Visiting Writers: Readings at JMU
This part Furious Flower’s programming has its roots in brown-bag-lunch lectures Dr. Joanne Gabbin began hosting when she was the director of the JMU Honors Program from 1986 until 2005. In many ways, Furious Flower itself grew out of the events Dr. Gabbin organized during her directorship there, including the landmark 1994 poetry conference and its successor in 2004, which led the university to establish the Furious Flower Poetry Center and install her as its executive director in 2005.
Furious Flower presents at least two writers each semester. Each season's reading series is curated to highlight recent accomplishments by writers of color and showcase the diversity of aesthetics within contemporary American poetry. These events are often presented in partnership with other departments at the university and are always free and open to the public.
Who should attend a poetry reading? If you care about contemporary issues and culture, meaning, language, art, history, live performance … or if you want to spend an hour doing something extraordinary, poetry readings are for you. In his article “Poetry Makes You Weird” writer Eric G. Wilson explains that poetry “estranges us from our normal habits of thought and perception, nullifies old conceptual maps, and so propels us into uncharted regions, outlandish and bracing …”.
What will happen at a reading? When read aloud, poetry can become more accessible and immediate. Furious Flower invites accomplished poets to read their work; some will present only recent poems, and they may even include pieces they’re still working out or have yet to publish. Others will read their “greatest hits.” During our spring reading series, a poet reads for 45 minutes, and then we host a Q&A session for the final 15 minutes.
When and where are the readings? Visit our home page for the most up-to-date information on who’s coming to JMU and where you can attend their readings.
We offer these recordings as the next best thing to being here to meet the poets and hear the readings in person. If you’d like to learn more about these writers, be sure to visit The Fight & the Fiddle, our online literary magazine featuring interviews with all of our visiting poets.
Reginald Dwayne Betts | Sept. 17, 2015
Author of the memoir A Question of Freedom (2010) and the poetry collection Shahid Reads His Own Palm (2010), Betts spent more than eight years in prison, where he completed high school and began reading and writing poetry. - See more about his reading at http://www.jmu.edu/events/furiousflower/2015/09/17-reginald-betts.shtml.
Ross Gay | April 1, 2015
As a founding board member of the Community Orchard of Bloomington, IN, Ross Gay is deeply dedicated to sustainability—something that comes through in his abundant and ecstatic poetry. - See more about his reading at http://www.jmu.edu/events/furiousflower/2015/04/01-ross-gay.shtml.
From The Fight & the Fiddle: “Our Beautiful, Decrepit Selves: Interview with Ross Gay.” In this three-part interview with Furious Flower’s assistant director, Elizabeth Hoover, Gay talks about how gardening has changed his approach to writing, the importance of the body in his writing, and his advice to young writers.
Rachel Eliza Griffiths | March 19, 2015
Rachel Eliza Griffiths’ full-length collection, Mule & Pear (2011), was selected for the 2012 Inaugural Poetry Award by the Black Caucus American Library Association. - See more about her reading at http://www.jmu.edu/events/furiousflower/2015/03/19-rachel-eliza-griffiths.shtml.
Kamilah Aisha Moon | Feb. 9, 2015
Kamilah Aisha Moon’s reading featured poems from her collection She Has a Name, which tells the story of a young woman with autism from multiple points of view. - See more about her reading at http://www.jmu.edu/events/furiousflower/2015/02/09-kamilah-aisha-moon.shtml.
Nadine Pinede | April 14, 2014
A writer of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and journalism, Pinede is the author of a poetry chapbook, An Invisible Geography, and her fiction was published in Haiti Noir, edited by Edwidge Danticat. - See more about her reading at http://www.jmu.edu/events/furiousflower/2014/04/14-nadine-pinede-reading.shtml.
Dawn Lundy Martin | April 2, 2014
Martin’s poetry collections include Discipline (2011), chosen by Fanny Howe for the Nightboat Books Prize, and A Gathering of Matter/A Matter of Gathering (2007), which was selected for the Cave Canem Poetry Prize by Carl Phillips and was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. - See more about her reading at https://www.jmu.edu/events/furiousflower/2014/04/02-dawn-lundy-martin-reading.shtml.
Kyle Dargan | October 10, 2013
Dargan’s debut collection, The Listening, was awarded the 2003 Cave Canem Prize, and his sophomore collection, Bouquet of Hungers, won the 2008 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for poetry. - See more about his reading at https://www.jmu.edu/events/furiousflower/2013/10/10-kyle-dargan-reading.shtml.
From The Fight & the Fiddle: “Comprehensive Humanity: Kyle Dargan on Loss, Learning, and Language.” In this three-part interview conducted by Elizabeth Hoover, Dargan discusses limits to poetry’s political efficacy, hip-hop’s influence on him, and how his poetry has changed as he enters his thirties.
Camille Dungy | September 26, 2013
Hailing from San Francisco, Camille Dungy is the author of Smith Blue, winner of the 2010 Crab Orchard Open Book prize. - See more about her reading at http://www.jmu.edu/events/furiousflower/2013/09/26-camille-dungy-reading.shtml.
From The Fight & the Fiddle: “ ‘What I know about writing’: Camille Dungy on the Hard Work of Transformation.” In this three-part interview conducted by Elizabeth Hoover, Dungy talks about how her processes as a poet, editor, and essayist are invested in transformation.
Holly Bass | April 16, 2013
Cave Canem fellow Holly Bass is a writer, performer and director. - See more about her performance (not recorded) at
From The Fight & the Fiddle: “Humor, Pathos, and a Bit of Discomfort: Holly Bass on Peformance, Poetry, and Activism.”
Jericho Brown | February 21, 2013
Jericho Brown is the recipient of the 2009 American Book Award for Please and of the Whiting Writer’s Award. - See more about his reading at http://www.jmu.edu/events/furiousflower/2013/02/21-jericho-brown-reading.shtml.
From The Fight & the Fiddle: “ ‘I'm Not Scared of My Fear’: Jericho Brown on Craft, Politics, and Compassion in Poetry.” In this three-part interview conducted by Elizabeth Hoover, Brown takes on meaty topics with humor and warmth.
To see a list of all the poets who have presented in the Furious Flower Reading Series since 1994, visit our Past Events page.
1994 and 2004 Furious Flower Conferences at James Madison University
In September, 1994, more than thirty presenters discussed the significance and scope of African American poetry to an audience composed of hundreds of poets, scholars, and poetry-enthusiasts. "Furious Flower: A Revolution in African American Poetry" transformed James Madison University into a “literary village.” This was a landmark event, one which paid tribute to the elders of African American poetry such as Gwendolyn Brooks, and ushered forth a new generation of writers.
In September 2004, Furious Flower hosted a second decade-defining conference on African American Poetry, “Regenerating the Black Poetic Tradition” Over 100 presenters, including both established and emerging scholarly and literary voices, visited James Madison University.
Click below for videos of readings by Amiri Baraka, Sonia Sanchez, Mari Evans, Kevin Young, and Rita Dove among many others. Several paper presentations including poet Elizabeth Alexander and scholar Aldon Lynn Nielsen are also available for viewing.