Author Archives: twhpoetry


TWH/Clemson $1,000 Slam

March 29, 2017 at 8:00 p.m.: See 6 prolific spoken word geniuses compete for $1,000; Kung Fu Cantina, 101 Keith St., Clemson, S.C. (Free and open to the public)

Summer Retreat Series

March 1, 2017 applications will open for three themed small group weekends of writing.


February 9 and 10, 2017: 2 Evening Salons (workshops) and 2 After Hours Parties, 1499 Massachusetts Ave, NW DC. Reserve your workshop spot today.

TWH/Clemson $1,000 Slam (online)

January 15, 2017: Deadline to submit to compete.

Graduation, Keynote Speech, and Fellows Reading

December 29, 2016 at 7:00 p.m.: Sharan Strange, TWH Graduates and Fellows, Santee State Park, 251 State Park Rd, Santee, S.C. 29142. Come to the Village Round across from Cabin 20. (Free and open to the public)

The Ecotone Magazine Faculty Reading

December 27, 2016 at 6:30 p.m.: Evie Shockley, Bettina Judd, Dasan Ahanu, and L. Lamar Wilson, Santee State Park, 251 State Park Rd, Santee, S.C. 29142. Come to the Village Round across from Cabin 20. (Free and open to the public)

TWH Winter Retreat 

December 26-30, 2016: Sixty poets of color will be building tribe, learning craft, and growing together through workshops, lectures, group work, readings, etc. at this winter’s retreat. Applications to participate will be open from May 1 to August 1, 2017.

12 Days of Christmas Give-Aways (online)

December 13-24, 2016: Like and Follow our brand new Facebook Page to get 12 days of free resources from The Watering Hole. (Free and open to the public)








This retreat is funded in part

  • by a grant from South Arts, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and The South Carolina Arts Commission,
  • by a grant from the S.C. Humanities Council, a state program of the National Endowment for the Humanities,
  • by a grant from The South Carolina Arts Commission, which receives support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the S.C. General Assembly,
  • by a sponsorship from Ecotone, the literary magazine that seeks to reimagine place, published by the Department of Creative Writing at UNC Wilmington.
  • and by pivotal support from private donors like you.

Candace’s New Interview and Poems

Our very own Candace Wiley has new poems and an interview by Chaparral’s I.S. Jones! Check it out!

Here’s an excerpt of an answer about her poetry:

“In general, Fantasy and Sci-Fi pretend that people of color and otherwise othered people don’t exist at all in an enchanted yesteryear or a scientific future or that they don’t exist with any significance (in numbers, purpose, presence, etc.).

Afrofuturism works to write people of color into these genres. My poetic work explores space, the deep sea, mythology, and speculative futures as part of the African diaspora. I try to address questions that I’ve had in ways that are reasonable within any of these alternate universes.

Q: Why haven’t we found bodies from the Middle Passage?
A: Because Africans who were tossed or jumped overboard during the Middle Passage were transformed by Yoruba deities into colorful undead merfolk.

Q: From where does the legend of the Flying African begin?
A: From a Klingon transporter on a Bird of Prey warship.

Q: Where do giants like Goliath come from?
A: Well, when a human and a Klingon really love each other,…

Q: Why do police shoot unarmed black people?
A: Because [some black people] are mutants who can shapeshift.

As it stands, the mainstream U.S. culture doesn’t see us in the past (Fantasy). They don’t see us in the future (Sci-Fi). How can I reasonably expect for them to see us in the present? If they don’t believe we exist as three-dimensional humans in the pasts or futures of the most imaginative genres we have, why would I believe they see us as three-dimensional humans in present reality? … It’s a seemingly strategic erasure when my image and the images of the people I love don’t exist anywhere except for this moment—-this moment in which I live and breathe. And this moment, too, is precarious. Just look at [fill in the blank] tragedy. By simply living in our differences, we can be erased by the fear of that very beauty.”

TWH Adds a Facilitator to the 2015 Poetry Retreat


Last year, we were not only able to provide poetry workshops, we were able to add an improv/storytelling workshop with Darion McCloud to help you enhance your poetic life. It is with extreme excitement that we announce our very special 2015 guest and Performance Masterclass facilitator….

For this year’s retreat, we are delighted to offer you another workshop that will expand your poetic life. Our facilitator who is a Cave Canem Fellow, VONA and Atlantic Center for the Arts Alumnae, theatre director, choreographer, and cultural organizer. She has agreed to join us at this year’s retreat to teach and also stay to share in fellowship. The Watering Hole is proud to present Ebony Noelle Golden

Ebony Noelle Golden is the CEO and principal engagement strategist at Betty’s Daughter Arts Collaborative, LLC. BDAC is a NYC-based cultural arts direct action group that works to inspire, instigate, and incite transformation, radical expressiveness, and progressive social change through community-designed, culturally-relevant, creative projects. The Houston, TX native is also an accomplished performance artist, poet, director, and choreographer who stages site-specific rituals and live art performances that profoundly explore the complexities of freedom in the time of now.

