Acentos 2010-11 Session 1
Samantha's path as a writer began at the tender age of 8. She received her Bachelors degree in creative writing from Florida State University, where she joined BackTalk! Poetry Troupe, a guild that nurtured Samantha into the eloquent performance poet she is today. Upon graduation at FSU, Samantha received a full fellowship from the University of Virginia where she received her Masters of Fine Arts in poetry while coaching Virginia's slam team to two consecutive regional victories.
Samantha now teaches poetry to actors at the Juilliard School in New York City. She also serves grades 6-12 as writer in residence at the Bronx Academy of Letters. There, she teaches creative writing seminars and manages a talented group of teens in the production of the school paper, The Raven.
In 2007, she and published a middle school level chapter book, Everybody Hates School Presentations, based on the hit show Everybody Hates Chris. When Samantha is not obsessing over odes and writing poems, she is at work on her young adult novel Seventeen Seasons, to be published by Penguin Putnam. In November "Ode to Little Odetta," her performance poem about the late folk legend, will be published by Scholastic Press as a picture book. Her individual poems have been featured in the following publications: Crab Orchard Review, Indiana Review, Poets and Artists Magazine, The Louisville Review, Two Review, African American Review and Faultline.
Samantha is grateful to the organizations that have been most instrumental in nurturing her artistic and spiritual growth: Cave Canem Retreat, Soul Mountain Retreat, Hedgebrook Retreat, and most recently the Jerome Foundation, which enabled her to spend three months in her homeland, Trinidad & Tobago.
Info from Acentos Poetry Foundation
Visit her: http://www.samanthaspeaks.com/
Our first day back to the Acentos Writing Workshop grind was sure to be a promising one as the sun was shining, the weather was as pleasant as it has been all year and upon entering the lobby of Eugenio María de Hostos Community College at 149th and the Grand Concourse, like minded friends with similar purpose greeted each other with hugs after months of anticipation. Today would be the long awaited kickoff to the new season and upon settling into our seats we were treated to a stunning realization. In the room sat approximately 20 women and no men other than El Mero Mero himself, Rich Villar. He welcomed us back and updated us briefly, inviting us to submit to the Acentos Poetry Review and shared exciting upcoming dates such as Split this Rock's response to SB1070. On February 4, Flor y Canto will be going down at the True Reformer Bldg. 6-9 during the AWP conference in Washington, D.C. Exciting!
He introduced us to our lovely facilitator this week, Samantha Thornhill who's presence and easy smile warmed the room. She professed a great love, a near obsession with "the ode" and we began with a reading of beloved, recently departed, Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize winner, Lucille Clifton's Poem to my Uterus. We went around the room and shared a word that came to mind in response to the poem. "Liquid, Attachment, Loss, Pregnancy, Aging...", were tossed into the pot. We were then told to choose something of our own to write an ode to, something physical or conceptual and make a list of 7 words in connection to it. Before we would write our ode we would whet our muse with a 10 minute free write that was dotted with Samantha's calling out words to incorporate into our consciousness as the words flowed.
So, I'll share mine for the sake of truly sharing what goes down:
Freshness lives on the other side of this smile. It’s bitter and vulgar full of discontent and snide stories. When will I know who to see when I see. When will the memories of that one show me who you are. Designed to make my heart palpitate, your words sense my fear. They can smell the next thought coming and I don’t know why I keep running. Because the blue stink of misunderstanding is cloying. But your love transcends. There is no fight, there is no other way. I need to be. Fight for my life. Turquoise summer sun is gone and tomorrow will be red moon, tomorrow will be cold coat slipping on gray snow. The love is a magnet, all space, all time, all words, all things considered and released in the cleansing pull of gravity. All residue pulled away clean, nothing left but the sore I leave blessing in the ground where I dig my heels into the earth and pull the roots from the light. Tell me what you see in my silhouette, against the wall. What does my shadow belie. Is it the beast, a roaring lion, a behemoth? Do you still see a unicorn prance when you see my fresh dewy face, or is it the monster in my eyes trying to tear us apart. Never want to do this again. All I want is to move into tomorrow Work to do, work to do, life to live, kids to feed, tired of the past, want to live in tomorrow. In my home I will find solace, in myself I will find joy. If all I am is a shell, trying to fill it with you will never satisfy. I can only give them what am. What am I? My feet tremble, tremulous steps take me down the spiral and in the bottom there is a pool. I just have to get there, take my bath, sink into the healing springs, close my eyes, breathe in the water, exhale and open my eyes, drink and swallow. Become, grow, my heart is beating. I hear my heart. Reborn. Receive. Rebleed. Reblood. Renew. I am new.
