madison University

Remarks by Jerry Benson, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, JMU

9:30 – 11:30 a.m. Critics’ roundtable, Festival Conference Center Ballroom

The Black Avant-Garde: Formal Poetic Innovation by Black Artists in America, moderated by Lauri Ramey, California State University, Los Angeles; with Aldon Lynn Nielson, Mendi Lewis Obadike, C. S. Giscombe, Douglas Kearney, Mark McMorris, Tyrone Williams, Meta DuEwa Jones

11:45 a.m. – 1:15 p.m. Lunch break

1:30 – 3:30 p.m. Special session, Festival Conference Center Ballroom

S.O.S. Calling All Black People: Honoring the Memory of Amiri Baraka, a panel discussion with John H. Bracey, Jr., Sonia Sanchez, and James Smethurst; poetry readings by Tony Medina, jessica Care moore, Evie Shockley, Quincy Troupe, Haki Madhubuti

4 – 5:15 p.m. Concurrent sessions, Taylor Hall 

Black Aesthetics (Taylor 302)
Moderator: Arlette Miller Smith, John Fisher College

Panther Teacher: Sarah Webster Fabio and the Black Arts Movement    
Michael New, Keene State College

Sonia Sanchez: Inviting Ancestors to Chandelier Sound   
Becky Thompson, Simmons College

We Are Cowboys in the Boat of Ra: Sonny Rollins and Ishmael Reed’s Black Cowboy   
Brian Flota, James Madison University

Chain-Chain-Change Your Mind: The Rhetorical Successes of the Black Arts Movement
Sarah RudeWalker, Penn State University

Black Poetry = Black Pedagogy? (Taylor 405)

We Poets Too: The Dynamics and Consequence of Rap as an Area of Concentration for the MFA in Creative Writing 
Dennis Winston, Howard University

Don’t Deny My Voice: Seeding Poetry and the Poetics of Effective Instruction and Learning 
Jeffrey D. Mack, Albany (GA) State University (moderator); Zanice Bond, Tuskeegee University; Deborah Ford, Mississippi Valley State University

Craft Focus: Metaphor (Taylor 305)

Metaphor beyond Hermeneutics in the Book of Isaiah
Valerie Sweeney Prince, Allegheny College

Navigating the Binary and the Redefinition of Blackness 
Hoke (Bro Yao) Glover, Bowie State University

Recapitulation, Prophecy, and Power: Metaphor, Mullen, and Muse Drudge
Monifa A. Love Asante, Bowie State University

In the Tradition (Taylor 309)

Celebrating the 21st Anniversary of a Seminal Anthology of Young Black Writers  
Kimberly A. Collins, Spalding University (moderator); Artress Bethany White, Carson-Newman University; Esther Iverem, Washington, D.C.; Tony Medina, Howard University; Thomas Sayers Ellis, Lesley University

Poets of Place: Margaret Walker and Brenda Marie Osbey (Taylor 306)
Moderator: Deborah McDowell, University of Virginia 

For Her People: A Tribute to Margaret Walker
Page Laws, Norfolk State University

Summoning Our Saints: The Poetry of Brenda Marie Osbey 
Thadious Davis, University of Pennsylvania; John Wharton Lowe, University of Georgia; Reggie Scott Young, University of Louisiana, Lafayette; Malin Pereira, University of North Carolina, Charlotte

Poetry of the Black Diaspora: Transgressing Borders (Taylor 402)

The Metic Experience of the Black British Writer: Challenging the Margins 
Malika Booker, London, England; Roger Robinson, London, England; Nick Makoha, London, England

Talking Trethewey, Talking Truth, Talking Time (Taylor 400)
Moderator: Opal Moore, Spelman College

Ruthless Memory in Thrall and Native Guard
Keith Leonard, American University

Natasha Trethewey’s Thrall: History, Truth, and Resonance
Annette Debo, Western Carolina University

The Poetics of Time and Place in Natasha Trethewey 
Meta DuEwa Jones, Howard University

History, Memory, and Nostalgia in the Works of Natasha Trethewey 
Nagueyalti Warren, Emory University

