Ethnic Voices Poetry Series

2010-2011 Series

Missouri Arts CouncilPartially supported by funding from the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.

Books by all poets are available in the University Book Store.


September 22, 2010
Park University – the Herr House Lounge
7:00 Reading
Followed by reception and book signing

The Latino Writers Collective is a group of Latino writers living and working in the Kansas City metropolitan area with long-distance members in Arkansas, California, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Texas. The Collective helps hone and polish the work of its members for publication. In addition to creative support, the Collective organizes and coordinates projects for the larger community, such as the Primera Página, Segunda Página, Tercera Página, and Cuarta Página Reading Series to showcase national and local Latino writers and provide role models and instruction to Latino youth. The mission of the Latino Writers Collective is to foster an environment where the voices of Latino students, blue collar workers, professionals, and homemakers can finally be heard, contributing their experience and vision to the larger community.

The Collective’s anthology of poetry, Primera Página: Poetry From the Latino Heartland (Scapegoat Press), was published in 2008. It has received much national attention, including reviews in Bloomsbury Review, La Bloga, and Critical Mass: the Blog of the National Book Critics Circle. Primera Página won 2nd place in poetry for both the International Latino Book Awards and the Eric Hoffer Book Awards and was a finalist in poetry for the USA BookNews Award and in anthology for the ForeWord Magazine Book Award. They were also named Best of Kansas City 2008 by The PITCH for their festive, entertaining readings and events.


October 20, 2010
6:30 Reception
7:00 Reading
Park University – The Meetin’ House
Followed by book signing

Poet, editor, and prose writer Kazim Ali was born in the United Kingdom to Muslim parents of Indian descent. He received a BA and MA from the University of Albany-SUNY, and an MFA from New York University. Ali’s poetry collections include The Far Mosque (2005), which won Alice James Books’ New England/New York Award, and The Fortieth Day (2008). Ali’s poems, both lyric and musical, explore the intersection of faith and daily life. In a review of The Fortieth Day, Library Journal noted that Ali “continues his task of creating a rejuvenated language that longs to be liberated from the weight of daily routine and the power of dogmatic usage . . . writing in the tradition of Wallace Stevens, Ali is clearly a poet of ideas and symbols, yet his words remain living entities within the texture of the poem.” His prose includes The Disappearance of Seth (2009) and Bright Felon: Autobiography and Cities (2009), as well as the novel Quinn’s Passage (2005), which was named one of the Best Books of 2005 by Chronogram magazine.
In 2003 Ali co-founded Nightboat Books and served as the press’s publisher until 2007. He has received an Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council, and his poetry has been featured in Best American Poetry. Ali has been a regular columnist for the American Poetry Review and a contributing editor for the Association of Writers and Writing Programs’ Writer’s Chronicle. He is a former member of the Cocoon Theatre Modern Dance Company. Ali has taught at Oberlin College and the low-residency Stonecoast MFA program at the University of Southern
Maine. He lives in Oberlin, Ohio.

Read and Hear Poetry by Ali


Recently awarded the 2010 Academy of American Poets Academy Fellowship
November 18, 2010
6:30 Reception
7:00 Reading
Park University – The Meetin’ House
Followed by book signing

Khaled Mattawa was born in Benghazi, Libya and immigrated to the United States in his teens. He received a Ph.D from Duke University in 2009 and presently teaches at the University of Michigan. Mattawa is the author of four books of poetry, Tocqueville (New Issues Press, forthcoming 2010) Amorisco (Ausable Press, 2008), Zodiac of Echoes (Ausable Press, 2003) and Ismailia Eclipse (Sheep Meadow Press, 1996). He has translated eight books of contemporary Arabic poetry by Saadi Youssef, Fadhil Al-Azzawi, Hatif Janabi, Maram Al-Massri, Joumana Haddad, Amjad Nasser, and Iman Mersal, and has co-edited two anthologies of Arab American literature. His work has received much recognition, including the PEN award for literary translation, a Guggenheim fellowship, the Alfred Hodder fellowship from Princeton University, an NEA translation grant, and 3 Pushcart prizes. His poems have appeared in Poetry, The Kenyon Review, Antioch Review, Best American Poetry, and many other journals and anthologies

Read poetry by Mattawa

Evie Shockley

February 24 , 2011
7:00 Reading
The Writers Place
3607 Pennsylvania
Kansas City, MO 64111
Followed by reception and book signing

Evie Shockley is the author of two books of poetry, the new black (Wesleyan UP, forthcoming 2011) and a half-red sea (Carolina Wren Press, 2006), and two chapbooks, 31 words prose poems (Belladonna* Books, 2007) and The Gorgon Goddess (Carolina Wren Press, 2001). Her poems also appear and are forthcoming in numerous journals and anthologies, including Talisman, Sous Rature, Ekleksographia, MELUS, Iron Horse Review, Indiana Review, The Southern Review, La Petite Zine, Columbia Poetry Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Hambone, No Tell Motel, Harvard Review, HOW2, nocturnes (re)view, Achiote Seeds, Tuesday; An Art Project, Fingernails Across the Chalkboard: Poetry and Prose on HIV/AIDS from the African Diaspora, From the Fishouse: An Anthology of Poems that Sing, Rhyme, Resound, Syncopate, Alliterate, and Just Plain Sound Great, and Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry. She currently co-edits jubilat; in 2007, she guest-edited special issue of MiPOesias (called "%7eQUEST%7e") that features contemporary African American poets.

She greatly enjoys giving readings of her poetry, which have taken her to colleges, universities, primary and secondary schools, libraries, festivals, and bookstores across the U.S. and in Scotland. Two of her poems, "a thousand words" and "the changing of the guards," were mounted in the Biko 30/30 exhibit, a commemoration of the life and work of anti-apartheid activist Steven Biko, which toured the major cities of South Africa in 2007, the 30th anniversary of his death. She has served as faculty at such writers workshops as the Squaw Valley Community of Writers Poetry Workshop and the North Carolina Writers' Network Summer Residency Program.

