Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Heartfelt Poetry by Richard Harteis & Mary-Sherman Willis at Café Muse

Quite the crowd gathered for our Café Muse poetry reading on December 2nd. We enjoyed seeing many new faces at the Friendship Heights Village!

The evening began with Michael Davis's graceful guitar performance, setting the tone for a thoughtful night.

Our first featured reader was Richard Harteis. His poetry discussed the "slow progress" of his grieving over the late William Meredith, mixing ordinary details of life with profound grief and questions. It also focused on his late dog, Daisy, his young students' reactions to the Newtown massacre, and several other topics. It was human, accessible, and quite sincere.

 Our second featured reader was Mary-Sherman Willis. Her poetry focused on her relationship with her son as he entered adolescence, with all the worries and paradoxes that time of life brought. It discussed her journey of following her son's graffiti tags, the significance of his name: "your name we gave you to be a part of us and apart from us," and phenomenology or object-hood as she explored the significance of his graffiti. She also creatively incorporated calculus into her musings. It was clever, touching, and insightful.

After the featured readers, many people participated in the open mic segment. Thanks to our featured readers, everyone else who read their poetry, and everyone who came out for our "holiday edition" Café Muse!

Be sure to come out for the first Café Muse of the new year on January 6th, featuring poets Leslie Harrison and Rebekah Remington!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Poetry by Hailey Leithauser and Chad Davidson at Café Muse

      We came in from the dark and cold for Café Muse again on Monday, November 4th.  Friendship Heights Village Center hosted Hailey Leithauser and Chad Davidson for Word Works' monthly poetry reading.

     The evening started with our guest pianist David Uffelman playing fun, popular songs such as “Yesterday” by the Beatles and “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables.

                Next up was our first featured reader, Hailey Leithauser. Her poetry discussed pieces of life that were quite accessible for everyone, such as a Halloween ghost story and the cycle of seasons. The elegance combined with the simplicity in her poetry felt warmly familiar, as it nodded toward what poetry used to be and often is not anymore. She used remarkably sweet-sounding phrases such as “sea of peonies” as well as clever palindromes like “Naomi I moan.”

                Our second featured reader was Chad Davidson. His poetry took ordinary, everyday experiences such as shopping for “my impulse buys” at Target and turned them into glorious occasions and/or commentaries on the commercialized state of America. He also switched from different times and places in one of his works, creating an intriguing perspective with Star Wars references interwoven throughout. His dry humor and charismatic expressions made his reading quite enjoyable.

                After the featured readings, several other people read poetry for the open mic segment of the program. We had several pieces written in unique structures for workshops and a variety of topics.

                Many thanks to our featured readers and the others who read! We enjoyed the pleasant tone of the night at the start of another week. Be sure to come out for our December Café Muse event on Monday, December 2nd at 7:00 PM to hear poetry by Mary-Sherman Willis and pieces of works by novelist Halvor Aakhus!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Cafe Muse Hosts Thought-Provoking Poetry by Shara Lessley and Joseph Ross

Friendship Heights Village Center hosted Shara Lessley and Joseph Ross for Word Works' monthly Cafe Muse poetry reading on Monday, October 7th. It always strikes me that Cafe Muse feels like a retreat from the outside world into an environment of calm meaningfulness as we listen to words written and spoken in new ways.

The evening began with the always soothing musical talent of Michael Davis, accompanied by the gracious Richard Grayson (Paul Grayson's son).

The first featured poet of the night was Shara Lessley. Her poetry spanned from the everyday to her experiences in Jordan to what it felt like to return to the States after being gone for three years. It was easy to picture what she was describing in her poetry; we took a piece of her journey with us on hearing her descriptions.

The second featured poet was Joseph Ross. His work depicted important historical events such as Rosa Parks refusing to give up her bus seat and the bombing of a New Orleans church that killed 32 people, as well as the story of a graffiti artist. After each poem Joseph read, it seemed that everyone in the audience raised their eyebrows and sighed audibly in response to the intensity of his words and passion.

After the readings by our featured poets, several others read. One person who read, the remarkable Paul Grayson, had just celebrated his 95th birthday! We celebrated with him, enjoying pumpkin cake made by Lois McBride in his honor.

 Thanks so much to our featured readers and the others who read! We appreciated another haven of poetry. Be sure to come out for our November Cafe Muse event on Monday, November 4th at 7:00 PM to hear poetry by Hailey Leithauser and Chad Davidson!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Invitation to the Splendid Wake Kickoff Event

The Word Works and Karren Alenier have been helping develop the Splendid Wake project, a massive attempt to document poetry in the Greater Washington, DC area from 1900 forward. A brain child of Myra Sklarew and Elisavietta Ritchie, the project began to honor deceased poets associated with the Nation's Capital.

