Announcing 2018 DC Poet Project Winner John Johnson

Saturday May 5th, at the Anacostia Branch of the DC Public Library, more than eighty poetry lovers listened to DC Poet Project finalists John Johnson, Monica Leak, Jeffrey Banks, Shaquetta Nelson, and Aiy’ana Ford, and voted to select one winner. When all the votes were counted, and the dust had settled: John Johnson is the 2018 DC Poet Project winner.

Day Eight will be publishing a book of Johnson’s poetry, and we’re looking for artwork by a dc artist to put on the cover. Submit an image or your whole portfolio/website for consideration using the form here. 

Check out videos of Johnson reading his poetry here, here, and here.

Below is a brief interview with 2018 DC Poet Project winner John Johnson.

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Robert Bettmann: Congratulations on your success in the DC Poet Project! This isn’t the first time you’ve emerged, though, right? My understanding is that you were part of a project with WAMU called Anacostia UnMapped. Can you tell us a little about that?

John Johnson: Anacostia Unmapped is a project in which neighbors interview other neighbors in Anacostia. I was one of the primary interviewers and sat down with about 20 folks on their porches, and in their living rooms and kitchens — and while they cooked bacon – so they could share stories of the beauty and challenges of Anacostia and life East of the river. I learned quite a bit, particularly from the older residents; they are living history books. My interviews were cut into small segments and played on American University’s NPR radio station, WAMU. Some of the stories are also online at

RB: You’re also involved in the world of theater, and as an arts educator?

John Johnson: I’m a Native Washingtonian, and a graduate from the University of the District of Columbia. I love telling the stories of DC new comers, old timers, and in-betweeners, using poetry and theatre. My BA is in Theatre Arts, and over the last two years I’ve gotten very involved in a type of improvisational theater storytelling called “Playback Theatre.” With Playback Theatre, I’m able to help visualize for audiences the stories of seniors in the community, and to help preserve the culture of the African Americans that still live in this rapidly changing city of Washington, D.C.

2018 DC Poet Project winner John Johnson performing with his Playback Theatre group at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, February 2018; photo by J. Micheal Whalen

RB: I know you consider yourself a performer as much as or maybe even more than a traditional poet. When did you start writing down your poetry?

John Johnson: I remember not being the best with grammar and from a young age found poetry liberating, because it had fewer rules and regulations. Run on sentences could run marathons as long as they had meaning and conveyed emotions. I liked seeing fewer red marks on my paper (in the 6th grade) and find poetry a more concise technique for expressing human emotion. I think Twitter is like a modern day form of a Haiku that has broken the 5/7/5 structure. My theatre background also influences my writing because I’m super focused on telling a story. Beginning, middle and end is the cadence of every piece I write. Performance is like the second half of building a poem, like the drywall and paint on the walls of a poem.

RB: I know your family is important to you – your wife, and your girls – and some of your poetry relates to that. How does being a father influence your work as a theater artist, poet, and educator?

John Johnson: Being a father has definitely influenced my poetry. My children and family are my life, and they motivate me in ways I am still discovering… they bring out my creativity, and require my full attention. When my girls look me in the eyes I see my reflected image in them, and the confidence and trust they have in me. This is the fuel of Fatherhood. Piggyback rides are the fun part, returning emails and creating proposals and sending invoices at 1 am because everyone is finally asleep is the challenging part. A father is who I am, and it bleeds into all aspects of my life as an artist, poet and educator. My children now come and listen to me at poetry events, and participate in some of my workshops at schools. They are truly a blessing, as well as an echo into the future I will never see.

Through his DC Poet Project win, this summer Day Eight will be publishing John Johnson’s first book of poetry. Check back on our site soon for more information about his book and connected book launch events.

Art Rental Sunday May 6th 2018

Inspired by the Oberlin College art rental project, which for more than thirty years has allowed college students to live with real artwork in their dorm rooms, and through a partnership with the arts center BloomBars, and funding from the DC Arts Commission, we have more than twenty works of art to loan for $5 dollars for four months.

To preview the artwork available for rent, visit

 What’s an Art Rental?

None of the artwork in the Art Rental is available for sale; it’s all only available for rent. For $5 dollars, for 4 months. Looking at art in a museum or gallery is great. But you have a whole different relationship with art that you live with. But art collecting isn’t in the budget for a lot of people. Thanks to a grant from the DC Arts Commission, and the partnership of Day Eight and BloomBars, we’re able to offer an affordable art rental opportunity, modeled on the art rental offered at Oberlin College.

How do I Rent the Artwork?

The art rental will occur Sunday May 6th, 2018, beginning at 1:00pm, and will occur “first come, first served.” The art rental is taking place at the Gallery at Bloombars, located upstairs at 3222 11th Street NW, DC. To rent artwork you must have a valid photo id and $5 dollars cash or check.

Screenshot of works available in the rental on the DC Art Rental site –

Lyft Awards Community Grant to Day Eight

WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 18, 2018) – Lyft, the fastest growing rideshare company in the U.S., today announced the April winner of its monthly Community Grant Program, Day Eight, a non-profit which empowers its participants through arts performances, classes, workshops, and publications. The grant will be used to provide transportation to seniors to and from poetry events.

“Transportation is often a significant barrier to participation, and with this award we can help residents of senior village communities travel safely to and from these poetry events,” said Robert Bettmann, project director for Day Eight. “Lyft’s support helps bring seniors together.”

Lyft has worked to reduce the transportation limitations which affect the ability of older adults to operate independently. It recently partnered with Erickson Living to expand transportation access to thousands of active senior residents, offering them an on-demand mobility option to go to destinations of their choice.

“Inclusion is core to Lyft’s values, and we continue to be committed to safe and reliable transportation for everyone in the community, including our seniors,” said Steve Taylor, General Manager for Lyft Mid-Atlantic. “Art should be accessible to everyone, so we’re proud to award Day Eight our Community Grant to support connecting seniors to life-enriching activities.”

Launched in January 2018, Lyft’s Community Grant Program supports the incredible work of DC area non-profit organizations focused on building stronger, healthier, more equitable communities. Any 501(c)3 organization that operates in the DC metro area is eligible to apply. Interested applicants can learn more about the opportunity and apply by visiting Lyft’s DC Community Grants website here.


About Lyft:

Lyft was founded in June 2012 by Logan Green and John Zimmer to improve people’s lives with the world’s best transportation. Lyft is the fastest growing rideshare company in the U.S and is available to 94 percent of the US population. Lyft is preferred by drivers and passengers for its safe and friendly experience, and its commitment to effecting positive change for the future of our cities.

About Day Eight:

Day Eight was founded in 2005 to empower individuals and communities to participate in the arts through the production, publication, and promotion of creative projects. Recent programming includes an open-to-all poetry competition (“the DC Poet Project”), an Arts Writing Fellowship, and the Jefferson Place Gallery Archive —, and funders have included the DC Commission on the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts. For more information visit