Monday, May 04, 2015

Women Writers in Bloom Poetry Salon & Open Mic

Xánath Caraza

Women Writers in Bloom Poetry Salon & Open Mic

Last November, I had the honor to be a guest poet for the Women Writers in Bloom Poetry Salon & Open Mic that J. P. Howard organizes fiercely in New York City.  I had a great time, met with wonderful writers and poets.  In addition to my poetry presentation, I gave a poetry workshop on the same day.  Our workshop had it all; it was emotional, powerful and most importantly meaningful. 

Poetry Workshop by Xanath Caraza

Today I want to share some of the poems that were a result of that workshop in November by several of the salon members.  Then I want to share a short interview to J. P. Howard about her just recently published poetry collection Say /Mirror (The Operating System, 2015).  Congratulations to J. P. Howard and all the members of Women Writers in Bloom Poetry Salon.  It was a great joy to spend a day with you all, and thank you to Martine Bisagni for opening the doors of her wonderful Art Gallery, Brooklyn Workshop Gallery.  Thank you to Poets & Writers for their support and Special thanks to Golda Solomon for opening the doors of her home.

Martine Bisagni and Brooklyn Workshop Gallery

Los Poemas

Yasmin Lancaster, Xanath Caraza


© Yasmin Lancaster


He thinks I want soy in my blue china tea-cup instead of milk.
Soy brings on extra estrogen and so I must want to be a superwoman more feminine, more pink, more lace, more tongues stay hidden in delicate blossoms of folded unseen petals.
Soy -He is pleased and happy to oblige
The thunder rattle of my teacup bumps the yo and its shatters onto the floor. He mistakes soy, for milk.

A whispered bee adds nothing to the natural salty sounds that vibrate above us. Neighbors in love with each other, noisily, proudly, enthusiastically. They smell of mornings that don't require coffee to stay up. No milk to prolong sleep.

I envy them.

November, in this boogie, plum, pink, swollen bee hive, is a home
that Noah and his wife abandoned before the floods came.
We are left with the relics of African masks and Mexicans roosters 
some purchased in Ikea. Others at Target.
All made to look like we travelled together.
My spoon, is heavy like a cloud that wishes to rain but waits for a sign from God.

62 ways to look at the world.
My mouth is filled with the rejected pollen of a confused bee.
I used to think our difference made us hip.
His struggle to roll r over valleys and canals was my pride hard won.

Exceptional, special exotic
and so is he to me
and he to I
and I to I
but yo soy  
reminds me that my heart is a split space.

A split heart like the Frida painting he says I remind him of.


© Carmen Bardeguez-Brown

I am
And the tender meat of ripe mangos.

My skin have bathe in crimson roses
And birth life
In a jungle
Of impossibilities.

This body have
Rebirth scars
That lacerated the souls of thousands of warriors
Like an amazon
I fought my right
To caress my wounds
And seed the pain
In kisses
Engulf in the aroma of orchids.

I breathe cinnamon
Sweet coconut milk travels through my veins.

I am
Spicy peppers
Marinated in the warm
Sweet oil
Of ancient olives.

I am rhythms
Bongos and clave
Ancient movements
In every cellular DNA strand.
Yemaya is my mother
My spirit is thunder.

I create universes
One at a time.

I am the daughter
Of every dream
At any time.

I am what I am

A unique


Women Writers in Bloom, November 2014



Blue Ocean Poem
© JP Howard

I see myself a blue ocean.
Skin glistening, my reflection an indigo mural.
My body a splash of golden sunrise.
I am reborn in thunder.
Hear me roar,
as waves wash over me.
I exhale and release this violent storm.
My body becomes an ocean opening to you.
Floating, I reflect love.
Now, I am a love poem tattooed on your fingers.

JP Howard


© Diana McClure

Divine Shakti, Yanga
Partner to Tonantzin
Ekphrastic Mary
Mother of Jesus
Celestial Whisperer
Washed in Red
Calmed in Blue
Healed in Green
62 ways of seeing
shake free to the essence
whole, bright
vast, vibrant
Sculptor of power
Shades of pleasure
I and I
Free of perception
A dancer on the wind
The snake


Power to perform
Withstand the labyrinth
Slave to ideas
Generator of ideas
Liberator of ideas
Free to dissolve


Grounded in source


Women Writers in Bloom, November 2014

© Kimberly Reyes

On still Saturdays, I’d disappear
into a plush brown
love seat in grandmother’s faded beige  
living room. We’d watch white
dead-eyed, slashers
expose eager, screaming bodies.
Jason, Freddy, and Michael-
masked stowaways
(I understood to be)
birthed beneath the red Atlantic,
explaining gore and the many doors of
no return to a child, prying
for a way back home.

