Delta Writers provide opportunities for NEA poets
Poetry readings are performed at various venues within the region
Delta Digital News Service
April 19, 2023
By Avery Jones | Editor
JONESBORO, Ark. – Delta Writers, formerly known as Delta Poets, is a nonprofit organization that supports writers and poets in the Northeast Arkansas community. It was established in 2021 by Scott McDaniel and Nicole Sylvia after the COVID-19 restrictions started to lift.
Poets McDaniel and Sylvia are originally from Jonesboro. They have been widely published in various literary magazines and have presented their work at formal readings and open mics.
Both attended college. McDaniel went to University of Arkansas-Fayetteville and received a bachelor’s in psychology and sociology. Sylvia attended both Black River Technical College and Arkansas State University-Jonesboro.
Aside from writing, McDaniel works as a contractor while Sylvia is a supply chain coordinator for a farm. They met at a poetry reading and wanted to collaborate creatively.
While collaborating, the duo decided to start Delta Writers because they felt that an outlet for creative writing was necessary for the Northeast Arkansas area since none had been established yet. They wanted there to be consistent events for writers to be able to expose their work.
“I was going to New York a lot for workshops and things like that, and I just kind of thought there was no reason for there not to be quality spoken word events here,” McDaniel said. “If you look at Arkansas, believe it or not, Arkansas is a hub for literature.”
“I was going to New York a lot for workshops and things like that, and I just kind of thought there was no reason for there not to be quality spoken word events here,” McDaniel said.– Scott McDaniel, writer-poet
Detailing the states literary relationship, McDaniel noted that the longest-running spoken word event in the country, Wednesday Night Poetry, is in Hot Springs; one of the most respected presses, Sibling Rivalry, is in Little Rock; one of the most respected literary magazines, Oxford American, is in Conway.
The group’s focus right now is to build a writing community by hosting events. They organize spoken word events that are open to the public at various local businesses. In the future, they hope to host workshops.
Currently, two kinds of spoken word events are held by the group, open mics and features. The group recently started an open mic event called Final Friday which is held on the last Friday of every month at Story Coffeehouse. They’ve also had open mics at Cregeens, an Irish Pub in downtown Jonesboro. The events are open for anyone to come speak.
During feature events, which can boasts anywhere from 50 to 80 attendees, well-known poets are brought in for more formal and organized readings. Former Virginia Poet Laureate Tim Seibles was recently invited to speak at the Recovery Room Coffeehouse & Bistro. Tickets are sold for these events so that the poet gets paid.
“It’s about the audience, and we really want to make sure that they’re comfortable and that they are enjoying their time,” Sylvia said. “It may not seem like it has any rhyme or reason to it, but us putting…Tim at the Recovery Room, there’s a reason for those environments…we’re not just sending them blindly to somewhere that doesn’t suit what they’re trying to do.”
“It’s about the audience, and we really want to make sure that they’re comfortable and that they are enjoying their time.”Nicole Sylvia
Ideally, they want to have four quarterly features a year. Once they’re able to hit four features per year consistently, they plan to add workshops in which a group regularly meets to read and critique each other’s work, and a feature writer will be there to instruct.
Their latest feature was held on Saturday, April 15, at the Glass Factory with Alexandra Oliver. Oliver is a well-known poet from Canada. She has published three collections and has presented her poetry at Lollapalooza, Paris Fashion Week, among many other events.
McDaniel and Oliver met at a Writers’ Hotel conference in New York City, where she was an instructor for the conference, and they hit it off. McDaniel invited her to be in one of the Delta Writers’ features.
Oliver is originally from Vancouver, and now lives in Burlington, Ontario. She’s been writing poetry professionally for 30 years. She also teaches poetry at universities.
Oliver attended college and has a bachelor’s and master’s in drama from the University of Toronto, an MFA in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine, and a PhD in English from McMaster University in Canada.
The poetry reading at the Glass Factory was from 6 to 10 p.m. and was catered by Urban Organics. Opening music was supplied by classical guitarist Adrian Little during the mingling.
Poet Rayna Kingston was the opener. Kingston is also involved with the Delta Writers. She works for KASU and has a master’s degree in English from Arkansas State University Jonesboro. She’s done reading for Delta Writers before and is published in literary magazines.
Kingston was followed by Sylvia, and McDaniel was the last to speak before Oliver, who ended the night. She gave out signed copies of her published collections.
According to McDaniel and Sylvia, the best way for a writer to get involved with the group is to come read at one of their open mics. The Final Fridays would be the most convenient since they happen regularly. Both McDaniel and Sylvia can also be contacted through email: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org respectively.
Avery Jones is a sophomore in the Department of English and Philosophy at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. She can be reached at email@example.com
NOTE: Feature photo by Álvaro Serrano on Unsplash