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Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice
PSSWR Participants Banner version UPDATED 7-17-23 FINAL

Poets and Scholars Summer Writing Retreat 2023

ALL VIRTUAL | July 11 - 21, 2023 | Our 2023 participants are pictured here. Learn more about them.

About the Retreat

The 2023 Poets and Scholars Summer Writing Retreat will take place this year from July 11-21. The Retreat will be hosted completely virtually, bridging gaps of geography and granting accessibility to those unable to travel.  

By maintaining a community of care, we seek to affirm all kinds of creators and provide a space for the mutual support of individual projects and practices. Visual artists, performers, musicians, storytellers, theorists, dancers, filmmakers, photographers, playwrights, and non-traditional students are especially encouraged to apply this year.  

Like previous years, this workshop will do away with genre distinctions, encourage mutual exchange and transdisciplinarity, and acknowledge the truth that everyone who is engaged in crafting language is concerned with the language of craft. This model is designed to be inclusive, and we hope to bring creators at all stages of artistic development together.  

Participation is free!  

Writers are Invited to Apply as Contributing Participants or as Auditors

All workshops and talkbacks will take place virtually. Contributing participants must commit to attend all workshop sessions. Auditors may join workshop and lecture sessions as their schedules permit.

Please note: we are not accepting participants at this time.


Who's Who at the Retreat

Alexis Pauline Gumbs

Alexis Pauline Gumbs is a Queer Black Troublemaker and Black Feminist Love Evangelist and an aspirational cousin to all sentient beings. Her work in this lifetime is to facilitate infinite, unstoppable ancestral love in practice. Her poetic work in response to the needs of her cherished communities have held space for multitudes in mourning and movement. Alexis’s co-edited volume of Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines (PM Press, 2016) has shifted the conversation on mothering, parenting and queer transformation. Alexis has transformed the scope of intellectual, creative and oracular writing with her triptych of experimental works published by Duke University Press (Spill: Scenes of Black Feminist Fugitivity in 2016, M Archive: After the End of the World in 2018 and Dub: Finding Ceremony forthcoming in 2020.) Unlike most academic texts, Alexis’s work has inspired artists across form to create dance works, installation work, paintings, processionals, divination practices, operas, quilts and more.

All of Alexis’s work is grounded in a community building ethic and would not be possible without her communities of accountability in Durham, NC the broader US Southeast and the global south. As a co-founder member of UBUNTU A Women of Color Survivor-Led Coalition to End Gendered Violence, Warrior Healers Organizing Trust and Earthseed Land Collective in Durham, NC, a member of the first visioning council of Kindred Southern Healing Justice Network and a participant in Southerners on New Ground, Allied Media Projects, Black Women’s Blueprint and the International Black Youth Summit for more than a decade she brings a passion for the issues that impact oppressed communities and an intimate knowledge of the resilience of movements led by Black, indigenous, working class women and queer people of color. Her writing in key movement periodicals such as Make/Shift, Left Turn, The Abolitionist, Ms. Magazine, and the collections Abolition Now, The Revolution Starts at Home, Dear Sister and the Transformative Justice Reader have offered clarity and inspiration to generations of activists.

Alexis’s poetry and fiction appears in many creative journals and has been honored with inclusion in Best American Experimental Writing, a Pushcart Prize nomination, and honors from the Lucille Clifton Poetry Prize and the Firefly Ridge Women of Color Award. She has been poet-in-residence at Make/Shift Magazine and is currently Creative Writing Editor at Feminist Studies. Alexis’s work as a media maker and her curricula for participatory digital education have been activated in 143 countries. Her digital distribution initiative BrokenBeautiful Press, her work as co-founder of Quirky Black Girls and her loving participation in the Women of Color Bloggers Network in the early 2000’s established her as one of the forerunners of the social media life of feminist critical and creative practice. Alexis has been honored with many awards from her communities of practice including being lifted up on lists such as UTNE Readers 50 Visionaries Transforming the World, The Advocate’s 40 under 40, Go Magazines 100 Women We Love, the Bitch 50 List, ColorLines 10 LGBTQ Leaders Transforming the South, Reproductive Justice Reality Check’s Sheroes and more. She is a proud recipient of the Too Sexy for 501C-3 trophy, a Black Women’s Blueprint Visionary Award and the Barnard College Outstanding Young Alumna Award.

Alexis Pauline Gumbs

Retreat Faculty: Vievee Francis

Vievee Francis is the author of four books of poetry Blue-Tail Fly (WSU, 2006), Horse in the Dark (winner of the Cave Canem Northwestern University Poetry Prize for a second collection, Northwestern University Press, 2006) Forest Primeval (winner of the Hurston Wright Legacy Award and the 2017 Kingsley-Tufts Award) and The Shared World (Northwestern University Press, 2023). She most recently received the 2021 Aiken Taylor Award for Modern American Poetry. Her work has appeared in numerous journals, textbooks, and anthologies, including Poetry, Harvard Review, Best American Poetry (2010, 2014, 2017, 2019, 2020, 2022),, and Angles of Ascent: A Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry. Both a Cave Canem and Callaloo Fellow she has served as an Associate Editor for Callaloo. She is currently an Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing at Dartmouth College. 