On Wednesday, September 25 from 6:30 to 8 pm at The George Washington University Gelman Library's Special Collection Conference Room on the seventh floor, a group of area poets will discuss the history of poets and poetry in Washington, DC. Some of the participating poets include: Luis Alberto Ambroggio, Sarah Browning, Grace Cavalieri, Teri Cross Davis, Ethelbert Miller, and Kim Roberts.

You are invited to attend this historic event and get involved in helping document poetry in and around DC. We have established a WIKI to collect data at:

Currently Word Works intern Monica Root is working on short bios of dead poets. Maybe you have something to contribute?

For more information about the kickoff event, contact Special Collections Librarian Jennifer King at jenking @ gwu.edu.

For more information about the project contact: Myra Sklarew at msklarew @ verizon.net.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Bernadette Geyer and Rachel Richardson for the Joaquin Miller Poetry Series, July 21, 2013

This past Sunday, July 21, we closed the 2013 Joaquin Miller Poetry Series with beautiful performances from Bernadette Geyer and Rachel Richardson. In her introduction, Deborah Ager invoked the series' namesake, Joaquin Miller, a man whose legacy remains an inextricable mix of myth and truth.
Bernadette, whose book The Scabbard of Her Throat was published as a part of the Word Work's Hilary Tham Capital Collection, read first. Her performance included pieces on motherhood - "Thumbelina's Mother Speaks to Thumbelina" and "Nature Center" - and the summer weather - "Heat."
Rachel read next, also touching on themes of motherhood, as when she reflected on her grandmother's hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana in pieces like "Portrait of Lead Belly in a Pin-Striped Suit" and her Signs series.
These lovely performances were followed by several readers for the open mic portion.

It has been a wonderful summer of poetry and community in the Joaquin Miller Series! Thank you for joining us. We hope to see you all again next summer. Sail On! sail On!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Hilary Tham: Memorial Reading June 2013

On the eve of the anniversary of Hilary Tham's death June 24, poets Karren Alenier and Judith McCombs joined with Hilary's daughter Ilana and her two children Lia and Elijah to read from Hilary's work.

Hilary's daughter Ilana read "On Buying a Burial Plot One Sunny Day," which details how Hilary came to buy the burial plot she now occupies and which is just a few feet away from her friend and ours, poet Maxine Combs.

Karren and Judy read selections from Hilary's books Bad Names for Women and Counting.

Lia read "Mountains" from Bad Names for Women.

The Word Works keeps Hilary's name and work alive through our imprint series known as the Hilary Tham Capital Collection. In 1989, Hilary's book Bad Names for Women was the first book published in the Capital Collection. Later, she became editor-in-chief and revitalized the imprint. In 2013, Word Works is expanding the imprint by inviting poetry manuscripts from any volunteer volunteering for literary nonprofit. Please help us do this by pledging your donation through Kickstarter by July 14, 2013. We have already have pledges over 1/3 of the modest sum we are trying to raise. Stayed tuned for the announcement of who judge Jeanne Larsen has selected as the two winners of the 2013 Hilary Tham Capital Collection.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Adam Chiles & Moira Egan for the Joaquin Miller Poetry Series

Yesterday afternoon, June 16, we were again graced by a stellar performance for the Joaquin Miller Poetry Series. First up was Adam Chiles who read several "Landscape Variations" inspired by the work of  English painter David Hockney. He also reflected, to much delight, on the importance of the English pub.

After Adam, Moira Egan, an American poet based in Rome, took the floor. Moira admitted to altering her set for the "young and tender ears" in the audience! She ended her reading with several poems from her collection of Hot Flash Sonnets.

During the Q&A, issues of language and translation - specifically Moira's experience as an English-speaking poet living in Rome - and regionalism - specifically Adam's experience as a UK-North American transplant - were discussed. The featured poets were followed by a lovely open mic; many of the readers took time to reflect on Fathers' Day and a few touched on the subject with their performances!

As always, we invite you to join us for the next program in the Miller series, which will feature Niki Herd and Carol Quinn, June 23rd at 3:00 PM at the Rock Creek Nature Center!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Joaquin Miller Poetry: LM Wiseman & 2013 Young Poets

June 9 Laura Madeline Wiseman, poet, scholar, professor, read with the 2013 Jacklyn Potter Young Poet Competition winners Elena Botts and Kathryn McDonald Matheson in the Joaquin Miller Poetry Series at Rock Creek Nature Center in Rock Creek Park.

Rosemary Winslow, co-director of the Miller Series, hosted. Perry Epes, director of the Jacklyn Potter Young Poet Competition, introduced the young poets who were selected by Donal Ilich.

Madeline Wiseman read from work focused on feminist writers and themes. Kathryn Matheson read her narrative prose poems. Elena Botts read from new work and her book a little luminescence, published by Allbook Books in their Young Artist Series.