We discussed how hard or easy it was to incorporate the words she was giving us and if we were truly writing without thinking. Were we in right brain or left brain mode. She even touched upon String Theory - Suffice it to say, that's a long convo for another day.
Closely related to the Ode is the elegy which began as an ancient Greek metrical form. It's traditionally written in response to the death of a person but the fun of artistic license in the creativity which one can take with the traditional. Though similar in function, the elegy is distinct from the epitaph, ode, and eulogy; the epitaph is very brief; the ode solely exalts; and the eulogy is most often written in formal prose.
The elements of a traditional elegy mirror three stages of loss. First, there is a lament, where the speaker expresses grief and sorrow, then praise and admiration of the idealized dead, and finally consolation and solace.
We toyed with the idea of writing elegies to concepts of constructs: racism, misogyny. Elegies to stages in life: youth, child bearing years, love lost, viriginity.
Samantha then asked us some deeply personal questions that forced some very private answers, but no fear. These were not to share to but to get us to think; To make things rise to the surface.
Who was the first person to die in your life that was close to you?
Have you said everything you would like to say to this person?
Death of an iconic figure that really wounded you?
How did you hear of their passing?
If there had been a day of the week that has died in some way what would it be?
Something dear to you that has been lost of stolen:
Samantha read Elegy for Satan, the words of Turkish exiled poet Nazim Hikmet, who's life was steeped in death. The title made our ears prick but the opening line quickly smoothed out the thrilling undercurrent by informing us that, Satan was his dog and he was a simple dog who'd done nothing to earn his name, it
was just a name and he died. That was all. With lines like "a tree that dries up in your hand is a curse" we were open His description of his beloved pet, his accountability in it's death, the joyful end in which we are assures us that death is universal and together we go in joy was understated and profound all at once. The importance of title, the way that we can grasp the mind with the title and take it in any direction and then either follow up and expand within the body of work or negate it and cause a titillating series of thoughts to connect the dots. Untitled poems were frowned upon. Really now, your poem still has no title? Don't you name all of your children?
We would write an ode of our own and write 7 words to support the poem.
Poem to my Hair
But we couldn't use any of the words!
Ode to my Hair
My identity has been braided into and her twist, your bounce, your sleek attitude.
Hours of time we’ve spent creating the mood and tone of the day, a personal celebration.
Naked I can walk into the world with only her to speak for me If I so choose
Somedays I feel like saying nothing, that’s an option too.
Not everyone has such a good relationship with their hair and I appreciate her for it.
In the bitter cold she’s been my blanket, in times of despair she’s have been my comfort.
When I am done with it all, we discuss the options and the martyr that she is,
to the floor she flutters taking with her the past, the pain, the sorrow.
She must love me, willing to fall to lighten my burden.
But she always returns with the promise of variety and what spontaneous relationship to be have!
“What shall we do next?” she asks. “Do you want to be an auburn siren, the babydoll blonde,
sexy bookish brunette, or maybe, oh oh, maybe you can be the ethereal dark golden goddess?
Let’s do that next! This is going to be fun! Whatever you want, just let me know!”
When I hold my children in my arms, she brushes their foreheads and chins. They light up gleefully.
Dimples, giggles, “I got this”, she tells me with a knowing wink.
They feel safe under her the warmth of her cover, hold her so close.
My genetics threaten our future. Will my father's curse rend her from my scalp
I pray that she stays with me, fear my wounds be exposed.
She covers my secret ticks and shame with glorious silence.
My home, my banner, my warmth and love.