After completing graduate school and serving as literature and creative writing professor in Durham, North Carolina, Golden funneled her passion for entrepreneurship, arts, culture, and community-based education into BDAC which powers some of the most forward-moving organizations and initiatives pushing for progressive social change. Betty’s Daughter Arts Collaborative has worked with more than fifty organizations over the last seven years, internationally.

Ebony holds a Master of Arts degree in Performance Studies from New York University, a Master of Fine Arts degree in poetry from American University, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in creative writing from Texas A&M University.

Her recent and current performance projects include: Zoo House by Aurin Squire, Looking At A Broad by Rebecca Mwase, Night Vision by Dominique Morriseau, Rain Man by Nambi Kelly, Gypsy and Bully Door by Nina Angela Mercer. She is currently also building a a performance project that looks at the impact of migration and gentrification on working class communities, tentatively titled 125th and Freedom.


For more info about her organization, please visit her site:

For more info about her organization, please visit her site:

Len Lawson’s Interview with Ekere Tallie

If you want your world to change, watch Len​’s interview with Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie​ on poetry, the state of poetry, and her most recent book Dear Continuum: Letters to a Poet Crafting Liberation. We watch this over and over, when we need encouragement or direction. Many thanks to Len Lawson of Sumter, S.C. for proposing and executing this project. We’re excited for the next one!

2016 Winter Retreat Scholarships

We are proud to announce three need-based retreat scholarships: Norman Jordan Scholarship for West Virginia Writers of Color, endowed by Mixxed Media, LLC and The Lindsey Scholarship for Male Poets, donated in memory of George Rufus Lindsey.

These need-based scholarships will be judged by an impartial 3rd party reviewer. (If you do not fall into these categories, we apologize. The basic parameters were set by our very generous donors to address a very specific need.) Please, note that scholarshipped participants cannot qualify for a one-on-one conference with our facilitators. We will update this page as more scholarship donors come forward. If you or someone you know would like to provide a scholarship, please contact us a

We would like to stress, these are need-based scholarships. Please, only apply if you are in need. We want to help those who need it most. (If you are a university student or faculty, please apply for travel funds through your university.)

Apply here!


2015 Retreat

Saturday, December 26 – Wednesday, December 30, 2015
Santee State Park, in Santee, South Carolina

This retreat is open to everyone but preference is given to members of The Watering Hole Facebook group.


*** Price: $298 by November 15th

*** Current Fellow Discount (ie. Returner): -$50 for previous retreat attendees who pay by midnight November 15th
*** Early Bird Discount: -$50 if paid in full by midnight November 1st
*** Current Fellow Early Bird Discount (ie. Returner): -$100 for previous retreat attendees who pay by midnight November 1st

The first ten people who pay receive one-on-one conferences with a facilitator. All payments received  after November 15th assess a $37 late penalty above the regular price ($335). No payments will be accepted after midnight on December 1st.

The price reserves your space in the classes, covers housing for 5 days and 4 nights, and pays for all tuition costs. We will be housed in modern cabins that have 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, a full living, and full kitchen. All participants are responsible for their own travel and food. All participants are required to stay for the entire retreat from beginning to end.


As a result of generous donations, TWH is able to offer the Norman Jordan Scholarship for West Virginia Writers of Color, endowed by Mixxed Media, LLC and The Lindsey Scholarship for Male Poets, donated in memory of George Rufus Lindsey. Thanks so much to our generous donors for making this possible.

Jericho Brown

JerichoBrown_NewBioImageJericho Brown is the recipient of a Whiting Writers Award and has fellowships from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University and the National Endowment for the Arts.  His poems have appeared in The New Republic, The New Yorker, and The Best American Poetry.  His first book, Please (New Issues 2008), won the American Book Award, and his second book, The New Testament (Copper Canyon 2014), won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and was named one of the best books of the year by Library Journal, Coldfront, and the Academy of American Poets.  He is an associate professor in English and creative writing at Emory University in Atlanta.

