Wider Than The Sky Poetry Festival | Poets 2018
A Young People's Poetry Festival
Festival, Poetry, California, Youth, Young, High School, Teens, Writing
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Featured Poets


Richard Blanco

Keynote Speaker
Selected by President Obama as the fifth inaugural poet in U.S. history, Richard Blanco is the youngest and the first Latino, immigrant, and gay person to serve in such a role. Born in Madrid to Cuban exile parents and raised in Miami, the negotiation of cultural identity characterizes his three collections of poetry: City of a Hundred Fires, which received the Agnes Starrett Poetry Prize from the University of Pittsburgh Press; Directions to The Beach of the Dead, recipient of the Beyond Margins Award from the PEN American Center; and Looking for The Gulf Motel, recipient of the Paterson Poetry Prize and the Thom Gunn Award. He has also authored the memoirs For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet’s Journey and The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood, winner of the Lambda Literary Prize. His inaugural poem “One Today” was published as a children’s book, in collaboration with renowned illustrator Dav Pilkey. His latest book, Boundaries, a collaboration with photographer Jacob Hessler, challenges the physical and psychological dividing lines that shadow the United States. Blanco has written occasional poems for the re-opening of the U.S. Embassy in Cuba, Freedom to Marry, the Tech Awards of Silicon Valley, and the Boston Strong benefit concert following the Boston Marathon bombings. He is a Woodrow Wilson Fellow and has received numerous honorary doctorates. He has taught at Georgetown University, American University, and Wesleyan University. He serves as the first Education Ambassador for The Academy of American Poets.
Photo by Hieu Minh Nguyen

Danez Smith

Danez Smith is a Black, queer, poz writer & performer from St. Paul, MN. They are the author of [insert] boy (YesYes Books, 2014), winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry. Selected as a 2017 National Book Award finalist, Danez recently released their 2nd full collection, Don’t Call Us Dead, published by Graywolf Press in September of 2017. Danez is the recipient of fellowships from the Poetry Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, and is a 2017 National Endowment for the Arts Fellow. Their work has been featured widely on platforms such as The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Buzzfeed, The New Yorker & The New York Times.
Photo by Hieu Minh Nguyen

Kaveh Akbar

Featured Poet
Kaveh Akbar’s poems have appeared recently in The New Yorker, Poetry, The New York Times, The Nation, and elsewhere. His first book, Calling a Wolf a Wolf, is just out with Alice James in the US and Penguin in the UK. He is also the author of the chapbook Portrait of the Alcoholic. The recipient of a Pushcart Prize, a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation, and the Lucille Medwick Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, Kaveh was born in Tehran, Iran, and teaches in the MFA program at Purdue University and in the low-residency MFA programs at Randolph College.

Workshop Poets

Photo by Jenna Schoenefeld

Alex Alpharaoh

Alex Alpharaoh (SAG/AFTRA/AEA) is an award-winning actor, writer, solo performer, and spoken word poet from Los Angeles. He teaches a popular FundaMentals of Spoken Word and Performance Poetry class yearly. He is currently touring his award-winning solo show, titled WET: A DACAmented Journey. Alex has taught and performed spoken word in New York City; Washington, D.C.; Wooster, Ohio; San Francisco; and Los Angeles. He is the founder of SP!T: Spoken Word Theatre, and is in development for his new SP!T show. Social media: FB/TW/IG: Alpharaoh www.dacamentedjourney.com
Photo by Harvard-Westlake School

Sara Cohen

Sara teaches English at the Harvard-Westlake Upper School. She earned her PhD in Comparative Literature at the University of California, Los Angeles. She’s a self-identified poetry devotee and coaches Harvard-Westlake School’s spoken word team, My Word. She spends her days imparting her love of poetry and dystopian fiction to high school students and her nights wide awake.
Photo by Vanessa Acosta

Allison Conner

Allison Conner’s writing has appeared in Entropy, Full Stop, Jacket2 and elsewhere. She enjoys exploring ways in which literature and publishing can realign our notions of community, activation, resistance, and healing. She is a graduate of the creative writing MFA program at CalArts. Born in Ft. Lauderdale, Allison now lives in Los Angeles. Allison joined Jack Jones Literary Arts in 2017 where she trained as a junior publicist and built out the framework for the speakers bureau. She is particularly proud of her publicity work on Leesa Cross-Smith’s Whiskey & Ribbons. In 2018, she was promoted to manager of the speakers bureau where she coordinates engagements for luminaries such as Donika Kelly, Angela Flournoy, and John Keene.
Photo by Tatiana Luboviski-Acosta

Angel Dominguez

Angel Dominguez is a Latinx poet and performance artist of Yucatec Mayan descent, born in Hollywood, and raised in Van Nuys, CA by his immigrant family. He’s the author of Desgraciado (Econo Textual Objects, 2017), and Black Lavender Milk (Timeless Infinite Light, 2015). His work can be found in Brooklyn Magazine, Dreginald,Entropy, Queen Mobs, The Wanderer, and elsewhere in print or on the internet. Follow him on Twitter @dandelionglitch or IRL in the redwoods, or ocean.
Photo by Emily Weathers

