Tanya Cunningham is a biographical poet who draws inspiration from her children, her life in Williamsburg, VA, and the current political and social climate. The author of poetry book, Pachamama and Scientific Eve, Tanya founded the Hampton Roads Artistic Collective two years ago. The organization is focused on helping Hampton Roads artists collaborate on projects and publish their work professionally. With two books already finished and an album in the making, there is simply no stopping this dedicated and inventive poet.
Photo by Victoria MarieKEEP READING
Star LaBranche is a content marketing specialist who will soon reside in Virginia Beach. Bringing new a brand new chapbook, Wake Me When It’s Over, she is the first featured reader of the Little River Poetry Festival. Known for her brutal confessional style of poetry, her latest work questions identity, belonging, and time. With strong themes of mental illness and the reality of living with disability, holding back is something she is not familiar with.
the craving sits deep in my belly
it reaches up with tendrils of incense and teases
the roots take hold in my brain
where there is simply so much to grab onto
it anchors itself there as if it is wanted, as if it belongs
as if someone invited it in
it gives orders from its cushion of cerebrum
“I want this, give me that, bring me this item here”
and when it find something it really likes…
everything else in the world evaporates
moving through life is sleep walking
counting the time until I’m there
the moments are marked as either satisfied or unsatisfied
and no one inside me seems to notice
just how unsatisfied I am most of the time
because there is no focusing on anything other
than whatever it is I want
it’s hands that become claws which strike the earth
as if my passion alone could move the mountains that obstruct me
but what obstructs me is reality and my claws are no match for that
the craving begins deep in my belly
but moves all over my form
it turns me into something else and says I asked it to
one day I will stop reasoning with it
when I figure out I am the hostage, not the negotiator
All photography by Samantha Searles Photography.KEEP READING
Colleen Redman writes and provides photography for The Floyd Press newspaper. Her poetry has been published nationally, regionally, and online and has most recently in appeared in Artemis Journal and Floyd County Moonshine. She is the author of The Jim and Dan Stories, a memoir about her brothers’ deaths that was required reading for a grief and loss class at Radford University. Her photography, poetry and writing are regularly featured on her blog, Loose Leaf Notes, where her bio reads:
From the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia I write to synthesize what I’m learning at the time, whether it be poetry, a political commentary, or a letter to my mother in Hull, Massachusetts, where I’m originally from. Whenever I don’t know exactly what it is I’m doing and it borders on wasting my time, I call it research. ‘Dear Abby, How can I get rid of freckles?’ was my first published piece at the age of 11.
Colleen will be reading poems from her chapbook Packing a Suitcase for the Afterlife, published by Finishing Line Press. The 34 poem collection is a distillation of her life and tracks the inner and outer journeys of childhood, aging, care giving and life’s inevitable losses. The poems probe the questions, ‘How much does the essence of one’s psyche weigh? Is the soul the one carry-on that we can actually take with us? In the end, what do we value and what will we leave behind?KEEP READING
James Bane will be performing at the Little River Poetry Festival!
James Bane was born in Washington DC. His mother is a chef and his father is a DJ, providing him with a electric love of genres since childhood. Comic books captured his attention in 3rd grade and English quickly became his favorite subject. He moved to Newport News after elementary school where he discovered a love of history. Bane began going to spoken word events and poetry readings on October 3, 2013, which is also his birthday. He has been hooked ever since.
From the archives…
I tend to wake up at night… Bewildered, perched aside surreal cliffs.
Gargoyle-taloned questions over clouded cities. Bukowskied beer googles for 3rd iris retinal protection.
Reflections of emotion <CLAP> squashed & shooed away in a swarm of gnats.
Melancholy mood darkening, as eyes look over tombstones of my forgotten thoughts, freestyles & drunken epiphanies… Clichéd moments of clarity. Tears for a lost renaissance.
Salvador Dali/Miles Davis conversations at the Juilliard speakeasy over libation. Incense in the metallic hands of robotic witchdoctors…
I am that 1957 Plymouth Fury piston moving.
Coffee steaming after percolation.
August Landmesser’s hands to his side as burning flesh billows from smokestacks in the horizon.
Impotent Nebraskan soil in the hands of dust-bowled ranchers.
Viscosity changing in the wine glasses of 2 unfaithful lovers.
Stained glass windows atop of abandoned Detroit cathedrals.
Evicted villages deserted for World Cup fanfare.
Bloody serrations on primal knives after tribal scarification.
Church hats resting on heads of tongue-speaking Deaconesses.
Crumbled remains of God’s nose shot down from the Sphinx.
That sinister smell of indigenous blood under conquistador’s feet.
Federico Lorca’s last cry for help, while soldiers drag him at gunpoint.
Written through the lineage of Gaia’s progeny.KEEP READING
Jack Callan is the co-founder of the Little River Poetry Festival. He will be reading and conducting a workshop at the festival!
