Welcome to Our Little Roses Poetry Fellowship!

Welcome to Our Little Roses Poetry Fellowship!

This fellowship got started when Spencer Reece headed down to Honduras in 2010.

Bewildered, unable to speak Spanish, shocked by the poverty he saw, feeling utterly useless and insignificant, he was eager to return home after being there for two months with the desire to learn Spanish. But the night he left everything changed. One of the girls turned to him and said, “Don’t forget us.”

This fellowship is to honor that girl and all the girls that have ever been a part of the Our Little Roses family, some two hundred abandoned and abused girls who have gone on to become engineers and dentists and more. Our Little Roses is the only all girl orphanage in a country of 250,000 orphans. Prior to the founding of the home, the most likely outcome for such a girl was to become a prostitute or a maid.

Through the OLR Poetry Fellowship, poets from around the world have the opportunity to spend one month at Our Little Roses in San Pedro Sula live on-site at the home and teach in the co-ed bilingual school next door.

The poet has the opportunity to teach all grades from kindergarten up to 11th grade (the top grade in Honduras). The fellow will be awarded a $1,000.00 honorarium along with a grant to help with travel and living expenses.

The on-campus lodging, a private, air conditioned, one-bedroom apartment, allows for optimal interaction with the girls outside of the classroom.

The apartment has a full kitchen, however you are invited to join the girls in the cafeteria as well (we have amazing cooks!)

The fellowship also includes a $500.00 allowance to allow for a celebration of the work while in country. This is usually a pizza party where one of the girls is awarded “The Poet’s Chair”. This should also cover expenses to fund a presentation back home at a library, a poetry center, a youtube presentation: be creative!

As part of the ending ceremony of the residency we conduct a bit of a ceremony. Students can enter their poems into a competition and the visiting poet is the judge. Awards are given with the most prized poet earning the right to the “Poet’s Bench”.

The Poet’s Bench was designed by one of Our Little Roses talented woodworkers, Ana, in our on-site wood working studio. On the center of the front side of the bench-back there are hands holding roses and angel’s wings on the sides of the hands.

This rich tradition began ​back when ​Spencer Reece was on his Fulbright Scholarship back in 2013. He brought a fellow poet with him, Sarah Humphries. Sarah grew up in Wales and ​took the inspiration for the bench/espectáculo/poetry winner from the Welsh “Eisteddfod”.

According to Ms. Humphries, ​“Eisteddfod” comes from “eistedd” , literally meaning “to sit”, and is a big concert to showcase art (especially dance and choirs), which ends with the winning poet being seated in a ceremony called the “chairing of the bard”. The aim of the event is to promote peace, and during the “chairing of the bard ceremony” in Llangollen, a sword is sheathed 3 times above the bards head. Only the winning poet is allowed to sit in the chair during that year, which is kind of like a throne for a king/queen. Eisteddfods are held wherever there is a concentration of Welsh people, like Wales, Australia, and Patagonia.

Sarah now lives and works in ​ Bilbao, Spain​.

The girls will not be forgotten.

Are you interested in applying for the Our Little Roses Poet In Residence Fellowship?

It is easy to apply. Send your resume to: [email protected]

Include your schooling, teaching experience, language skill level and publication credits if any. Please include specifically where you first heard of the fellowship

Each year the poet who is selected becomes the judge for the following year. Resumes are screened by a first reader who then narrows the candidates down to twenty to thirty for the judge to select. November is the ideal month to be with the girls in the school year. Sometimes the dates can be adjusted towards December or October, but a month is required to have the maximum effect.

You’re In Good Company

Founder
2014
2016
2017
Guest
Trini
2018

Spencer Reece continues to fulfill his promise to remember the girls.  His book, Counting Time Like People Count Stars, Poems by the Girls of Our Little Roses, San Pedro Sula, Honduras, was published in Nov. 2017 by Tía Chucha Press and distributed by Northwestern University Press and is available for purchase. A portion of the sale of each book returns to Our Little Roses.  The book contains twelve poems, written by the girls, in both Spanish and English, along with essays by Reece and Luis J. Rodríguez as a backdrop to the girls’ voices, and a foreword and afterword by poets Marie Howe and Richard Blanco. Luis and his wife Trini, a poet, teacher, and indigenous healer, also helped teach at Our Little Roses and the Holy Family Bilingual School. Greg Pardlo, A. Van Jordan, and Carloyn Forché also endorse the book.

