Brooklyn resident working on latest collection of poetry
JUNE 11, 2018 BY
An award-winning poet is coming to the University of Mississippi this summer to work on her next collection of poetry.
Dameron’s second collection of poems, “Weary Kingdom” (2017), is part of the University of South Carolina Palmetto Poetry Series. Her debut collection, “How God Ends Us” (2009), was selected the 2008 South Carolina Poetry Book Prize and was a finalist for the 2009 Foreword Review Book of the Year.
“Only lately have I been able to articulate, or understand, that I moved away in order to know how to love the South – and myself – better,” said Dameron, a South Carolina native who moved to Brooklyn, New York, a decade ago. “I’d like to know what my writing would look like in an extended time in the South, and this opportunity would provide such a chance.”
Dameron’s residency dates are June 15 to July 16. Her last such experience was in 2009.
Her plans include continuing to write “My ___ is Black” poems, which are meditations on what it means to be black and American. She also will work on a long poem about her paternal grandparents in Charleston, South Carolina, and go through another round of edits for her latest novel.
“Most of my writing for the last eight years has happened in the interstices of full-time work, full-time family and other pursuits,” Dameron said. “I felt immediately a sigh of relief and gratitude that there will be a place for me to read, breathe, write and be in a community of writers for an extended period.”
She also anticipates going fishing, an activity she hasn’t done since she was a child.
“I am looking forward to having the weight of a rod and reel in my hands, casting out into the water and seeing what comes back,” Dameron said. “Writing is not unlike this process.”
Dameron earned a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of North Carolina and a master’s degree in poetry from New York University. She has conducted readings, workshops and lectures all across the United States, Central America and Europe.
“DéLana’s poems are filled with arresting imagery and narrative arcs that are concerned with home, migration, black Southern life, history and traditions,” said Nadia Alexis, a graduate instructor and MFA candidate in creative writing who judged applications and is the SPiR administrator.
“We found her project incredibly compelling, and we’re excited about having her here for a month – writing poems and engaging with undergraduates, the MFA community and local community through class visits, an MFA salon and a reading at Square Books.”
Dameron’s June 28 appearance at Square Books begins with book signings at 5 p.m. and reading at 5:30. The event is free to the public.
“Graduate students in the English department are excited about the opportunity for undergraduate students from their summer courses to learn from DéLana,” said Helene Achanzar, a colleague of Alexis who is assisting with logistics and setting up class visits for Dameron. “During her class visits, DéLana will share her poetry, answer questions about the craft and content of her work, and deliver short presentations related to the course material.”
As a culture maker and arts administrator, Dameron founded Red Olive Creative Consulting in 2013 and brings over a decade of experience in nonprofit fundraising and program development in the areas of arts and culture and education. Besides consulting for small and mid-sized arts and culture organizations on building capacity and sustainability, she is the founder of Black Art Futures Fund and serves on the board of directors of Alice James Books.
“My relationship to the South has remained complicated and loaded, but there will always be reverence and love,” Dameron said. “I had to put distance between us to know how to love it, to appreciate what it gave me and to understand what it might have taken away.”
Beth Ann Fennelly, professor of English and Mississippi’s poet laureate, said that “it’s a blessing that the English department has been given the house formerly owned by John and Renee Grisham to support literature in Mississippi.
“Summers can be slow in Oxford, but because of this great house and the generous funding from the department, (Division of) Outreach and College of Liberal Arts, we’re entering our 11th year of inviting a promising young poet to live in Oxford for the month, visiting classes and meeting with students,” said Fennelly, founder of the SPiR program.
“We’re especially excited to have DéLana Dameron and grateful to our talented MFA student, Nadia Alexis, who did the hard work of bringing her here.”
For more about the UM Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program, visit https://mfaenglish.olemiss.edu/.