With business shutdowns, travel restrictions, and in-person gathering limitations, many people are spending more time at home than they ever have. That’s what, in part, prompted Boston poet laureate Porsha Olayiwola to launch the HOME Poetry Series, a string of readings, workshops, and open mic events grappling with questions of housing, community, and belonging.
“I had been thinking about home for a while now,” Olayiwola said. “It became more of a question of ‘who has home? Do we like our homes? How do we fit in a larger home like a city or the earth? How do Black folks feel as a part of this country? Is this country home?’ The questions kept forming and floating around.”
The first Friday of each month the series will host a virtual reading from a poet selected by Olayiwola — the first event, scheduled for Nov. 6, will feature former Boston poet laureate Danielle Legros Georges. An open mic hosted by poet and teaching artist Anthony Febo will follow each reading where attendees who sign up in advance can read their work.
“I want to hear what people are thinking about, writing about, what local poets have going on in their isolated parts of the world, so the open mic felt especially important,” Olayiwola said.
On each sequential Saturday, that month’s featured poet will lead a digital writing workshop. November’s will center around “the language of home,” and future workshop themes will be unveiled at the top of each month.
Devised in collaboration with other staff at the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture and the Haley House Bakery Cafe, the poetry series received a $50,000 grant through the Academy of American Poets Fellowship. Olayiwola submitted a proposal and budget for the series in February and was one of 23 poet laureates nationwide to receive funding.
“Her commitment to bringing our communities together is so valuable during this time,” Mayor Martin J. Walsh said of Olayiwola in an e-mail statement. “We greatly appreciate her ongoing efforts to make Boston a place where everyone can express themselves creatively.”
The monthly offerings will culminate in a poetry festival to be held in Roxbury in June. Olayiwola hopes the day-long festival will take place as a combination of in-person and virtual gatherings. The date and details will be announced as the end of the series approaches.
“I want to make sure folks feel at home and begin to think about their role in their homes, in a larger home, and feel not so isolated or quarantined during these times,” Olayiwola said.
Registration for series events is free. Visit boston.gov/poetry to sign up.
Grace Griffin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @GraceMGriffin.