Mark Your Calendars: The 2023 DC Poet Project Begins in January

Day Eight’s 2023 DC Poet Project—a poetry series and open mic competition with the ultimate prize of a $1,000 book contract—begins Friday January 20, 2023.

The 2023 series will feature exceptional DC-area poets in five reading series events. Each event includes 25 to 30 minutes of poetry by the featured poets, and equal time for reading by open mic participants. Priority in the open mic is given to DC residents.

The featured poets award a $250 cash prize to one open mic participant at each event, and those individuals are invited to compete in the culminating sixth reading series event to win a $1,000 book contract.

The 2023 DC Poet Project series is curated by Regie Cabico, and supported by the National Endowment for the Arts.

The 2023 DC Poet Project reading series schedule

Friday, January 20, 7-8:30 pm, online – click to register. Poetry and Wellness, featuring poets Anne Becker, Bernardine Watson, and Shaquetta Nelson. Guest judge: Kelli Shewmaker.

Friday, February 3, 7-8:30 pm, online – click to register. Hear Me Now: Deaf Poets, featuring poets Sarah Katz and Christopher Heuer. Guest judge: Katie Lee.

Friday, February 17, 7-8:30 pm, online – click to register. Weak in the Knees: Love and Loss, featuring poets Ethelbert Miller, Jenn Koiter, and Taylor Johnson. Guest judge: Brenda Richardson.

Friday, March 3, 7-8:30 pm, online – click to register. The Black Nerd Experience, featuring Rebecca Bishophall, Dwayne Lawson-Brown, and Dominic McDonald. Guest judge: Philip Pannell.

Sunday, March 26, 2-3:30 pm, Anacostia branch DC Public Library – click to register. Verbal Fire: Asian American Poets, featuring Regie Cabico, Sunu Chandy, and Ishanee Chanda. Guest judge: Lawrence-Minh Bui Davis.

Sunday, May 7 at 2-4:00pm, Anacostia branch DC Public Library – click to register. The 2023 DC Poet Project culminating reading event, including the open mic winners as selected at the five prior events.

View bios for the featured poets in the 2023 Poet Project series below.

Anne Becker, the former poet laureate of Takoma Park, MD, is beginning her tenure as poet in residence at Pyramid Atlantic, a print-making and book arts studio and gallery in downtown Silver Spring, MD. She received an MA from the Writing Seminars, Johns Hopkins University, teaches at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, MD and offers tutorials for poets putting books together. Her books include The Transmutation Notebooks: Poems in the Voices of Charles and Emma Darwin and The Good Body. Since 2001 she has led a special poetry workshop, Writing the Body, for those who have experienced life-threatening or chronic illness as patient, caregiver, or family member.

Rebecca Bishophall attended Trinity University graduating with a major in Communications in 2006. She has performed at Spit Dat open mic, and Afrocentric Book Expo and works in member services for a non-profit organization. A loving mother who enjoys rainstorms, ramen and romcoms, she can be found writing, reading fiction novels, and singing along to soft rock. She is co-author of Breaking the Blank with Dwayne Lawson-Brown, published by Day Eight November, 2022.

Regie Cabico is a spoken word pioneer having won the Nuyorican Poets Cafe Grand Slam. He is the lead spoken word poetry teacher for The Kennedy Center for Performing Arts and project director for Day Eight’s project mentoring queer high school students and allies to publication.  

Sunu P. Chandy is a poet, social justice activist, queer woman of color, civil rights attorney, parent, and the daughter of immigrants from Kerala, India. Sunu completed her B.A. in Peace and Global Studies/Women’s Studies at Earlham College, her J.D. from Northeastern Law School, and her M.F.A. in Poetry at CUNY, Queens College. Sunu lives in Washington D.C., and is grateful for solidarity with other poets, including many women of color and LGBTQ writers.

Ishanee Chanda is a prose writer and poet from Dallas, Texas. She has been published on The Huffington Post, the Eckleberg Project, and ThoughtCatalog. Ishanee is a past winner of the Gordone Award for Creative Writing, and has participated in the Blackbox Writer’s Residency program.

Christopher Jon Heuer is the author of Bug: Revolution as well as All Your Parts Intact: Poems. He is the editor of Tripping the Tale Fantastic: Weird Fiction by Deaf and Hard of Hearing Writers. He is a professor of English at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC.

