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Executive Director

Joanne V. Gabbin, Ph.D.
Contact Info

A professor of English at James Madison University, Joanne V. Gabbin founded the Furious Flower Poetry Center in 1999, prompted by the overwhelming success of the historic gathering she hosted at the university in 1994, which was the first academic conference on black poetry. As executive director of the center, Dr. Gabbin remains a visionary leader, building key relationships with scholars, poets, and corporate partners, as well as conceiving, overseeing, and fundraising for special projects and events.

She is the author of Sterling A. Brown: Building the Black Aesthetic Tradition, editor of Furious Flower: African American Poetry From the Black Arts Movement to the Present and The Furious Flowering of African American Poetry, and executive producer of the Furious Flower video and DVD series. She is also founder and organizer of the Wintergreen Women Writers’ Collective, owner of the 150 Franklin Street Gallery in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and author of the children’s book, I Bet She Called Me Sugar Plum.

A dedicated teacher and scholar, Dr. Gabbin has received numerous awards for excellence in teaching and scholarship. Among them are the College Language Association Creative Scholarship Award for her book Sterling A. Brown (1986), the James Madison University Faculty Women’s Caucus and Women’s Resource Network for Scholarship (1988), and the Outstanding Faculty Award, Virginia State Council of Higher Education. Recently, Dr. Gabbin was the recipient of two faculty awards: the Provost’s Award for Distinguished Service and the JMU Alumni Distinguished Faculty Award.

In October 2005, Dr. Gabbin was inducted into the International Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent.

Courses Taught

ENG 260 Survey of African American Literature

ENG 360 Major Black Writers

ENG 361 African American Fiction Writers

ENG 362 African American Poets

ENG 410 African American Literary Texts

ENG 412J Life Writing: Lives of Contemporary African American Writers

ENG 672 Studies in African American Literature


Assistant Director

Elizabeth Hoover
Contact Info

Elizabeth Hoover joined the Furious Flower Poetry Center in February 2013. As assistant director, she secures grants and other funding, helps select and present poets for the annual reading series, and is in the process of establishing an online literary journal for the center. She also serves as faculty advisor for Word Is Born Writers' Society.

Ms. Hoover received a combined MFA in Creative Writing and an MA in English Literature at Indiana University. While at Indiana, she received a Project on African Expressive Traditions Grant to conduct original archival research on the poet Robert Hayden. She is currently developing that research into the first full-length biography of Hayden. She is also the author of three biographies for young adults. Her criticism and author interviews have appeared in the Paris Review, Los Angeles Times, and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, among others. As a poet, Ms. Hoover has published widely and in such publications as Poetry Northwest, Massachusetts Review, and New Letters. She is the recipient of a Merida Fellowship to the U.S. Poets in Mexico Conference and a fellowship from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.

Courses Taught

ENG 392 Beginning Creative Writing (Poetry)

Communication Specialist

Karen Risch Mott
Contact Info

Karen Risch Mott manages Furious Flower’s communication with the public through its websites and social media outlets, as well as traditional media outlets, directs the children’s poetry camp, assists with event planning and logistics, and handles many of the business functions of the department.

She began writing professionally in high school, earned a BA in English with a minor in philosophy from California State University, Fullerton, earned a professional certificate in marketing from the University of California, San Diego, and has taught college-level courses in writing, editing, and business. A collaborative writer (“ghostwriter”) who has produced several bestsellers, Ms. Risch Mott continues her freelance work.

2015-16 Furious Flower Advisory Board

Chair: Opal Moore, Atlanta, Ga.
. . .
Lynn Carter, Lansdowne, Va.
Jon Cawthorne, Morgantown, W.Va.
Carter Moffett Douglass, Staunton, Va.
John Lowe, Athens, Ga.
Patrick Oliver, Little Rock, Ark.
Saranna Rankin, Broadway, Va.
Myra Sklarew, Bethesda, Md.
Stephanie Wilson, Harrisonburg, Va.
. . .
Members Emeriti:
Deborah Gille, Carolina Beach, N.C.
Merle Wenger, Harrisonburg, Va.