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Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize Semifinalist: 12/19/11

WOO! My manuscript, "Hallelujah Science," was selected as a Semifinalist for Persea Books's 2011 Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize in Poetry! This marks the manuscript's second distinction of 2011: In September it was chosen as a Finalist for the 2011 Four Way Books Levis Poetry Prize.

I can't wait to read the winning manuscript. In the meantime, I'm celebrating this as a win. It's so hard to get distinctions like this and it feels great to know my manuscript is attracting interest in the publishing world!

Peace is a Haiku Song: December 3, 2011

I have a poem in Sonia Sanchez's new project, Peace is a Haiku Song. I'm proud to be part of this important work. You can read my haiku here.

From the website: "Peace and poetry share a long history as social change collaborators and with this project, the global community will explore the haiku as a vehicle for peace and urban transformation."

Poets and Writers Listing: November 1, 2011

My application to be listed in the Poets and Writers Directory was accepted today! Check out my new listing here.

OWS Poetry Anthology: October 25, 2011

The poem I read at the October 21st Poetry Assembly at Occupy Wall Street is now part of the OWS Poetry Anthology. It's a poem from "Hallelujah Science" called "(83)," but my friends call it "The Earthquake Poem." It's about starting something! Thanks to Stephen Boyer for his devotion to making sure there's poetry at the heart of change.

The OWS Poetry Anthology is now online here. My poem starts at the bottom of page 223.

ABAPI Grant: October 19, 2011

I've been awarded an Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh Grant from The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments! More info to come.

August Wilson Center Fellow: September 20, 2011

I'm excited to announce that I've just been awarded a 2011-2012 August Wilson Center Fellowship! During the fellowship, I'll be transforming my poetry, play, and oral history into a series of live interactive events.

In this series, discussion with the audience will alternate with readings from and performances of my literary works, which are connected by themes of family, community, and culture.

For more information about each of the 2011-2012 Fellows click here.

Levis Poetry Prize Finalist: September 6, 2011

My manuscript, "Hallelujah Science," was selected as a finalist for the 2011 Four Way Books Levis Poetry Prize! The winning manuscript is "Small Porcelain Head" by Allison Benis White of Irvine, California, and will be published in 2013. Congratulations Allison!

Article Featuring Kelli: September 1, 2011

Wow! I'm featured in this great article!

August Wilson Center Fellows Finalist: August 21, 2011

I've been chosen as an August Wilson Center Fellows finalist! That means I've advanced to the final stage of the selection process. I'll be presenting my work to a panel which will choose this year's Fellows.

Kelli's Poetry in White Space: August 20, 2011

Three poems of mine will be published in The White Space Poetry Anthology!

Norman Mailer Center: August 14-21, 2011

I'll be traveling from the National Poetry Slam in Cambridge, MA, directly to the Norman Mailer Center in Provincetown, MA to work on my first play. I've been awarded a merit-based scholarship to the "August Wilson Blues Poetics" playwrighting workshop taught by Paul Carter Harrison!

Cave Canem Fellowship: June 19-26, 2011

I attended Cave Canem’s 16th Annual Retreat, held at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, June 19-26, 2011. In that one week, we were fortunate enough to study with Carl Phillips, Claudia Rankine, Terrance Hayes, Natasha Tretheway, Cornelius Eady, and Toi Derricotte!

Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop: May 15-28, 2011

I attended the 2011 Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop at Texas A&M University and got to study poetry with two incredibly devoted teachers: Vievee Francis and Gregory Pardlo.

This workshop is sponsored by Callaloo, A Journal of African Diaspora and Letters, "the premiere literary and cultural journal of the African Diaspora."

Cave Canem Fellowship: May 11, 2011

I've been selected to attend Cave Canem’s 16th Annual Retreat, June 19-26, 2011!

Scholarship to Norman Mailer Center: April 26, 2011

I've been awarded a merit-based scholarship to the Norman Mailer Center's week-long "August Wilson Blues Poetics" playwrighting workshop with Paul Carter Harrison in Provincetown, Massachusetts! I'm in the process of writing my first play. It's a comedy made from additonal material from my oral history about Pittsburgh's Hill District.

Prosody Podcast: March 26, 2011

My appearance on Prosody, can now be heard here. It's also available on iTunes! You'll hear me reading from and discussing my first poetry manuscript, "Hallelujah Science," with Renée Alberts. Prosody is WYEP's weekly show featuring the work of poets and writers. WYEP is an NPR affiliate which can be heard in Pennsylvania and surrounding states.

Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop: March 21, 2011

I was selected to attend the 2011 Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop! It takes place May 15-28 at Texas A&M University.

Kelli's Research, Part 4: March 18, 2011

As I've mentioned, my new poetry is beginning to explore my dance background. As part of my research I recently watched a documentary about the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

So while I was in NYC for the Dada Poetry Salon I decided to be brave and take a class at The Ailey Extension! I was hoping to take a modern dance class, but it didn't fit with my schedule on this trip. So I observed an Advanced Beginner Ballet Class, and then took my first Zumba class!

Then back in Pittsburgh on Saturday, I went to my Modern Dance Class at the August Wilson Center, and worked in the Dunham Technique!

I'm still processing all of this. The ballet training is no joke, and the new ways I'm asking my body to move is as much of a mental challenge as it is physical. This exploration is feeding my writing and performance practice. How to be more flexible and willing to leave behind familiar ways of being.

I feel like my new work will not allow itself to be written from my current body. These new poems demand a new body that is more fluid. A body that's willing to continually give itself up to an even newer one. My current writing practice is often preceded by yoga or dance. By the time this book is written I'll be in a whole new body. Poetry can do that.

Creative Capital Workshop: February 25-27, 2011

I was recently awarded a Flight School Fellowship, which began this weekend with an intense and fun weekend with folks from Creative Capital. Over the weekend, the Fellows met, saw each other's work, and were given an incredible amount of practical information to help us meet our creative goals. Over the next eight weeks we'll be mentored by local Pittsburgh artists and arts professionals. I'm feeling very lucky to be in Pittsburgh right now!

Kelli's Research, Part 3: February 24, 2011

I've met a lot of incredible people in the last year. One of them is choreographer Staycee Pearl.

I've mentioned that I've been incorporating movement into my poetry performances. I decided to ask Staycee's help with two poems: "(83)," a poem that I feel works better on paper than on the stage, and "Hardened," a poem I perform with movements that are starting to feel stale. Interestingly, instead of suggesting specific movements for these poems, Staycee suggested I try improvising movements while practicing the poems in order to develop new choreography--a scary but liberating direction!

UPDATE 3/9/11: Last night I attended a performance of "Lions Will Roar" by Nora Chipaumire with Thomas Mapfumo & The Blacks Unlimited at the August Wilson Center. This is likely the most moving piece I've ever seen, no I'm not exaggerating, if it comes to your area go see it. The dance alone was incredible, and the visual effects and live on-stage music that went with it all blended together in a way that moved me to the core.

Before the show started, I was approached by a woman who was sure she'd seen me dance at the AWC. I explained that I take classes at the AWC but am not a member of the company. She insisted that she'd seen me dance there and I realized she saw me debut "Hardened," at OffCenter in July 2010! She'd been in the audience and remembered me as a dancer, not a poet.

I'm trying to integrate all the different things that I am. Just like the "Lions Will Roar" wasn't just dance, or just music, or just visual art, a person is not just a dancer, or just a poet. I thought I'd learned this once and for all at the coffee shop in Times Square (see February 15 below), but now I see its a process. I think it's called healing.

Kelli's Research, Part 2: February 19, 2011

Continuing my research, I decided to try something new and take an acting workhop with Roger Guenveur Smith!

I wasn't sure what to expect, but after doing many acting exercises and getting to know the other participants, Mr. Smith had us each perform solo on the August Wilson Center 486-seat theater stage! I was surrounded by seasoned actors--not a typical poetry audience. I was definitely nervous, but since I was already taking a big chance even being there, I decided to do my hardest piece, "Hardened," which involves reciting the poem from memory while dancing.

I feel like I took myself to the outermost edge of creative risk. I used all the writing, dance, yoga, and life training I've accumulated up to this point to pull myself through a scary but important performance exercise. I want to stay on this edge and see where it takes me.

Kelli's Research, Part 1: February 15, 2011

It occurs to me that until now I've faithfully posted here when I attend a workshop or conference organized by others, but I've neglected to post about my self-designed course of study and research. Time to fix that!

Since July 2010, I've been exploring my dance background in my poetry, and I've started to incorporate movement into my poetry readings. There are actually a couple of poems I've moved to since December 2009!

To try to make sense out of this, in September 2010, I attended Blood Dazzler, created by Patricia and Paloma McGregor, and based on the book by Patricia Smith.

After working on it locally for several months, in November 2010, I performed "Hardended," a poem that includes movement, at Bowery Poetry Club in NYC. To prepare, I started taking dance classes again!

