LitLife 2019 Poetry Conference Schedule

WHEN: April 6, 2019, 9:30 am – 3:30 pm
WHERE: Rosemont College, 1400 Montgomery Ave, Rosemont, PA 19010 (click here for campus map)

9:00am Registration (Lawrence Auditorium Lobby)

9:30am Welcome Statement from Philadelphia Stories, Rosemont College MFA, and Montgomery County Poet Laureate Program (Lawrence Auditorium)

10:00am-12:00pm Master Class with Dilruba Ahmed (Good Counsel, Global Classroom)

Sweet Dream & Rude Awakening: Crafting the Contemporary Pastoral Poem

“In the face of climate change, air pollution, deforestation, and more, how can the contemporary writer craft poems in the pastoral tradition while acknowledging the harsh realities of human impact on the environment? What kind of approaches and strategies can we learn from other poets in order to render the awe and wonder of the natural world without ignoring our increasingly complicated relationship with our planet? Join us for a workshop that explores what poets Eavan Boland and Mark Strand refer to as pastoral poetry’s unique mix of “sweet dream” and “rude awakening.” Together, we’ll investigate how diction, syntax, sensory description, and other craft elements work in concert to create an interplay between sweet dream and rude awakening. During the workshop, we’ll also generate draft poems with the goal of both responding to and revising the pastoral tradition.”

10:00am Practice of Poetry: MINDFULNESS

According to yoga teacher and writer Tracey Coretta Ferdinand, “Writing is an intimate and spiritual act.  It requires the writer to sit in stillness when exploring one’s truths.  This stillness is becoming increasingly difficult to access. The myriad distractions, pressures, and stressors of modern living can negatively impact the poet’s writing process.  A writer’s truths cannot be excavated when there is a disconnect between one’s mental/emotional self and one’s physical self. Breath, however, allows the heart and mind connection to thrive.”

Panelists: Tracey Coretta Ferdinand, T. Nicole Cirone & Debrah Morkun

11:00am  Business of Poetry: PRESSES (Lawrence Auditorium)

Valerie Fox, writer, educator, and editor at Cooperative Press, writes: “In today’s tough and complicated publishing environment, I believe there is an important place for small, cooperative-style presses that publish poetry. At Texture Press, we are striving to help empower writers, especially talented poets and short story writers, in order to help them in reaching their ideal audience.”

Artist, poet, and publisher, MaryAnn Miller of Lucia Press tells us: “Writers and artists use different materials but they are all engaged in the same process of making a product. A large part of the mission of Lucia Press is to enable the pairing of these processes, especially in the publishing of hand bound artist books and broadsides. Collaboration becomes generative: magnifying and elevating each art form, often resulting in surprising collateral benefits.”

Moonstone’s Larry Robin shares: “After over 50 years in the book industry and 35 years of presenting poets and other authors, I think of myself as a facilitator not a critic. Our new motto for the Moonstone Arts Center, proposed by a Temple intern, is “Everyone has a Voice,” and I see our mission as helping to present that voice. It is the public’s job to embrace or reject that voice. My problem with the concept of “quality” is that it tends to mean “what I like.” My heroes in poetry are Dennis Brutus, Sonia Sanchez and Margaret Randall, poets who tell the truth and pay the price. Dennis, in a discussion at the Dodge Poetry Festival said, “I will bite the hand that feeds me.” Art/Poetry is the attempt to get others to see what you see, about the world and about yourself, to be honest and brave. It is why artists are in trouble most of the time.”

Panelists: MaryAnn Miller, Lucia Press; Larry Robin, Moonstone Books; Valerie Fox, Texture Press; & more

12:00pm Keynote:  M. Nzadi Keita (Lawrence Auditorium)

Nzadi Keita is a 2017 Pew Fellow in the Arts. Her most recent collection, Brief Evidence of Heaven, sheds light on Anna Murray Douglass, Frederick Douglass’s first wife. Publications including Poet Lore and The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South have featured her poems. The Leeway Foundation, Fine Arts Work Center, and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts have also supported her work. An associate professor at Ursinus College, Keita teaches creative writing, American literature, and Africana Studies.

12:30pm Lunch (TBA)

1:30pm-3:30pm  Master Class with M. Nzadi Keita: Muse Map (Good Counsel, Global Classroom)

“In this workshop, we will transgress the dominance of the GPS over the human voice and trouble the boundaries of ‘lost’ and ‘found.’  Our objective is to investigate what kinds of poems may arise from the concepts and information maps provide about spaces, histories, and presence.  Expect to write in 5-10 minute bursts (sometimes by hand!), practice visualization, and discuss various poetic forms.”

