Thankful

It’s been an exhilarating and exhausting year. Strange and wondrous. Politically queer and quite peculiar, but rewarding nonetheless. Last night (or was it the night before?),  I received a $70,000 Knight Arts Challenge Miami grant on behalf of Reading Queer, a literary organization that I co-founded with Maureen Seaton & Paula Kolek in 2013. 

The KACM grant will strengthen Reading Queer and its mission to foster and promote queer literary culture in South Florida by expanding the annual RQ Literary Festival, which is the first and only queer centric literary festival of its kind in the region. The grant will also empower us to help advance the careers of emerging and established queer-identified writers through a expanded RQ Writing Academy, an series of writer workshops, and the RQ Writers In Residence, collaboration with The Betsy Hotel-South Beach. 

Like all good things, there’s never a free ride. The grant is a challenge, which means hat we first raise the money first and then receive matching funds from the Knight Foundation, so we need your financial support to continue our work in the community. 

Donate now: readingqueer.org/donate.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation: Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit knightfoundation.org/.

Reading Queer Awarded $70,000 Knight Arts Challenge Grant Miami

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation awards Reading Queer a 2016 Knight Arts Challenge Miami (KACM) grant, a community-wide initiative funding the best ideas for the arts in South Florida. This is the second KACM grant awarded to Reading Queer since 2013.

“The KACM grant will strengthen Reading Queer and its mission to foster and promote queer literary culture in South Florida by expanding the annual RQ Literary Festival, which is the first and only queer centric literary festival of its kind in the region, with a series of main stage performances, writing workshops and literary installations,” said Neil de la Flor, Executive Director of Reading Queer. “With the aim of advancing the careers of emerging and established queer-identified writers, Reading Queer will also expand the RQ Writing Academy and collaborate with The Betsy Hotel-South Beach to launch the week-long RQ Writers in Residence program.”

With rapidly changing conceptions of gender and sexuality and a historical moment defined by racialized forms of violence against various marginalized groups of queer-identified people, Reading Queer empowers and provides a safe space for aspiring, emerging and established queer writers to create and share their work with the community. Reading Queer serves as both respite and resource to amplify queer voices and effect change.

We need your financial support to continue our work in the community. The Knight Foundation will match it dollar for dollar up to $70,000.

Donate now: readingqueer.org/donate.


About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation: Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit knightfoundation.org/.

Piano Slam Workshop

*Pardon the typos. 

Blogging from the floor of a preofessional development workshop where I’m “teaching” over 100 Miami Dade County Public School Teachers how to lead and execute creative writing workshops in their classes on behalf of Piano Slam/Dranoff Foundation at the Arscht Center. Teachers are amazing people. I wish stduents could see the behind the scenes that reveal the creativity and compassion of this profession. 




Piano Slam Daily Activities – Neil de la Flor, MFA

Schedule of Activities:
  

Exquisite (Corpse) Sonnets Collaborative Writing – (Theme: migration and/or music)

 

Participants will create collaborative poems using this surrealist game. This writing game involves 2 or more people. The beauty of this game is that you can add ‘rules’. For Piano Slam, I’d suggest limiting the themes to either music and/or migration so that the writers have a theme in mind. For example, “write about your or your family’s experience with migration” or “think about your favorite song or musical genre”. You can get even more specific by asking participants to include specific words with the same consonant or assonant sounds, such as Consort, Continuo, Contralto, Cor anglais, Cornet. You may even impose iambic pentameter to constrict and force musicality into the writing: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/text/sonnet-poetic-form.  

 

Instructions:

1. Note: everyone in the group will start a poem

2. Participants write two lines of text

3. Fold paper just enough to leave the last line exposed

4. Exchange poem in clockwise fashion.

5. Repeat steps 2-4 for 7 exchanges.

6. At the end, students open poem, read and assign a title.

7. Needs: sheet of paper and pen. (A theme can be applied. Rules can be applied to prompt to direct process.) Share poems. 45 – 60 minuets.

 

Sample poems: http://www.fenceportal.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Seaton_de-la-Flor.pdf

Exquisite Corpse: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exquisite_corpse  

 

 

Introduction (Migration & Identity): Who Are You?

 

In this exercise, participants will write about their ‘Migrant Voyage’ and how that voyage shaped their identity. This exercise asks participants to dredge up (or re-imagine) their family history with migration using an extended metaphor, vivid imagery, figurative language and their “native tongues”. Note: This can be a prose poem.  

 

Instructions:

 

1. Participants will first sit in circle. Group leader ask group members to ‘think about their earliest and/or most vivid memory of their family’s migration story’. Or, an experience in which two worlds collide. See L. Lamar Wilson’s “A Patch of Blue in Tenleytown”. Group leader will model by sharing. Each student will share a brief personal experience that relates to the topic. No more than 5 minutes.

2. Students will then break off and write about their experience for 15 minutes. Students will come back to circle. Each will share the last 3 – 5 lines of their writing. Students will then go back and write & revise for another 15 minutes. Share poems.

 

Note: this process can take up 2 to 3 classes to fully develop ideas and revise

Rigoberto Gonzalez: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/things-shine-night

Regie Cabico: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/mango-poem

Wendy Wu: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/my-dissent-and-my-love-are-woven-inside-me

 

45 – 60 minutes.

 

 

Personification: A Musical Instrument or Musical Term Will Save….  

