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Lit Life 2017


This third annual poetry conference at Rosemont College brings together poets and poetry lovers to celebrate and discuss the art. The LitLife Poetry Festival annually focuses on poetry's engagement with the world, and this year's conference will continue that march with panels covering a range of topics litlifeincluding collaborative writing environments, how women of color performance poets disrupt oppressive systems, and how contemporary poetry instruction can invigorate student poetry--and thinking. The day will feature workshops by and Tim Seibles and Lamont Steptoe, engaging panels and presentations, readings, and opportunities to talk to other poets and poetry editors at the book fair and lunch 


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Speakers include: Lamont Steptoe, Tim Seibles, Liz Abrams-Morley, Courtney Bambrick, Elizabeth Catanese, Jasmin Combs, Tracey Coretta, Valerie Fox, Darla Himeles, Maria Jame-Thiaw, Lynn Levin, and Kelly McQuain.

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Panel Descriptions and Bios for all Conference Speakers

Morning Workshop with Tim Seibles
Imagery and Tone

This workshop will focus primarily on persona poems. Too often, we become hypnotized by our own angst and first person view. This can make our work predictable and repetitive. We will focus on writing persona poems, using a "mask" to generate surprising perspectives and fresh tones of voice.
Tim Seibles, the newly appointed Poet Laureate of Virginia, is the author of several poetry collections including Hurdy-Gurdy, Hammerlock, and Buffalo Head Solos. His first book, Body Moves, (1988) has just been re-released by Carnegie Mellon U. Press as part of their Contemporary Classics series. His latest, Fast Animal, was one of five poetry finalists for the 2012 National Book Award. In 2013 he received the Pen Oakland Josephine Miles Award for poetry. In 2014 Tim received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Misericordia University for his literary accomplishments. During that same year, he won the Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Award for Fast Animal, a prize given triennially for a collection of poems. In 2015, he chaired the panel of judges that decided the winner of the National Book Award in poetry. He has been a National Endowment for the Arts fellow and was also awarded a seven-month writing fellowship from the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center in Massachusetts. In the spring semester of 2010, Tim was poet-in-residence at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. His poetry is featured in several anthologies; among them are: Rainbow Darkness; Uncommon Core; Autumn House Contemporary American Poetry; Black Nature; Far Out: Poems of The 60s; Villanelles; and With Our Eyes Wide Open. His poem “Allison Wolff” was included in Best American Poetry 2010 and, more recently, his poem “Sotto Voce: Othello, Unplugged” was featured in Best American Poetry 2013. He has been a workshop leader for Cave Canem, a writer’s retreat for African American poets, and for the Hurston/Wright Foundation, another organization dedicated to developing black writers. Tim lives in Norfolk, Virginia and is a Professor of English at Old Dominion University where he teaches literature as well as classes in the MFA in writing program.

Creating Images in Poetry

Panelists will discuss how to create resonant images in your writing. The principles of Japanese poetics, particularly through the tanka form (and by extension haiku), will be discussed.
Moderator: Dawn Manning is the author of Postcards from the Dead Letter Office. Her awards for poetry include the Beullah Rose Poetry Prize, the Edith Garlow Poetry Prize, and the San Miguel Writing Award. Her poems have been published through Crab Orchard Review, Silk Road Review, Smartish Pace, and other literary journals.
Elizabeth Catanese
Kelly McQuain

The Creation of Womanist Futures: Content & Activism

This panel will explore how women of color (WOC) performance poets work to disrupt oppressive systems on stage. Women of color performance poets navigate creative spaces utilizing a womanist methodology for engaging in creative knowledge production and activism. Alice Walker’s work will be used to define a womanist poetics. We will offer an analysis of work produced by three Philadelphia based performance poets. The panel will investigate performance poetry as a specifically gendered experience. We will offer dialogue on the radical challenge their creative work offers against racist, patriarchal, and hetero-normative ideologies. We will ultimately explore how WOC poets set a foundation for identifying and grappling with the complexities of WOC’s agency and resistance in the creation of womanist futures in a post-Obama administration.
Moderator: Tracey Ferdinand 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 vinyasa yoga teacher. Her writing 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
Jasmin Combs
Kassidi Jones
Lenora Magee-Howard
Tami Muhammad

Afternoon Workshop with Lamont Steptoe

Economy of Language

This poetry workshop will focus on 'the economy of language' in the making of poetry and specifically haiku, metaphor and simile, and rhythm and rhyme.
Poet, publisher, and photographer, Lamont Steptoe is the judge of the 2017 Philadelphia Stories Sandy Crimmins National Prize in Poetry. A Vietnam veteran born and raised in Pittsburgh, Steptoe is a graduate of Temple University’s School of Communications.  Winner of an American Book Award and a Pew Fellowship in the Arts, Steptoe is the author of twelve poetry collections and editor of two collections by his late mentor South African poet, Dennis Brutus. In 2006 Steptoe was inducted into the International Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent by the the Gwendolyn Brooks Center in Chicago. He has read his work in Nicaragua, India, Holland, France and Lithuania. His most recent poetry collections are Crowns & Halos, Oracular Rumblings & Stiltwalking and Meditations in Congo Square

Staying Productive and Creative: Writing Collaboration

Being part of a ready-made writing community keeps you writing. You have to turn in stories, poems, new work for workshops; you have to read books and your peers’ work. This keeps you engaged with canon and contemporary voices that will inspire you. As the demands of family and day jobs drain a writer’s time away, it is difficult to continue to identify as “writer” or “poet” when you haven’t actually written anything new in months.

