Interior Image

25th Anniversary

Print Friendly, PDF & Email








We are pleased to announce the Cave Canem 25th Anniversary Reunion! The virtual gathering launches a yearlong celebration of our rich history and is modeled after the Cave Canem Retreat, our long-standing flagship program. The week features reunion activities for the fellowship and a suite of public programs for general audiences.



A Kind of Heaven: The First Years of Cave Canem
Sunday, June 13 | 7pm ET
In its first five years, the Cave Canem Retreat was hosted at Mount St. Alphonsus Seminary in Esopus, New York. Cave Canem has since kept many of the traditions from those first years alive while blossoming into a New York City-based nonprofit with a broad range of programs that further its mission of supporting Black poets. In this roundtable, co-founders Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady, faculty members Elizabeth Alexander and Afaa Michael Weaver, former fellow Hayes Davis, former retreat staff Terrance Hayes, and former board member Father Francis Gargani reflect on starting a life-changing tradition of fellowship. Register here.

Opening Circle: Memorial
Monday, June 14 | 7pm ET
The Cave Canem Retreat begins with an opening circle, where all 50 or so fellows, faculty, and staff share what brought them to the space. At once emotional, charged, and joyous, the opening circle breaks ground by inviting everyone to bring their full self to the week ahead and welcomes new fellows into a community of writers. In this spirit, alumni Herman Beavers, Tara Betts, Remica Bingham-Risher, and Brian Gilmore reflect on 25 years of being in community and pay tribute to former faculty and fellows such as Lucille Clifton, Monica Hand, and Carrie Allen McCray. Register here.

Let Me Tell You a Story: A Craft Lecture by LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs
Tuesday, June 15 | 7pm ET
Let me tell a story. Let me show you what I see, what I dream, where I fall/fail and where it can sometimes hurt. And then let’s talk about how I’ve used languages, where I may have fallen into a couple of hiccups, what makes me write now with caution (which pisses me off) because I am older and younger.  Let me tell you a story about a language that relies less on nouns and more verbs and thus, the subject could be read as genderless. Or a language that has no word for skin color. Knowing a little more than what I did when I now do it, the tiny voice says “stop.” It feels so good to make mistakes. I don’t wanna be right. It feels good to give it (what is it anyway?) to the termites.* May I suggest that to bury it far away and let it rot to unearth later or never is ok? Why stop? Who told you to stop? Are you doing enough or too much? Let me show you. Let me not show you. Register here.

*Sun of the Soil (2020), Directed by Joe Penney and written by Ladan Osman

From Way Out Where: The Black Avant Garde
Wednesday, June 16 | 6pm ET
An evening of readings, fragments, ephemera, and conversation by some of America’s most vanguard black writers: Douglas Kearney, Ruth Ellen Kocher, Jonah Mixon-Webster, and Xandria Phillips. Curated by the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics at the University of Pittsburgh, and moderated by Yona Harvey, this event promises the off kilter, the quasi-unhinged, some black quakes, and some possible blackest futures. Register here.

Revelation: A Craft Lecture by Roger Reeves
Thursday, June 17 | 5pm ET
In this craft lecture, Roger Reeves thinks with and through revelation in poetry. What do we mean when we say something is revelatory in poetry? Is it epiphany, confession, statement, or all of the above? What makes a particularly efficacious revelation in a poem? And, what is our current relationship to revelation when we live in era, in a time that eschews privacy? These questions about revelation are also tied to questions of the transformative. How do we make transformative poetry in an age where we hold nothing back? While these questions may be answered in their entirety, this lecture offers a zone of inquiry. This is where we enter. Register here.

Cave Canem at City of Asylum: Faculty Readings, 2010-2014
Thursday, June 17 | 7pm ET
Since 2010, Cave Canem has spent one day during the weeklong retreat at City of Asylum in Pittsburgh for daytime activities and an evening of faculty readings open to the public. This video collage of readings from the first five years of that partnership (2010-2014) highlights the rich diversity of poets who have taught at the retreat, and celebrates the treasured alliance of both organizations. This year the tradition continues with performance highlights from acclaimed poets Colleen McElroy, Amiri Baraka, Nikki Giovanni, Angela Jackson, Toi Derricotte, Cornelius Eady, and Tim Seibles. Register here.

Collective Futures: Writing Our Worlds
Friday, June 18 | 7pm ET
Since Cave Canem was established in 1996, its model of mentorship and fellowship has served as inspiration for a host of other organizations dedicated to the development of poets of color. Collective Futures: Writing Our Worlds features four poet representatives from Cave Canem (El Williams III), CantoMundo (María Fernanda), Kundiman (Aurora Masum-Javed), and The Watering Hole (Robert Randolph, Jr.) who will give readings and participate in a brief discussion on writing communities and the future of poetry. Register here.

“With love like black, our black”: Building Our Homes
Saturday, June 19 | 12pm ET
In “The Sermon on the Warpland,” Gwendolyn Brooks urges readers to “Build now your church,” and to do so “With love like black, our black.” This roundtable features representatives from Cave Canem (Tyehimba Jess), Hurston/Wright Foundation (TBD), Furious Flower Poetry Center (Joanne Veal Gabbin), and Obsidian: Literature & Arts in the African Diaspora (Duriel Harris) in conversation about their collective histories and importance, the challenges they face, and the future of Black literary organizations. Register here.



The reunion includes workshops for Cave Canem fellows and alumni! Faculty and alumni will lead general workshops for poems of various topics, and themed workshops for participants wanting to generate new work. Instructors include Camille Dungy, Vievee Francis, Airea D. Matthews, Lenard D. Moore, Tracie Morris, Harryette Mullen, Carl Phillips, Ed Roberson, and Patricia Smith. Register here.

Cave Canem Fellowship Reunion Receptions
Monday, June 14 | 5-6:30pm ET
Friday, June 18 | 5-6:30pm ET
Cave Canem fellows, faculty, and alumni are invited to two virtual social gatherings to reconnect, reflect, and celebrate 25 years of friendships and writing in community. Details forthcoming.



The Cave Canem 25th Anniversary Reunion is made possible by Community Foundation of Greater Memphis, Lannan Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, New York State Council of the Arts, Opportunity Fund, Rona Jaffe Foundation, The Heinz Endowment, The Whiting Foundation, University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, and Humanities New York with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in the Cave Canem 25th Anniversary Reunion do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.