Tag Archives: TWH


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.


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.

Poetry Fest

The Watering Hole, in honor of our mission to bring performance and craft to all that we do, invites you to our 2-Day Poetry Fest in Columbia, S.C. during the first weekend in April. Click here to BUY TICKETS in advance. This is what you’ll experience:

Saturday, April 4, 2015

10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Poetry Workshops (Free)
Langston Hughes Poetry Center
on the campus of Allen University
1329 Pine Street, Columbia, SC
(Reserved seating with paid weekend tickets)

4:00 – 5:30 p.m. Open Mic/Book Signing
Beyond Measure by Author Connie Johnson
Richland County Public Library
1431 Assembly Street Columbia, SC 29201
For more information and to purchase a book please visit:  www.connieljohnson.com

7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m $300 Invitational Slam!
Poetry Slam – Page to Stage Poets
All are welcome! Pieces can be read or memorized.
($25 entry fee for Slam)
Conundrum Music Hall
626 Meeting Street, West Columbia, SC
($15 @ the door)

Sunday, April 5, 2015 

3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Annual Sundresses, Sandals, and Spoken Word Poetry Showcase
($15 at the door)
Conundrum Music Hall
626 Meeting Street, West Columbia, SC
Dress Theme: Mama Africa
Wear your best African/Batik print dresses for an impromptu fashion show!

Performers: Selah the Poet, Bugsy CalhounCandace Wiley, Tavis P. Brunson, James Harris a.k.a. IdleWild, King Shakur (new book release) Features: Elliot Axiom (the Velvet Teddy Bear…TRUST, ladies!) and Tamika Harper a.k.a. Georgia Me

Click here to BUY TICKETS in advance.

Sorry, no refunds.

Brought to you by Monifa Lemons Jackson of The Watering Hole and Bugsy Calhoun, both members of The Unusual Suspects Family!