 

In this exercise, participants will personify an object, such as a violin, that saves the world from silence. As an added bonus, you can use this exercise to personify other objects, such as microscope, that will save _________. It’s a great way to have students incorporate vocabulary words, musical terms, scientific terms/theories, historical events and even mathematical formulas to stimulate creativity and interest in other fields. Students are given 30 – 45 minutes to craft and mini-epic drama, poem or prose piece in which this object saves something. 45 – 60 minutes.

 

 

 

Ekphrastic Musical Poems/Ekphrastic Visual Poems

 

*an ekphrastic poem is a vivid description of a scene or, more commonly, a work of art. Through the imaginative act of narrating and reflecting on the “action” of a painting or sculpture, the poet may amplify and expand its meaning. However, in this exercise, we will replace “a work of art” with either “a song” or “a portrait of my family”.

 

Instructions:

 

1. Participants will listen to a song (group leader can allow individuals to select their own song or limit choices in another way to serve a particular purpose). For a longer class session or multi-day projects, students may listen to a variety of songs—classical and contemporary—to find the exact inspiration they’re looking for. The same goes for using family photographs.  

2. Participants will free write while the song plays and then go back and revise for a final piece.

3. Group leader my ask participants to further complicate the ekphrastic piece by asking them to write their poems in a form, such as a sestina or a Ghazal.

 

Note: The goal is to capture the moods, feelings and memories that the music or photograph/image conjures up

 

“Joga” or “Hyperballad” by Bjork during her performance at the Royal Albert Concert Hall. http://youtu.be/tU_Wx8ooRjI 

“Ode to Country Music” by Sandra Simonds: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/ode-country-music

“I Live in Music” by Ntozake Shange https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=F86YBqmcaMU

“Sestina: Altaforte” by Ezra Pound: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/sestina-altaforte

 

 

Share 45 – 60 minutes.

 

Dinosaurs in the Hood by Danez Smith

 

Students will write a poem in the style of Danez Smith that subverts a popular film, tv show or pop culture phenomenon, such as pokemon, that places an emphasis on the participants migrant history and their own unique cultural context. Once again, you can ask students to infuse their writing with musical terms to create with the two major themes of the migrant voyage and music.

 

45 – 60 minutes. Share.

 

“Dinosaurs in the Hood” by Danez Smith: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/detail/57585 & Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJwiOTeKDOQ

 

 

Science Isn’t Just for Scientists

 

Participants will comb through scientific texts (or any text you wish to incorporate into this exercise) and “steal language/borrow” words and phrases that they will use to then construct poems that fuse found and original text. *See Tom Phillips. 

 

1. Locate a scientific text: https://www.aps.org/publications/apsnews/200512/history.cfm

2. Ask participants to create a new poem using the language found in the text.

 

 

Incredible Bridges: “Translation for Mama” by Richard Blanco

 

In this final prompt, writers will write a poem in two languages that bridges two cultures. The poem can be written in the point of view of another family member, as a letter to a family member or as a letter to oneself imagining who they’d be if their family had not migrated. Link to Blanco’s poem: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/translation-mam%C3%A1.

 

See detailed lesson plan here: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/lesson/incredible-bridges-translation-mama-richard-blanco

 

When Pigs Fly

“When Pigs Fly” by muralists Rei Ramirez and Ivan Roque demonstrates the power of art to literally stop traffic and spark a conversation with friends, neighbors and total strangers. 


True art challenges us to confront ourselves and each other. To respond to the critical issues of the day and of our lives. To question our individual and collective beliefs. 


This new family, like all of our families, will live in a country with either a racist xenophobic hate-mongering woman-hating country-dividing opportunistic bully or a leader who sees value and strength in our differences because we really are #strongertogether. 

I asked you not to throw them at me when you dance

“I asked you not to throw them at me when you dance” (60″ x 40″) is a photograph from The Quarks, a series of micro stories revelaed through light. This image, like most of the photos in the series, was taken on the 4th of July or New Year’s Eve. The photograph captures the aftermath of dancing with fire and the politics of a relationship. The locus, or the curve formed by the attack of blue, reveals the condition between two coordinates moving relative to one another at the speed of light.

Exhibition information: Marriott Residences, 9200 Collins Avenue from October 22 – January 30th, 2017.

Reading Queer finalist for 2016 Knight Arts Challenge Grant 

I’m happy to announce that Reading Queer is a finalist for a 2016 Knight Arts Challenge grant along with 68 individuals and organizations using the arts to transform the community. 

“The Miami of today is radically different from the Miami of 2008 when we first launched this challenge. Artists and cultural organizations have pushed this community to seek high levels of excellence, while continuing to experiment with new ideas. Our belief in this city, and our investment in its people, is born out every day in the performance halls, galleries and streets of Miami, and again by the 68 finalists in this year’s challenge,” said Victoria Rogers, vice president for arts at Knight Foundation.

Knight Foundation will announce the winning ideas, which will share $2.5 million, on Nov. 28, 2016.

In the meantime, support RQ’s mission to promote & preserve queer literary culture with a small, medium or large donation today. Every dollar we raise powers our mission and transforms the community through the arts. 

Visit www.readingqueer.org/donate to make a donation now. Read more about the KAC here

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation: Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit knightfoundation.org/.

The Invasion of Hoth 

Sometimes there’s nothing you can do but go with the chaos and lean into it. Learn from it (even if it feels like it’s going to drown  you). Giving in isn’t giving up.

“The Invasion of Hoth (or where I left my phone)” is an image from The Quarks, a series of micro stories made visible through light.

When I shot this image, it immediately reminded me of Hoth, that hostile ice planet in Star Wars. That planet where nature thrives despite the circumstances.

See more here: http://neildelaflor.format.com