Poetry Cocktail Party

Looking forward to reading this Friday, (4/26) with this stellar lineup of Orlando-area poets, including Orlando’s Poet Laureate, Susan Lilley!

Winter Park Paint-Out, Kerouac Project of Orlando & the Polasek Museum present the 2019 Poetry Cocktail Party

Friday, April 26th

5-8 p.m. cocktail party at the Polasek Museum

6pm: Naomi Butterfield (Kerouac House Board)

6:15 p.m.: Amy Watkins

Amy Watkins is the author of the chapbooks Lucky, Milk & Water, and Wolf Daughter (coming in June 2019). She lives in Winter Park with her husband and daughter and a mean-spirited ginger cat.

6:30 p.m.: Nylda Dieppa

Nylda is an author, educator, coach, and social justice activist living in Orlando, FL. She is the author of the award-winning book Alborada: A Poetic Memoir Across Cultures and has read her poetry in a variety of venues in Orlando and New York City. The proud grandmother of six delightful grandchildren, Nylda is the leader of the Maitland Writers Group and publishes its eponymous newsletter.

7pm: Stacy Barton

Stacy Barton is the award-winning literary author of Lily Harp (2015 INDIEFAB), Like Summer Grass, and Surviving Nashville: Short Stories. Her work has appeared in various literary journals including Gargoyle, Best of Potomac Review, Ruminate, and Southern Women’s Review. Stacy is also the author of picture books, plays, animated short films—plus hundreds of live shows for Disney, SeaWorld, Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey and others.

7: 15 p.m.: Chrissy Kolaya

Chrissy Kolaya is a fiction writer and poet who’s brand new to Orlando, having lived all over, from Chicago to California to rural Alabama, and, most recently, the frigid wilds of Minnesota. She teaches creative writing at UCF and is the author of two books: Any Anxious Body: a book of poems about family secrets, and Charmed Particles: a novel about high-energy particle physics, gifted and talented teenage girls, Mary Kay ladies, and one woman’s obsession with novelty convenience foods of the 1980s.

7:30 p.m.: Susan Lilley, Orlando Poet Laureate

Susan Lilley is a Florida native and is currently serving as Orlando’s inaugural Poet Laureate. Her poetry and non-fiction have appeared in American Poetry Review, Gulf Coast, Poet Lore, The Southern Review, Drunken Boat, Saw Palm, Hippocampus, The Florida Review, Sweet, and other journals. Her two chapbooks are Night Windows and Satellite Beach. She is a past winner of the Rita Dove Poetry Award and has held a State of Florida Individual Arts Fellowship. She has taught at University of Central Florida and Rollins College, and currently teaches literature and creative writing at Trinity Preparatory School in Winter Park. Her new full collection, Venus in Retrograde, was published spring of 2019 by Burrow Press.

Collaborative Project Premiere

Really excited to share the news about this collaborative project with composer Alex Burtzos, which premiers here in Orlando on Sunday! 

UCF poet and musician collaborate on emotional choral piece

By Arielle Feldman | March 15, 2019 

UCF Chorus

Based on a poem by Chrissy Kolaya, Alex Burtzos’ choral piece “Mirabilis” will be performed by the UCF Chamber Singers at UCF Celebrates the Arts.

“You are alive.” These three simple yet powerful words—painted on a wall near the World Trade Center ruins—brought Chrissy Kolaya to a record-screeching halt.

“The image of it just took my breath away,” says Kolaya, who came across the graffiti in the days following the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. “It struck me that whoever had made it was engaging in a kind of entirely understandable magical thinking: if I write that this is so, it will be.”

So, Kolaya went and did her own writing, using the anonymous writer’s graffiti as inspiration for her poem “Annus Mirabilis.” At the time, she was working in publishing in Chicago, editing a series of books that frequently quoted the Bible. One verse in particular always stuck out to her: Isaiah 49:15-16, which reads, “I will never forget you./See, I have written you/on the palms of my hands.” The rhythm and cadence of those lines inspired the final line of her own poem: “See, I have written you/on the walls of the city.”

“Annus Mirabilis” is featured in Kolaya’s forthcoming book of poems “Other Possible Lives,” which is coming out summer 2019 and available to preorder here. Now the poem lives in musical form as well, thanks to a collaboration between Kolaya, who is a UCF English assistant professor, and UCF Music assistant professor Alex Burtzos. Burtzos composed a choral piece based on Kolaya’s poem, which will be performed by the UCF Chamber Singers at UCF Celebrates the Arts. The piece will premiere on April 7, 2019 as part of the UCF Choral Concert: Building Bridges, in the Walt Disney Theater at Dr. Phillips Center for Performing Arts at 7:30 pm. The concert is free for UCF students and people age 18 and under if tickets are reserved by April 5 at 5 p.m. Standard tickets are $5.

An interdisciplinary collaboration is born

Burtzos and Kolaya, both new to UCF, met at the College of Arts and Humanities faculty orientation in fall of 2018 and found instant camaraderie. Their conversation drifted to the types of poems that translate well into choral pieces. “What was interesting to me was that it wasn’t all what I had imagined,” says Kolaya. “I thought it would need to be a rhyme-y poem with a lot of repetition, but what Alex told me was that a short, image-focused poem was often the best.” Kolaya sent Burtzos a packet of all the poems she thought had potential for a strong choral composition. He selected “Annus Mirabilis.”

“Chrissy’s poem deals with a powerful national trauma, but this piece is intended to transcend that event by drawing attention to aspects of love, hope and optimism about the future,” says Burtzos.

More collaborations are coming

When asked if more interdisciplinary collaborations are on the horizon, Burtzos says, “Absolutely. Perhaps the best thing about working in an academic environment is that you’re surrounded by gifted, creative people all the time. I want to collaborate as much as possible.” He plans to write pieces for the UCF wind ensemble and orchestra next year.

Kolaya shares the same sentiment about blending disciplines at UCF. “I love those moments when artists from different areas are able to come together to create work,” says Kolaya. “There’s a fantastic energy in interdisciplinary collaboration. Being part of UCF Celebrates the Arts is also a great introduction to some of the cool things happening on our campus and the possibilities we have as an institution full of really interesting, creative people!”

Visit the choral concert’s webpage to reserve tickets. View the full line-up for UCF Celebrates the Arts here.