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Poets and Scholars Summer Writing Retreat 2022

Bodies of Text: Crafting the Language of Care | July 11 - July 21, 2022

About the Retreat

The Poets and Scholars Summer Writing Retreat is a radical experiment and ongoing ISGRJ-Camden signature project that reimagines the traditional writing workshop. Writers of all disciplines, genres, and backgrounds who are committed to equitable writing practices through a social justice lens participated in this year's retreat. Intended to create an open forum of mutual accountability, the retreat featured 10 days of presentations and talk-backs, writing worktables, and was also an opportunity for auditors to learn from the experience. Our themes for the retreat were medical justice, narrative medicine, anti-ableism, and the discourses around self-image and self-care.

The 2022 retreat took place in person from July 11 - July 21, 2022 at Rutgers University-Camden. 

Writers are Invited to Apply as Contributing Participants or as Auditors

Please note: the application window has closed.

Who's Who at the Retreat

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Deirdre Cooper Owens

Deirdre Cooper Owens is the Linda and Charles Wilson Professor in the History of Medicine and Director of the Humanities in Medicine program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, one of two Black women in the nation who holds these positions.

Dr. Cooper Owens also serves as Director of the Program in African American History at the Library Company of Philadelphia, the country’s oldest cultural institution. She is an Organization of American Historians’ (OAH) Distinguished Lecturer, a past American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Research Fellow and has won several prestigious honors and awards for her scholarly and advocacy work in history and reproductive and birthing justice.

Most recently, the University of Virginia’s School of Nursing selected Dr. Cooper Owens as the 2022 Agnes Dillon Randolph Award Winner for her scholarship on the history of Black nurses and healers, their highest honor. A popular public speaker and writer, Dr. Cooper Owens has published articles, essays, book chapters, and op-eds on issues that concern African American historical experiences and reproductive justice.

Her first book, Medical Bondage: Race, Gender and the Origins of American Gynecology won a Darlene Clark Hine Book Award from the Organization of American Historians as the best book written in African American women’s and gender history. It has recently been translated into Korean. She is currently working on a popular biography of Harriet Tubman’s through the lens of disability.

Dr. Deirdre Cooper Owens

Retreat Faculty: Airea D. Matthews

Airea D. Matthews is Philadelphia’s current poet laureate. Her first collection of poems is the critically acclaimed Simulacra, the prestigious 2016 Yale Series of Younger Poets Award. For her writing, Matthews earned a 2020 Pew Fellowship as well as the 2017 Margaret Walker For My People award. In 2016, she received both the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award and the Louis Untermeyer Scholarship in Poetry from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.

Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Gulf Coast, VQR, Best American Poets, American Poet, Lithub, Harvard Review, and elsewhere. Matthews holds a B.A. in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania as well as an M.F.A. from the Helen Zell Writers’ Program and an M.P.A. from the Gerald Ford School of Public Policy, both at the University of Michigan. Matthews’s second book, Bread and Circus, is forthcoming in Spring 2023 from Scribner in the US and Picador in the UK. She is an assistant professor and directs the poetry program at Bryn Mawr College, where she was presented the Lindback Distinguished Teaching award. In her spare time, she is developing an arts commune in Sicily, Italy.

Airea D. Matthews

Retreat Faculty: Samiya Bashir

Samiya Bashir is a poet, writer, librettist, performer, and multi-media poetry maker whose work, both solo and collaborative, has been internationally published, performed, installed, printed, screened, and experienced. Sometimes she makes poems of dirt. Sometimes zeros and ones. Sometimes variously rendered text. Sometimes light. Bashir is the author of three poetry collections, most recently Field Theories, winner of the 2018 Oregon Book Award for Poetry. In addition to her books, and honors, which include a Rome Prize, Pushcart Prize, and Individual Artist Fellowship, Bashir is a sought-after editor, workshop leader, and Associate Professor at Reed College. She lives in Harlem.

Samiya Bashir
Dr. Deirdre Cooper Owens
Airea D. Matthews
Samiya Bashir

The Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice seeks to create spaces for scholars and creative writers

The Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice seeks to create spaces for scholars and creative writers to be in conversation as both an aspect of their work and for the mutual exchange of knowledge within and throughout the university and its surrounding communities.

