The POETIC DIALOGUE PROJECT
an exhibition of collaborative works by artists and poets

Poets' Biographies

Maria Eliza Hamilton Bispo de Jesus Abegunde, ancestral priestess in the Yoruba tradition. She is the author of three
poetry chapbooks. Excerpts of her award-winning novel-in-progress, The Ariran’s Last Life, have been published in
several literary journals. Excerpts from her memoir, Arroyo, detailing the retracing of the Middle Passage routes
by sailing from Puerto Rico to Brasil with Bill Pinkney, have been published in nocturnes.  Her poetry has been
widely anthologized and published.She is a Cave Canem Poetry Fellow, and has received fellowships from
Norcroft, Sacatar (Brasil), and Ragdale foundations. She has received awards from the Poetry Center of Chicago
Discovery Award series, Illinois Arts Council, and the Chicago Cultural Center. For over 12 years she was an artist-
in-residence for District 65, Evanston IL, and in 2005, she was invited to be an artist-scholar with the St. Augustine,
Florida, Roots & Flowers project to hold discussions on the importance of honoring ancestral memory. More
recently, she was invited as an artist-scholar to work with the women of the Phillips Gullah community a as part of
the Spoleto Festival activities. Abegunde is the poet and ritualist in residence for the UNESCO Transatlantic Slave
Trade Route Project, and a research associate for the state of Illinois Transatlantic Slave Trade Commission where
she serves on the Public Memory subcommittee.She helps staff and instruct the graduate African Summer
Institute for teachers at Northeastern Illinois University.  She is a graduate of Northwestern University and
attended the University of Sussex in Great Britain.

Jimmy Santiago Baca was born in New Mexico of Indio-Mexican descent, and raised first by his grandmother and
later sent to an orphanage. A runaway at age 13, it was after Baca was sentenced to five years in a maximum
security prison that he began to turn his life around: he learned to read and write and unearthed a voracious
passion for poetry.  During a fateful conflict with another inmate, Jimmy was shaken by the voices of Neruda and
Lorca, and made a choice that would alter his destiny.    Instead of becoming a hardened criminal, he emerged
from prison a writer. Baca sent three of his poems to Denise Levertov, the poetry editor of Mother Jones.  The
poems were published and became part of  Immigrants in Our Own Land,  published in 1979, the year he was
released from prison. He earned his GED later that same year. He is the winner of the Pushcart Prize, the American
Book Award, the International Hispanic Heritage Award and for his memoir A Place to Stand the prestigious
International Award. In 2006 he won the Cornelius P. Turner Award, a national award that recognizes one GED
graduate a year who has made outstanding contributions to society in education, justice, health, public service and
social welfare.
Baca has devoted his post-prison life to writing and teaching others who are overcoming hardship. His themes
include American Southwest barrios, addiction, injustice, education, community, love and beyond. He has
conducted hundreds of writing workshops in prisons, community centers, libraries, and universities throughout the
country. In 2005 he created Cedar Tree Inc., a nonprofit foundation that works to give people of all walks of life the
opportunity to become educated and improve their lives.  Cedar Tree provides free instruction, books, writing
material and scholarships. Cedar Tree has an ongoing writing workshop in the Albuquerque Women’s Prison and
at the South Valley Community Center. Cedar Tree also has an Internship program that provides live-in writing
scholarships at Wind River Ranch, and in the south valley of Albuquerque. The program allows students, writers
and poets the opportunity to write, attend poetry readings, conduct writing workshops, and work on documentary
film production.  Baca is currently finishing a novel, a play and three poetry manuscripts to be published in 2007. He
is also producing a two hour documentary about the power of literature and how it can change lives.

Jan Beatty’s new book, Red Sugar, will be published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in Spring, 2008. Other
books include Boneshaker (2002, U. of Pgh. Press) and Mad River, winner of the 1994 Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize.
Ravenous, her limited edition chapbook, won the 1995 State Street Prize. Beatty’s poetry has appeared in Quarterly
West, Gulf Coast, Indiana Review, and Court Green, and in anthologies published by Oxford University Press,
University of Illinois Press, and University of Iowa Press. Awards include the $15,000 Creative Achievement Award
in Literature from the Heinz Foundation, the Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, and two fellowships from the
Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. For the past thirteen years, she has hosted and produced Prosody, a public radio
show on NPR-affiliate WYEP-FM featuring the work of national writers. Beatty directs the creative writing program
at Carlow University, where she runs the Madwomen in the Attic writing workshops and teaches in the MFA
program.

L. R. Berger has been a recipient of fellowships and support for her work as a poet from The National Endowment
for the Arts, The New Hampshire State Council on the Arts, The PEN New England Discovery Award, The
MacDowell Colony, The Appalachia Poetry Prize, The New Hampshire Writer’s Project and Hedgebrook.  She was
also granted a residency as Visiting Artist at the American Academy in Rome.  Thanks to a grant co-sponsored by
The Blue Mountain Center and The NH Audubon Society, and to the generosity of Rachel Carson's family, Berger
was afforded time to do research and to write over several years at Carson's home in Southport, Maine.  Her
tribute to Carson was published in, “In Praise of Nature,” an eco-philosophical anthology (Island Press).
Berger's book,"The Unexpected Aviary," published by Deerbrook Editions, received the 2003 Jane Kenyon Award
for Outstanding Book of Poetry.  With Kamal Boulatta, Berger also assisted in the English translation from the
Arabic of "Beginnings" a book of poems by Adonis (Pyramid Atlantic Press).  Her chapbook, “Sightings,” was
published in 2001 by Oyster River Press. Berger taught  for 25 years in New Hampshire at New England College,
and at the University of Massachusetts in Boston.  She now teaches her poetry workshop, "Letters to the World," in
schools and libraries, offering children and teenagers an opportunity to raise their passionate wishes and concerns
about the world through the medium of poems.  LR is the New England Associate for Pace e Bene, an international
nonviolence education service (www.paceebene.org/pace/user/lr-berger).