Tara Betts

tarasplashTara Betts is the author of the upcoming Break the Habit and 7 x 7: kwansabas, Arc & Hue (Aquarius Press/Willow Books 2009), and THE GREATEST!: An Homage to Muhammad Ali (Winged City Press 2013). In 2010, Essence Magazine named her as one of their “40 Favorite Poets.” Betts was a lecturer in creative writing at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ until 2011. She currently teaches in the English Department at University of Illinois-Chicago. Tara’s writing has appeared in POETRY, Obsidian, Callaloo, Gathering Ground, Bum Rush the Page, both Spoken Word Revolution anthologies, The Break Beat Poets (Haymarket Books 2015), Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements (AK Press 2015), and GHOST FISHING: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology (University of Georgia Press 2015). Betts holds a Ph.D. from Binghamton University and an MFA from New England College.

Randall Horton


Randall Horton has earned a Ph.D. in English/Creative Writing, from the University at Albany-SUNY, received notable poetry prizes, and a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship. His publications include a memoir, Roxbury, and the poetry collections, The Definition of Place, The Lingua Franca of Ninth Street, and his most recent, Pitch Dark Anarchy and Hook: A MemoirHe is now an Assistant Professor of English at the University of New Haven, Connecticut where he often speaks to his students on the impact of imprisonment. It is a most necessary education. Many of them are enrolled in the university’s Criminal Justice Program.

Ebony Noelle Golden

EbonyEbony Noelle Golden is the CEO and principal engagement strategist at Betty’s Daughter Arts Collaborative, LLC. The Houston, TX native is also an accomplished performance artist, poet, director, and choreographer who stages site-specific rituals and live art performances that profoundly explore the complexities of freedom in the time of now.  After completing graduate school and serving as literature and creative writing professor in Durham, North Carolina, Golden funneled her passion for entrepreneurship, arts, culture, and community-based education into BDAC which powers some of the most forward-moving organizations and initiatives pushing for progressive social change.

Marlanda Dekine

1439908073Marlanda is a published poet, experienced facilitator, and consultant. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Furman University and a Master of Social Work from the University of South Carolina. She has facilitated training, groups, seminars, and has performed in over 100 spaces across the nation. She is also the Co-Founder and a volunteer for Spoken Word Spartanburg, a nonprofit that brings awareness to the power of the spoken word art form. Her experience as a Forensic Evaluator, Therapist, and Consultant for various organizations across the Upstate as well as her experience as a professional spoken word poet has placed her in a position of connecting people so that the work of organizing for real community change can take place with people who are fully aware, engaged, and emphatic. She serves as the Executive Director of Speaking Down Barriers, which hosts community gatherings and facilitates training in safe environments through the use of real, raw conversation and spoken word poetry on difficult topics.

Each year, we ask our facilitators to take an experimental, non-Western approach for classes. Rather than sitting in a sterile classroom, all facing the teacher at the board, (not the most effective way of teaching or learning), we are going to use the learning style that Nikky Finney says she experienced in Toni Cade Bambara’s living room. Nikky says that much of her growth as a poet came from sitting in a living room filled with writers and talking about craft. We purposefully picked a location (Santee State Park) that would allow us to experiment with this aspect of Toni Cade Bambara’s teaching style. The poets in your small group will be in one living room, sitting at the feet of each other and learning from each other as much as they learn from the facilitator. Your creative breakthroughs may very well come from interacting with the retreat participant next to you.

Our Curriculum

Inspirations Academy

S.T.E.A.M. Sessions

We merge poetry and performance with at least one of the following disciplines during each of our sessions: science, technology, engineering, and math. By focusing on safe, hands-on experiments and allowing students to explore their interests, our learners get to learn about themselves, their passions, as well as the art of poetry.

Spoken Word Sessions

We use techniques from debate clubs to engage students in contemporary topics, encourage them to research outside of the sophistical pro-con binary, and push them towards truth-seeking and problem-solving. Once student formulate their opinions, they write poetry that is invested in depicting this new perspective.

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How to Write a Poetry Cover Letter

We always get questions about cover letters and it’s only because of our work on both sides of the desk (poet and organizer) that we’ve began to understand this a little better. Yes, we work for The Watering Hole, but we have also worked for The South Carolina Review, Yemassee, among others. We’ve been through hundreds of cover letters. Hopefully, this will demystify them for you.

Cover letters change shape based on what you are applying for. Sometimes poetry submissions lay out exactly what they are looking for in a cover letter. Often they don’t. Always, check that organization’s guidelines.

In general for poetry retreats, residencies, and fellowships, the poetry is read first, then the editors make a shortlist of acceptances, after which the cover letters are read, and more cuts are made. However, for publication, the cover letters are only read a month after all acceptances have been made, when editorial assistants copy and paste bio information for the publication. Clearly, these need not be comprehensive. The poetry is most important. Check out these sample below. Note the “business letter” format, which we’ll discuss further at the end.

