Wider Than The Sky Poetry Festival | Poets 2017
A Young People's Poetry Festival
Festival, Poetry, California, Youth, Young, High School, Teens, Writing
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Claudia Rankine

Keynote Speaker

Claudia Rankine is the author of five collections of poetry including Citizen: An American Lyric and Don’t Let Me Be Lonely; two plays including Provenance of Beauty: A South Bronx Travelogue; numerous video collaborations, and is the editor of several anthologies including The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind. For her book Citizen, Rankine won both the PEN Open Book Award and the PEN Literary Award, the NAACP Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry (Citizen was the first book ever to be named a finalist in both the poetry and criticism categories); and was a finalist for the National Book Award. Citizen also holds the distinction of being the only poetry book to be a New York Times bestseller in the nonfiction category. Among her numerous awards and honors, Rankine is the recipient of the Poets & Writers’ Jackson Poetry Prize and fellowships from the Lannan Foundation and the National Endowment of the Arts. She lives in California and teaches at Yale University as the Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry.

Kat Magill

Mistress of Ceremonies

HBO Def Poet Kat Magill has performed around the nation, captivating audiences with her powerful and distinct voice sharing her story with unyielding vulnerability and passion. Kat Magill has been featured in documentary “Spit”, seen on Current TV, and aired on radio stations from Alaska to Hawaii. With her talent to engage and maneuver through a wide range of audiences, she opened up for such artist as 2011 Grammy Award winner Ryan Lesli, Hip Hop Legend Mos Def, singer and song writer Raheem Devaughn, Latin Grammy award winning Ozomatli and spoke alongside of Whitney Thompson winner of America’s Next top model (10th cycle), just to name a few.

Kat Magill is the founder and Executive Director of Say Word, a non-profit based in Los Angeles, with a mission to teach high school age students the importance of sharing and documenting their own stories through the art of spoken word. Her commitment to the healing power of narrative, especially in the lives of youth, has made her a fierce and nationally renowned youth advocate.


F. Douglas Brown

Workshop: Ok, Poets, Let’s Get Into FORM-ation

F. Douglas Brown of Los Angeles is author of Zero to Three (University of Georgia 2014), the 2013 Cave Canem Poetry Prize recipient selected by Tracy K. Smith. He also co-authored with poet Geffrey Davis, Begotten (Upper Rubber Boot Books 2016). Brown, an educator for over 20 years, currently teaches English at Loyola High School of Los Angeles, an all-boys Jesuit school. He is both a Cave Canem and Kundiman fellow. He is co-founder and curator of un::fade::able – The Requiem for Sandra Bland, a quarterly reading series examining restorative justice through poetry as a means to address racism. When he is not teaching, writing or with his two children Isiah and Olivia, he is busy DJing in the greater Los Angeles area.

Dave Eng

Workshop: The Language of Cinema

David Eng received an MFA in Writing and Critical Studies from the California Institute of the Arts. He works at the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library in Los Angeles.

Joshua Jennifer Espinoza

Workshop: Exploring Intuition

Joshua Jennifer Espinoza is trans woman poet living in California. Her work has been published in The Feminist Wire, Lambda Literary, PEN America, Washington Square Review, and elsewhere. Her full-length collection THERE SHOULD BE FLOWERS was published by Civil Coping Mechanisms in 2016.

Ashaki Marie Jackson

Workshop: Negotiations

Ashaki M. Jackson is an applied social psychologist, program evaluator and poet who works with youth through research, evaluation and creative writing mentoring. She is a Cave Canem and VONA alumna who serves on the VIDA: Women In Literary Arts board. She is also co-founder of Women Who Submit. Her work appears in CURA and Prairie Schooner among other publications. Author of two chapter-length collections – Surveillance (Writ Large Press) and Language Lesson (MIEL) – Jackson earned her creative writing MFA from Antioch University Los Angeles and a psychology doctorate from Claremont Graduate University. She lives in Los Angeles, California. Visit her at www.ashakijackson.com.

Tayllor Johnson

Workshop: Poetry Performance: Activate Your Voice and Listen

Since discovering her passion for spoken word at 15 years old, Tayllor hasn’t stopped writing, performing, or teaching. Working with non-profit literacy advocacy group, Get Lit, and representing Los Angeles in Brave New Voices 2010, taught her the healing and empowering force that was inevitable through spoken word. From here, she will grow and reach new heights in her performance and writing, always keeping in mind her mission: Find new ways spoken word can empower the voiceless, soothe the wounded, and disturb the status quo to set all of us on a path to freedom. 

Caroline Miller

Workshop: Found Poetry

Caroline Miller has always worked with words. She has taught English at the University of Michigan, Harvard-Westlake School, and Sewickley Academy.

