Celebrating local poetry in the 2021 Poet Project reading series

The DC Poet Project continues its mission of celebrating DC poets in 2021. Founded in 2017, The DC Poet Project is a poetry reading series and open-to-all poetry competition culminating in the publication of a new book of poetry by a DC author. Read more about the series and past winners here. Through support from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities and in partnership with the DC Public Library and the Anacostia Coordinating Council, Day Eight’s 2021 Poet Project series will feature exceptional writers in six virtual events spring 2021.

The first reading of the season took place Saturday February 23rd, featuring poets John Johnson and Reil. The series continued on March 20th with a reading focused on nature poetry and in partnership with the Anacostia Swim Club featuring Naomi Ayala and E. Ethelbert Miller. Three area poets laureate — Holly Karapetkova (Arlington poet laureate), Kim B Miller (Prince William County poet laureate), and Grace Cavalieri (Maryland poet laureate) — hosted the reading and open mic on April 10th.

Three events remain in the 2021 series. On April 24th at 7:00pm, The Poet Project will showcase Poetry of Faith, featuring poets from the recently published anthology, “Falling Leaves,” including Lori Tsang, Jane Schapiro, and Luther Jett. The following weekend the DC Poet Project teams up with Capturing Fire for a queer poetry event featuring poets Marlena Chertock and Malik Thompson on May 1st at 7:00pm.

Each Poet Project event includes an open mic, and at each event one open mic is selected the ‘winner’ by the featuring poets and awarded $250 cash prize. The 2021 series was curated by Regie Cabico and is hosted by Aaron Holmes.

The 2021 Poet Project series will culminate on Saturday May 22nd at 7:00pm with a special reading event featuring the prior-selected finalists.

Check out the bios of the featured poets in 2021 DC Poet Project:

John Johnson was the winner of the 2018 DC Poet Project. Through his win, Day Eight published Johnson’s book, Love for Her. Maryland poet laureate Grace Cavalieri called Love for Her, “A real find” and E. Ethelbert Miller wrote, “The poems are filled with wit, and wisdom.” A native Washingtonian and father of two, Johnson graduated from the University of the District of Columbia, and as a poet, playwright, actor, and producer, is dedicated to capturing the narratives of African Americans in Washington DC.

Naomi Ayala was born in Puerto Rico and moved to the United States in her teens. She went on to earn an MFA from the Bennington College Writing Seminars. Writing in both Spanish and English, she is author of the poetry collections Calling Home: Praise Songs and Incantations (2013), This Side of Early (2008), and Wild Animals on the Moon (1997), chosen by the New York City Public Library as a 1999 Book for the Teen Age. Naomi has also received numerous awards for her work as an educator and arts administrator focused on environmental causes. A resident of Washington DC, she currently teaches creative writing in ESL classrooms. 

E. Ethelbert Miller is a writer and literary activist. He is the author of several collections of poetry and two memoirs. For fourteen years he has been the editor of Poet Lore, the oldest poetry magazine published in the United States. In 1996, Emory and Henry College awarded Miller an honorary degree of Doctor of Literature. Miller is regularly heard on NPR and is host of the weekly morning radio show On the Margin, which airs on WPFW-FM 89.3. Miller is also host and producer of The Scholars on UDC-TV. The Collected Poems of E. Ethelbert Miller, published in 2016 by Willow Books, is a comprehensive collection that represents over 40 years of his career as a poet. His most recent book is If God Invented Baseball, published by City Point Press. He is currently the board chair of the progressive think tank the Institute for Policy Studies and lives in Washington, D.C.

Holly Karapetkova is the current Poet Laureate of Arlington County. She is the author of two books of poetry, Words We Might One Day Say, winner of the 2010 Washington Writers’ Publishing House Poetry Award, and Towline, winner of the 2016 Vern Rutsala Poetry Contest from Cloudbank Books. Her current manuscript projects, Still Life With White and Planter’s Wife grapple with the deep wounds left by our history of racism, slavery, and environmental destruction. She has also authored over 20 books for children. Holly holds an MFA in Creative Writing and a PhD in English and Comparative Literature, and she teaches in the Department of Literature and Languages at Marymount University.