Joshua Jennifer Espinoza

Joshua Jennifer Espinoza is a trans woman poet living in California. Her work has been featured in Denver Quarterly, PEN America, Lambda Literary, Hyperallergic, and elsewhere. She is the author of two collections—i’m alive / it hurts / i love it (boost house 2014), and THERE SHOULD BE FLOWERS (CCM 2016).
Photo by Mike Dow

Zachary Greenberg

Zachary Greenberg is the author of the poetry collection Scarlight. Recent or forthcoming poems appear in The California Journal of Poetics, Juked, CutBank, and elsewhere. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from Vanderbilt University, where he was a founding poetry and music editor of Nashville Review – an online literary arts magazine. He has led poetry & meditation workshops at yoga studios, schools, rehabilitation and cancer centers in Los Angeles, Nashville, and Japan. Zachary teaches English & Creative Writing at Harvard-Westlake.
Photo by Jason Gutierrez

Ashaki M. Jackson

Ashaki M. Jackson is the author of two chapter length collections – Surveillance (Writ Large Press) and Language Lesson (Miel). An alumna of Cave Canem and VONA, Jackson’s work appears in Prairie Schooner, Obsidian, and 7×7 LA, among others. She earned her MFA (creative writing) from Antioch University Los Angeles and a doctorate (social psychology) from Claremont Graduate University. She currently lives in Los Angeles.
Photo by Samuel Contreras

Jackson Kroopf ’06

Jackson is a filmmaker, educator, and poet. He has worked at the intersection of narrative and documentary filmmaking in Poughkeepsie, Oakland, and Los Angeles, with a focus on collaborative poetics in cinematic practice. His hybrid, narrative short film BobbyAnna had its world premiere in the International Competition at the Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival 2016, has screened at over 13 festivals in 10 different countries, and was the recipient of the Frameline Completion Award. His docu-fictional short film You Know Where will have its world premiere at the BFI London Film Festival 2017. Jackson received his BA from Vassar College (2010) and an MFA from University of California Santa Cruz in Social Documentation (2017).
Photo by Kaveh Akbar

Paige Lewis

Paige Lewis is the author of the chapbook Reasons to Wake You (Tupelo Press, 2018). Their poems have appeared in Poetry, American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, The Georgia Review, Best New Poets 2017, and elsewhere.
Photo by Daniel Schaefer

Hieu Minh Nguyen

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. His next collection Not Here, was published earlier this month by Coffee House Press. A queer Vietnamese American poet, Hieu is a Kundiman fellow and a poetry editor for Muzzle Magazine. His work has also appeared in the Southern Indiana Review, Guernica, Ninth Letter, Devil’s Lake, Bat City Review, the Paris-American, and elsewhere. Hieu is a nationally touring poet, performer, and teaching artist. He lives in Minneapolis where he flails his arms and forgets to take his clothes out of the dryer.
Photo by Darise Jean Baptiste

Joy Priest

oy Priest is a writer from Louisville, Kentucky. She is the recipient of the 2016 Hurston/Wright Foundation’s College Writers’ Award, and has received support from the Fine Arts Work Center at Provincetown, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and the Kentucky Arts Council. She is currently an MFA candidate at the University of South Carolina where she teaches and serves as Senior Editor for Yemassee Journal. Her poetry and prose has appeared or is upcoming in Blackbird, Callaloo, espnW, Third Coast, Best New Poets 2014 and Best New Poets 2016, and The Breakbeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip Hop.
Photo by Amy Haberland

Joseph Rios

Joseph Rios is the author of Shadowboxing: Poems and Impersonations (Omnidawn). He is from Fresno’s San Joaquin Valley. He’s been a gardener, a janitor, a packinghouse supervisor, and a handyman. He is a recipient of scholarships from the Community of Writers Workshop at Squaw Valley and CantoMundo. He is a VONA alumnus and a Macondo Fellow. In 2015, he received the John K. Walsh residency fellowship from the University of Notre Dame. In 2016, his debut poetry collection was chosen by Claudia Rankine as a finalist for Omnidawn’s first book prize. He was named one of the notable Debut Poets by Poets & Writers Magazine for 2017 and was a finalist for a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent fellowship. He is a graduate of Fresno City College and the University of California, Berkeley. He lives in Los Angeles.
Photo by Keith Williams @mountainbikekeith

Yazmin Monet Watkins

Yazmin Monet Watkins is an internationally touring, bisexual, actress, spoken word poet, content creator, and activist. She has performed and lectured across the U.S. at colleges, universities, and community organizations—including as a featured performer at the White House during President Obama’s Administration and opening events for Angela Davis, Amiri Baraka, Sonia Sanchez, and the Dalai Lama. Garnering over 10.4 million views on YouTube and online, as an actress, Yazmin’s work can be seen in numerous feature films, commercials, sketches, shorts, and new media projects from Buzzfeed, Issa Rae, All Def Digital, Dailymotion, and Black & Sexy TV. She is an active member of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles.

Matteo Lauto ’18

Workshop: Slam That Poetry (Sesson 2 only)
Matteo Lauto, a Harvard-Westlake senior, is a poet, and served on Harvard-Westlake’s spoken poetry team, My Word, during the 2016-17 academic year.