Thanks to the 25 plus people who attended and those who participated in the opening reading. Our next Miller Poetry Reading on June 16 brings us Adam Chiles and Moira Egan.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Cafe Muse with Alyse Knorr & Barbara Buckman Strasko

Tonight, The Word Works hosted another successful reading in the Cafe Muse series! As is Cafe Muse tradition, the readings were preceded by a beautiful performance of classical guitar by Michael Davis.
Alyse Knorr took the podium first, reading several selections from her book Annotated Glass (Furniture Press Books). She also read several yet to be published poems inspired by the 1977 Voyager Expeditions, in which she imagined the recipients of the golden records sent out with the space craft coming to earth. The series exhibited equal parts wit and heart.
 Next, Barabara Buckman Strasko read from her book Graffiti in Braille (Word Press 2012), as well as other unpublished works. A personal favorite was Ode to the Berrigans, a piece inspired by the Berrigan brothers, two Catholic priests who destroyed draft files during the Vietnam war.
 Our two featured poets were joined by a few others who read during the open mic portion of the event. Thank you to all who attended and to these two lovely women for sharing their immense talent with us!
We encourage all poetry lovers to join us for future Cafe Muse Events. The next Cafe Muse will feature Kathi Wolfe and Dan Vera, Monday July 1 at the Friendship Heights Village Center, 4433 South Park Avenue, Chevy Chase, MD

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Why Enter the Washington Prize?

What distinguishes The Word Works Washington Prize, an award of $1500 and book publication, from other book-length poetry manuscript prizes?


Every entrant gets a copy of the winning book. The winning book is selected in the late summer and then, after undergoing our attentive editorial process, published in late January or February.

Entrants whose manuscripts progress to second readers and final judges are offered the opportunity to request comments. Therefore, semi-finalists and finalists can get constructive feedback from a reader and possibly a final judge. We have heard that entrants getting such feedback have gone on to win other prizes and for that, we are pleased because The Word is in the business of supporting contemporary poetry.

The Washington Prize is a blind judging. We read manuscripts without identifying information and if one of our readers or judges recognizes the work, that reader or judge recuses him- or herself.

The final judges comprise a panel of five poets, some of whom are members of The Word Works editorial board with at least one judge who did not participate the year before or is new to the prize. This ensures that we do not pick the same kind of manuscript year after year. In fact, The Word Works prides itself on being open to any style of poetry and on any subject. We are just looking for the best manuscript.


The Word Works has been awarding this prize since 1981. The first seven years, the prize was $1000 for a single poem that we published in a full-page ad in Poets & Writers Magazine. Our first seven winners were Barbara Goldberg, Susan Gubernat, Judith Steinbergh, Lindsay Knowlton, Enid Shomer, Renée Ashley, and Lisa Ress. Each of these poets went on to publish a book of poetry if not multiple books.

In 1987, the prize moved to book publication. The first book published in the Washington Prize imprint was Stalking the Florida Panther by the prolific and highly successful Enid Shomer. Stalking the Florida Panther was her first full-length book of poetry. The title of her book was also the title of the winning poem in 1985. Consider these lines from that Washington Prize-winning poem, “What I know:/ that desire spreads like light/ without doctrine.”

1988, the first official year of the Washington Prize as a book contest, the Word Works judges selected a funky page-turner by Christopher Bursk. His original title was replaced with The Way Water Rubs Stone. The book rapidly sold out to his already established following. After all, this was his fourth book with his first—Standing Watch—having been published by Houghton Mifflin in 1978. The Way Water Rubs Stone dared to tackle questions about masculinity and homosexuality in a time when these subjects were just barely seeing the light of day. In the poem "Dorks, Nerds, Wimps," Bursk relates conversations with his son that let it all hang out: "My children laugh when I tell them/ how in fifth grade I was voted best girl./ My sons howl in delight, knowing/ they’re nothing like their father."

With the launch of B. K. Fischer's St. Rage's Vault at the Associated Writing Programs (AWP) Bookfair in March 2013, Word Works counts 26 books in the Washington Prize imprint. St. Rage's Vault is an all ekphrastic set of poems that detail from inception to conception the birth of a child real or imagined. One of the poems scans two pages. Except for the endnotes, a reader would not know each poem was inspired by a work of art. Here are the last lines: “Hewn from darkness,/
the minutes rise as you open///your hand to touch the ladder H/ and spin it sideways into I.”

Every book in the Washington Prize imprint is a carefully sculpted gem. The author gets 15 percent of the print run, which has often results in the author receiving 150 books as his or her royalty payment. Additionally, Word Works provides 30 review copies and helps the author distribute these copies. Some Washington Prize authors like Fred Marchant, author of Tipping Point, go into second editions. For a complete list of Washington Prize winners, visit our webpage at WordWorksBooks.org.

We urge you to give serious consideration to sending your carefully developed poetry manuscript to the Washington Prize and come talk to us at AWP Booth 708 if you plan to attend this year’s conference in Boston. Deadline is March 15 by Electronic submission or postmark.