Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Who Will Decide Prince William’s First Poet Laureate? Here’s the Answer!

The Prince William Poet Laureate Selection Panel was introduced to the media at a reception at Bistro L’ Hermitage, 12724 Occoquan Road in Woodbridge, Virginia on April 29 by representatives of the Prince William County Arts Council - June Forte, steering committee chair, Write by the Rails; Nancy Kyme, representing the program’s corporate sponsor Tackett’s Mill Lakeside; and Sheyna Burt, PWC Arts Council Chair.

The selection panel includes eleven (11) prominent poets, scholars and business leaders in the Prince William community. Selection panel members are:

1.      Alirio Aleman, poet, novelist and Spanish-language journalist;
2.      Lindsey Barszcy, student, Center for the Fine and Performing Arts, Woodbridge Senior High School;
3.      Carlos Castro, entrepreneur and founder of Todos Supermarkets;
4.      Dr. Constance Gilman, Director, Prince William Public Library System;
5.      Cathy Hailey, creative writing teacher, Center for the Fine and Performing Arts, Woodbridge Senior High School;
6.      Marie Khalili Nasiri, author and business owner (State Farm Insurance, Manassas), daughter of Khalilullah Khalili (historian, poet, philosopher and statesman of Afghanistan);
7.      Sergeant Major Michael Mack, Wounded Warrior Regiment, Marine Corps Base Quantico;
8.      Alice Mergler, English and drama teacher, Parkside Middle School;
9.      Eric Pankey, poet, professor of English and Heritage Chair in Writing, George Mason University;
10.  Mark Shaaber, Chief Executive Officer, SCS Integrated Support Solutions, Manassas, and Founder and Chairman, Prince William Veterans Council; and
11.  LeeAnn Thomas, poet, Assistant Professor of English, Northern Virginia Community College’s Woodbridge Campus and board member of the Northern Virginia Review.

Special guest Sofia Starnes, Poet Laureate of Virginia, spoke, as she often does around the Commonwealth, about the importance of poetry in community life and read a selection of her poems. Starnes, a Williamsburg resident whose term ends in 2014, discussed her Poet Laureate project, The Nearest Poem Anthology, which is a compilation of readers’ responses from around the state to poems that have touched them deeply. The essays of two Write by the Rails members, Kristy Feltenberger Gillespie, a school guidance counselor at Marstellar Middle School in Bristow, and June Forte, a lecturer at Northern Virginia Community College’s Woodbridge Campus, are featured in the book.

The deadline for nominations for the Prince William Poet Laureate position is May 10. Nomination guidance and forms are available on the Prince William County Arts Council website at (click on “news”).  

The election panel will meet in late May at Northern Virginia Community College, Woodbridge Campus, to select the Prince William Poet Laureate.  The announcement of the first Prince William Poet Laureate will be made on June 14 at Tackett’s Mill Lakeside.
Media contact: June Forte, Prince William Poet Laureate Committee Chair, at

Sunday, April 27, 2014

For the Odd Instance at a Cocktail Party...

For the Odd Instance at a Cocktail Party When you Find Yourself Locked in Conversation with an Unnaturally Enthusiastic Hot Tub Cover Salesman, Having Nothing to Offer by Way of Related Small Talk,
and Otherwise Unable to Escape (… a Working Title)

There once was a great big black bear
who like most bears was covered with hair.
Despite his warm fur
a chilled wind would stir
him to shiver at winter’s cold air.

His diet consisted of grubs
and soft pinecone seeds that he loved.
His tummy was warm
yet he was forlorn
since he longed to soak in a hot tub.

One day he poked out of the woods
and beside a log cabin it stood:
Through a soft mist of steam
and the smell of chlorine
the bear’s dream was in reach! Life was good.

Paws propped on the tub, he looked down.
In confusion the bear wore a frown.
The water, he knew,
was supposed to be blue
but instead it was hard flat and brown.

First he nibbled a bit with his maw
then he reached out a tentative claw.
With a pull and a tear
this tenacious bear
sank in water clear up to his jaw.

The next day a man stared in wonder
at the marks on his brown hot tub cover.
“Not a bear…” thought he,
“Yet what else could it be?”
For the cover was quite torn asunder.

Our bear was no longer devoid
of the pleasure he often enjoyed.
He came night after night
soaking to his delight
keeping hot tub lid vendors employed.

                                                                                                                    ~ Dani Rogero

Sunday, April 20, 2014

For National Poetry Month: A Poem by Cindy Brookshire

Ridge Walk
by Cindy Brookshire

Color kicks off the peak leaf season
On the Blue Ridge Parkway
Loosed from gated retirement communities
The ladies with their leisure jackets
The men with their plaid flat-fronts
Barely pause their luxury cars in caravans
at the crowded overlooks
To snap quick iPhone images
In their winding rush to line up for tables
at Milepost 176
Where water pleads over wooden wheel
And the buckwheat stacks and country ham
Call them back to Dan, Virginia
and Mabry Mill.

