I am author of six poetry books, including mystic turf, which will be released in October 2012 by Willow Books; a children's book titled The Big World (Addison-Wesley, 1998); a book of pedagogy; and editor of eight anthologies, including Dream of A Word: The Tia Chucha Press Poetry Anthology (Tia Chucha Press, 2006). I am Associate Professor of English/Creative Writing at Chicago State University, where I served as Director of the Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing from 2002-2011. I’m a former faculty member of the Drama Division of The Juilliard School and a former Reading/Language Arts editor for Scott-Foresman (Pearson Education), Glencoe/McGraw-Hill, and Holt, Rinehart & Winston. I also worked as Lead Consultant/Contributing Poet for the Jamestown Reading Navigator Poetry Slam On-line Program. Our Difficult Sunlight: A Guide to Poetry, Literacy & Social Justice in Classroom & Community (with Georgia A. Popoff) was published in March 2011 by Teachers & Writers Collaborative and was a 2012 NAACP Image Award nominee. I have been a literary teaching artist and curriculum developer for two decades and have led workshops in prisons, public schools, and universities in over 30 states.
I experienced the profound privilege of being mentored by Gwendolyn Brooks for the final decade she was with us in the flesh. Ms. Brooks in workshop was a marvel and a wonder. She was an igniter of mind riots harboring a religion of kindness. She loved instigating, agitating. My work benefited from her firm nudging. It also benefited from her fierce red pen. She taught me to engage a classroom or any student interaction with respect rooted in the notion that I have as much to learn from the student as the student has to learn from me. And that the ability to listen (and not only with your ears) is among the poet’s most significant tools.