We were one
we were Mestizo Red,
my yellow grandmother and me.
The machete sugarcane bled
Red on the island
dark and Jíbaro, Salinas poor,
Red was the language we spoke,
fertile in storied humility. 
The good Red on the Mainland,
the mixed and other and ancient and othered,
rich ‘got some Indian in me’ reigning Red
whose scorn I

I didn’t know then.

my mutilated being

my maternal brown stain


“why is your last name Reyes?”
“is your husband Spanish?”
Then, we only had the scripted anodyne
Red leaking out of the screen.


River Goddess
© Nichelle Johnson

She was blue black and
headless once she left the river
full round body with breasts
adorned like two gilded shields

They said she always appeared this way
from the middle of the river
always naked, always armed, her Olmec
head left behind to guard the river

She came on nights when
too many women had been violated
beaten by their lovers or their
own children, moon near full

On those nights, those men or boys
would awaken black and blue
from her revenge, she made them
sip river water to keep it secret

she whispered an ancestral song
in their ear, so when they awoke
they heard the river’s sweet swoosh
and hummed the peculiar tune

They forget the beating
even her presence, but each night
the moon’s presence reminded them to be
tender to their mothers and their lovers

Poetry Workshop by Xanath Caraza

Palenquera de San Basilio*
© Mireya Pérez

"Palenquera, palenquera
  ¿Dónde está tu tabaco?"

    ¿ónde está, ónde está?
     con los cangrejos azules
     allá en la playa
    mi humo flota cantos
    flota aires en Bantú

    Wind winding
    swirls swirling
    past the crying river

    palenque, palenque
   aquí en mi San Basilio
   my swirls float
   mi canto libre

    "palenquera, palenquera"


* The First Freed Africans in the Americas (1691 Royal Decree from the Spanish Crown) were the San Basilio Africans from the Caribbean coast of Colombia.



The Way to Live Beside History
© Sherese Francis
These vines growing out of the heart
will give birth to a forest of eyes, leaves
that are witness to the red rivers weeping
into them; they breathe the sounds
of spirits strumming the wind with their wings,
the soft wind that moves faces carved in stone.
This is the enchantment of a forest we find down the
overgrown stairs that lead to the sanctuary of soul,
where these hands birthed from its soil conjures red
hummingbird blossoms into being, turns divine songs
through trembling trees into other gifts of sight. Transformed
are these spirits that rode on the tongue, fly from the mouth;  
the tongue itself a wand, a spear of magic,
a snake on its edge of change, a snake on the edge
of truth, a snake on the edge of death. Here is
secrets of a body in rapture of knowing; a body that is
a labyrinth of stars writings tattooed on its skin;
a body twisting itself to look back as it glides forward.

Women Writers in Bloom, November 2014


La Entrevista

SAY / MIRROR by JP HOWARD (The Operating System, 2015)

Xánath Caraza: Who are JP Howard and Women Writers in Bloom?

JP Howard: JP Howard is a lesbian-identified poet, mother, activist, partner, Salon curator, nurturer and Leo Diva. Women Writers in Bloom Poetry Salon (WWBPS) is my literary baby! WWBPS is a forum offering women writers at all levels a venue to come together in a positive and supportive space via monthly New York-based literary Salons. Each month the Salon travels to a different location (usually in NY and sometimes out-of-state), either in the homes generous Salon members or in low-cost or donated community spaces. Each month the Salon has  a new featured poet who facilitates an interactive writing workshop, followed by a featured poets reading and a Q & A with the author. We always end with an open mic open to all participants. The Salons are these nurturing and creative spaces where we share potluck meals and celebrate the power of our words. Our Salons members are incredibly diverse and our members represent a gorgeous rainbow of poets. I’m most proud that I have created and nurtured a safe, nurturing space for women, most of whom are women of color, many of whom are LGBTQ and I love that we are women of all ages, ethnicities and backgrounds. We just celebrated our Four Year Anniversary with an amazing celebration surrounded by community and Salon members for National Poetry Month.


