October 5th -15th, Global and Local Poets in Discussion: TJ Dema and Mayda Del Valle


Global and Localtj-and-mayda-screenshot Poets in Conversation is a projected multi-year partnership between Northwestern’s Poetry and Poetics Colloquium, its Program in Comparative Literary Studies, The Poetry Foundation, and Youth and Opportunity United (Y.O.U.), in Evanston. Global and Local Poets in Conversation is an innovative program dedicated to the rich and varied practices of poetry, the ways it is taught and learned, and the manner in which it enters and engages diverse communities. By bringing premier international and local poets into conversation with each other, with students, and with a larger public—both in the classroom, and beyond its walls—our program is dedicated to building broad conversations about poetry as a powerful and relevant art form across an array of world communities and U.S. cultural margins. This year’s Global and Local Poets in residence are TJ Dema and Mayda Del Valle.

TJ Dema has toured the world extensively as a performance poet, and has developed and implemented live-literature educational non-profits in her native Botswana. Her work combines poetry and activism around gender, a poetics of witnessing, an interrogation of poetic voice, and global capitalism, with a skill and delivery that are impeccable both in craftsmanship and conscience.

In Botswana, Dema orchestrated the establishment of the African Poetry Book Fund Poetry Library Initiative. She participated in Lancaster University’s Crossing Borders program and later mentored the all-female team of national champions for the British Council’s seven-country Power in the Voice initiative.

She is an honorary fellow of the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program (2012), former chairperson of the Writers Association of Botswana and founder of Sauti A&PM, a Botswana-based arts administration organization.

For her work within Botswana’s literary community she was named an Arise Magazine African Changemaker (2013), a St Louis Top 40 under 40 catalyst (2014) and in the lead up to Botswana’s 50th anniversary she has been nominated a GabzFM/Mail&Guardian Africa’s Top 50 under 40 Changemaker.

Her chapbook Mandible (2014) was published by Slapering Hol Press for the African Poetry Book Fund as part of the Seven New Generation African Poets.


Poet and performer Mayda Del Valle has been described by the Chicago Sun-Times as having “a way with words. Sometimes they seem to flutter and roll off her lips. Other times they burst forth like a comet streaking across a nighttime sky.”

A proud native of Chicago’s South Side, Mayda got her start at New York City’s legendary Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe, where she was the 2001 Grand Slam Champion and went on to win the 2001 National Poetry Slam Individual title, becoming the youngest and first Latina poet to do so. She went on to appear on six episodes of Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam on HBO, and was a contributing writer and original cast member of the Tony Award-winning Def Poetry Jam on Broadway.

She has been featured in Latina Magazine, The Source, The New York Times and was named by Smithsonian Magazine as one of America’s Young Innovators in the Arts and Sciences. Oprah’s O Magazine selected her as one of 20 women for their first ever “O Power List,” a group of visionary women making a mark in business, politics, and the arts. In May of 2009 she was invited to perform at the White House for President Obama.
Since 2011 Mayda has been a teaching artist with the poetry-based non-profit youth organization Street Poets, facilitating workshops around the Los Angeles area in high schools and probation camps. She is also a dancer and vocalist with the LA-based Afro-Puerto Rican bomba group Atabey, and is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at California Institute of The Arts.

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