And today I returned from a twelve hour trip to NYC to attend "Body of Words: The Critical and Kinesthetic Intersection of Text and Physical Performance." Moderated by Saifan Shmerer and curated by Emily Skillings, the show featured intriguing work by Lauren Nicole Nixon, Sally Silvers, Rosamond S. King and Alexandra Beller, artists who combine poetry and dance in their work.

I highly recommend all of this work. I can't convey how much it means to find other artists who are "moved" to explore poetry and dance simultaneously, and that there are interested audiences.

Directly after Body of Words, I went to a Times Square coffee shop. The cashier came over and asked out of the blue, "Are you a performing artist?" It was a huge moment. I calmly said, "Yes. I'm a poet and a dancer." I've never been asked that question and would have never given that answer if not for these experiences. Later he told me he's never asked that question of anyone but he was moved to "because of my poise."

I thought I'd simply used words to order tea, but apparently my body language was communicating "performing artist." How's that for the intersection of words and movement? I'd been "divorced" from the dancer in me for years, and now I can officially say that phase is over! Not sure what that means yet, but I'm looking forward to finding out!

Kelli's Poetry in Maintenant: February 14, 2011

I just had work accepted into Maintenant 5: A Journal of Contemporary Dada Poetry and Art! I'll be participating in a reading in NYC on March 18 to celebrate the issue's release.

AWP Conference: February 3-4, 2011

I've just gotten back from attending my first AWP Conference in Washington DC!

It was held in the Wardman Park Hotel, where Langston Hughes was working as a busboy when he launched his career by taking the initiative to show his poems to Vachel Lindsay!

I attended a powerful Cave Canem reading featuring Rita Dove, Yusef Komunyakaa, Natasha Tretheway, and Gary Jackson; a great tribute to Langston Hughes that featured Sonia Sanchez, Derrick Weston Brown, Jericho Brown and Sarah Browning; and many panels with writers you should check out--here's a sample: Elmaz Abinader, Faith Adiele, Tyehimba Jess, Douglas Kearney, and Aracelis Girmay.

I also saw two incredible readings at Busboys and Poets: one celebrating Hedgebrook with Suheir Hammad, Ruth Forman and Carolyn Forché; and one celebrating the Affrilachian Poets. I even got to attend an informal VONA reunion!

Flight School Fellowship: January 15, 2011

I've been awarded a Flight School Fellowship! The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says:

"Flight School is a program designed to help artists advance their careers through the expertise of the New York-based nonprofit Creative Capital and mentoring by Pittsburgh artists and professionals."

"The Flight School Fellowship is the result of research done at Carnegie Mellon University that produced the 2008 Creative Entrepreneurs Report, which included strategies to support individual regional artists."

"The fellowship is supported by the Fine Foundation, the Heinz Endowments, the Pittsburgh Foundation and Creative Capital."

WYEP Prosody Taping: December 11, 2010

Today I was interviewed for an episode of Prosody, a radio show featuring the work of poets and writers. The episode will air on January 19, 2011 at 7:30pm, and again on January 22, 2011 at 6:00am on 91.3 WYEP FM. I read from and discussed my first poetry manuscript, "Hallelujah Science," with Renée Alberts. WYEP is an NPR affiliate which can be heard in Pennsylvania and surrounding states.

Kelli's Poetry in The Mom Egg: November 22, 2010

Persistence pays off. Never lose faith in your work! After eleven rejections, I just found out that one of my favorite poems from "Hallelujah Science" will be published in The Mom Egg 2011, Volume 9!

LWC}NYC: November 12-13, 2010

While in NYC for The Mom Egg Fall Reading, I attended a literary writer's conference called LWC}NYC. You should have seen me on Saturday running from the conference over to Bowery Poetry Club to read and then running back again! I was in writer heaven. Co-sponsored by The New School Graduate Writing Program, LWC}NYC is a program of the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses [clmp]. I highly recommend this conference for writers of poetry, fiction and non-fiction. There were great editor and agent panels. Check it out in 2011 if you can!

Kelli's Poetry in The Stray Branch: November 11, 2010

I am thrilled to report that another poem from "Hallelujah Science" was just accepted for publication in the Fall/Winter 2012 issue of The Stray Branch!

Kelli's Poetry in Little Red Leaves: October 7, 2010

Three poems from "Hallelujah Science" are now online at Little Red Leaves.

Kelli's Poetry in Hip Mama: October 1, 2010

One of my previously published poems from "Hallelujah Science" is coming out to play a second time! It appeared in The Mom Egg back in April, and will appear in the upcoming issue of Hip Mama, #47, "The Body."

UPDATE 10/27/10: The issue is in stores now. Click here to read the table of contents and to order!

