About this series of events

Islands & Rivers: Poetry and the Art of the Possible in the Age of Climate Change is a two-day series of gatherings, performances, screenings and workshops presented by Casa de las Americas at LaGuardia Community College, Lost & Found: The CUNY Poetics Document Initiative and the Center for the Humanities at the CUNY Graduate Center, and Engaging the Senses Foundation. The aim of series is to bring an environmental justice framework to creative, humanistic practices; and to conversely bring creative, humanistic practices to bear on environmental justice work.

Islands & Rivers begins at the CUNY Graduate Center with a night of environmental poetry grounded in water-based and island-born knowledgeways integral to our understanding and implementation of climate adaptation and just transition writ large. Programming continues the following day at LaGuardia Community College with a poetry/storytelling/spoken word workshop for LaGuardia students wishing to give voice and form to their own environmental autobiographies; a brief excerpt from the film The Story of Everything, and an open-mic poetry reading featuring new student work; a short, hands-on presentation of community-led data collection techniques intended to document and support mental health in the era of climate change; and finally, a musical performance by a group of feminist educators and cantadoras who open spaces for the music, culture, and traditions of the Caribbean region of Colombia to flourish in New York City. The series will continue in October 2023!


CLICK HERE TO REGISTER for DAY 2, May 18th at LaGuardia CC


Day 1: Wed, May 17th, 4:00 to 8:00 PM in the Skylight Room (9100) at the CUNY Graduate Center

4:00 PM: A celebration of Jumping into the American River by Mary Norbert Korte and The Catalog of the Diane di Prima’s Occult Library with Anne Waldman, Ammiel Alcalay, Mary Catherine Kinniburgh, Iris Cushing and Jason Weiss

Please join us for the kick off of Islands and Rivers with Anne Waldman, Ammiel Alcalay, and editors Iris Cushing, Mary Catherine Kinniburgh and Jason Weiss for a reading and celebration of two recent Lost & Found Elsewhere titles: The Catalog of Diane di Prima’s Occult Library (TKS, 2022) and Mary Norbert Korte’s Jumping into the American River: New and Selected Poems (Argos Books and TKS, 2023).

Di Prima (1934-2020) and Korte (1934-2022), formative and formidable poet-activists, harnessed the power of the hermetic to transform their realities. The Catalog of Diane di Prima’s Occult Library is a complete bibliography of the occult works of arcana that di Prima drew on as she created her poems; these are also the texts she worked with while teaching the Hidden Religions at her San Francisco Institute for Magical and Healing Arts. Mary Norbert Korte, New American poet, former Dominican sister, and fierce protector of old-growth redwood forests, documented her journey in poems. Jumping into the American River gathers fifty years of these poems for the first time, giving a singular view into a life of poetic integrity.

On the occasion of these two new books, the editors will share insights into how these poets worked. Anne Waldman and Ammiel Alcalay will read from and discuss Korte and di Prima’s poetry, scholarship and activism. These are poets whose commitment to magic, wilderness, and the sacred imagination are unparalleled. Please join us in welcoming more of their wisdom into the world.

5:30-6:30pm: Celebratory toast to launch the books, the festival, and the evening's readers.

6:30pm: Poetry Archipelagoes: Islands, Climate Change, and the Poetic Imagination with Mariposa Fernandez, Patricia Spears Jones, Kealoha, Rosamond S. King, and Emily Lee Luan

Top row: Patricia Spears Jones, Kealoha, Mariposa Fernandez. Bottom row: Emily Lee Luan and Rosamond S. King

Join us for a poetry reading with Patricia Spears Jones, Mariposa Fernández, Kealoha, Rosamond S. King, and Emily Lee Luan as we continue the kick off evening of Islands and Rivers, a series of programs centering island epistemologies.