5:30 – 7:30 p.m. Dinner break

8 – 10:30 p.m. Poetry reading, Wilson Hall Auditorium

Nikki Giovanni, Thomas Sayers Ellis (with James Brandon Lewis and Luke Stewart), Brenda Marie Osbey, Marilyn Nelson, Aracelis Girmay, Afaa Michael Weaver, Patricia Smith, Major Jackson

Friday, September 26, 2014

8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Registration, Festival Conference Center Lobby

7:30 – 8:30 a.m. *Continental breakfast,* Taylor Hall (307)

8 – 9:15 a.m. Concurrent sessions, Taylor Hall

Blues across Borders (Taylor 302)
Moderator: J. Indigo Eriksen, Northern Virginia Community College

The Evolving Imagination in Two Pan-African Poetic Forms
Anthony Kellman, Georgia Regents University

The Diasporic Crux: The Sculpted Ocean in “Requiem for Aunt May” by Ishion Hutchinson and “Griot or Keeper of Begots” by Erica Hunt  
Mildred R. Mickle, Penn State University

The Landscape of Exile in the Poetry of Dennis Brutus and Arthur Nortje 
Stan Galloway, Bridgewater College

Jayne Cortez and Circum-Atlantic Dialogue
Renee M. Kingan, College of William and Mary

“For a Single, Beautiful Word”: The Construction of Blackness in the Parsley Massacre
J. Indigo Eriksen, Northern Virginia Community College

The Crucible of Affrilachia (Taylor 400)

The Affrilachian States of America: Making a Space for Black Regional Poetry  
Keith S. Wilson, Covington, Kentucky 

“Scratch Out a New Picture”: Seven Years of pluck! Magazine
Mitchell L. H. Douglas (moderator), Indiana University; Phillip B. Williams, Washington University, St. Louis; Aziza D. Barnes, New York; Nate Marshall, University of Michigan; Ama Codjoe, Bronx, New York

Form as Resistance: Performance and Composition Strategies in the Avant-Garde (Taylor 305)
Moderator: Hilary Holladay, University of Virginia 

“Who Stole the Soul?”: An Avant-Garde History of the Dark Room Collective 
Keith D. Leonard, American University

“Soundtrack for a Generational Shift”: The Visual Representation of Music in Evie Shockley’s The New Black 
Laura E. Vrana, Penn State University

Loud and Queer: Spoken Word Poetics and Sexual Politics  
McKinley Melton, Gettysburg College

Sex as Resistance in the Poetry of Melvin Dixon
Christopher Rose, Portland Community College

Green Is the New Black (Taylor 404)

Black and Green and Read All Over: African American Nature Poetics 
Camille T. Dungy, Colorado State University (moderator); Douglas Kearney, CalArts; Gregory Pardlo, Columbia University; Kendra Hamilton, Presbyterian College

Keeping the Torch Lit (Taylor 402)

The Furious Flower Poetry Summer Seminars on Lucille Clifton (2009) and
Sonia Sanchez (2011)
DaMaris Hill, University of Kentucky (moderator); Becky Thompson, Simmons College; Antoinette Brim, Capital Community College; Sandra Staton-Taiwo, Alabama State University; Patricia Biela, Hampton, Virginia; Colena Corbett, University of South Carolina

The Power of Collectives (Taylor 405)

Carolina African American Writers Collective: A Critical Fellowship 
Lenard D. Moore, University of Mount Olive (moderator); L. Teresa Church, Durham, North Carolina; Raina J. Leon, St. Mary’s College; Grace C. Ocasio, Charlotte, North Carolina

The Watering Hole: A Space that Sustains Black Poetry and Community 
Candace G. Wiley, University of South Carolina; Monifa Lemons, Columbia, South Carolina; Remica Bingham-Risher, Old Dominion University; Amoja "MoMan" Sumler, University of Arkansas at Little Rock; Jennifer Bartell, Coastal Carolina University

Publishing Visionaries (Taylor 306)

Willow Books and the Future of African American Poetry 
Reginald Flood, Eastern Connecticut State University; Derrick Harriell, University of Mississippi; Randall Horton, University of New Haven; featuring readings by Kelly Norman Ellis, Chicago State University; Curtis L. Crisler, Indiana University, Perdue University Fort Wayne

