On Tuesday night, February 1,
three poets – Taalam Acey, Michael Cirelli, and Lisa Starr – will join the
ranks of the Center for Writing’s Visiting Writers Program and perform their
work for Berkshire students and faculty. The reading is at 7 pm in Allen
Theater, following a day of workshops with students.
Acey is an independent artist whose work has been featured frequently on TV One
and was selected as the original "number one thing you need to know
about" on BET's countdown show, "The 5ive." Over the years, BET
has featured and aired roughly a half dozen segments featuring him and his work.
The Newark, NJ native’s poetry has appeared in Essence Magazine, and he was
honored to be a guest of Congresswoman Maxine Waters for the Congressional
Black Caucus' 2007 & 2008 "Young Gifted and Black" panels. He has
recorded more than a dozen CDs and authored four books. Additionally, films
that include his work have garnered an Audience Award (2002) and a Special Jury
Prize (2006) at the Sundance Film Festival. He was featured in an acclaimed
Radio-One London slam poetry documentary, and Marc Smith, the founder of slam
poetry, used Acey's work in his definitive book on Slam.
Michael Cirelli brings together the worlds of hip-hop and academia
through his unabashed love for the word. Equally inspired by music, he says
that,“[w]riting based on music has almost become a compulsion of mine…I could
take a song…and spend hours trying to dissect each line, each metaphor, each
double and triple entendre. The stuff of good hip-hop puts language in a rocket
ship!” Cirelli embraces and also questions the lifestyle, imagery and issues of
hip-hop culture and explores the idea of race and privilege. Cirelli says, “I
work with teens on a daily basis, so poetry is about so many things. For them
(and me), it can be about saving lives.” He is the Executive Director of Urban Word NYC, a grassroots non-profit organization that provides free, safe,
uncensored and ongoing writing and performance opportunities for New York City
teens. Through this work, Cirelli has also developed a teaching curriculum
using hip-hop, called Hip Hop Poetry and the Classics. Cirelli has
been a National Poetry Slam individual finalist and, during his time on the
West Coast, the only person to make all three Bay area slam teams in the same
year, winning the finals in both San Francisco and Berkeley.
a recipient of the Rhode Island Fellowship for Poetry, Lisa
Silverberg Starr has created
a poetry "pen pal" system in Rhode Island that partners students with
elderly citizens in communities around the state. She also has created
"poetry circles" in hospitals, shelters for people experiencing
homelessness, state prisons, and agencies serving children with disabilities.
She describes her work this way: “I
have always been drawn to and compelled by language, and poetry in particular.
When I am teaching, shaping, and sharing it, I feel like I am doing my part to make
this world a better place.”
In 2009, she
brought together more than a dozen state Poets Laureate for "Poetry for
Hope," an event that included poetry readings, workshops, and public
forums in venues around Rhode Island. Starr also founded and is the director of
the Block Island Poetry Project, which is described as a way for Starr
"to combine her seemingly disparate vocations as poet and innkeeper with
her love for the land and devotion to building community." Poetry is, simply,
a necessary part of her exuberant life. In her words, “writing for me is the very act of turning the ordinary details into
extraordinary moments. . . I believe that every poem, and every poet, deserves
a place at the table. . .” Starr has published three poetry
collections: Mad With Yellow (2008), This Place Here (2001),
and Days of Dogs and Driftwood (1993). Her work is featured in
The Writers' Circle 2010 Anthology.