Afaa Michael Weaver (尉雅風)—previously known as Michael S. Weaver—is a native of Baltimore, Maryland, where he graduated from Polytechnic High School at the age of sixteen. After two years at the University of Maryland in College Park, he left to spend fifteen years working in Baltimore factories, during which time he wrote and published poetry, journalism, and short fiction, as well as founded 7th Son Press, through which he published Blind Alleys, a journal of contemporary poetry and prose, which included, among others, the work of Huan Felipe Herrera, Nikky Finney, Andrei Codrescu, and Lucille Clifton.
As a freelance journalist, he wrote for the Baltimore Sun, the Afro-American, and City Paper. In 1985, he left factory life when he received an NEA fellowship in poetry. Later that spring, he was admitted to Brown University on a full fellowship in Creative Writing and had his first book, Water Song, published by Charles Rowell in the Callaloo Series at the University of Virginia. At Brown, his focus was playwriting. His mentor was the late George Houston Bass, secretary to Langston Hughes and executor of Hughes’s estate. His playwriting teacher was Paula Vogel.
As of 2017, he has had fifteen collections of poetry published. His new book is Spirit Boxing (U Pitt 2017). In 2014, he received the Kingsley Tufts Award for The Government of Nature (U Pitt 2013), and in 2015, the Phillis Wheatley Book Award for City of Eternal Spring (U Pitt 2014). He has received four Pushcart Prizes and has been published in two volumes of Best American Poetry. His other awards include the Mae Sarton Award, a Pew Fellowship in poetry (1998), a Fulbright appointment (2002) to teach in Taiwan, the Gold Friendship Medal (2005) from the Beijing Writers Association, and in 2017 a Guggenheim Fellowship in poetry.
As a playwright, his play, Rosa, was a small Equity production at Venture Theater in Philadelphia, and Elvira and the Lost Prince was awarded the PDI Award in playwriting at Chicago’s ETA Theater. In addition, he has worked as the editor of Obsidian and has been a freelance journalist. His short fiction is included in Gloria Naylor’s Children of the Night. In 1995, he received tenure with distinction at Rutgers in Camden, and in 2017 he retired from Simmons University in Boston, Massachusetts, where he held the Alumnae Endowed Chair in English for twenty years and is now Professor Emeritus. Afaa began teaching part-time in the MFA program at Sarah Lawrence in the fall of 2018. As a translator, he works in contemporary Chinese poetry. Afaa has studied Mandarin in the U.S. and Taiwan, and he was certified in intermediate-level fluency at The Taipei Language Institute, where he is listed as a notable alum.
As a Fulbright alum, he convened two international conferences on contemporary Chinese poetry at Simmons in 2004 and 2008. The latter focused on translation as cultural communication. “Translation as Performance, Sun Wenbo’s ‘Butterfly Effect’” is an essay of his on translation through the lens of performance studies included in the special issue of Translation Review dedicated to Rainer Schulte. He holds a first-degree black sash in Taijiquan. In 2019, Afaa was named Distinguished Artist of the Year at the St. Botolph Club Foundation, and later that year in Taiwan he was awarded the 96th Medal from Taiwan’s Writers and Artists Association. He lives in the Hudson Valley area of New York with Kristen Skedgell, his wife. Afaa’s papers are on deposit in the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University, and his photo portrait is installed in the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. His Chinese name (Wei Yafeng) was given to him by Dr. Chinghsi Perng, Professor Emeritus at National Taiwan University.
Afaa’s website: www.magichorses.org
Venus Jones is a message mentor and helps emerging sheroes find their signature stories through the power of poetry and the healing arts. She felt abandoned by her own birth mother at the age of two before a woman named Rose helped her rise. Thanks to the kindness of a stranger, faith in a higher power, and resiliency, Venus still seeks to give back the love she received. She’s still keeping her inner light on, even when the world around her turns dark.
Through it all, she’s been recognized as an award-winning radio personality, an accomplished actress, model, poet, and educator. She grew up in Akron, Ohio, nurtured countless emerging artists in Tampa Bay, Florida, her second home, and recently served as an associate English and Communication professor at Mission College. Her poems have appeared in several printed anthologies and online journals. Other publications include a mobile iPhone holiday app, four spoken word albums, and three books titled, She Rose, Kwanzaa: Living on Principle, and Lyrics for Langston. She’s even been endorsed by the family of the legendary Langston Hughes.
She’s been a leader in the Shero movement, a TEDx presenter, and a poetry slam finalist at the Austin International Poetry Festival. Her one-woman show, “Poetic Soldier” earned her “Most Inspiring Solo Performance at the Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival.” Her short play “Race and War” was featured at the Tampa Bay Theatre Festival.
Venus earned her MFA in English and Creative Writing from Mills College in 2014, and she was one of the honored commencement speakers that same year. She’s worked for two television networks including HSN, where she was a backstage coordinator, and MTV, where she was local correspondent. She’s also opened for Def Poetry on Broadway. Her image has appeared in countless commercials, in a Marvel movie, on a billboard, and it has graced the cover of Spoken Vizions magazine. Yet her greatest achievement has been finding true love and maintaining a healthy matrimony for over 20 years.
One of her favorite quotes is by Alice Walker – “The most common way people give up their power is by believing they don’t have any.”
Bob McNeil, a writer and spoken word artist, received his MS in media arts and science at Indiana University. He is the author of Lyrics of Mature Hearts and Verses of Realness. Hal Sirowitz, the former Queens Poet Laureate, described the book as "A fantastic trip through the mind of a poet who doesn't flinch at the truth."
Furthermore, Bob was published in The 35th Anniversary of Blind Beggar Press Collector's Edition Anthology, Whirlwind Magazine, The Shout It Out Anthology, Brine Rights: Stanzas and Clauses for the Causes (Volume 1), Not My President, A Lime Jewel, Year of the Poet, Writers' World Newspaper, We Cry for Peace (Swords of Words Book 2), Silkworm 9, The Annual Review of the Florence Poets Society, San Francisco Peace and Hope, and The Self-Portrait Poetry Collection.