Our Zoom Readings will be recorded and shown on our website
Barbara Ann Branca is a writer and performer who straddles the arts and sciences, creating musical and poetic works based on her lifelong passions for the environment, music, and family history—and who is happiest when those themes intersect.
Branca was born in Brooklyn and grew up on Long Island walking distance to Walt Whitman’s Birthplace. Formally educated in the sciences, she has been a classroom teacher, college adjunct, textbook author, and science editor at prominent New York publishing houses. Most recently, she retired as Communications Manager of New York Sea Grant, where she promoted vital research along our coasts, writing articles and even songs to bring the message home.
Music was always a parallel passion. Throughout her career she has composed original music, as well as performed jazz and blues in a variety of venues: the USO on an army base, an international orchestra in Greece, a university jazz band, New York night clubs, honky-tonks from Alaska to Maine and most recently at The Jazz Loft and for fund-raisers at the Tesla Science Center.
Over the last decade, her love of writing expanded to include poetry, often focusing on environmental themes, her immigrant family heritage, and romantic relationships. Her performances intersperse spoken poetry with sung jazz standards bringing a unique style of reading to the New York and Long Island poetry scene.
In pre-pandemic days, Branca has read on National Public Radio, at Cornelia Street Café, Bowery Poetry Club, Parkside Lounge, Greenwich Village Bistro, the Huntington Poetry Barn, and Walt Whitman Birthplace where she won first place at “Super Poem Sunday” 2010 with her poem Flash Flood, the title poem of her chapbook published by Nino’s Wine Press.
George Wallace, writer in residence at Walt Whitman Birthplace, notes of Flash Flood, “Branca’s poems are instantly recognizable to anyone who has ever heard her in performance—indelible moments retold in a signature musical style and punctuated by gourd-rattle and a smile... These are iconic remembrances, playfully retold, unforgettable once heard.”
Her original poetry has been published in several anthologies including Polarity eMagazine, Paumanok (II and III), Grabbing the Apple, Long Island Quarterly, Silver-Tongued Devils Anthology, and No Distance Between Us—The Next Collection. Branca is currently working on a collection of short stories.Having a big sale, on-site celebrity, or other event? Be sure to announce it so everybody knows and gets excited about it.
Robert L. Dean, Jr. is the author of The Aerialist Will not be Performing: ekphrastic poems and short fictions to the art of Steven Schroeder (Turning Plow Press, 2020), and At the Lake with Heisenberg (Spartan Press, 2018). A multiple Best of the Net nominee and a Pushcart nominee, his work has appeared in October Hill Magazine; Flint Hills Review; I-70 Review; Chiron Review; The Ekphrastic Review; Sheila-Na-Gig online; Shot Glass; Illya’s Honey; Red River Review; KYSO Flash; MacQueen’s Quinterly; River City Poetry; Heartland! and the Wichita Broadside Project. Dean is event coordinator for Epistrophy: An Afternoon of Poetry and Improvised Music, held annually in Wichita, Kansas. A native Kansan, Dean has been a professional musician and worked at The Dallas Morning News. He lives in a one-hundred-year-old stone building in Augusta, Kansas, along with a universe of books, CDs, LPs, an electric bass, and a couple dozen hats. In his spare time, he practices the time-honored art of hermitry.
Ariana McLean is native of the DMV (the DC, Maryland and Virginia area) but can probably call herself a New Yorker now, having lived in Brooklyn for ten years. She is a freelancer in TV, film and live events production, and teaches creative writing to undergraduates. She is currently working toward an MFA degree at Stony Brook University, where she’s relishing in writing fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Ariana lives in Bushwick with her husband and pet rabbit.
The space from which I work—and often inhabit—I call “the periphery.” I find myself dancing around and between different groups of people and thought. I do not limit myself to a particular genre in my graduate studies. As an undergraduate, my courses ranged from immigration policy to suspense in horror films. My career has included working in non-profits, stage managing a circus, and boom operating on a film in Vietnam. Gratefully, my interests and experiences have taken me all over the world, giving me opportunities to interact with many different groups and individuals. I love my interdisciplinary nature, and I revel in the dance on the periphery that forces me to learn new things, challenge old beliefs, and redefine how I see myself and the world.
My identity itself is an intersection of many things: I’m Black, Jewish and American. I come from immigrants and enslaved peoples. I love the country I live in, while I am constantly disgusted by its history and systems of injustice. I believe in education. I believe in stories. I believe in goodness.
Bernard Hicks is a Bronx born citizen and proudly Harlem reared from the age of two.
He is a child of the 1960’s, a teen of the 1980’s and a learning adult of the 1990’s and 2000’s.
Like everyone raised in unique urban neighborhoods, Harlem of the 1980’s and 1990’s was a combination of black renaissance culture, black business ownership and a fast life reminiscent of the Bunny Hop in the Cotton Club in the 1950’s.
From that life spurned a daily melodic melody of sirens from police car and fire trucks, and the twenty-four-hour continuous eerie sounds of siren screams from racing ambulances alerted from frantic residents.
Bernard would like to say his upbringing steered his thinking but would also like to think his thinking steered his upbringing.
“I am going to say my poetic nature comes from a form of nurture as I was an avid reader of books from my household shelves, a church gospel song singer and a rap afficionado. Art from me in my household was appreciated and encouraged and I looked for ways to be creative. For that I thank my parents for allowing me to think and write in tune with the colors of a fluorescent rainbow.”
“I like to think of poetry as a gift of humanity. The soul of our nature. And the language of the arts.”
“As you listen to my writings, also digest them, and let the words nourish your thoughts.”
Dd. Spungin, author of the collection, Tomorrow Smells Invisible (Words With Wings Press, 2020) taught special needs children in the New York City school system.
Writing was her quiet place. Once retired, that quiet place expanded into the poetry world, especially on Long Island where she hosts poetry events for Poets In Nassau
and Performance Poets Association.
An award-winning poet, her work has appeared in many anthologies, and in journals, both online and print, most recently: First Literary Review East, L I Quarterly, The Avocet,
PA Literary Review, Corona, An Anthology of Poems, and Maintenant 15. Several of her poems have been set to music by NY composer, Julie Mandel.
She lives on Long Island with her very supportive husband, Neil.
Spungin lives for love, prays for peace and writes for her sanity.