Poetry News

Philly Hosts the Stellar Masses

By Harriet Staff
Yolanda Wisher

If you're located outside the city of Philadelphia, grab your telescopes! Stellar Masses, a new literary festival encompassing "poetry, slam, stories, and song," organized by former poet laureate Yolanda Wisher, starts this Wednesday in Philly. The festival takes place at four venues across the city through May 16. In his preview, Philadelphia Inquirer's John Timpane writes: "Literary stars who will be on hand include author and critic Samuel R. Delany, current Philadelphia poet laureate Raquel Salas Rivera, and former poet laureate Yolanda Wisher." Let's read on, starting there: 

Wisher, who’s organizing it all, is the spoken-word curator at Philadelphia Contemporary, the cultural organization (currently without walls) created by former PAFA director Harry Philbrick. She calls the events “pop-up churches of the soul.”

Wisher says the literary “masses” will borrow motifs from church services, but with poets and writers as the “preachers.”

“In church, there’s community, music, the rituals of performance,” she says. “And I find the same thing all the time where the spoken word is performed, on a healing, spiritual level.”

“Stellar Mass I: Firmament” opens the series Wednesday at the Free Library Skyline Room and Terrace. Delany will be part of “Stellar Mass II: Heaven” Thursday at the University of Pennsylvania’s Iron Gate Theater, along with Rivera, poet Alexis Pauline Gumbs, and others.

Much-honored writer of speculative fiction (Babel-17The Einstein IntersectionDhalgren) and memoir (Heavenly Breakfast), Delany is a longtime professor of English and creative writing at Temple University, a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame, and, for many, a literary high priest of sorts. (Gumbs, who’ll deliver “The Word” at Stellar Mass II, says, “He’s blown my mind in all the best ways.”)

“There’s a good argument that art has replaced religion in many people’s lives,” Delany says. He’ll read from his novella The Atheist in the Attic, about a meeting between the philosophers Liebniz and Spinoza.

Read more at the Philadelphia Inquirer

Originally Published: May 8th, 2018