Holly Bass

Joel Dias-Porter

Introduction to the Cave Canem 20th Anniversary Issue

This special issue of Beltway Poetry Quarterly serves as congratulations and expresses our gratitude to a remarkable literary institution, the Cave Canem Foundation. In the twenty years since its founding, Cave Canem has made significant contributions to the growth of American poetry, training new generations of poets of African descent, creating deep ties among writers, and building spaces that are simultaneously safe and challenging for writers of color to express their fullest cultural identities. Cave Canem runs several programs, including: annual writers retreats, three annual book prizes, and a range of community workshops, readings, lectures, and discussions. Through these programs, Cave Canem has truly fulfilled its mission to “enlarge the American literary canon.”

Although based in New York City, from the start, the Washington DC region has been one of the major contributors of new Cave Canem fellows and faculty—a remarkably high percentage have lived or worked in DC at some point in their lives. For this issue, the guest editors, Holly Bass and Joel Dias-Porter (both CC Fellows themselves), sought poems by current and former DC-area residents who have been part of Cave Canem’s famous retreats.

They have compiled a terrific selection of 58 poems by 32 poets. Poems range widely, and include: Elizabeth Alexander on the cowboy known as Deadwood Dick; A.Van Jordan on swimming in the Atlantic Ocean; Imani Tolliver on the Los Angeles Riots of 1992; Kateema Lee on growing up in DC; T’ai Freedom Ford on the psychic danger of overloading on news reports; Hayes Davis on learning to drive. There are poems on love and sex, poems on fist fights and political protest. And there is an abundance of beauty.

Our thanks go to our esteemed guest editors, and to all the contributors. And congratulations again to Cave Canem, particularly to the founders, Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady, and the Executive Director, Nicole Sealey. We are honored to join the celebration of Cave Canem’s considerable achievements.

Kim Roberts, Co-Editor
Beltway Poetry Quarterly

Holly Bass is a multidisciplinary performance and visual artist, writer and director. A Cave Canem fellow, she has published poems in numerous journals and anthologies, including Role Call, Full Moon on K Street: Poems About Washington, DC and The Ringing Ear, Black Poets Lean South. She studied modern dance (under Viola Farber) and creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College before earning her Master’s from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. She has received numerous grants from the DC Arts Commission and is a 2019 Red Bull Detroit artist-in-residence, a 2019 Dance/USA Artist Fellow and a 2019 Smithsonian Artist Research Fellow. A gifted and dedicated teaching artist, for four years she directed a year-round creative writing and performance program for adjudicated youth in DC’s Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services as well as facilitating workshops nationally and internationally. She is currently the national director for Turnaround Arts at the Kennedy Center, a program which uses the arts strategically to transform schools working to solve deep racial and economic inequities. To read more by this author: It's Your Mug Anniversary Issue, Vol. 10:2, Spring 2009 Introduction, It's Your Mug Anniversary Issue, Vol. 10:2, Spring 2009 Audio Issue, Vol. 9:4, Fall 2008 Five Poems, Vol. 3:2, Spring 2002

Joel Dias-Porter (aka DJ Renegade) was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA. He represented Washington, DC as a team member or individual competitor at the National Poetry Slam for six consecutive years (1994-1999). He made the Individual Finals five years in a row (94-98) and was also Heads Up Haiku Slam Champion two years in a row (98-99). His poems have been published in Time Magazine, POETRY, Mead, The Offending Adam, Callalloo, Ploughshares, Antioch Review, Red Brick Review, Asheville Review, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, and the anthologies The Best American Poetry 2014, Resisting Arrest, Gathering Ground, Love Poetry Out Loud, Meow: Spoken Word from the Black Cat, Short Fuse, Role Call, Def Poetry Jam, 360 Degrees of Black Poetry, Slam (The Book), Revival: Spoken Word from Lollapallooza, Poetry Nation, Beyond the Frontier, Spoken Word Revolution, and Catch a Fire. Performances have included The Today Show, SlamNation, and the film Slam. A Cave Canem fellow, he lives in Atlantic City, NJ. To read more by this author: Eight Poems (Summer 2002); Two Poems (Split This Rock Issue, Winter, 2008); "Saturday Poem" (Audio Issue, Fall 2008); Four Poems (It's Your Mug Anniversary Issue, Spring 2009)