Literary Balms: A Virtual Community Writing Project

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This week, Cave Canem has been taking steps to ensure the safety of our staff and the poets we serve during the COVID-19 pandemic. But we have also been thinking of you: our fellows, workshop participants, supporters and lovers of poetry. With the recent shift in everyday living, it’s important to protect and stay connected with our arts community, neighbors and loved ones as best we can.

For the time being, Cave Canem is operating remotely, our public events through mid-April have been canceled and our spring workshops have transitioned to online platforms. Our staff may be reached by emailing [email protected], or by contacting the appropriate person:

Sandra Bowie, Interim Executive Director: [email protected]
Malcolm Tariq, Programs and Communications Manager: [email protected]
Natalie Desrosiers, Programs and Communications Assistant: [email protected]
Della Green, Workshops and Administrative Assistant: [email protected]

Supporting Community
Right now, we’ve all been encouraged to quarantine ourselves if we’re sick or experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, and to practice social distancing to help slow the spread of the virus. In New York City where Cave Canem is based, Mayor De Blasio has closed schools for at least a month, asked New Yorkers not to travel to work and has ordered the closure of restaurants, bars and retailers to the public. This has not only resulted in worry about isolation, but many of us are out of work indefinitely or have already lost our jobs, including teaching artists, performing artists, and booksellers.

One immediate action some of us can take is to support those in our community who are financially affected by this pandemic.

Two funds recently established are the Queer Writers of Color Relief Fund, organized by Cave Canem Fellow Luther Hughes, and the Arts Leaders of Color Emergency Fund, organized by the Arts Administrators of Color Network. Please also check in with your local bookstores to see if you can purchase materials for delivery or purchase a gift certificate for later use. Charis Books & More, an independent feminist bookstore in Atlanta, is currently offering “Stay at Home” $1 shipping for orders placed online so patrons don’t have to leave their homes.

Virtual Community Writing Project
In keeping with our mission to develop Black poets and foster community, Cave Canem is offering a special initiative, Literary Balms: A Virtual Community Writing Project, throughout the next few weeks. Each Monday, you will be greeted with three writing prompts generated by Cave Canem fellows and links to poetry-related readings to be worked through at your own pace. These prompts will also be shared throughout the week on our social media platforms (FacebookInstagram and Twitter) for you to share with your networks and to hopefully spark some creative and critical engagement. We hope that this initiative will help keep writers actively involved with their writing processes and virtually connected with each other. We also hope that it provides some solace or disruption to the continuous stream of devastating and anxiety-producing news during a time when we cannot physically gather in fellowship.

More updates and information regarding the remainder of our spring programming will be included in our April newsletter. In this time of uncertainty, Cave Canem remains committed to our community of Black poets and to the literary arts. We encourage you to reach out to one another, to Cave Canem and to hold space for yourself and others in whichever ways you can. If there is a light, it certainly is in all of us.