Cover letters can be anywhere from 30 words to 2.5 pages, depending on whether you are applying for publication (30 words to 1 page), retreat (up to 1 page), fellowship and residency (up to 2 pages), job (up to 2.5 pages), and so on.

Definites for Publication: You definitely need to end the cover letter with a list your submission poems’ titles. The cover letter’s primary function is to match the blind poems (which don’t name the author) with the author’s cover letter (which does name the author and all contact info). The editorial assistants separate these parts during reading and judging and need to be able to put them back together easily.

Optional for Publication: Optional elements to include for a publication cover letter would be a 30-75 word professional bio, and 3-5 places where you’ve been published. (Really? No more than 5? Yes. Really. Definitely. No flex zone.) If you haven’t been published yet, feel free to say that. Journals jump at the chance to “discover” a hot new poet.

Definites for Other Programs: On the other hand, for retreats, fellowships, and residencies the cover letter is very important. This is helps determine who makes the short-shortlist. In addition to the information above, these cover letters would add a brief aesthetics statement of who’s influenced your art and what you seek to accomplish within your poems (to contextualize the poems in your submission); what you do; where you work; and any work you do in the arts community. The acceptance committee is trying to find out what kind of person you are, whether you work well with other artists on a regular basis, how your personality and personal goals jive with the retreat’s spirit and objectives, how you can enhance and be enhanced by that community of artists, whether there might be any issues that could disrupt the feelings of community (i.e. ego, belligerence towards equals, etc.), whether you are the best fit for their program. You have to tailor the letter to their interests and goals. As we mentioned before, always check the organizations requirements.

Sidenote for Longer Cover Letters: After having read a ton of these, in longer cover letters, everyone says the same thing. “I’ve been writing since x grade/year. Since my teacher read x poem, it’s been my passion. love love blah blah blah. I write for love, expression, revolution. I couldn’t breathe. Writing is my air.” Everybody has this story. Cut it. Don’t tell your passion: give evidence of it. Think about what would be the best evidence in a court of law. Think FACTS=PASSION. Think FACTS=CHARM. “Since 2014, I have participated in a small livingroom reading group, which led to my interest in Afrofuturism. That has resulted in a publication in Pluck titled ‘Superwoman gives up tights.’” This method will help you say something that is unique to you and will therefore make you stand out.

Definites for Everyone: Finally, pay close attention to following the “business letter” format, even for e-mailed submissions—your name and address, e-mail, phone, their name and address, e-mail, phone, date, Dear Name of Actual Person In Charge, letter, Sincerely, your name and brief list of 1-3 resume affiliations/titles. A little bit of professionalism goes a long way.

If you are applying to our ANTHOLOGY SUBMISSIONS, the deadline is March 31, 2015. Since we are a budding grassroots organization, we don’t have a street address just yet, so don’t worry about that part of the cover letter you write for us.

Anyway, I hope this provides some clarity. I’ve included a sample below. Feel free to steal it. Good luck, poets! Hit us if you have any questions.

P.S. Don’t play with the font. Single-spaced, Times New Roman, 12 point is standard. The smallest you can go is 11.5. Any smaller than that and people over the age of 50 get angry. And never put poems in the body of an e-mail. Always attach them as a Word document, unless you are told specifically to do otherwise.

Sample Publication Cover Letter:

[Your Name]
[Your Street Addy]
[Your Town, State, Zip]
[Your E-mail Addy]
[Your Phone Number]
[Your website if you have one]

[Name of Editor] <—-You want the editor or poetry editor
[Job Title]
[Journal/Magazine Title]
[Department if applicable]
[Their Street Addy]
[Their Town, State, Zip]
[Their Country if outside of the U.S.]

March 1, 2015 <—-This should be the date that you send the submission

Dear [Name of Editor]:

I’ve enclosed my [fiction/nonfiction/poetry] submission for publication in [Journal/Magazine Title]. Included are [Titles of Poems]. My work has appeared in [3-5 Titles of other publications] among others. [*If submitting via mail] I’ve included an SASE for [response only/the return of my manuscript].

Thank you for your time and consideration.


[Your Name]
[Your Title if applicable]
[1-3 affiliated organizations or universities]

[Short Professional Bio written in the third person in case of publication] Ex. Jane Smith was born and raised in Camden, S.C. After graduating from Hilman College, she has studied poetry at VONA, Breadloaf, and The Watering Hole. Muffet currently works as an insurance agent and hosts open mic nights in Memphis, T.N.

^ ^ ^ If you choose to integrate this bio into the body of your letter (instead of the postscript), use the first person I.