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NMSU Zoeglossia conference welcomes disabled poets

Release Date: 13 May 2022
NMSU Zoeglossia conference welcomes disabled poets

Twenty-one disabled, poets selected for a five-year fellowship, are spending five days at the 2022 Zoeglossia Conference in creative exchange with mentor poets and writers who also identify as disabled. Thirteen are newly named 2022 fellows and eight are returning fellows.

Zoeglossia fellows are attending the conference/annual retreat at no cost as part of the program that provides them with various kinds of support and professional development.

“The conference is a time for building disability community as poets talk about their lives and work, exchange ideas and poems,” said Sheila Black, co-founder and newly named executive director of Zoeglossia. “There is a palpable sense of excitement as for many participants this is the first time being in community with so many other disabled artists.  Every event feels rich and jam-packed with creative ideas.”

The event is hosted by New Mexico State University this week through May 15. The first conference was held in 2019 in-person at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio but was subsequently forced to go online due to the pandemic. The conference is online again this year but is expected to return to an in-person event at NMSU in 2023.

“We received over 70 applicants this year and so the fellowship was extremely competitive,” Black said. “We are so excited about this new cohort of fellows who bring passion, vision, and innovation to their work as poets.”

Founded by poets Black, Jennifer Bartlett, and Connie Voisine, NMSU professor of English, Zoeglossia is a non-profit literary organization that dedicates itself to providing inclusive space for poets and writers who identify as disabled. Through an open and supportive membership, year-round online programming and annual retreats, Zoeglossia offers its fellows community and mentorship.

“Each year, the conference creates an important community experience that enriches and extends disability poetry, said Voisine. “We are so thrilled to welcome our new fellows and to have NMSU partner with Zoeglossia once again to create this space for kindness and creativity and for honoring and celebrating disabled voices.”

The 13 new fellows selected this year are Hilary Brown, Carol Dorf, Priyanka D’Souza, Noa/h Fields, Tea Gerbeza, Jason Irwin, Jonathan Mack, Elizabeth Meade, Arianna Monet, Walela Nehanda, Nicole Oquendo, heidi andrea restrepo rhodes, David James Savarese. These fellows represent an astonishing diversity of gifted disabled voices.  Read their full bios at

“I have participated in several writers' retreats and residencies at this point,” said Leslie McIntosh, 2020 Zoeglossia fellow. “Many of them would be considered 'elite' in some conversations. This is often great for CVs, but not necessarily helpful for the creation of communities. Zoeglossia has done something amazing; they support the visibility of poetry from the disabled community while also remembering that said poetry is born from human beings, with complex and vulnerable lives. We see and embrace each other as very serious writers, but with no egos, no unspoken competitions. Zoeglossia has worked a special kind of magic; we get to have our cake and eat it too.”

“The best poems enable me to be more of myself, a wider-eyed citizen of the world,” said Karl Knights, 2020 Zoeglossia fellow. “One of the everyday miracles of the Zoeglossia retreat is that through workshops and through encountering other poets' work, I can be more; more attentive, more fascinated, more curious, more sure of myself and my work. The poems that stick with me are often landscapes of possibility, the Zoeglossia conference is a space of not only possibility, but possibility fulfilled.”

This year’s conference offered free virtual public readings. Visit the Zoeglossia website at for links to these readings.

For more information contact Zoeglossia conference organizer, Tonya Suther, at or Zoeglossia programs director, Saleem Hue Penny at

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