Black Earth Institute fellows 2020

In the past year as a Black Earth Institute fellow, Petra Kuppers co-edited the Practices of Hope issue of About Place with DJ Lee, and co-organized multiple readings and workshops. She also led the EcoSomatics Symposium at the University of Michigan.  She continues to work on The Diver Beneath the Street, a poetry manuscript and a sub-urban fantastical ecopoetic. Her most recent poetry collection, Gut Botany, appeared in March, and has just been named among the top ten poetry books of 2020 by the New York Public Library.

DJ Lee’s memoir Remote: Finding Home in the Bitterroots, about the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness of Idaho and Montana and supported by BEI, was released by Oregon State University Press in March 2020. She traveled to the AWP Conference, where she gave a reading and signed books. The rest of her readings have been online. She presented to groups near and far, from The Johns Hopkins University to the Montana Book Festival and bookstores throughout the Pacific Northwest. 100% of the profits from DJ’s book are being donated to the Connie Saylor Johnson Wilderness Education Fund, which provides teachers and education organizations throughout the US with incentive grants for wilderness education.

This America – Project Update

Jacqueline Johnson has begun writing the early sections of the poetry manuscript and several of the poems have already been published. She would like to complete a first draft of the manuscript by the middle of 2021. She is making plans to do primary research in historical archives. The collection answers the question, what does it mean to be a BIPOC person living in contemporary America?

Over the past two and a half years, Pam Uschuk coordinated and spearheaded a collaboration with Black Earth Institute and Cutthroat, a Journal of the Arts to publish an anthology of poetry and prose by contemporary Chicanx writers called Puro Chicanx Writers of the 21st Century. Our editorial board are renown Chicanx authors, Luis Alberto Urrea, Denise Chavez, Matt Mendez, Carmen Tafolla, Edward Vidaurre and Octavio Quintanilla as well as Cutthroat’s former Fiction Editor, Beth Alvarado. The goal was to highlight the positive achievements of Chicanx writers and to emphasize their immense contribution to American Letters. To fund this anthology, she raised over $5000 in a GoFundMe campaign. The editorial board chose all the work that went into the anthology. This was a labor-intensive project. No one was paid. All monies go into the production of the book, into advertising and distribution. The result is a 359 pages anthology of poetry and prose by 84 contemporary Chicanx writers. This is historic because there is no other collection like this. There are anthologies of Latinx writings, but no other anthologies of Chicanx writings

Schapville house

Austin Smith in collaboration with Kevin Koch and the owners of River Lights Bookstore in Dubuque has planned to host a reading this summer at the house here in Schapville for participants in the Contours anthology, which features work from the Driftless. Of course, that became impossible with Covid, but he hopes to host some kind of event in June if possible. He continues to plan on offering this house to a writer whose work engages with the rural Midwest, environmental and spiritual themes, with a particularly warm invite to those in the Black Earth Institute community. He was able to use some of his BEI funds for various projects in the garden, the house, and the studio where he hopes to eventually house an artist. Again, Covid has thrown a wrench in this plan. He had hoped to offer the house this winter), but is hoping to have it set up for a reading in June.

Claudia F. Saleeby Savage is finishing her book, metal used for beauty alone, about jazz improvisers and the Syrian refugee crisis. Pieces from this book have been featured in numerous performances and publications this year, most recently the Be About Love Festival, at the Blackfish Gallery in Portland with her duo Thick In The Throat Honey. In addition to the printed version of metal used for beauty alone, the book will feature a vinyl recording of original music composed by her duo Thick In The Throat Honey and performed by Syrian refugee musicians in collaboration with jazz musicians in New York and the Pacific Northwest.

With support from BEI, Alexis Lathem is working on a series of lyric and documentary essays with ecological themes. Three new essays, written in 2019-20, are forthcoming in literary journals (West Branch, Stonecoast, and Solstice), on the recovery of marine mammals from near extinction, the endangered monarch butterfly, and a memoir of a journey she made years ago to an Indigenous community in northern Labrador. The essays will be collected into a book, organized around five energy types (solar, hydro, wind, fossil, and geothermal).