Taylor Johnson is the author of Inheritance (Alice James Books, 2020), winner of the 2021 Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America. His work appears in Poetry Magazine, The Paris Review, The Baffler, Scalawag, and elsewhere. Johnson is a Cave Canem graduate fellow and a recipient of the 2017 Larry Neal Writers’ Award from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and the 2021 Judith A. Markowitz Award for Emerging Writers from Lambda Literary. Taylor is the inaugural 2022 Poet-in-Residence at the Guggenheim Museum. He is the Poet Laureate of Takoma Park, Maryland.

Sarah Katz is the author of Country of Glass (Gallaudet University Press, May 2022). She holds an MFA in creative writing from American University. Her poems appear in Bear Review, District Lit, Hole in the Head Review, Redivider, RHINO, Right Hand Pointing, Rogue Agent, the So to Speak blog, The Shallow Ends, and Wordgathering, among others. Her essays and articles have appeared in The Atlantic, Business Insider, The Guardian, OZY, The Nation, The New York Times, The Rumpus, Scientific American, Slate, The Washington Post, and other publications. Sarah is Poetry Editor of The Deaf Poets Society, an online journal that features work by writers and artists with disabilities. 

Jenn Koiter is a writer, marketer, entrepreneur and breathworker. The winner of the 2021 DC Poet Project, Jenn’s debut poetry collection, So Much of Everything, was published by Day Eight. Her poems and essays have appeared in Barrelhouse, Smartish Pace, Bateau, Ruminate, Copper Nickel and other journals. She lives in Washington, D.C., with three gerbils named Sputnik, Cosmo and Unit.

Dwayne Lawson-Brown, aka the Crochet Kingpin, is co-host of Spit Dat, the longest running open mic in Washington, D.C. Born and raised in Washington, D.C., he has performed and hosted at Woolly Mammoth Theater, Keegan Theater, The Strathmore, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Spirits and Lyrics Manassas, and others, and in 2021 was voted Male Poet of The Year at the DMV Renaissance Awards. He is co-author of Breaking the Blank with Rebecca Bishophall, published by Day Eight in 2022.

Dominic “Nerd” McDonald is a Black entrepreneur and spoken word artist from various cities in Los Angeles, California. He has put his views on growing up in the inner city between two households, Hip Hop music, being a social outcast, college experiences, and more, into poetry, screen plays, and magazine articles. His passion comes from serving the community, especially through the arts. The 2022 DC Poet Project winner, his memoir in poems, I’d Rather Be Called A Nerd, was recently published.

E. Ethelbert Miller is a writer and literary activist. He is the author of two memoirs and several books of poetry including The Collected Poems of E. Ethelbert Miller, a comprehensive collection that represents over 40 years of his work. For 17 years Miller served as the editor of Poet Lore, the oldest poetry magazine published in the United States. His poetry has been translated into nearly a dozen languages. Miller is a two-time Fulbright Senior Specialist Program Fellow to Israel. He holds an honorary degree of Doctor of Literature from Emory and Henry College and has taught at several universities. Miller is also host of the weekly WPFW morning radio show On the Margin with E. Ethelbert Miller and host and producer of The Scholars on UDC-TV. He recently completed a trilogy of poetry books about baseball, the first of which, If God Invented Baseball, was awarded the 2019 Literary Award for poetry by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association.

Shaquetta Nelson, also known as R.E.I.L., started her poetry career at open mics in the D.C. area and at 16 competed in the Brave New Voices slam in New York City. A poetic performer, visual artist, and arts educator, R.E.I.L. seeks inspiration from past and present life experiences to help the lives of other unsung souls. Her debut poetry collection, Ashes to Justice, was published by Day Eight in 2022.

Bernardine (Dine) Watson worked as a social policy writer for major foundations, nonprofits, and media organizations, prior to taking a serious interest in poetry. She has written for The Washington Post, The Ford Foundation, Annie E. Casey Foundation and Stoneleigh Foundation. Dine’s poetry has been published in the Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Indian River Review, by Darkhouse Books, and by the Painted Bride Art Center. She was a member of 2015-16 class of The DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities’ the Poet in Progress Program, and the 2017 and 2018 classes of the Hurston Wright Foundation’s Summer Writers Week. She lives in Washington, DC with her husband, journalist, Joe Davidson.