I think you miss the real mountains
When your feet never leave the asphalt
Don’t they remember boots hugging the trail?
Breaking the first step of morning
with dewy webs against cool skin?
Fighting loose rock to gain foot holds
Avoiding the stinging nettles,
Soaking sweat with bandanas,
Breath hot, straining
Ascending, twisting, pushing on
The lofty vista, and finally, the easy ridge walk
Spotting a deer – shh! – watching
With mutual respect as the wild thing
crunches brown against green
And leaps away
Majestic with muscular power?

I’d rather hike, my love
Pick blueberries, stir up pancakes,
Cook over a small fire
Sleep under the stars
Feel the mountains
Beneath me.

Friday, April 18, 2014


Free Annual Arts Festival Features Local Performances, Artists and Musicians of PW County

Prince William County Arts Council and the Hylton Performing Arts Center of Manassas, Va. are hosting their fourth annual ARTS ALIVE Festival, a free, family-fun event that features local, Prince William County dancers, singers, artists, and performances, on Sat., May 3 from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Hylton Performing Arts Center, at 10960 George Mason Circle Manassas, Va. Admission and parking are free. For a schedule of events, call 703-221-2150 or go to

The ARTS ALIVE Festival features more than 30 indoor and outdoor events, workshops, displays, performances and children’s activities. Performances include: Gainesville Ballet, Showcase Dance, NOVA Youth Ballet, Asaph Dance Ensemble, Woodbridge Dance, Old Bridge Chamber Orchestra, Youth Orchestras of Prince William, Prince William Community Band, Manassas Chorale, Celebration Singers, New Dominion Choraliers, Osbourn High School Guitar Ensemble, Woodbridge Community Choir, Ben Lomond Community Center Dancers, Dance, Etc., Woodbridge Music, Castaways Repertory Theater, Bull Run Cloggers, Lou Rosgen, Magnificent Belly Dance, Old Bridge Quartet, Gainesville Middle School Drama Club, Creative and Performing Arts Center Sankofa Singers, Dumfries Elementary School Chorus, Shenandoah Sounds, Write by Rails writers, Coles Elementary Step Team, a Jazz Vocalist Master Class lead by Donna Brown, a Tango Master Class and Introduction by Quintango, Pied Piper Theater and the Bull Run and Unitarian Universalists Mime Troupe.

Fine art displays will be presented by: Center for the Arts at the Candy Factory, Manassas Warrenton Camera Club, Cabin Branch Quilters, Stone House Quilters Guild and Prince William Art Society.

ARTS ALIVE will showcase many children activities. The Center for the Arts at the Candy Factory’s lead actors of Pied Piper Theatre’s “Peter Pan, Jr.” will be performing and singing throughout the crowds, Cabin Branch Quilters leads the 4H ‘Make and Take’ quilting project, Edgemoor Art Studio offers painting. The onsite Open Air Market will also sell food, refreshments and crafts.

“The Prince William Arts Council is a melting pot of the great artistic talent living right here in our own backyard,” said Sheyna Burt, president of the Prince William County Arts Council of Manassas, Va. “It’s our goal to provide education, training and information about the rich and diverse artistic offerings Prince William County has to offer, from quilting and belly-dancing to orchestra and jazz, our artists are our neighbors, co-workers, friends and family, and ARTS ALIVE celebrates and debuts the best of the best in our area,” said Burt.

The Prince William County Arts Council was established in 1992 as an arts advisory board to Prince William County government. The Prince William County Arts Council is a membership organization that serves the Greater Prince William area, including Prince William County, Manassas and Manassas Park, Va. It was created by the Prince William County Board of Supervisors with the vision to educate the community about the visual and performing arts offerings in Prince William County and be an information source about Prince William County’s arts’ programs and performances. It also provides training, networking, development and marketing opportunities for its members.  Call 703-221-2150 or visit, Facebook or Twitter. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Nominations Open for Prince William Poet Laureate

Nominations are open for the first ever Prince William Poet Laureate, a two-year position to be selected and filled under an exciting new Laureate program of the Prince William County Arts Council. The program is being administered by a special committee of the Arts Council under the leadership of June Forte, a member of Write by the Rails, the Prince William Chapter of the Virginia Writers Club.

Nominations for the position, which will receive an annual $500 honorarium, are due by MAY 10, 2014. Guidance and forms for nominations are available for download below. Mail completed submission forms to: June Forte, 12702 Valleywood Drive, Woodbridge, VA 22192

Please distribute this information as widely as possible.

If you have any questions, please contact Laureate Program Chair June Forte at or 703-585-6396.

Download the nomination form here.

# # #

The Prince William County Arts Council is a membership organization serving the Greater Prince William Area, including Prince William County, Manassas and Manassas Park. Our mission is twofold: 1) To promote and support local artists and arts organizations and 2) To enlighten and educate audiences about the arts in the Greater Prince William Area. For more information about the Arts Council and its member groups and artists, visit or contact Sheyna Burt, Chair, Board of Directors, Prince William County Arts Council at 703-927-3999 or

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Poem by Patricia Daly-Lipe

The Grounds, St. Paul de Mausole Hospice and Vincent Van Gogh

The trees were just as he saw them
Twisted trunks, withering branches
Plaintively reaching for the glow
Of the pale blue and pink sky.
Gray leaves flashing silver at the falling sun,
Dry, pale ochre weeds coating the earth below.
The edge of his palette knife
Marking this place
Still so full of his presence.