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Visiting Writers: Readings at JMU

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.

Be sure to visit our home page for the most up-to-date information on when and where all of our events occur.

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, visit The Fight & The Fiddle, which features interviews with them, critical essays on their work, poems, and writing prompts they’ve inspired.

Yusef Komunyakaa | June 23, 2017

Yusef Komunyakaa’s style, known for its musicality, muscularity, and fine attention to craft, produces a poetics of witness—of clear-sighted, unflinching seeing—that compels readers to locate themselves solidly in the moment of the poem, whether it details the ordinary movements of daily life, reenters the otherworld of mythology, or recounts the harrowing details of life in combat. See more at

Gwendolyn Brooks Centennial Poetry Prize winners | April 17, 2017

In 2017, in honor of the 100th anniversary of Gwendolyn Brooks's birthday, Furious Flower awarded its $2,000 poetry prize to Tiana Clark. Clemonce Heard earned an honorable mention, and both read alongside judge Patricia Smith at JMU during National Poetry Month. Furious Flower has since made this an annual prize.

Gregory Pardlo | Mar. 23, 2017

Gregory Pardlo won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for poetry for his book Digest. His book was also shortlisted for the​ 2015 NAACP Image Award and was a finalist for the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award. (See more at:

Pardlo was the featured poet in our Summer 2017 issue of The Fight & The Fiddle.

Lauren K. Alleyne | Nov. 10, 2016

Lauren K. Alleyne’s writing reveals a personal story of love and loss, violence and connection. She read from her debut collection, Difficult Fruit, soon after her arrival at JMU as Furious Flower’s new Assistant Director and Associate Professor of English. - See more at:

Danez Smith | Oct. 13, 2016

Danez Smith’s work encompasses race, class, sexuality, faith, and social justice. An accomplished slam poet, Smith moves “from page to stage” using rhythm and images to dismantle oppression and transcend boundaries  - See more at:

Yona Harvey | Nov. 5, 2016

Poet Bruce Lowry characterized Harvey’s writing as “combustion and passion ... music and poetry ... often about the heart, but also about heartbreak and struggle and resilience of spirit.” - See more at:

From The Fight & the Fiddle: Yona Harvey does not need a brand.” In this three-part interview with Elizabeth Hoover, Harvey discusses how she has come to embrace her chaotic life, use her attraction to polyphonic writing, and find the power within doubt and uncertainty.

Karenne Wood | Oct. 6, 2015

Known for her poetry and for her scholarship in tribal history, Wood is a member of the Monacan Indian tribe. - See more about her reading at


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

From The Fight & the Fiddle: A Broken Epic for the Black Community: Interview with R. Dwayne Betts. In this three-part interview with Furious Flower’s assistant director, Elizabeth Hoover, Betts discusses his education as a poet, his stance on form, and the differences between writing nonfiction and poetry.

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

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 

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

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

From The Fight & the Fiddle: “On the Border: Interview with Nadine Pinede.” In this two-part interview with Elizabeth Hoover, Pinede talks about her poetry, prose, and Haiti’s influence on both.

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

From The Fight & the Fiddle: Revolutionary poetics: Dawn Lundy Martin on experimentation, collaboration, and the university.” In this two-part interview with Elizabeth Hoover, Martin describes her writing process, some of the ideas that inform her work, and the need for “oppositional poetics.”

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

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

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

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.

View the Furious Flower conference readings.