10 a.m. – 12 p.m. Critics’ roundtable, Festival Conference Center Ballroom

Diaspora Poetry: Black Poetry Crossing, Expanding, and Challenging Borders, moderated by Daryl Cumber Dance, University of Richmond; with Kwame Dawes, Brenda Marie Osbey, Lorna Goodison

12:15 – 1:45 p.m. Lunch break

*Laureate’s luncheon,* Festival Conference Center Ballroom (advance purchase of tickets required; registration closes 9/16/14)

Introduction by Nikki Giovanni, Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech

Keynote by Rita Dove, Commonwealth Professor at University of Virginia

Closing remarks by Dolores Kendrick, Poet Laureate of the District of Columbia

2:15 – 4:45 p.m. Poetry reading, Wilson Hall Auditorium

Rita Dove, Frank X Walker, Ekere Mariahadessa Tallie, Elizabeth Alexander, Cornelius Eady, Toi Derricotte, Yusef Komunyakaa, Ishmael Reed

6:00 – 7 p.m. Gallery reception, Festival Conference Center's Lisanby Museum
(Note: this is correct; the start time was revised after our program booklet went to print.)

For the 2004 Furious Flower Poetry Conference, Malaika Favorite was commissioned to paint a 24-portrait museum piece to serve as the major attraction, and it is featured here. Favorite layered the portraits of famous black poets with fragments of the poets’ writing and images to create, as art historian Maureen Shanahan writes in the International Journal of Art & Design Education (June 2010), “an interactive visual-textual body of poets and poetry.”

7:30 – 10 p.m. *Lifetime Achievement awards gala,* Festival Conference Center Ballroom

Rita Dove presented by Elizabeth Alexander

Toi Derricotte presented by Cornelius Eady

Michael Harper presented by Anthony Walton

Yusef Komunyakaa presented by Hermine Pinson

Marilyn Nelson presented by Opal Moore

Quincy Troupe presented by Keith Gilyard

Ishmael Reed presented by Mursalata Muhammad

Special performance by Orchesis Dance Ensemble, Bethune-Cookman University (Carla Lester, director) 

10:30 p.m. – 1 a.m. Poetry jam, Festival Conference Center Ballroom

Tyehimba Jess, Kamilah Aisha Moon, Dawn Lundy Martin, Douglas Kearney, Mendi Lewis Obadike, Tennessee Reed, Duriel Harris; with music by DJ Phaze

Saturday, September 27, 2014

7:30 – 8:30 a.m. *Continental breakfast,* Taylor Hall (307)

8 – 9:15 a.m. Concurrent sessions, Taylor Hall 

Archaeologies and Archives: Uncovering the Silenced Voices of Women (Taylor 302)
Moderator: Patricia Lespinasse, Binghamton University

“It Is Dangerous to Defy the Gods”: The Poetics and Politics of Silence in Women’s Poetry of the Harlem Renaissance
Michelle J. Pinkard, Tennessee State University

Recognizably (new) Black: Reading Evie Shockley’s “mesostics”
Sequoia Maner, University of Texas at Austin

Archaeologies of Black Women’s Memory: Grace Nichols’s I is a long memoried woman and Nagueyalti Warren’s Margaret
Shirley Toland- Dix, UNCF/Mellon Programs

Beast Inside: The Trope of the Animal in African American Poetry (Taylor 306)

Writing as Metamorphosis in Thylias Moss’s Slave Moth
Jeffery Westover, Boise State University

Everything Is Animal
Aracelis Girmay, Hampshire College; Rachel Eliza Griffiths, Sarah Lawrence College; Kamilah Aisha Moon, Medgar Evers College; Samantha Thornhill, Juilliard School

Interrogating the Avant-Garde (Taylor 400)

What Is African American about the Black Avant-Garde? 
Erica Hunt, New York (moderator); Tonya Foster, City University of New York; Dawn Lundy Martin, University of Pittsburgh; John Keene, Rutgers University; Tyrone Williams, Xavier University; Evie Shockley, Rutgers University

Reimagining Tropes (Taylor 305)
Moderator: Dana Williams, Howard University

Landscape, Love, and the Likeness of Black Women in the Poetry of Frank X Walker
Shauna Morgan Kirlew, Howard University

“Shut Your Rhetorics in a Box”: Social Commentary in Gwendolyn Brooks’s The Anniad 
Bryan Duncan, Bridgewater College