Jack Callan has been a carpenter all his life. As a craftsman, he learned how to fit things together to make them work. As an artist, his vibrant, often startling paintings, speak of his love of color and his love of life. With this background, it was only a matter of time before he began stringing words together. As a poet, he manages to capture vivid images and sensitive imprints that live on in the minds of his audience, long after hearing his poetry.
Jack is the author of two books of poetry that challenge and delight the reader – the eclectic, “Knucklehead Poems,” and the more pastoral, “Little River on the Milky Way.” One cannot come away from his earthy, yet sensitive, portrayal of “life in the earth, according to Jack,” without the realization that one has been in the company of a good man – a trusted friend and companion for the journey we all share.
From the archives…
by Jack Callan
Like an egg, speckled warm from the nest,
a farm sifts in shadow and elegance.
I slip along the in-between to light petals
that hang from a dogwood,
cupping, like a breast, this edge of pasture.
The knob, ‘cross the way, funnels wind off the river,
sends birds into Sufi-ecstasy, and I,
a butterfly, from cup to cup dancing.
Barbed wire sprinkles holy water on unrepentant locust posts,
while a raven circles overhead, then five –
high and unforgotten, silent, so serene,
barrelin’ across the gap, not a break of wing, then gone.
This farm is a jewel in a crown of blackberry thorns,
locked in sunlight and moon cycles,
sweetsong and stubby slivers of grass.
The silence here holds many noisy voices,
snuggled under thunderheads and blue.
Hope holds to the top of the hill; I try
to imagine the red dirt a ‘runnin’, thunder,
buzzards and water thoughts,
as silence calls to rumble-groan, two deer
a snap of branch,
hissing as they climb away, turning once
in challenge, hissing,
then hissing as they go.
Might be a night of fog and light’ning,
half calm, half puttin’ on.
All things work together for green, a purple
shade on everything,
but grey will have a say in this,
blue a soft scent, and night,
still as a photograph,
hushed and wet-tender – a fragile peace.
I hold my prayer to glimpse within, such stillness,
as lightening fills the horizon from end to end.
Judith Stevens is one of the founders of Little River Poetry Festival. She will be reading and conducting a workshop!
Judith Stevens has been writing poetry since the second grade. Her poems have been published in the former “Piedmont Literary Review Magazine,” the “Randolph-Macon College Magazine,” ” The Association for Research & Enlightenment Journal,” ” Venture Inward” and other publications. She was a winner in the first “Helen Keller Foundation for Research and Education International Memoir Competition,” and met her poet-husband, Jack Callan, at a poetry reading.
Together, she and Jack host poetry gatherings at local museums, farmers’ markets and hold a monthly poetry salon in their home. They delight in visiting local schools and colleges, sharing their joy of the written word with others. Judith started a weekly Creative Writing Group at the senior retirement community, First Colonial Inn, where she and Jack can be found each Thursday, writing and reading poetry with their friends, whose average age is eighty-seven.
From the archives…
Dancing With Deer by Judith Stevens
(Written on the banks of The Little River in Floyd, Virginia)
We rise – pitch-black night –
whose only light a translucent hunters’ moon,
and a blanket of stars F L U N G across the Autumn sky –
come to the quiet meadow in early morning hours,
set up our chairs by the river.
In mountain’s moon-shadow
we await the deer and dawn.
It is so still – so cold – there are no words:
the only sound, an unbroken chuckle –
water burbling over rocks – chasing itself downstream.
Leaving our chairs, we approach the car, open windows,
allow new sounds to merge with night:
cello spills like rich dark molasses onto the road; violin and bass embroider the edges;
“Appalachian Waltz” floods the darkness –
music magnified by mountains.
Grateful for warmth, we move into each other’s arms.
‘Round and ’round we turn,
letting the music fill us and the night.
While in the darkened meadow,
though we cannot see them – shy creatures that they are –
we know the deer, too, are dancing!
Jill Winkowski will be performing and teaching at the Little River Poetry Festival!
Jill Winkowski is a poet, short story writer, journalist, and yoga teacher. While in the Hague in the 1990s, Jill was editor and feature writer for Going Dutch, an expatriate magazine, and ran The Rounded Moon, a monthly literary evening. She was a freelance reporter with the Daily Press in the 2000s and has led a number of fiction and poetry workshops in the Hampton Roads area.
From the archives…
The center of you
Hangs from a bone fulcrum
As you caw a warning
Something about a storm
And the way particles drift
I listen, but what I really want
Is to hang with you
In that tottering asana
Our bones approaching equilibrium
And our centers
David King will be reading and conducting a workshop at the Little River Poetry Festival!
