The 2020 Festival Poets
- Mahogany Brown
- Joy Harjo
- Margaret Gibson
- Fresh Voices Winners
Young Poets Day with Mahogany L. Browne
Mahogany L. Browne was born in Oakland, California but has been based in Brooklyn, NY for over 15 years. She has been featured in HBO’s Brave New Voices as the artistic director at Urban Word NYC. Browne is the publisher of Penmanship Books, curator of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe Friday Night Slam, founder of the Women Writers of Color Reading Room, and the director of Black Lives Matter at Pratt Institute. A Cave Canem fellow and Agnes Gund Fund Recipient Browne has published several poetry collections and books, including Black Girl Magic, Kissing Caskets, Redbone, and Dear Twitter: Love Letters Hashed Out Online. She has also released five LPs, including a live album, Sheroshima.
The Fresh Voices Poetry Competition is an outstanding program that offers students the opportunity to write and perform poems suitable for presentation and publication. Since 1993, student poets from all corners of Connecticut have entered this competition and mentoring program. The Fresh Voices Poetry Competition is now open to all New England high school students.
Joy Harjo and Margaret Gibson
Joy Harjo was appointed the new United States Poet Laureate in June 2019 and is the first Native American Poet Laureate in the history of the position. Joy is an internationally renowned performer and writer of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and the author of nine books of poetry, several plays and children’s books, and a memoir, Crazy Brave. Her many honors include the Ruth Lily Prize for Lifetime Achievement from the Poetry Foundation, the Academy of American Poets Wallace Stevens Award, a PEN USA Literary Award, Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund Writers’ Award, a Rasmuson US Artist Fellowship, two NEA fellowships, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Harjo is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and is a founding board member of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation. She lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she is a Tulsa Artist Fellow.
Margaret Gibson, current State of Connecticut Poet Laureate, is the author of 12 books of poems, all from LSU Press, most recently Not Hearing the Wood Thrush, 2018. A new book, The Glass Globe, is forthcoming in 2021. Awards include the Lamont Selection for Long Walks in the Afternoon, her second book, 1982; the Melville Kane Award (co-winner) for Memories of the Future, (1986), and the Connecticut Book Award for One Body, 2008. The Vigil was a Finalist for the National Book Award in Poetry in 1993. Broken Cup was a Finalist for the 2016 Poets’ Prize, and the title poem from the book won a Pushcart Prize for that year. “Passage,” from Not Hearing the Wood Thrush, was included in The Best American Poetry, 2017. She has written a memoir, The Prodigal Daughter, University of Missouri Press, 2008. Gibson is Professor Emerita, University of Connecticut. She lives in Preston, CT. For more information, visit her website: www.margaretgibsonpoetry.com
As Connecticut State Poet Laureate (2029-2022) Margaret Gibson has been awarded an Academy of American Poets Grant for Poet Laureates. The grant is intended both to support Gibson’s poetry and to allow her to fund various poetry projects from May 2020 to May 2021. As Poet Laureate, Gibson has taken as her social focus “Poetry and the Environment during Climate Crisis” and is funding videos of Connecticut poets reading their poems about the environment in natural settings and “Green Poetry Cafes”—activities which are, during the COVID times, mostly taking place on video. An anthology of CT poets writing about climate crisis will be published in April 2021.
Orice Jenkins is a vocalist, arranger, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist signed to independent imprint Truth Revolution Recording Collective. After three remarkably diverse projects, his newest album, Centennial Cole, is a celebration of a great voice from the past: Nat ‘King’ Cole. Released in September of 2019, the courageous body of work has been featured in Jazziz, JazzWeekly, and JazzTimes magazines. Jenkins performed his own soulful arrangements of timeless tunes, similar to his work on his 2016 release, Soar, which reached #11 on the iTunes jazz chart. Jenkins became notorious for his hip-hop laden covers of jazz standards like Bye Bye Blackbird and Body & Soul, as well as his swinging treatments to songs by Drake and Rihanna.
Around The Piano, his 2014 debut, featured original orchestral soul songs written during Jenkins’ teenage years. More of his early songs were released on Tertiary, a 2017 mixtape that featured entirely self-produced music. Both projects were released several years after their inception, partially because of Jenkins pursuing higher education at prestigious arts conservatory, The Hartt School, as well as his work as a music educator in his hometown of Hartford, Connecticut. He also tours nationally with The Afro-Semitic Experience and has served as musical director and arranger for legendary soul singers Betty Harris and Kenny Hamber, as well as Grammy-award winning artist Charmagne Tripp. He has collaborated with rapper Klokwize, Grammy-nominated producer Chris Davis, and shared the stage with jazz legends such as Dr. Eddie Henderson and Stanley Jordan