CUNY is the largest, public urban university in the US, with 25 campuses stretching across all 5 boroughs of the New York archipelago. Both its geographic features and diasporic demographics align NYC with small island cities and states on the frontlines of climate change, in no small part due to environmental violence resulting from colonialism and empire that NYC both embodies and undermines every day. Under a variety of climate change scenarios, every island system will be transformed by the rate of sea level rise, groundwater subsidence, and increasing storms, affecting the lifeways of people, plants, and marine species alike. This reading and public event series brings together poets, artists, thinkers, and activists to highlight the complexity, vulnerability and - perhaps most importantly - the possibility of small island cities and states to imagine and implement just transition, mitigation, and adaptation strategies at scale. In the words of Patricia Spears Jones, please join these spectacular poets to “imagine a post capitalist, post imperial, more liberated world.”

Day 2: Thu, May 18th, 2:30 to 5:30 PM at LaGuardia Community College, Little Theater, 31-10 Thomson Ave, Long Island City, NY 1110

12-1:15pm: The Universal Language of Poetry & the Arts: A workshop led by Kealoha with LaGuardia students

Kealoha (photo by Ronen Zilberman)

Internationally acclaimed poet, storyteller, and the first poet laureate of Hawai‘i, Kealoha will lead a poetry / storytelling workshop with LaGuardia students which will draw upon Kealoha’s poetry performances and the ways in which we can integrate poetry and the arts across all cultures, and in our everyday lives and celebrations, meanwhile healing, raising consciousness, and deepening our ability to connect with each other and the natural world. Kealoha will guide students through a hands-on writing experience, encouraging them to find their own poetic voice. The workshop is for students from classes of participating faculty Alliah Abdullah Matta and Sonia Alejandra Rodriguez.

2:30pm: FIYAH Water Fragmentos & Garabatos: Writings in Warming Waters & Creating Change - Poetry Reading by Mariposa Fernández

Mariposa Fernández

What does it mean to create when faced with the existential threat of ongoing crisis? For city people, island people, people living in frontline communities who bear the unfair burden of being disproportionately impacted by a problem we did not create, how do we create? What does creating the “art of the possible look like” when confronted by day-to-day survival? How can we create art? Art of the possible? Mariposa examines these questions and more…through a series of poems and artwork that began when Hurricane Sandy slammed New York City and culminates with poems inspired by Hurricane Maria that impacted more than 3.4 million people in Puerto Rico and resulted in 4,645 deaths and mass displacement. Maria Teresa "Mariposa" Fernandez is an award-winning Afro / Black Puerto Rican who writes about her Diasporican roots, growing up in the Bronx, as well as climate and other social justice issues. This Bronx girl is thrilled to be at LaGuardia Community College in Queens, her sister boro over the river!

3pm: Kealoha introduces The Story of Everything and kicks off Open Mic Poetry Readings

Kealoha will present a brief excerpt from the film The Story of Everything, make connections and draw insights from the poetry and storytelling workshops earlier in the day, and kick off an open mic poetry reading with participants.

3:45pm Kendra Krueger of CUNY ASRC Community Sensor Lab to demonstrate Community Sensor

Join Kendra Krueger of the CUNY ASRC Community Sensor Lab for a hands-on presentation of community-led data collection techniques intended to document and support mental health in the era of climate change. The Community Sensor Lab seeks to equip youth and community members with research tools and STEAM skills to better advocate for local policy change on public health and environmental justice.

4:00 PM: Bulla en El Barrio Musical Concert and Performance

Bulla en El Barrio

BULLA EN EL BARRIO is a feminist educational group that aims to share the traditions, experiences, and lives of the Colombian cantadoras from the regions of Uraba, Cordoba, Bolivar,and Atlantico. Bulla is an effort to open a space in New York to explore at a deeper level the songs and the dances that are part of these traditions which historically have been a tool for self-expression among women.

Poster designed by Partner & Partners

*These events will be filmed.

Islands & Rivers is a collaborative presentation, organized and sponsored by Lost & Found: The CUNY Poetics Document Initiative, the Center for the Humanities at the CUNY Graduate Center, Casa de las Américas at LaGuardia Community College, and Engaging the Senses Foundation (The Story of Everything). Islands & Rivers is co-sponsored by Argos Books, Archives in Common, Asian American Pacific Islander Committee at LaGuardia Community College, La Morada Restaurant, TKS Books, Granary Books.

Poster designed by Partner & Partners