Shockley is also a literary scholar and critic. Her critical book, Renegade Poetics: Black Aesthetics and Formal Innovation in African American Poetry (U of Iowa P, forthcoming) has been supported by fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. She has critical reviews and literary essays published or forthcoming in such journals and anthologies as Callaloo, Indiana Review, Talisman, Center: A Journal of the Literary Arts, Mixed Blood, Rainbow Darkness: An Anthology of African American Poetry, Poets on Teaching: A Sourcebook, and A Broken Thing: Contemporary Poets on the Line. Additionally, articles from her earlier work on the gothic in African American and British Victorian literature appear in African American Review and in the essay collection Jamaica Kincaid's Caribbean Double-Crossings. She brings her theory of the "gothic homelessness" that circulates in African American literature to the broader cultural context of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath in an essay that appears in Katrina's Imprint: Race and Vulnerability in America, an interdisciplinary collection of analyses of Katrina's significance for New Orleans, the Gulf Coast, and the U.S. as a whole.

Born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee, Shockley has lived in a variety of states in the South, Midwest, and Northeast, but has yet to take up residence in any place west of the Mississippi River. She currently lives in Jersey City, New Jersey and teaches African American literature and creative writing (poetry) at Rutgers University, New Brunswick.


Shockley’s Faculty Page at Rutgers

Read about and hear Shockley


March 3, 2011
7:00 PM Performance
Paseo High School
4747 Flora Avenue
Kansas City, MO 64110

Etheridge Knight often said it is “a valid ambition to want the words you strung together to live on the lips of ordinary people.” Today, four emerging African-American poets echo that sentiment with each line they write. Reginald Dwayne Betts, Randall Horton, Marcus Jackson and John Murillo have come together to form the Symphony. The collective’s name is a nod to Marley Marl and the Juice Crew’s classic posse cut of the same title, which featured Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap, Craig G and Masta Ace.

These four poets combine their voices into four movements that form one song: a multitudinous story of love, prison, fatherhood and the denizens of cities often absent from American verse. Over the past six months they’ve been conceptualizing and putting together their homage to the work and memory of Etheridge Knight: The House that Etheridge Built. Part lecture, part poetic suite. It is an introduction to the work of Etheridge Knight and an introduction to the voices of his literary descendants; all who aim to have their words live on the lips of ordinary people. Over the past three months The Symphony has read at the University of South Carolina, Chicago State University and Yale University.

About The Symphony’s Members:

R Dwayne Betts
R Dwayne Betts has been awarded the 2010 Soros Justice Fellowship and 2010 NAACP Image Award for Literary Debut. A Cave Canem fellow, his poetry and prose has been widely published. His memoir, A Question of Freedom, was published by Avery/Penguin in 2009 and in May 2010 Alice James Books published his poetry manuscript Shahid Reads His Own Palm, which won the Beatrice Hawley Award. Not always a poet, Betts came to his art in an interesting way. A good student raised by a single mother, he started running with the wrong crowd. Betts' crime was hijacking a car at gunpoint with a friend, six felonies in all. He was prosecuted as an adult in Virginia, where the crime occurred.

His memoir takes the reader from the day he made that 30-minute "egregious error" to his life in five prisons and eventual freedom. Betts wouldn't call his life in prison a gift, but he quotes what the judge told him at his sentencing. "I'm under no illusion that sending you to prison will help you, but you can get something out of it." He did. It was there — often in solitary confinement because of his "sassiness" — that he read voraciously, wrote journals and fell in love with poetry. He was introduced to poetry when someone, he still does not know who, slid The Black Poets by Dudley Randall under his cell door. Poetry "came to me at a time I needed to express myself, and I needed to do it in a way people would listen to the whole thing," he says. "A poem can say everything you say in a novel in much less space. They're musical. People hear the music in poetry." (He is working on his MFA in poetry, which he expects to finish next July.)

The Symphony works with students from Wyandotte and Paseo High Schools on Park's campus

Marcus Jackson
Marcus Jackson was born in Toledo, Ohio. His poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, The Harvard Review, The Cincinnati Review, and Hayden’s Ferry Review, among many other publications. He has received fellowships from New York University and Cave Canem. His chapbook, Rundown, was recently published by Aureole Press. A professor at Rutgers University, his debut collection of poems, Neighborhood Register, will be released in the Fall of 2011.

John Murillo
An afro-chicano poet and playwright, John Murillo is the current Jay C. and Ruth Halls Poetry Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing. A graduate of New York University's MFA program in creative writing, his poetry has appeared in such publications as Callaloo, Court Green, Ploughshares, Ninth Letter, and others.

A Cave Canem fellow, Up Jump the Boogie is his first full length collection. His choreo-play, TRIGGER, is commissioned by Edgeworks Dance Theater and scheduled for production in early 2011. Murillo read as part of Park’s Series in spring, 2010. This will be his second visit to Parkville!

The Symphony interviews with Angela Elam for "New Letters on the Air"

Randall Horton
Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, he is the author of the poetry collections The Lingua Franca of Ninth Street, and The Definition of Place, both from Main Street Rag. Horton is the poetry editor of Willow Books and the managing editor at Tidal Basin Review. A Cave Canem fellow his poems, fiction and nonfiction appear in the following anthologies and journals: Motif: Writing by Ear, Mosaic, Black Renaissance, Crab Orchard Review and The Red Clay Review. Randall currently teaches at the University of New Haven.
Read about The Symphony

Read about The Symphony

Read about and hear R. Dwayne Betts