Vievee Francis

Retreat Faculty: Cynthia Dewi Oka

Originally from Bali, Indonesia, Cynthia Dewi Oka is the author of four books of poems, most recently A Tinderbox in Three Acts, a Blessing the Boats Selection chosen by Aracelis Girmay (BOA Editions, 2022) and Fire Is Not a Country (Northwestern University Press, 2021). A recipient of the Amy Clampitt Residency, Tupelo Quarterly Poetry Prize, and the Leeway Transformation Award, her writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Oprah Daily, POETRY, Academy of American Poets, Poetry Society of America, Hyperallergic, and elsewhere. An alumnus of the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers, she has taught creative writing at Bryn Mawr College, New Mexico State University, Blue Stoop, and Voices of Our Nations (VONA). For fifteen years, Cynthia served social movements for racial, gender, climate, and migrant justice as an organizer, trainer, and fundraiser. Based in Los Angeles, she currently serves as faculty in The Writers' Program at UCLA Extension and Editor-in-Chief of Adi Magazine.  

Cynthia Dewi Oka
Alexis Pauline Gumbs
Vievee Francis
Cynthia Dewi Oka

Project Manager

Taylor A. Lewis

Taylor A. Lewis holds a BA in English from Spelman College and an MFA in Creative Writing from Rutgers University-Camden. At Rutgers, he taught first-year composition and was a research assistant at the Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice. He has also been a visiting instructor in creative writing at Bryn Mawr College. He was the recipient of the 2020 Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing Queer Writer Fellowship in Prose and the 2017 Edith A. Hambie Poetry Prize sponsored by the Academy of American Poets.

Auditor Facilitator

Sham-e-Ali Nayeem

Sham-e-Ali Nayeem is a multidisciplinary artist, poet, musician and recovering social justice lawyer with Hyderabadi Muslim roots. She is the author of the poetry collection, City of Pearls (2019), and has released two musical albums; City of Pearls (2019) and Moti Ka Sheher (2023) featuring self composed musical interpretations from her book. She is the recipient of the 2022 Leeway Transformation Award, the 2016 Loft Literary Center Spoken Word Immersion Fellowship, and the 1997 Echoing Green Fellowship.

Participant Facilitators

Amy Beth Sisson

Amy Beth Sisson received her MFA in poetry 2023 at Rutgers Camden. She is a project manager for the Quilting Water public art project for the ISGRJ and is an Editorial and Special Projects Assistant for FENCE Magazine.

Esther O. Ohito

Esther O. Ohito is a creative writer and MFA student at Rutgers–Camden, and an educationist at Rutgers–New Brunswick, where she is an assistant professor of English/literacy education. Esther researches and teaches about the poetics and aesthetics of Black knowledge and cultural production, the gendered geographies of Black girlhoods, and the gendered pedagogies of Black critical educators. 

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

Bettina Judd

Bettina Judd is the author of patient. poems, winner of the 2014 Hudson Book Prize, and Feelin: Creative Practice, Pleasure, and Black Feminist Thought. Her poems and essays are widely published in anthologies and journals such as Feminist Studies, Women’s Studies Quarterly, Torch, Mythium, and Meridians. She is currently Associate Professor of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Washington.

Xan Forest Phillips

Xan Forest Phillips is a poet and visual artist from rural Ohio. He is the author of the poetry collection Hull (2019), winner of the 2020 Lambda Literary Award for Trans Poetry, and the chapbook Reasons for Smoking (2018), selected by Claudia Rankine for the Seattle Review Chapbook Contest. The recipient of a Whiting Award and The Judith A. Markowitz Award for Emerging Writers, Xan has received fellowships from Brown University, Callaloo, Cave Canem, The Conversation Literary Festival, and others.

Dr. Ibrahima Seck

Dr. Ibrahima Seck is a former highschool teacher of History and geography. He became a faculty
member of the History department of the University Cheikh Anta Diop of Dakar (UCAD), Senegal
in 2003. His research is mostly devoted to the historical and cultural links between West Africa
and Louisiana with a special interest for religious beliefs, music, foodways, and miscellaneous
aspects of culture.


Kirwyn Sutherland

Kirwyn Sutherland is a Clinical Research Professional and poet who makes poems centering
the black experience in America. He was one of 5 poets to represent the Philadelphia Pigeon
Poetry Slam Team at the National Poetry Slam in Oakland California in 2015. Kirwyn’s work
has been published in American Poetry Review, Cosmonauts Ave., Blueshift Journal, Voicemail
Poems, APIARY Magazine, FOLDER, The Wanderer and elsewhere. 

This Year's Participants

Jada Allen | Fullamusu Bangura | Jari Bradley | Zakia Carpenter-Hall | Ching-In Chen | Zakiya Cowan | Essah Cozett Díaz | Matt Ford | Kelly Fordon | Whitney French | Melinda González | Destiny Hemphill | Candice Jansen | Roman Johnson | Leslie McIntosh | DéShawn McKeel Dasia Moore | Shy-Zahir | Moses | Samuela Mouzaoir | Evie Muir | Olatunde Osinaike | Adenike Phillips | Therí Pickens |  Ana Rodriguez Machado | Dorsía Smith Silva | Rebecca Stoner | Sneha Subramanian Kanta | Angel Sutjipto | Kaley White | Teona Williams
Learn more about all of the participants here

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 2023 Poets and Scholars Summer Writing Retreat will take place this year from July 11-21. The Retreat will be hosted completely virtually, bridging gaps of geography and granting accessibility to those unable to travel.  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 Mellon Foundation. For more information about the Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice, visit our website at