Kim B Miller was a finalist in the 2019 DC Poet Project. Crowned Prince William County Poet Laureate in October 2020 by the Prince William County Arts Council, Kim is the first African American Poet Laureate for Prince William County, VA. A poet, motivational speaker, and arts educator, Kim facilitates workshops for students, authors and parents, and she previously taught poetry to women in a correctional facility. Kim has been featured in many venues throughout the east coast, including The National Black Theater in NYC. She wrote a book about parent alienation titled How to Love Your Kids More Than You Hate That Man. Kim has written two spoken word books, Poetically Inking Just Me, My Pen and The Mic and Christ Gave Me This Pen so I Have to Write the Truth. Her haiku chapbook is called Haiku: Three Lines of Power.

Grace Cavalieri is the author of 26 books and chapbooks of poetry. Her latest release is called What The Psychic Said (Goss Publishing 2020 Grace also hosts the radio program The Poet and the Poem, presented by the Library of Congress through National Public Radio. As a writer, poet, and playwright, Cavalieri’s awards include the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Silver Medal, the Columbia Award from the Folger Shakespeare Library, and the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award. She is a poetry columnist for The Washington Independent Review of Books. Her papers are held in the George Washington University Gelman Library Special Collections. Cavalieri lives in Annapolis, Maryland. 

Lori Tsang was raised by a Chinese Jamaican mother and an “American” Chinese father in Connecticut and Indiana.  She currently lives in Washington DC, where she was identified as one of “100 People to Watch in the New Millennium” by Washingtonian Magazine. She received the 1997 Mayor’s Art Award for Outstanding Emerging Artist and a 1999 Artist Fellowship. She is the author of two chapbooks, and her poems have been published in Controlled Burn, Gargoyle, Crab Orchard Review, Drumvoices, and The Asian Pacific American Journal.

Jane Schapiro is the author of three books of poetry, Tapping This Stone (Winner of the Washington Writers’ Publishing House Award, 1995), Let The Wind Push Us Across (Antrim House 2017), and Warbler (Kelsay Books, 2020). Her nonfiction book Inside a Class Action: The Holocaust and the Swiss Banks (University of Wisconsin, 2003) was selected for the Notable Trials Library. Her chapbook, Mrs. Cave’s House, won the 2012 Sow’s Ear Poetry Chapbook competition. Her poems have appeared in The American ScholarArs-MedicaGargoyle, Prairie SchoonerThe Gettysburg ReviewThe Southern ReviewThe Women’s Review of BooksYankee, among others. She lives in Fairfax, VA.

W. Luther Jett is a native of Montgomery County, Maryland and a retired special educator. His poetry has been published in numerous journals, such as The GW ReviewBeltwayPotomac Review, and Little Patuxent Review as well as several anthologies, including My Cruel Invention and Proud to Be. His poetry performance piece, Flying to America, debuted at the 2009 Capital Fringe Festival in Washington DC. He is the author of two poetry chapbooks: Not Quite: Poems Written in Search of My Father, released by Finishing Line Press in 2015, and Our Situation, released by Prolific Press, 2018. A third chapbook Everyone Disappears was released in November 2020. Kelsay Books will be releasing Luther Jett’s fourth chapbook, Little Wars, in June 2021.

Marlena Chertock is a 2020 Pushcart Prize nominee. She has written two books of poetryCrumb-sized: Poems (Unnamed Press) and On that one-way trip to Mars (Bottlecap Press). She writes about chronic pain, disability, sexuality, and science fiction and regularly moderates panels at literary conferences, facilitates writing workshops, and performs poetry at open mics and reading series. Along with local poet Malik Thompson, she cultivates inclusive literary programming that reflects and uplifts LGBTQ+ communities, manages coordinators and volunteers, and oversees the publication of the festival’s journal. She also serves on the board of Split This Rock, a national network of socially engaged poets.

Malik Thompson is a fledgling writer from Washington, DC. When they aren’t reading, writing, or partaking in imaginative reverie, they facilitate workshops on communication skills and applied nonviolence to youth and adults throughout the Rochester area. Along with Marlena Chertock, Malik has been named one of the new Co-Chairs of OutWrite, an organization that advocates for inclusive literary programming that reflects and uplifts trans/queer literary communities.