Hieu Minh Nguyen

Workshop: Hyphenated

Recipient of a 2017 NEA fellowship, Hieu Minh Nguyen is the author of This Way to the Sugar (Write Bloody Press, 2014) which was a finalist for both a Minnesota Book Awards and a Lambda Literary Awards. A queer Vietnamese American poet, Hieu is a Kundiman fellow and a poetry editor for Muzzle Magazine. A decorated slam poet, Hieu has performed and competed at national and international poetry slam festivals since the age of 16. His work has also appeared in the Southern Indiana Review, BuzzFeed READER, PBS NewsHour, Guernica, Ninth Letter, Devil’s Lake, Bat City Review, the Paris-American, and elsewhere. His second collection of poetry, Not Here, is forthcoming from Coffee House Press. Hieu is a nationally touring poet, performer, and teaching artist based in Minneapolis. Hieu is represented by Beotis Creative. 

Wendy C. Ortiz

Workshop: Alternative Maps for Alternative States & Territories

Wendy C. Ortiz is the author of Excavation: A Memoir, Hollywood Notebook, and the dreamoir Bruja. Her work has been profiled or featured in the Los Angeles Times, The Rumpus, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the National Book Critics Circle Small Press Spotlight blog. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Hazlitt, The Lifted Brow, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, StoryQuarterly, and a year-long series appeared at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. Wendy lives in Los Angeles. Visit her public notebook: wendycortiz.tumblr.com

Khadijah Queen

Workshop: Sound Workshop

Khadijah Queen was born near Detroit and raised in Los Angeles. She is the author of five books, most recently I’m So Fine: A List of Famous Men & What I Had On (YesYes Books 2017). Her verse play, Non-Sequitur (Litmus Press 2015), won the Leslie Scalapino Award for Innovative Women Performance Writers, with a full production staged in December 2015 at Theaterlab NYC by The Relationship theater company. Individual poems and prose appear in Fence, Tin House, jubilat, Best American Nonrequired Reading, Buzzfeed, LitHub, The Force of What’s Possible and widely elsewhere. She is a doctoral fellow in English at University of Denver and teaches in the Mile-High MFA program at Regis University. Visit her website: khadijahqueen.com.

Steven Reigns

Workshop: Poetry As Memoir

Steven Reigns is a Los Angeles-based poet, educator, and was appointed the first City Poet Laureate of West Hollywood (2014-2016). Alongside over a dozen chapbooks, he has published the collections Inheritance and Your Dead Body is My Welcome Mat. He holds a BA in Creative Writing from the University of South Florida, a Master of Clinical Psychology from Antioch University, and is a ten-time recipient of City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs’ Artist in Residency Grant. He edited My Life is Poetry, featuring his students in the first-ever autobiographical poetry workshop for LGBT seniors, and has taught writing workshops around the country to LGBT youth and people living with HIV. Currently he is touring The Gay Rub, an exhibition of rubbings from LGBT landmarks. www.stevenreigns.com

Danez Smith

Workshop: Future Tense: Poetry As Blueprint

Recipient of a 2017 NEA fellowship, Danez Smith is a Black, queer, poz writer, and performer from St. Paul, MN. Danez is the author of [insert] boy (YesYes Books, 2014), winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry, and Don’t Call Us Dead (Graywolf Press, 2017). Danez is also the author of two chapbooks, hands on your knees (2013, Penmanship Books) and black movie (2015, Button Poetry), winner of the Button Poetry Prize. They are the recipient of fellowships from the Poetry Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, and is a 2017 National Endowment for the Arts Fellow. Danez’s work has been featured widely, including on Buzzfeed, Blavity, PBS NewsHour, and on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. They are a 2-time Individual World Poetry Slam finalist, 3-time Rustbelt Poetry Slam Champion, and a founding member of the Dark Noise Collective. Danez is represented by Beotis Creative. Photo by David Hong

Yazmin Monet Watkins

Workshop: Note To Self: Poetry, Body Image and Self Love

Yazmin Monet Watkins is an internationally touring, bisexual, poet and actress from Los Angeles, CA. A Posse scholar and a graduate of Dickinson College, Watkins’ work in higher education combines art and activism, providing critical artistic outlets for students to self advocate, heal, negotiate and navigate the space that is higher education. She was invited to perform in Obama’s White House and has opened for the likes of Angela Davis, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Amiri Baraka, Sonia Sanchez, Peggy Mcintosh and Victor Lewis. She is the author of Love Without Limits: The Bi-Laws of Love and has a forthcoming publication with Not ACult press entitled A Vessel Born to Float. Her work has been published in the Huffington Post, AfroPunk, For Harriet, Rebel Muse Magazine and in the Race and Pedagogy Journal. As an actress, Watkins has been cast in several feature films, commercials, shorts and multiple new media projects with Buzzfeed, Issa Rae, Russell Simmons, Dailymotion, Funny or Die and Black and Sexy TV garnering over 3.5 million views on YouTube and online. In her free time Watkins volunteers with incarcerated youth teaching poetry workshops and serves as a general member of Black Lives Matter LA.  Photo by Keith Williams.

My Word — HW’s Spoken Word Team

Workshop: Slam That Poetry

Iman Akram, Natalie Choi, Sekura Price, and Matteo Lauto are poets, Harvard-Westlake students, and members of My Word, Harvard-Westlake’s spoken word poetry team.