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Executive Director

Joanne V. Gabbin, Ph.D.
Contact Info

A professor of English at James Madison University, Joanne V. Gabbin was the director of the JMU Honors Program when she hosted the premier Furious Flower Poetry Conference in 1994, which was the first academic conference on Black poetry. She continued to invite Black poets and other scholars to the JMU campus under the auspices of the Honors Program (calling these guest lectures and readings Furious Flower events), and in 2005, after the grand success of another major Furious Flower Poetry Conference in 2004, JMU formally established the Furious Flower Poetry Center, the first and at the time only academic center devoted to Black poetry. Dr. Gabbin left her beloved position with the Honors Program to become executive director of the new center. Since then, Gabbin has served as 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 the fall of 2016, the JMU Office of Sponsored Programs recognized her success with external funders with a Lifetime Achievement 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

Lauren K. Alleyne
Contact Info

Associate Professor of English at James Madison University, Lauren K. Alleyne serves as Furious Flower’s Assistant Director, seeking funding through grants and gifts; envisioning and planning events; editing the center's online journal, The Fight & the Fiddle, and other literary projects; and advising JMU’s student creative writing organization, Word is Born. She hails from the twin-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago and holds an MFA in Poetry and a graduate certificate in Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from Cornell University. Her fiction, poetry, and nonfiction have been widely pulished in journals and anthologies, and she is a Cave Canem graduate who has been awarded numerous prizes, including the 2016 Split This Rock Poetry Prize, the 2015 Iowa Arts Council Fellowship Award, the 2015 Picador Guest Professorship in Literature at the University of Leibzig, a 2012 Lyrical Iowa Award, 2010 Small Axe Literary Prize, and honorable mention in the 2010 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. 

Her first full-length book of poetry, Difficult Fruitwas published in 2014 by Peepal Tree Press, and the Difficult Fruit/Lauren K. Alleyne Poetry Prize was established by the journal, IthacaLit, in 2015.


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.

Graduate Assistant

John McCray
Contact Info

John McCray assists in planning and executing Furious Flower’s events, supports the operations of the academic center, and works with the student organization Word is Born Writers' Society. He recently graduated with his B.S. in Public Policy & Administration and Psychology from James Madison University and is currently pursuing his Master of Public Administration degree, concentrating in Non-Profit Management. He is involved in several projects with non-profits around the greater Harrisonburg area, promoting and advocating for social and environmental justice.

Student Assistant

Mary Hannah Vaughn

Hannah Vaughn assists Furious Flower primarily by producing posters and flyers for readings and other events, as well as writing for The Fight & the Fiddle. She is an undergraduate student pursing a degree in Health Services Administration at James Madison University. 

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.
Christopher Jones, Harrisonburg, Va.
John Lowe, Athens, Ga.
Patrick Oliver, Chicago, Ill.
Saranna Rankin, Broadway, Va.
Myra Sklarew, Bethesda, Md.
Paul Somers, Harrisonburg, Va.
Stephanie Wilson, Harrisonburg, Va.
. . .
Members Emeriti:
Deborah Gille, Carolina Beach, N.C.
Merle Wenger, Harrisonburg, Va.