Meet This Year's Speakers

Michelle Stephens

Rutgers-New Brunswick

Professor, Departments of English and Latino and Hispanic Caribbean Studies

Rutgers-New Brunswick

Michelle Stephens is the Founding Executive Director of the Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice. She joined the Department of English and the Department of Latino and Caribbean Studies at Rutgers University–New Brunswick in spring 2011. She is a psychoanalyst and served as the dean of the humanities in the School of Arts and Sciences from 2017–2020. Originally from Jamaica, West Indies, she graduated from Yale University with a Ph.D. in American studies. 

Anna Branch

Enobong (Anna) Branch is the senior vice president for equity at Rutgers University and provides strategic leadership to ensure that the institutional commitment to equity is reflected in the research, educational, and public engagement efforts that occur throughout the university and the focus extends to faculty, staff, and students. She leads the University and Inclusion office and the Division of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement on the New Brunswick campus.

Kimberly Mutcherson

Kimberly Mutcherson is an award-winning professor whose scholarship focuses on reproductive justice, bioethics, and family and health law. She has presented her scholarship nationally and internationally and publishes extensively on assisted reproduction, families, and the law. She was a visiting scholar at the University of Pennsylvania Center for Bioethics and the Columbia Law School Center for Gender and Sexuality Law.

Jessica Calvanico

Dr. Jessica R. Calvanico is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow with the Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice in the Department of Childhood Studies at Rutgers University. She completed her Ph.D. at University of California, Santa Cruz in the Feminist Studies Department, with designated emphasis in Visual Studies and Critical Race & Ethnic Studies. As an interdisciplinary scholar, Dr. Calvanico's research considers histories of girlhood in the U.S. and the establishment of the juvenile justice system. 

Keith Green

Keith Green is the Associate Professor of English and Director of the Africana Studies Program at Rutgers–Camden. His research and teaching interests include African American literature, Afro-Cuban culture, 19th-century American literature, autobiography, narratives of black captivity, speculative fiction and disability studies.

Tala Khanmalek

Tala Khanmalek is a writer, activist, educator, and oral historian. She publishes creative and academic prose and frequently co-authors work in both genres with Heidi Rhodes. She was a 2020 Voices of Our Nations Arts fellow, 2021 Anaphora Arts fellow, and 2022 Periplus Fellowship finalist. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Meridian, Indiana Review, Barzakh, Frontiers, Feminist Studies, Latino Studies, and more. 

Suzanne Kim

Suzanne A. Kim is Professor of Law and Judge Denny Chin Scholar at Rutgers Law School.. Her research and teaching focus on inequality, family, gender, antidiscrimination, procedure, constitutional law, and access to justice at the intersections of law, critical theory, and social sciences. She is founding director of the Rutgers Center for Gender, Sexuality, Law, & Policy.

Jenna Le

Jenna Le is the author of three poetry collections: Six Rivers (NYQ Books, 2011), A History of the Cetacean American Diaspora (Indolent Books, 2017), and Manatee Lagoon (forthcoming from Acre Books, October 2022). Her poems have appeared in such journals as AGNI, Denver Quarterly, Los Angeles Review, Massachusetts Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Pleiades, Poet Lore, Verse Daily, and West Branch. 

Ruth Madievsky

Ruth Madievsky is the author of a poetry collection, "Emergency Brake" (Tavern Books, 2016), and a forthcoming novel, "All-Night Pharmacy" (Catapult, 2023). Her writing appears or is forthcoming in Harper's Bazaar, The Atlantic, The Los Angeles Times, and elsewhere. Originally from Moldova, she lives in Los Angeles, where she works as an HIV and primary care clinical pharmacist. 

Cynthia Dewi Oka

Originally from Bali, Indonesia, Cynthia Dewi Oka is the author of Fire Is Not a Country (2021) and Salvage (2017) from Northwestern University Press, and Nomad of Salt and Hard Water (2016) from Thread Makes Blanket Press. A recipient of the Amy Clampitt Residency, Tupelo Quarterly Poetry Prize, and the Leeway Transformation Award, her writing appears in The Atlantic, POETRY, Academy of American Poets, Poetry Society of America, Hyperallergic, Guernica, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. 

Heidi Andrea Rhodes

Heidi Andrea Restrepo Rhodes is a queer, brown/Colombian, disabled poet, scholar, and educator, and holds a Ph.D. in political theory from the City University of New York’s Graduate Center (CUNY). Her research focuses on histories of violence, feminist thought, decolonial politics and aesthetics, queer-of-color disability thought, and alternative epistemologies. 