 

The book is accompanied by a feature documentary film, Voices Beyond the Wall. The film was executive produced by James Franco and Rabbit Bandinifilm, produced by Cassidy Freidman and directed by Brad Coley and has received awards at multiple film festivals.

Buy The Book

Rebecca Watkins has been an instructor, writer, and innovator for over 10 years in teaching, writing, and social service. Her strengths are working with immigrant populations and women by teaching, writing and editing, and designing and managing service projects.

Education M.F.A, Creative Writing/Poetry, City College of New York 2009 B.A., Telecommunications, Sales, and Management; Ball State University Muncie, IN

 

Writing Awards

 

Spring 2009 Graduate Symposium City College of New York, multimedia poetry and art exhibit titled The Art of Compromise.

 

Spring 1997 First Place Student Competition Undergraduate Collaborative Paper, Ball State University, Muncie, IN.

 

Publications Online

“Irreversible” Wild Age Press, “Searching” Anderbo Literary Journal, “Year of the Red Turtles” on The Year of the Yellow Butterflies Blog, Trinity Test Site, New Mexico,” “On the Tuesday She Turned 35,” “Reading to Helen” SN Review

Print

“Icarus’s Daughter” Promethean Vol. 36, “After Baghdad” Poetry in Performance Vol. 38. “What “Happens When You Mainline Fire?” Promethean Vol. 39, “Two Days in the Desert,” “Summer Rain,” “On Former 666” Red Mesa Review Vol. 12., “My First and Last Defense” and “Verses” Whiskey Island Magazine Vol. 43, “And Then What?” “To My Brother, a Young Solider,” “The Sage and the Sorrow” For a Better World, Poems & Drawings on Peace and Justice by Greater Cincinnati Artists, “Until Spring” The MT Cup Revue. “Burnt” Xray Vol. 2

Luis J. Rodriguez:  from 2014-2016, the official Poet Laureate of Los Angeles. For Luis poetry is soul talk, a prophetic act, a powerful means to enlarge one’s presence in the world.

Luis is also a novelist/memoirist/short story/children’s book writer as well as a community & urban peace activist, mentor, healer, youth & arts advocate, husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.

He has 15 books in all genres, including the best-selling memoir, “Always Running, La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A.” His latest memoir is the sequel, “It Calls You Back: An Odyssey Through Love, Addiction, Revolutions, and Healing.” His latest poetry book is “Borrowed Bones” from Curbstone Books/Northwestern University Press. Luis is founding editor of Tia Chucha Press, now in its 28th year, and co-founder/president of Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural & Bookstore in the San Fernando Valley. And he’s co-convener of the Network for Revolutionary Change.

Luis is dedicated to a clean, balanced, abundant, cooperative, healing world. No more capitalist private property relations, exploitation, war, or inequities. “In essential things, unity;  in nonessential things, liberty. In all things compassion.”

“I met a fella named Luis Rodriguez, a writer and a poet, who had a … cultural center in Los Angeles. These are people I’ve known and worked with for a long time. These are the people trying to fill the holes that should long ago have been filled by government. Those are the people who give me optimism. They’re relentlessly hopeful, and they face it all on the front lines on a daily basis.”–Bruce Springsteen from Rolling Stone magazine, November 15, 2007

Lydia K. Valentine is a writer, educator, activist, mom, and card-carrying Blerd who lives in Tacoma, WA.  Though the Pacific Northwest is home,  she grew up in Aliquippa, PA and will be a Quip for life. Lydia has a degree from the Johns Hopkins University and is working toward completing her MFA in writing at Goddard College.  She credits her friends, family, and teachers for pushing her to submit work for publication instead of caching it away like Emily Dickinson. Her endeavors to stand in her truth as a writer have led to her being named Alternate for the role of 2017-2019 Tacoma Poet Laureate, earning the Our Little Roses Fellowship to teach poetry for a month in Honduras, serving as a dramaturg on several UW-Tacoma performance of the Quiara Alegría Hudes play Water by the Spoonful, and having her work published by The Pitkin Review literary magazine, Angels Flight · literary west, HowlRound, and ComiConverse, among others.

 

Lydia has a happy home full of people, pets, books, games, and laughter.  She enjoys geeking out on fantasy, fairy tales, writing and artwork of other blerds, Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars, Luke Cage, Buffy, & Serenity.  Lydia has fought many battles on Grammar Hill to defend the Oxford comma. She believes in the power of good & the necessity of books! She loves Nnedi Okorafor, Nisi Shawl, N.K. Jemison, Octavia Butler, Lynn Nottage, Neal Schusterman, Shakespeare, Maya Angelou, Dominique Morisseau, Robin McKinley, & Ilona Andrews. As a recovering Marvel & DC addict, Lydia is currently on a break from comics, though Saga and Rat Queens are still her jam (and she remains VERY upset that The Empty by Jimmie Robinson was canceled).