We closed with an elegy of her own. Her bright and positive light shown through as she rewound through a pivotal moment in her life saying farewell to each second as she spoke it aloud. She forgave and erased the moments becoming more powerful, forgiving and wove images of canine fur and sun speckled memories, trees and park. An elegy to the occasion when she was bitten on the face by a dog. By the end of the poem it the scar just to the right of her chin, the only physical manifestation of a moment which had now never occurred, was a dimple to us all. It was a healing moment.
Samantha Thornhill left an indelible impression upon me. I enjoyed every single word. Her absolute ease in discussion as if we were all home talking, the slight Caribbean lilt and her wonderful spirit made this a most enjoyable and memorable one. The connection reached into the personal for me. As she spoke I could imagine her as a small child, writing, dreaming. I could feel in her the kind words and encouragement and the difficult moments which had forged who'd she become. I was proud of her for having grown into such a powerful and elegant woman. I hope to incorporate all of this in my becoming as well. So it's not all about poetry, it's also about personal growth here. All in all this gorgeous Autumn day was a wonderful return to the new season of Acentos.
Please join us:
***Get there at 12pm sharp and make sure you have Identification!***
Eugenio María de Hostos Community College & Grand Concourse,
***ROOM A-329***Bronx, New York 10451
Call for more info: 917-755-2055
Directions to Hostos Community College-
Hostos Community College is located at a safe and busy intersection just steps from the subway station and bus stop
By subway: take the 2,4,5 IRT trains to 149th Street (Eugenio María de Hostos Boulevard) and the Grand Concourse.By bus: take the Bx1 or cross-town Bx19 to 149th Street (Eugenio María de Hostos Boulevard) and the Grand Concourse.
By car: From Manhattan, take the FDR Drive north to the Willis Avenue Bridge to the Major Deegan Expressway (87N). Proceed north to Exit 3. Take the right fork in the exit ramp to the Grand Concourse and proceed north to East 149th Street
(Eugenio María de Hostos Boulevard)
From Queens, take the Triborough Bridge to the Major Deegan Expressway. Continue north to Exit 3. Take the right fork in the exit ramp to the Grand Concourse and proceed north to East 149th Street (Eugenio María de Hostos Boulevard)
From Westchester, take the Major Deegan Expressway south (87S) to Exit 3. Turn left at the light. Turn left again at Grand Concourse and proceed north to East 149th Street (Eugenio María de Hostos Boulevard)
From New Jersey, take the George Washington Bridge to the Major Deegan Expressway south to Exit 3. Turn left at the light. Turn left again at Grand Concourse and proceed north to East 149th Street (Eugenio María de Hostos Boulevard)
*********THE ACENTOS WRITERS' WORKSHOP was established with the purpose of nurturing various voices of poets in the Bronx and beyond. With writers/facilitators from across several genres donating their time, the workshop encourages newer writers to hone their craft, establish community, and perform their work in front of supportive audiences.
The Acentos Writers' Workshop offers opportunities for growing writers through contact with professional writers, poets, mentors, and teachers. The workshop accepts writers of all backgrounds and skill levels to foster growth and maximize their full potential as writers;
The Acentos Fellowship workshops are a key component in reaching the next level up from the Acentos Writers workshop. These classes are not open to the public but will serve as a spring board for the upcoming Acentos teaching artist workshop that launches in the spring of 2010. Upon completion of the intensive workshops, the participants will carry the well earned title of Acentos Fellow. They will be able to present and further cement the expertise and knowledge in well crafted work that the Acentos Foundation holds near and dear to their heart. As part of the Acentos Foundation and the louderARTS project, the workshops serve a multitude of generations, ethnicities and backgrounds. Through our association with Hostos Community College in the Bronx, the workshop honors this rich cultural diversity.
ACENTOS WORKSHOP SCHEDULE -2010
Tara Betts 26-Sept
E.J. Anotnio 3-Oct
Gregory Pardlo 17-Oct
Edwin Torres 24-Oct
Jericho Brown 31-Oct
Major Jackson 7-Nov
Ocean Voung 14-Nov
Elana Bell 21-Nov
Rich Villar 5-Dec
Aja Monet 12-Dec
Raymonda Daniel Medina 19-Dec