David King is a retired English teacher who composes poetry about the North Carolina mountains and the Jersey Shore. He has published a book of verse, This Side of Forever, about his late wife to whom he was married thirty-six years. He reads at various venues sharing his depictions of character and place in his work. He now resides in Moore, South Carolina and devotes his time to the pursuits of cycling, hiking, sports cars, collecting antiques, photography, and Civil War studies with his wife, Char.
From the archives…
I worked out on the knob
Till I was near eighteen,
Toiling among the rock
That were sprinkled on our farm
Or driving in the cows
That we kept enclosed
By some boards we stretched across
Where the hillside jutted close.
For Daddy Jim was up at light
And kept the place so clean,
It was a truly sparkling sight
White against the valley’s green.
We were taken most every day,
I mean the boys that is,
When the sun was slanting far away
To hoe the field of corn that was
Just beside the rocky creek
Whose sweet water nourished it.
We’d weed and scrape away the dirt,
So suckers wouldn’t discourage it.
For daddy said the corn was like
A woman with a secret love,
Needing some gentle talk
Not a clumsy, heated shove.
Daddy took one tool and worked
Busily along the rows
While Fred, and Tommy, and tall Jack
Spread out with their hoes.
It was early summer then,
And the stalks were close about my waist,
And looking out across that corn
My disaffection took a rise.
So I called out to him,
“When will this work be done?
For I’m fed up from
Sweating in the hot sun!”
He said, “Now Lee, you better
Git it right. I run this place,
And we’re gonna hoe this field tonight
If we have to give the moon a race!”
All of a sudden that old hoe
Blistered right up in my fist,
And I couldn’t wait to go
From that rocky, hoe-scratched place.
And I did. I left right then
With just these parting words to him,
“This God damn hoe don’t fit my hand!”
And I threw it in the corn.
Since then it has been many years
And I have known a lot of strife
From Kasserine Pass to Sicily,
And I have two girls and a wife.
But whenever I meet my dad
His mouth is thin and drawn,
As he says that old hoe blade
Is still rusting in the corn,
But he says it with respect,
And he firmly takes my hand
As if I have been brought
Into the company of men.
Toni Wynn will be performing as one of the featured poets and conducting a workshop at the Little River Poetry Festival!
As a poet, creative nonfiction writer, arts educator, and museum consultant, Toni creates and learns through the arts. She’s always recruiting artists to collaborate on limited-edition print publications and arts experiences.
Toni’s writing, which often looks at science, politics, and the natural world, is featured in anthologies and journals such as poecology.com, Black Nature and The International Review of African American Art. Toni is a Cave Canem graduate fellow and member of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers. She sometimes blogs about the vagaries of motherhood at Call Your Mother.
From the archives…
Returning to the Breath
Look into the space of a room.
It could be a park, there’s so much air.
Bring in eighty people off the street.
Even with their mountains of disbelief,
their seas of retold stories,
you can see beyond them.
You can tell there’s room.
Still, for all your feel-good insights,
your dearth of suffering has you disturbed;
you can’t discern if you’ve given enough.
Slumped inside a catnap, you dream of whales
breaching at close range.
Are you looking to be astonished into action?
It’s fine as well to rise into deeper, richer sleep.
Tanya Cunningham will be performing as one of the featured poets at the Little River Poetry Festival!
Tanya Cunningham is a prolific poet specializing in narratives and manipulation of repetition. Born and raised in Williamsburg, VA, the history of her homeland and family shines brightly in her work. Cunningham recently released her first book of poetry, Pachamama and Scientific Eve. She’s currently working as the Editorial Coordinator for the Hampton Roads Poetic Collective.
From the archives…
hips and shoulders.
breast of pillows and the teats of a nation
suckled, cuddled, coddled in infancy.
Not the Nanny of undisclosed Soviet origin
faded to blonde.
Not the Au Pair of Frenchman’s daydreams,
woman-child painting water colors
conjugating manger over tea and cakes.
Invisibly making me more than my men,
leaving you unafraid.
Hips and shoulders,
Breasts of pillows and the teats of a nation,
praying there’s enough for hers and yours.
Switching sides every 10 minutes
before the world of pumps and bottles,
hot water compress stimulating glands,
hoping all of her children can be brothers.
Santee, SC brown.
67 miles from the great-great grands,
praying to Gods instead of Magnolia trees.
mis-stated myth of loyalty,
avoiding her daughter’s eyes
because the baby’s are green
and, sometimes, strong arms offer no protection.
Let offspring evolve into Sally’s
and good soil to become blood-stained.
eyes downcast, feet a’shufflin’,
because it’s hard to look up
and watch every step.
“Yous was mines, once, boy. But I’se couldn’t keep ya long. Born wit too many teeth. Devil’s chile.”
“Theys wondered why yous so skinny.”
And the head scarf wasn’t for you.
It was for her.
Wisdom has a way of climbing mountains of kinks,
slipping out of minds and scalps,
displaying itself where it mustn’t.
Better to let it stain the front of house dresses
and baby bibs.