XC: What is the title of your book and what is it about?

JPH: My book SAY/MIRROR was published in 2015 by The Operating System. It is my first full length book of poetry.  It is a book of poems and her stories/histories. The book includes vintage photographs of my mother, Ruth King, from the 1950’s and 1940’s. She was a runway model in Harlem before I was born, and the book includes gorgeous vintage photos of her, along with some childhood pictures of me. So much of my childhood was surrounded by photographs and portraits of my Mom in our Sugar Hill, Harlem apartment, as well as tons of photos and studio shots my Mom had taken of me as a child. The book allowed me to peer through multiple lenses to explore our often complicated mother/daughter relationship.  


XC: How was the writing process of SAY / MIRROR?

JPH: In some ways, I’ve been writing this book my whole life; by that I mean I’ve been unearthing this story, this memoir/biography/visual tale for much of my life and now I’ve transformed it into poetry. It is nearly impossible to grow up with a Mom who happens to also be a Leo Diva runway model and not be influenced by the mirrors and the reflections which surrounded me growing up. The book explores our often challenging relationship of mother and daughter and puts a lens on various levels of objectification. The process of writing poems that went into the final draft occurred off and on over a few years. Much of it was written during various retreats, residences and fellowships, including during my time as a Cave Canem Fellow, while at VONA (Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation) Writers Workshop and as a Lambda Literary Foundation Emerging LGBT Voices Fellow.


JP Howard


XC: Was it easy to publish SAY/MIRROR? Please, share with La Bloga readers about the publishing process.

JPH: I initially had a completely different manuscript than the one which I ended up submitting for publication. As I was putting together poems for a larger manuscript, I realized there in the larger collection was a complete collection that kept coming back to the Diva, the child, the mirror, the desire to dismantle and unearth secrets. Writing this book was also in some ways a cathartic experience. It was a difficult book to write, because while it is filled with beautiful pictures, it touches on topics that are often not so beautiful, including depression, alcoholism and even attempted suicide - often as seen or remembered via a child’s lens. Once I tightened up the manuscript and decided to focus on this theme, I was very fortunate to have two lovely, small independent presses, one in NY and one in California, express an interest in the book on or around the same time. Ultimately, I chose The Operating System, based in NY and curated by Lynne DeSilva-Johnson, who has been an amazing and dedicated editor and champion of my work. She spent many, many months working with me on creating the final product and it was a positive collaborative, learning process for me. Lynne’s willingness to include multiple vintage photos, as well as a preface that provided me with an opportunity to reflect back and acknowledge the role of history (on so many levels) and to also include an interview with editor and poet at the close of the book was a wonderful addition. I often say this is the book that I once visualized, now come to reality!


XC: What is your favorite poem or poems? What makes it special?

JPH: One of my favorite poems is Diva Doll. This poem feels like a signature poem for the book, because it captures many of the complications/pitfalls, along with some of the glamour of growing up with a Diva “model” mom. Ghazal: What Love Takes is another favorite. I enjoy writing in form and this poem allowed me to do that, while also exploring some of the complicated nuances of love.

En La Casa Azul Bookstore

XC: Where can we find your book?

JPH: My book can be purchased directly from the publisher, The Operating System.

Here are a few of my upcoming NY presentations.

I will be performing in Chronicles of Unsung Heroines at Bowery Poetry Club on Sun. May 3, 3:30pm with a group of amazing women poets who are also mothers.

I am one of the special guest poets for the #Grow Fierce Emerging Writing Series at Bluestockings Bookstore on Sun. May 17th at 7pm.


Finally, I’m super excited about the upcoming Belladonna Series at La Casa Azul Bookstore featuring myself, Tonya M. Foster and Christina Olivares. We each have new books out this year and Belladonna* will be publishing a chaplet of our poetry to accompany this reading.


XC: What advice do you have for La Bloga readers?

JPH: Keep writing, submitting your work and no matter where you live, try to find a writing community that encourages and supports you. These communities can be in-person interactions like my monthly Salons or they can be virtual, online communities that offer you feedback and support. These communities are invaluable and often keep me writing, when I might otherwise get discouraged.
New York City in the Fall by Xanath Caraza, November 23, 2014

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