1:30pm Poetry of Place: Travel

Warren Longmire: “As a Philadelphia writer, a budding Buddhist and a dye-in-the-wool city boy, capturing the pulse a particular place has always been a draw for me. The feelings hit on within mundane moments and strange overlooked juxtapositions of daily life are my best muse. More than telling a reader what is felt, working with places creates in the mind of the reader a world AROUND the idea that they can live inside. With that in mind, my poetry, journalistic work and travel writing often come packed with details of intimate spaces, awkward conversations and the lines between life experienced, observed and interpreted.”

Poet and educator Christine Salvatore: “Traveling for me has always been about perspective and the writing that happens when I travel somewhere far is usually imbued with new perspective on other, more familiar places, like home. What I love best about how travel affects my writing is how the nuances of another country or culture, or even just a new neighborhood, slip into the imagery of my poems.  If I never traveled, I don’t think I’d write a word.  I need the space, freedom, connection, and change of scenery to ignite words.”

Peter Murphy: “Mostly I write in hotels. I love the anonymity of the chains where nobody knows my name, and the only people I interact with are those who serve me food. This allows me to flourish in a state of uninterrupted concentration where time, place and obligation release me from their grip. I started leaving home to write at hotels in New Jersey in 1990 and have since branched out to write in Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Bodega Bay, Portland, San Juan, Toronto, Barcelona, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London.”

Heather H. Thomas writes: “Poetry is a form of travel through language across lines—borders—an experience of coincidence and contrast much like a journey. When I travel to unfamiliar countries and cultures, I land with strangers who are never strange, speaking tongues I may not understand but hear as music. Poetry connects us despite our differences; poets tend to foster collaboration, not conflict. Whether reading in Egypt or Ireland, teaching in Russia or Israel, listening to poems in Albanian or Swedish, this is what travel has taught me. As a private utterance in the public sphere, a poem awakens our mutual understanding of humanity across cultures and countries. It allows us to recognize something of ourselves in the other; it allows that there are no others.”

Panelists: Christine Salvatore, Warren Longmire, Heather H. Thomas, & Peter Murphy

2:40pm Power in the Pen: Writing about Politics (Lawrence Auditorium)

According to Artress White, “Poetry is the process of wedding form to content and context. To live and survive is poetry; to absorb the world around us is poetry. To write poetry is a political act.”

Alicia Askenase counters: “Auden claimed that poetry ‘makes nothing happen,’ though that was in the 1930s, at a time when he was speaking to an ‘ideologically mandated culture of protest that had a chokehold on the literary left,’ i.e. the Communist party, which with Stalinism would devolve into nightmarish fascism. A hundred years earlier, in Percy Bysshe Shelley’s essay “A Defence of Poetry”, the well-known quote, ‘poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world’ appeared. How do we reconcile these types of claims? Do we need to? Is all poetry political, as has also been said many times?”

And Kelly McQuain: “When it comes to politics in poetry, I find it a source of inspiration and confoundment. My work tends to puncture the metaphysical by way of the physical and deeply personal, but how can that not be political as well in a world where our bodies–and what we do with them–are grounds for political debate?”

Laren McClung writes, “Poetry is an action. By performing or publishing we participate in an act of artistic citizenship. Such an act—perhaps first realized in American poetry in the works of Phillis Wheatley, though maybe most widely read in the works of Walt Whitman—has called poets to investigate the underworking of the psyche—one shaped in relation to the mind of one’s own country: the people, the history, and the land—to make use of a phenomenology of music, image, and memory as means of invoking an organic consciousness that moves the public into an immediacy of experiences of other bodies, and toward a collective body singing out for truth or beauty in the face of suffering or violence or terror.

Panelists: Kelly McQuain, Alicia Askenase, Artress White, Laren McClung

4:00pm Crimmins & MCPL Reception (Main Building)

We’ll celebrate the winners of the Sandy Crimmins National Prize in Poetry as well as the 2019 Montgomery County Poet Laureate with a reception. Poets will be traveling from around the country and around the block to participate. Free and open to the public.

2019 Crimmins Poetry Contest Winner: Carlos Andrés Gómez (Click here for the audio of “Elegy of Breath”)

2019 MCPL: TBA

6:00pm Break

7:30pm-8:30pm Open Mic (Main Point Books, Wayne, PA)

After a day of writing, listening, and discussing poetry, join panelists, organizers, and other participants in the LitLife Poetry Conference. Poets will have a chance to share original pieces — perhaps pieces developed in LitLife workshops! Free and open to the public.