Linda Villarosa

Linda Villarosa is a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine where she covers the intersection of race, inequality and public health. Her new book, Under the Skin: The Hidden Toll of Racism on American Lives and on the Health of Our Nation, was published in June by Doubleday. She is also a professor at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism @ CUNY with a joint appointment at the City College of New York and a contributor to the 1619 Project. 

Jean-Jacques Gabriel

Jean-Jacques Gabriel is a Haitian born father, artist, yoga teacher, yoga teacher trainer, and bodyworker. He’s been teaching yoga since 2006, practicing Thai Massage since 2007, and teaching AcroYoga since 2008. He has taught in prisons, public schools, nonprofits, businesses, yoga studios, and large festivals. jean-jacques draws and paints portraits and line art, and co-designed a clothing line called “The Embodied Collection” with Philadelphia Printworks. 

Meet This Year's Participants

Dagmawe Berhanu

Dagmawe Berhanu is a poet and student from Philadelphia, PA. An advocate in the death rights movement, most of their work reflects on the effects of grief and loss as it pertains to the Black experience. In 2018, along with their team, they competed at the National Poetry Slam representing the city of Philadelphia. When they aren’t writing, Dag enjoys getting the chance to utilize their body through exercise, watching obscure films, and entertaining their 9 year old dog daughter, Miss Ruby. 

Noa Coffey-Moore

Noa Coffey-Moore (they/them) is a Black, genderfluid, disabled, writer, organizer, educator, folk-rock musician, and radical peer support coach living in West Philadelphia. They are a multimedia artist, shapeshifter, time traveler, and chronic pain survivor. They studied creative writing and social justice education, and devised theater at Hampshire College. Trained in poetry and creative nonfiction, their work investigates magic, disability, multi-racial identity, gender and more.

Darcy Grabenstein

Darcy Grabenstein supports the initiatives of Citeline (formerly Informa Pharma Intelligence) by crafting content on topics ranging from clinical trial disclosure to patient engagement and recruitment. She has served as a judge for industry awards including the WEGO Health Awards and the eHealthcare Leadership Awards. 

Mick Powell

Mick Powell (she/her) is a queer Black femme poet and an Assistant Professor in Residence at the University of Connecticut in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Frontier Poetry, Voicemail Poems, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and elsewhere. mick's chapbook, chronicle the body, won Yemassee Journal's second Annual Chapbook Contest and was published in March 2019.

Alyssa Ripley

Alyssa Ripley is a poet and teacher from the Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri now living in Philadelphia She has her MFA in poetry from Rutgers University-Camden. When she’s not writing about the waters of Missouri and largemouth bass, she’s playing rec basketball or exploring Philadelphia with her fiancé. Her work has been featured, or is forthcoming, in Chicago Quarterly Review, DIALOGIST, the Arkansas International, and Crab Creek Review.

Cándida Rosa Rodríguez

Cándida Rosa Rodríguez was born in Brooklyn, N.Y, and was raised both in Cayey, Puerto Rico and Camden, New Jersey. She has wandered from Brooklyn to Philadelphia and back to Camden; and it is there that her heart remains. She is also a visual artist exploring mixed media and a lover of mail art/postcard exchanges. She enjoys amateur photography and is a die-hard Star Trek fan. Her passion is in writing fantasy and science fiction but has found a home in the lyricism of poetry and is a happy member of Brigid’s Writers House in Camden.

Nikeisha S Shaw-Paynter

Nikeisha S Shaw-Paynter is a poet, birth-worker, and social worker. Nikeisha practices holistic health and uses creative means such as writing, poetry, and herbal creations to bring healing.  Nikeisha has been an avid reader and writer her entire life and has used writing as a way to connect with the world and to understand the meaning of everything going on around her. Nikeisha is passionate about bringing awareness to maternal mental health and postpartum health for Black women.

Lauren Silver

Lauren Silver is Associate Professor of Childhood Studies at Rutgers University-Camden. Lauren was an inaugural Faculty Fellow with ISGRJ (2021-2022). She is a feminist ethnographer whose work lies at the intersection of critical & transformative youth studies, abolition, and queer kinship. Her scholarship centers the counternarratives and visions of Black, brown, and queer young people who resist the enclosures of structural & intimate violence, white supremacy, and other forms of oppression.