Kelli's Poetry in Kweli Journal: September 1, 2010

Another poem from "Hallelujah Science" has just been published--in Kweli Journal. Please read the full issue at that link. For a screen shot of my poem click here.

Kelli's Poetry with E. Ethelbert Miller: August 10, 2010

As I mentioned, I met amazing people at Hurston/Wright Writers' Week. Among them was E. Ethelbert Miller, an award winning poet who advised me to "attend to the yard first and the writing will be easier." He also advised me to get up at 5am. Read the poems we each wrote this morning as a result here (scroll down to read both poems).

Hurston/Wright Writers' Week: July 25-31, 2010

I've been selected to attend the 2010 Hurston/Wright Writers' Week Poetry Workshop taught by Tyehimba Jess at Howard University. From their website: "Hurston/Wright Writers' Week is the nation's only multi-genre summer writing workshop for writers of African descent... The selcetion process is competitive... The Week brings together Black writers from around the United States as well as Black writers from the Carribean, Africa and Europe." A maximum of 12 poets per year are accepted worldwide, so this is a huge honor!

UPDATE 8/10/10: This workshop was a perfect extension of the work I began at VONA, and this trip was a blessing of people. Choosing to be a poet can seem crazy, but I wouldn't trade this life for anything.

Kelli's Publication Updates: July 22, 2010

Two of my poems can now be read and heard at Word Riot. (The journal requested MP3's of me reading the poems--pretty cool!)

Additionally, I recently received my gorgeous contributor's copy of Mythium. I have four poems in this issue which is now available for purchase here.

Kelli's Poetry in Little Red Leaves: July 4, 2010

Three poems from "Hallelujah Science" have just found a lovely home: they will appear in the Fall issue of Little Red Leaves!

UPDATE 10/7/10: The poems are now online here.

VONA Workshop II: June 20-27, 2010

I'm so happy to report that I've been selected to attend the VONA (Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation) Summer 2010 Advanced Poetry Workshop taught by Suheir Hammad at the University of San Francisco! This will be my second VONA, and I can't wait!

UPDATE 7/4/10: Okay, this was VONA at it's most magical. It's beyond words. All I can say is if you are a writer of color, apply to VONA. If you have the chance to be taught by Suheir Hammad, don't miss it.

Kelli's in Kweli: May 20, 2010

I just found out that a poem from "Hallelujah Science" will be featured in the next issue of Kweli Journal, a new online journal established to identify, promote and nurture writers of color. I'll post here as soon as the issue comes out.

UPDATE 9/1/10: My poem has just been published! Please read the full issue here. For a screen shot of my poem click here.

Kelli's on the Poetry Super Highway: April 10, 2010

I'm excited to announce that I am a Poet of the Week on the Poetry Super Highway. Two more poems from "Hallelujah Science" are featured!

Kelli's Poetry in The Mom Egg: March 8, 2010

Wow! Four more poems from "Hallelujah Science" were just accepted for publication in Volume 8 of The Mom Egg.

UPDATE 4/22/2010: The Mom Egg 2010, Volume 8, "Lessons," is now available for purchase here.

UPDATE 5/9/2010: I have a poem featured on The Mom Egg website!

Kelli's Poetry in Mythium: February 23, 2010

Four poems from "Hallelujah Science" have just been accepted for publication in Volume I, Issue II of Mythium Literary Journal. The issue is due out in Spring 2010.

UPDATE 7/8/10: I just received my contributor's copy of Mythium, and it is gorgeous! The issue is now available for purchase here.

Kelli's Poetry in Word Riot: January 18, 2010

The second two poems from "Hallelujah Science" have just been accepted by Word Riot. This means that the first four poems have just been accepted in the order they appear in the manuscript! Info about when the individual poems will appear will be posted here as soon as I know.

UPDATE 7/20/10: The poems are now online here along with MP3's of me reading each poem!

Kelli's Poetry in Denver Syntax: January 16, 2010

I've just received word that the first two poems from my unpublished first poetry manuscript, "Hallelujah Science," will be published in Issue 19 of Denver Syntax. The manuscript is currently circulating in multiple first book contests. I'll post the link to the individual poems as soon as the issue goes live.

UPDATE 1/20/2010: both of the poems are now online!

VONA Workshop I: June 28-July 4, 2009

I had a fantastic week at the VONA (Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation) writing workshop "Building a Poetry Collection" taught by Willie Perdomo at the University of San Francisco. VONA workshops are life-changing, supportive learning environments for writers of color.

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Photo by Renee Rosensteel