Celebrating Houston’s Favorite Poems

January 18, 2018, by

All of us have favorites, a song, a color, a book, a restaurant. But what about poems? Which poems have stayed with you over the years, which poems do you come back to and read and reread? Which poems make you think, move you to tears, or make you feel alive?

Former Houston Poet Laureate Robin Davidson took on these questions and the power that poetry can play in our lives when she initiated Houston’s Favorite Poems, now an anthology. Tonight, Thursday, January 18, 6 pm at the Julia Ideson Building, Houstonians will come together to celebrate the launch for the anthology. Click here for more information and join the celebration.

Earlier this week we caught up with Robin to talk about the project and the process of putting the anthology.

INPRINT: What inspired this project?

ROBIN DAVIDSON: Robert Pinsky first came to Houston in the early eighties to stand in for then poetry editor of The New Yorker magazine, Howard Moss, who was teaching a poetry workshop in the University of Houston’s Creative Writing Program. I was a graduate student in that class. When Mr. Moss became ill, Pinsky stepped in as our teacher, and one assignment that was life-changing for me was the personal favorite poem anthology he asked each of us to develop. We were to choose at least ten of our favorite poems and write them out, feeling the line breaks in our hands as we wrote or typed and allowing the poems to become our own for a moment. The poems could come from any poet, language, or century, including from among our classmates’ work—what a thrilling exercise it was! I’ve kept my anthology to this day, adding to it over time, and have, for many years, asked my own students to keep such an anthology that includes a preface discussing why each poem is meaningful to them. The results are always lovely—moving and beautiful—and the poem choices are often surprising.

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Gwendolyn Zepeda’s Monsters, Zombies and Addicts

June 5, 2015, by


To be honest, before I started reading Gwendolyn Zepeda’s new collection, Monsters, Zombies and Addicts (Arte Público Press, 84 pages, 2015), released near the end of her two-year tenure as the first Houston Poet Laureate, I worried that the poems would be boosterish. Part of the gig, I knew, is to represent the city. Would every poem mention a bayou? Would she have been contractually obliged to champion the merits of the Downtown Living Initiative? Thankfully, the collection doesn’t show the strain of feeling that burden of representation. There are alligator gar. And freeways — and bayous. But you don’t learn much about Houston. Instead, you learn a lot about the kind of person, the kind of poet, that the city wanted to choose to represent it: sometimes chatty, sometimes vulgar, sometimes sentimental, and always funny, smart, honest, and tough.

You learn a lot about the kind of person, the kind of poet, that the city wanted to choose to represent it: sometimes chatty, sometimes vulgar, sometimes sentimental, and always funny, smart, honest, and tough.

Zepeda is best at homing in on the strange pleasure or pleasant strangeness in her everyday life. These poems are anecdotal, observational. Often, they begin the way the story a friend wants to tell you would:

“A woman who worked in our building killed herself this morning.”

And: “You say I flirt too much.”

And: “The other day I was working on a story.” Continue reading

Inprint Poetry Buskers at Sunday Streets

April 2, 2015, by


Cigna Sunday Strreets logoApril marks National Poetry Month. As we kick off this month, we thought it would be nice to showcase one of Inprint’s favorite programs, the Inprint Poetry Buskers. These poets spread the joy of poetry by writing poems on demand, using typewriters, at festivals and special events throughout the city. The Inprint Poetry Buskers can often be found at Sunday Streets. This past Sunday, they were writing poems on demand at Sunday Streets on Westheimer. Here, Inprint blogger and poetry busker Allyn West talks about poetry busking at Sunday Streets.

IMG_0533Sunday Streets is a hard thing to explain. The City of Houston, through its partnership with Cigna, talks about the initiative as a way to promote health and fitness. Those of us who have been to one, though, know that it’s much more than that. Sure, you’ll see people riding their bikes or jogging or doing parkour in the middle of the street, but you’ll also see organic farmers hawking fresh turnip greens and aspiring rappers peddling demo CDs.

I prefer the latter uses to the former. Besides, you can’t burn enough calories to offset the small-batch ice cream and brisket-slathered curly fries you buy from the food trucks that are parked on the route. Sunday Streets is really about the people you share the city with. The physical barriers of our vehicles and houses are dissolved. It’s a time when you can study the full behavioral range of Homo sapiens. You can bark, “Free poems here!” and other people look only somewhat askance at you. What a blessing. Continue reading

Chatting With Houston Poet Laureate Gwendolyn Zepeda

June 24, 2014, by

croppedGwenIn April 2013 award-winning fiction writer and poet Gwendolyn Zepeda became Houston’s first Poet Laureate. Zepeda was appointed to the two-year position by Mayor Annise Parker and was selected by a committee of local literary experts through a competitive process. (Inprint’s Executive Director Rich Levy was part of the selection committee.)

Gwen is a perfect fit for the role of poet laureate, an honor established to bring the love of poetry to new and diverse communities. Born and raised in Houston, Gwen is a popular blogger and the author of three novels, four children’s books, a short story collection, and a book of poems, Falling in Love with Fellow Prisoners. Her second poetry collection is forthcoming. In addition to these admirable accomplishments, she works full-time, is a parent, is active in the community, and is an all-around lovely human being.  If you have been out and about in Houston recently, you may have seen Gwen reading, leading a workshop, participating in a Houston Public Library program, or involved in some other poetry related activity. Gwen recently served as an Inprint Poetry Busker for Sunday Streets at Market Square.

Inprint is thrilled that Houston has an official Poet Laureate and last week I had the chance to sit down with Gwen (and her husband Dat Lam) to talk about the role of Poet Laureate and her activities. The two hours passed way too quickly. Gwen’s generosity of spirit, quirky humor, simple honesty, and humble and approachable nature make you feel like you have been friends with her for years. We had a great time and I look forward to seeing Gwen again soon.

The following are snippets from our conversation.

Inprint: You have participated in so many activities as Houston Poet Laureate. Which activities stand out in your mind the most? Which have you been the most proud of? Continue reading

Houston’s first Poet Laureate

March 5, 2013, by

HPLlogo4eblastsLast year we were lucky enough to feature former U. S. Poet Laureate W. S. Merwin as part of the Inprint Margarett Root Brown Reading Series. We’ve had 16 Poet Laureates grace the reading series over the last 32 seasons. Before we featured Merwin, we did some research to understand how these laureates are selected and what the responsibilities include. Click here to see what we found.

But just as important as the national poetry scene, is our local one. Houston is fortunate that it is buzzing with thoughtful, talented, and lively poets and now poetry will be honored on a citywide level. Mayor Annise Parker recently announced the establishment of the Houston Poet Laureate Program. We asked Jennifer Schwartz, Program Manager for the Houston Public Library, to give us more information about this new initiative.

Inprint: Can you tell us how the Houston Poet Laureate will be selected? Is there a selection committee and a nomination process? Continue reading