Community writing groups can offer opportunities for revision, edits, and reader reactions. However, it can be difficult to find the right person or to establish the relationship you need. This panel will also explore ways a writing partnership might or might not work, and talk about the resources that are available in this digital age - writing online, online submission trackers - that make collaboration even more effective and within reach for you.
Moderator: Blythe Davenport
Marshall Warfield (of A Super Writing Group)
Christine Weiser

Valerie Fox and Lynn Levin, collaborative authors of Poems for the Writing: Prompts for Poets

Elizabeth Catanese and Darla Himeles, writing partners

Poetry in the Classroom

How do educators present 21st Century poetry, and how do students respond? How is contemporary poetry presented to students? How do student poets respond to contemporary poetry? How do educators remind students that poetry is a living and evolving thing? How do students push instructors toward newer poetry? This panel will bring together three poets to discuss the privileged position that 21st century poetry holds in their classroom and why that position benefits students ability to both read and write poetry more effectively. We will discuss different methods these teachers use and how these methods shake-off established understandings of poetry and allow students to see poetry's continued relevance.
Moderator: Courtney Bambrick is Philadelphia Stories’ poetry editor. Her poetry has appeared at The Fanzine, Apiary, Certain Circuits, Dirty Napkin, Philadelphia Poets, Mad Poets Review, and Schuylkill Valley Journal.  Courtney teaches composition, creative writing, and literature at several area colleges.
Author and performance poet, Maria James-Thiaw lives in South Central Pennsylvania where she teaches writing and communication at Central Penn College. Her poems have been published by Cutthroat Journal of the Arts, Black Magnolias Literary Magazine, One Trick Pony Review, Poetry Ink! and others. She is the author of 3 poetry collections and serves on the poetry board of Philadelphia Stories. She is currently developing a choreo-poem based on The American Griot Project, an oral history featuring the stories of women who remember the Civil Rights era. James-Thiaw lives in the Harrisburg area with her husband and two young sons.
Jeffrey Ethan Lee’s dramatic poetry book, identity papers (Ghost Road Press, 2006), was a 2006 Colorado Book Award finalist. The CD audio version of identity papers (2002) was nominated for a Spoken Word Grammy. His first full-length poetry book, invisible sister (Many Mountains Moving Press, April 2004) is the sequel to towards euphoria, the co-winner of the editor’s poetry chapbook prize from Seven Kitchens Press (2012). He won the 2002 Sow's Ear Poetry Chapbook prize for The Sylf (2003), and published Strangers in a Homeland (chapbook with Ashland Poetry Press, 2001), and Color Schemes (chapbook with Moonstone Press.) He has published hundreds of poems, stories and essays in North American Review, Xconnect, Crab Orchard Review, Crazyhorse, Many Mountains Moving, Crosscurrents, American Poetry Review, Green Mountain Review, Washington Square. He has a Ph.D. in British Romanticism and an MFA from NYU. He teaches in the humanities at TempleUniversity and in Creative Writing at various institutions.

Liz Abrams Morely's collection, Inventory, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2014. Necessary Turns was published by Word Press in 2010 and won an Eric Hoffer Award for Excellence in Small Press Publishing that year. Her poems and short stories have been published in a variety of nationally distributed anthologies, journals and ezines, and have been read on NPR. Liz is co-founder of Around the Block Writing Collaborative, ( She has taught in Rosemont’s MFA program and teaches children at all levels. Liz wades knee deep in the flow of everyday life from which she draws inspiration and, occasionally, exasperation.

8:30 am

Registration (Lawrence Hall)

9:00 am

Bookfair opens (Lawrence Gallery)


Keynote from Lamont Steptoe (Lawrence Auditorium)


Workshop with Tim Seibles (Lawrence Conference Room)


Creating Images in Poetry (Lawrence Auditorium)


 The Creation of Womanist Futures: Content and Activism (Lawrence Auditorium)


Lunch (Cardinal Hall—included in admission)


Workshop with Lamont Steptoe (Lawrence Conference Room)


Poetry in the Classroom (Lawrence Auditorium)


Staying Productive and Creative: Writing Collaboration (Lawrence Auditorium)


Reception Celebration of Montgomery County Poet Laureate 2017 and Winners of the Sandy Crimmins Prize for Poetry 2017 (Main Building)


Break for Dinner (on your own)


Open Mic to share poetry and ideas from the day at Main Point Books in Wayne, PA 116 N. Wayne Avenue Wayne, PA 19087 Wine and light refreshments