Alicia Askenase is a poet and educator, and was co-organizer of Philadelphia Writers Resist. She served as a founding co-editor of the poetry journal 6ix, and Literary Program Director at the Walt Whitman Art Center. Her chapbooks include Cover, Suspect, The Luxury of Pathos (Texture Press) and Shirley, Shirley (sonaweb). Her writing has appeared in the literary journals texture, Poetry New York, Kiosk, Chain, The World, Aerial, Feminist Studies, Big Bridge, and the anthologies 100 Days, New Works by Philadelphia Poets, and Not Our President. Her work was selected as an Editor’s Choice for the 2018 Sandy Crimmins Prize.

T Nicole Cirone is a writer, an English teacher, a yoga instructor, a mom and a cat mom. She lives next door to her parents in Upper Darby, PA. Ms. Cirone’s work has appeared in several literary journals, including Serving House Journal, Ovunque Siamo: A Journal of Italian-American Writing, Hippocampus, Perigee, Red River Review> and Philadelphia Stories; and in three anthologies: The Best of Philadelphia Stories Anthology, Reaching Beyond the Saguaros: A Prosimetric Travelogue and Gateways. She is a prose reader for The Literary Review and a contributing editor at Serving House Journal. Ms. Cirone holds undergraduate degrees in Italian Studies and Political Science (‘94) and an MA in English (’02) from Rosemont College, and a dual-concentration MFA in Creative Writing (Poetry and Creative Non-Fiction) from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Her novel in essays, Nine Nails, is forthcoming from Serving House Books.

Tracey Coretta wants to live in a world where mango trees are plentiful, kindness is fashionable, and yoga classes are melanin friendly.  She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Ursinus College and a master’s degree in Africana Women’s Studies from Clark Atlanta University.  She is also a certified 200 hour vinyasa yoga teacher with a passion for wellness. She fancies herself a womanist writer.  Her poetry inspires lifestyle transformations guided by self-love and self-care.  Her mission is to encourage women and girls to cultivate vibrant lives by exploring creative wellness practices. You can visit her website at or her Instagram @Tracey_Coretta.  Make her smile by stopping by to say hello!

Valerie Fox grew up in central Pennsylvania. She currently lives in New Jersey with her family and teaches at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Recent work can be found in The Cafe IrrealPhiladelphia StoriesLiterary Orphans, and CleaverMuch interested in collaboration, she has worked with Jacklynn Niemiec (artist) and Arlene Ang (writing).

Warren Longmire is a poet, a performer, an educator and expert level whistler. He is the co-founder of the Excelano Project Spoken Word Collective, and is a former poetry editor for Apiary Magazine. He’s been published including Metropolary, Eleven Eleven, and The New Purlieu Review and in three chapbooks: Ripped Winters (Seventh Tangent 2006), Do.Until.True. (Two Pens and Lint 2012) and the Wyoming default (Moonstone Press 2018). His first full length collection An Angry High Note Attempted and Missed: An Erased History of Bebop is due for release in the spring of 2019 through empty set press.

Laren McClung is the author of Between Here and Monkey Mountain (Sheep Meadow Press) and editor of an anthology, Inheriting the War: Poetry and Prose by Descendants of Vietnam Veterans and Refugees (W.W. Norton). She received an MFA from New York University and an MA from Arcadia University. Her work has appeared in reviews including Poetry; Harvard Review; The Massachusetts Review; The American Reader; PN Review and elsewhere. She has attended residencies at Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the Oberpfälzer Künstlerhaus in Schwandorf, Germany. Her teaching fellowships include a Teachers and Writers Collaborative Van Lier Fellowship; a Goldwater Hospital Writing Workshop Fellowship, where she led a yearlong workshop to permanent residents; and a Veterans Writing Fellowship, for which she led a yearlong writing workshop to veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. She currently teaches at New York University.

Kelly McQuain is the author of Velvet Rodeo, which won the Bloom poetry prize. His prose, poetry and illustrations have appeared in The Pinch, Painted Bride Quarterly, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Cleaver, as well as such anthologies as Men on Men, Drawn to Marvel, Eyes Glowing at the Edge of the Woods: Fiction and Poetry from West Virginia; Best American Erotica, and Rabbit Ears: TV Poems. As a visual artist, McQuain has won prizes from the Barnes Foundation and the William Way LGBTQ Center, and his series of writer portraits appear as cover illustrations on Fjords Review. He has been a Sewanee Tennessee Williams Scholar and a Lambda Fellow, and he has received two fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. As an English professor, he has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the East-West Center, and he has represented the U.S. from Beijing to Shanghai as a visiting scholar and guest of China’s Ministry of Education.