Amy Beth Sisson

Amy Beth Sisson is struggling to emerge, toad-like, from the mud outside of Philly. Her poetry has appeared in Cleaver Magazine, The Night Heron Barks, and Ran Off  With the Star Bassoon and is upcoming in The River Heron Review and The Shoutflower. Her last day job was in software development. She told programmers what business people wanted and business people why they couldn't quite have it.

Parking Information and Things to Do:

  • Refer to the Rutgers University-Camden Campus Map to assist you in getting to the designated rooms for the workshops and other retreat events.
  • Click here for more information about visiting Rutgers-Camden.

Event parking: 

  • Visitors may park in C1, C2, C3, C14, City lot 15, or 16. 
  • Guests must register using this link CMD-Poets and scholars Summer Writers Retreat to park for the event free of charge.
  • Until this process is completed your vehicle is not registered and you may receive a citation. 
  • Special event parking registration is only for visitors to the University, which does not include free metered parking
  • Faculty, Staff, and Students must park in authorized parking locations according to their parking permits. 
  • If you would like to take a trip to Philadelphia, please click here for information about the PATCO High Speedline, which runs between Philadelphia, and Camden County, New Jersey.
  • Click here for attractions in Camden. 
  • Click here for attractions in Philadelphia. 


Frequently Asked Questions

  • Q: How does this retreat differ from a traditional writing workshop?

    A: We borrow the model of the anti-racist workshop that strengthens writers of color through *“innovative reading, writing, workshop, critique, and assessment strategies.”

    The workshop asks writers to interrogate the positions from which they are speaking (both as writers and as critics in response to peers’ writings), and not to presume objectivity. In contrast to traditional writing workshops whose critiques respond to only what is “on the page,” the Poets and Scholars Summer Writing Retreat takes into account multiple ways of knowing and acknowledges the social and cultural context that shapes the act of creating and sharing literature. This retreat also explores ways of making legible the contexts of which the writer may have been unaware in the process of creation while centering marginalized identities and acknowledging “craft” is itself a cultural construct. We envision this workshop as an open learning community.

    *quoted from Felicia Rose Chavez’s book, The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop: How to Decolonize the Creative Classroom (Haymarket Books, 2021).

    Q. Can only poets apply or attend?

    A: No. Program participants are drawn from all disciplinary backgrounds throughout the humanities and beyond, including but not limited to writers of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, and literary scholars.

    Q: This program is named Poets and Scholars Summer Writing Retreat. How do scholars fit in?

    A: This program seeks to resist the boundaries between creative and critical practice. The retreat will encourage mutual exchange and transdisciplinarity among poets and scholars. The name of the program acknowledges the truth that everyone who is engaged in crafting language is concerned with the language of craft. “Theory” as bell hooks tell us, “is liberatory practice.”

    Q: What is the format of the writing retreat?

    A: The Poets and Scholars Summer Writing Retreat will occur in person for 10 days from July 11 to July 21, 2022 at Rutgers University-Camden. The workshops will be augmented by lectures that offer innovative and interdisciplinary frameworks to inspire new conversations around writing and social justice. Each lecture will be followed by a moderated talk-back with featured respondents and Q&A.

    Q: I missed the application deadline. May I still participate as an auditor?

    A: Yes. In addition to presenters and our participant cohort, groups of writers, individual writers, artists, thinkers, and makers are invited to join us as registered auditors. Auditors may attend all workshops and lectures and may offer questions and comments, movie theater-style, through the moderated chat function.

    Q: Do I have to pay to register or join the events?

    A: No. All of the programs are free.

    Q: How do I register for the events as an auditor?

    To register as an auditor, you are required to submit an application click here.

    Q: Where can I find a link to retreat webinars, content, presentations, meetings, and events?

    A: In advance of the retreat, registered contributing participants and auditors will be given the URL for a master webpage that will contain all pertinent webinar information and links. Participants and auditors are asked not to share the URL.

    Q: Who is sponsoring this program? Where can I find out more information about the Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice?

    A: The Poets and Scholars Summer Writing Retreat is a collaborative effort of the creative writing programs throughout the Rutgers University community, including Rutgers–Camden, Rutgers–Newark, and Rutgers–New Brunswick. The program is underwritten by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. For more information about the Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice, visit our website at