“Live in the Along”: Temporal Vocabularies in Gwendolyn Brooks’s Poems of Childhood  
Rachel Conrad, Hampshire College

In between the Sacred and the Violated: Understanding Rita Dove’s Mother Love
Althea Tait, University of Arizona

Technology-Driven Composition (Taylor 402)

Visual Poetry
Reginald O. Johns, Hampton, Virginia

Electronic Corpse: The Role of Social Media in Collaborative Poetry-Making
M. Ayodele Heath, Atlanta, Georgia; Christina Springer, Santa Clara, California; Joel Dias-Porter, Atlantic City, New Jersey

Golden Shovel Anthology Honoring Gwendolyn Brooks
Peter Kahn, Chicago, Illinois; Patricia Smith, College of Staten Island, CUNY

10 a.m. – 12 p.m. Critics’ roundtable, Grafton-Stovall Theatre

Going Too Far: The Queer Poetics Distraction from Issues of Race and Class, moderated by Jericho Brown, Emory University; with Mendi Lewis Obadike, Roger Reeves, L. Lamar Wilson

12 – 1:15 p.m. Lunch break

12:30 – 3 p.m. Special session for K – 12 teachers, Taylor Hall (405)

Presented by University of Virginia’s Center for Liberal Arts: an introductory panel on teaching African American poetry (confers professional development credits and requires separate registration; email or register onsite)

1:30 – 3 p.m. Open mic, Grafton-Stovall Theatre

Emcee: Tim Seibles, Old Dominion University

Special performance by dance students, JMU School of Theatre and Dance (Cynthia Thompson, director)

3:30 – 5:30 p.m. Poetry reading, Grafton-Stovall Theatre

Remica Bingham-Risher, Jericho Brown, Camille Dungy, Patricia Spears Jones, Samantha Thornhill, A. Van Jordan, Michael Harper

5:45 – 7:45 p.m. Dinner break

8 – 10:30 p.m. *Conference finale,* Wilson Hall Auditorium

Praised for his music’s “elusive beauty” (DownBeat), and for his “style informed by tradition but not encumbered by it” (Philadelphia City Paper), saxophonist Ravi Coltrane brings his quartet to JMU for the close of the 2014 Furious Flower Poetry Conference. 

(Your ticket for this concert is included with conference registration. Additional tickets are available for purchase here.)

Ongoing Exhibits

Visit any of these installations and exhibits throughout the conference.

Art of Wole Lagunju at Duke Hall Gallery; see description above for the opening on Wednesday, 9/24, at 6 p.m. The exhibit is open throughout the conference, 10am-5pm.

The Growing Exhibit at Carrier Library: C. B. Claiborne captures the spontaneous, impulsive, reflective, and unexpected moments of the 2014 Furious Flower Poetry Conference on film. Photographs are added to the digital exhibit each day, culminating in a conference vignette.

Standing Among Poets in Warren Hall (Transitions): Photos captured and selected by Lynda Koolish feature Lucille Clifton among her poet friends. Other photographs made by C. B. Claiborne show the spirit of artistic community that formed during previous Furious Flower poetry conferences.

Beyond Mountains in the Festival Conference Center lobby (near registration tables): Photos by students in the fall 2013 “Performance for the Lens” class taught by JMU’s Professor of Art, Corinne Diop, are based on Nadine Pinede’s chapbook, An Invisible Geography.

Art of Malaika Favorite at Festival's Lisanby Museum; see description above for the reception on 9/26 at 6pm. The exhibit is open throughout the conference, 10am-4pm.

Furious Flower Conference Exhibit in Warren Hall (Transitions): The JMU Bookstore features the books of poets and critics participating in the conference. More than 100 titles are available. In addition, select items from the Furious Flower catalog are on display and available for purchase. This exhibit opens Thursday, September 25 (2-6pm) and continues Friday, September 26 (8am-6pm) and Saturday, September 27 (8am-6pm).

Artifacts at Warren Hall patio: Vendors are on hand throughout the conference approximately 9am-5pm with fabrics, clothing, jewelry, perfumes, art, and artifacts. In case of rain, the vendor exhibits will be housed inside Warren Hall (Transitions).