MaryAnn L. Miller’s most recent book of poems is Cures for Hysteria (Finishing Line Press 2018.) She has been twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her work is published in Mom Egg Review, Ovunque Siamo, Stillwater Review, Wordgathering, Kaleidoscope, International Review of African American Art and others. She publishes artists’ books pairing poets and visual artists through her Artist Books published by Lucia Press are in Special Collections including Swarthmore College, Bryn Mawr College, Stanford University, Purdue, Herron Art Library, University of Iowa, Wesleyan University, Lafayette College and others. Miller is the Poetry Coordinator for the NJ Book Arts Symposium.

Debrah Morkun is a poet who lives and writes to find the intersections between poetry and magic.  She is the author of Projection Machine (BlazeVOX Books) and The Ida Pingala (BlazeVOX Books) as well as several chapbooks.  A few years ago, she left Philadelphia to study Yoga and Meditation practices at various ashrams and yoga schools across the Indian subcontinent.  Debrah is a graduate of Naropa University and a certified yoga instructor. She teaches English and Writing classes in universities and colleges throughout the Philadelphia metropolitan region.

Peter E. Murphy was born in Wales and grew up in New York City where he operated heavy equipment, managed a nightclub and drove a taxi. The author of ten books and chapbooks of poetry and nonfiction, his poems, essays and photographs have been published in The Amsterdam Quarterly, The Beloit Poetry Journal, Diode, Guernica, The New York Times, The New Welsh Review, Rattle, The Shakespeare Quarterly and elsewhere. He is the founder of Murphy Writing of Stockton University, and has led hundreds of writing workshops in the United States and aboard.

Larry Robin was president of Robin’s Bookstore, the oldest independent book store in Philadelphia, until it closed in December 2012. He is co-founder of Moonstone Inc. and director of the Moonstone Arts Center, has served on the boards of the Pennsylvania Center for the Book, the Read Aloud Coalition of Philadelphia and The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression. He has served on the literature panel of the Pennsylvania Council for the Arts and the advisory boards of The Mayor’s Commission on Literacy, the Philadelphia Ink program of the Pennsylvania Humanities Council’s Year of the Pennsylvania Writer and Art Sanctuary.   Larry created and directed The Celebration of Black Writing for 18 years, The Paul Robeson Festival for 7 years, Poetry Ink for 22 years and various other Moonstone programs. He currently produces poetry programs and since 2009 The Hidden History Project, city wide festivals celebrating the life and work of social activists, such as John Brown, Frances Harper, Martin Delany and Ida B. Wells.

Christine Salvatore received her MFA from The University of New Orleans and currently teaches literature and writing at Stockton University, in the MFA Program at Rosemont College, and at a public high school in South Jersey. She is a Geraldine R. Dodge Poet and a regular faculty member for Murphy Writing of Stockton University.  Her poetry has recently appeared in Diode, The Turnip Truck[s], The Literary Review, The Cortland Review, Mead Journal, as well as many others.  Her work is included in the craft book More Challenges for the Delusional and as part of the upcoming art book, Mother Monument by Holly Trostle Brigham and Maryanne Miller.  More information can be found at 

Heather H. Thomas is the author of Vortex Street (FutureCycle Press, 2018) and six other poetry collections. She has honors from the Rita Dove Poetry Prize, Gertrude Stein Award in Innovative American Poetry, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and as Berks County Poet Laureate. In Vortex Street life is subject to forces disrupting the flow—from the Schuylkill River to Aleppo, Syria—and to the poem as an utterance of recovery. Heather’s poems are translated into Albanian, Arabic, Hebrew, Italian, Lithuanian, Swedish, and Spanish. She is a professor emerita at Kutztown University and teaches at Cedar Crest College.

Artress Bethany White is a poet, essayist, and literary critic. She is the recipient of the 2018 Trio Award for her forthcoming poetry collection, My Afmerica (Trio House Press, 2019). Her prose and poetry have appeared in such journals as Harvard Review, Tupelo Quarterly, The Hopkins Review, Poet Lore, Ecotone, and Pleiades. Her collection of essays, Survivor’s Guilt: Essays on Race and American Cultural Identity is forthcoming from New Rivers Press in 2020. White has received the Mary Hambidge Distinguished Fellowship from the Hambidge Center for Creative Arts for her nonfiction, The Mona Van Duyn Scholarship in Poetry from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and writing residencies at The Writers Hotel and the Tupelo Press/MASS MoCA studios. She is a visiting assistant professor of American cultural studies at Albright College in Pennsylvani