 

Check out her blog, Lyderary Logic, which includes her posts during her time at Our Little Roses.

Richard Blanco is the fifth presidential inaugural poet in U.S. history—the youngest, first Latino, immigrant, and gay person to serve in such a role. Richard visited Our Little Roses and worked with Spencer Reece teaching the girls.  

Born in Madrid to Cuban exiled parents and raised in Miami, the negotiation of cultural identity and place characterize his body of work. He is the author of the memoirs The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood and For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet’s Journey; the poetry chapbooks Matters of the Sea, One Today, and Boston Strong; the poetry collections Looking for the Gulf Motel, Directions to the Beach of the Dead, and City of a Hundred Fires; a children’s book of his inaugural poem, “One Today,” illustrated by Dav Pilkey; and Boundaries, a collaboration with photographer Jacob Hessler. With Ruth Behar, he is co-creator of the blog Bridges to/from Cuba: Lifting the Emotional Embargo, which provides a cultural and artistic platform for sharing the real lives and complex emotional histories of thousands of Cubans across the globe. Blanco’s many honors include the Agnes Starrett Poetry Prize from the University of Pittsburgh Press, the Beyond Margins Award from the PEN American Center, the Paterson Poetry Prize, a Lambda Literary Award, and two Maine Literary Awards. The Academy of American Poets named him its first Education Ambassador in 2015. He has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning and NPR’s Fresh Air. He has been a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow and received honorary doctorates from Macalester College, Colby College, and the University of Rhode Island. He has continued to write occasional poems for organizations and events such as the re-opening of the U.S. embassy in Havana. Blanco lives with his partner in Bethel, ME.

 

Trini Rodriguez, Interim Executive Director, is co-founder of Tia Chucha’s and gives her time on a voluntary basis. Trini joined her husband Luis and help teach at Holy Family Bilingual School and work with Our Little Roses.  Inspired by a love of learning and a hunger for systemic social change, she has been active all her adult life. A graduate of CSU, Northridge, she has experience as an educator, editor, writer, interpreter, business manager, mentor, and facilitator of women’s talking circles and sweatlodge healing ceremonies. She views the arts and the recovery of ancestral knowledge as necessary to reconnect all people to their creative capacities as artists and thinkers who can realign our world to its most caring transformative possibilities. She does what she can to learn, share, write, heal and help create the conditions, time and space for women, and all our relations, to fully express their authentic selves and live the lives we were born to lead. Awards received include: the 2003 Local Hero of the Year, Hispanic Heritage Month KCET/Union Bank of CA; the 2010 Mujeres Destacadas, Arte y Cultura Award, La Opinion; the 2014: Mujeres de Corazon, Comision Femenil, San Fernando Valley. Contact info: [email protected]

Layla Benitez-James (Austin, 1989) is a poet, translator, and artist living in Alicante, Spain. Her writing has appeared in The San Antonio Express-News, Acentos Review, Matter, Guernica, and Autostraddle, among other places. Translations can be found in Waxwing and Anomaly. She also worked with WITS (Writers in the Schools) for three years in Houston. Poems translated into Spanish are published in Revista Kokoro, La Caja de Resistencia and La Galla Ciencia Numero IV with bilingual presentations in Spain including El Tren de los Poetas in Cuenca, Los Lunes Literarios, La Galla Ciencia, Café Zalacaín in Murcia, and La poesía es noticia: Moth & Rust / Óxido y polilla, una sesión de poemas en inglés y español in Alicante. Audio essays about translation can be found at Asymptote JournalPodcast. She currently works with the Unamuno Author Series in Madrid as their Director of Literary Outreach. Her first chapbook, God Suspected My Heart Was a Geode But He Had to Make Sure was selected by Major Jackson for the 2017 Toi Derricotte & Cornelius Eady Chapbook Prize and published by Jai-Alai Books in Miami, April 2018.
To learn more about Our Little Roses and the work that we do, watch this

Interested In Getting Involved?

It is easy to apply. Send your resume to [email protected]

Include your schooling, teaching experience, language skill level and publication credits if any.

Please include specifically where you first heard of the fellowship.

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