The Bridge Series is a new series uniting the Pittsburgh literary and activist communities to raise awareness and funds for local organizations fighting the good fight in these troubling times. The series convenes the last Wednesday of each month at Brillobox and each installment will feature Pittsburgh’s finest writers and a special guest organization, with proceeds from the evening going directly to that organization.
The November 29th installment of The Bridge Series featuring the writers Kayla Sargeson, RJ Gibson, and Bri Griffith — and the guest organization for the evening, She Runs SWPA — was curated by the wonderful Deena November.
This is the “season finale” of The Bridge Series, so if you haven’t checked it out yet, this is your last chance in 2017!
Deena November received her MFA in Creative Writing, Poetry from Carlow University. In 2005, she co-edited the anthology I JUST HOPE IT’S LETHAL: Poems of Sadness, Madness, and Joy for Houghton Mifflin. Her poems have also appeared in Nerve Cowboy, Chiron Review, Voices in the Attic, and Keyhole Magazine among other publications. In 2012, Hyacinth Girl Press published her first chapbook, Dick Wad. She has taught Poetry and Creative Writing at Seton Hill University and Women’s Studies and Literature at Carlow University. Currently she teaches at Robert Morris University and the Art Institute Pittsburgh. She recently runs the Staghorn Poetry Series readings and workshops. Deena lives in Pittsburgh and can often be spotted smelling the flowers with her babies at Phipps Conservatory. Most recently she is co-editor (along with Nina Padolf) of Nasty Women & Bad Hombres: A Poetry Anthology.
How does writing relate to activism? How has activism influenced or affected your writing?
As in all art forms, writing can be utilized as another form of expression of beliefs or political ideals. I never considered myself an activist while writing my own poetry until I was in graduate school and someone pointed out how feminist my writing was. I never really thought about it in those terms, I just wrote what came naturally to me although I must have also been heavily influenced by the poetry I was reading at the time and my own personal experiences. Now I find myself deeply engrossed in political writing.
What are the goals of The Bridge Series? How does it fit into the local literary scene?
The Bridge Series is amazing because it is meant to unite and raise awareness for the many organizations and programs that are threatened by the devastating political situation and give a voice to those who have not been represented.
She Runs SWPA is the guest organization this month. What are your thoughts on the importance of more women getting directly involved in politics and running for office?
The only way for women to be heard is to be represented in our government otherwise we have men making laws etc that do not have women’s best interest at hear! I strongly believe that change can only be achieved by a change in our representation to that of the unheard or ignored voice.
Is there a particular writer, book, or poem that has influenced you as a literary activist that you’d like to shine some light on?
I have always felt especially inspired by Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise”. I taught this poem for many years in my Women & Creativity class and it still uplifts and empowers me. In spite of all the abuse and disappointment we still rise and persevere. We don’t let them keep us down, we rise up!
What advice would you give to local writers who want to have their voices heard?
Get involved in a community of writers and work together. Go to readings and talk to the writers about what inspires them. Put yourself out there as much as possible because if you stay home and write in isolation your voice will most likely remain unheard.
What do you hope the audience will walk away with after this event?
Empowerment and a desire to get involved and have their voices heard.