meet the staffUnderscore Review editors and facilitators
Arzelia Williams is a Detroit native who found poetry at three years old. When asked what first drew her to poetry, she credits her great-grandmother, who read poems to her, as a major influence. In February 2012, she self-published her poetry collection, In the Eyes of a Child. Arzelia’s poems have appeared in InsideOut Literary Arts Project’s My Heart is a Car Anthology, and The Manningham Poetry Trust.
She has received a First Place award at the state level from the Michigan Poetry Society and Third Place honorable mention from the National Poetry Society. As a member of InsideOut’s Citywide Poets, Arzelia has performed in several venues across the Metro Detroit area including the Detroit Institute of Arts, Mercedes Benz Art Exhibit, Michigan Loud Than a Bomb, Noel Night, and the Max Fisher Music Center.
Arzelia is currently attending Michigan State University pursuing a degree in Social Relations and Policy and Arts and Humanities. In her spare time, she enjoys long walks around campus and cheering on her fellow Spartans to victory.
Hajjar Baban is a Pakistani-born Afghan Kurdish poet. She is a recent graduate of Fordson High School and now attends the University of Madison – Wisconsin through the First Wave scholarship.
Hajjar’s first poetry slam came by way of a Google search. Since that search, Hajjar found InsideOut Literary Arts Project in Detroit, where she started writing. Her work has been published by the Detroit Free Press, InsideOut, Albion College, and Creative Communications. Hajjar has also performed in poetry slams; featured at Oakland University, the University of Michigan, Wayne State University, and read poems for WDET 101.9 FM and at DIWAN Forum for the Arts.
She believes poetry is extremely necessary as it constantly allows her to be open in the otherwise paralyzing act of self exploration. Editing poetry is equally as important to her because it allows her to work on herself as a poet while helping other youth perfect their poetry to become the way they envisioned it.
Ivory Fields is a naturalista from Detroit, Michigan. She graduated from Cass Technical High School in 2015 and is currently attending Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant. This upcoming school year will be her sophomore year as a Chippewa studying Psychology, Journalism, and of course Creative Writing. When she does not have her head in the books she is exploring her many interests which include singing, dancing, and reading and writing novels and short stories.
Ivory first found poetry in middle school by simply writing about things she saw, but she truly fell in love during her first open mic in 8th grade. She joined Citywide Poets her senior year, performed in Louder Than A Bomb with her team, and went on to be published in the 2015 Mindfields anthology. She believes that being able to create a new world in a story is the world’s greatest superpower, and one day hopes to stand alongside some of her favorite superheroes as a literary hero herself.
Damon Hogan, born in Detroit, graduated from Benjamin Carson high school, is a Freshman at Wayne State, began writing poetry in his 8th grade year and shortly began performing his work that same year. He later joined the InsideOut Literary Arts after school program, Citywide poets, where he has been in numerous poetry competitions and has made cameos in poetry anthologies published by the group.
Damon has participated in multiple competitions beyond Citywide Poets and is also the brother of Martez Hogan, founder of Detroit Poetry Society.
Keon Pritchett-Cofield is young a African-American male from Redford who is ready to take on the world. He graduated from Communication and Media Arts High School in 2016 and is now currently enrolled at Wayne State University studying computer science with the aspiration to become a game designer. Keon likes to hangout with friends, play games, help people, and write poetry.
He found poetry in the 10th grade when he made a “Rap” that looked more like poetry to other’s eyes. Close friends didn’t believe he could have written poem/rap, so he decided to continue writing to prove his skill. As a result, Keon fell in love with poetry.
Sammy Saperstein is a senior at Berkley High School. Other than reading and writing poetry, he enjoys math, walking his dog, and hiking. Sammy has been involved with CityWide Poets for three years at the Main Library (Detroit) site with leader Ben Alfaro. He has been published twice in the annual Citywide Poets literary journal, as well as issues 5 and 6 of his school’s journal Not Nice.
Sammy is drawn to poetry because of its accessibility and universality. Anyone can write a poem, anywhere, any time. He hopes to continue writing and making art for the rest of his life.
Rena Buford is a Wayne State student who was born and raised in the city of Detroit. Currently, she is a biology major; however, from a very young age she was always interested in books and has read countless novels over the years. It was only until middle school when she started writing pieces of her own. During that time she was always known to be a quiet person but, with the help of her uncle, she learn to be loud and expressive on stage.
When it was time to go to college, Buford found a new sense of self and took opportunities to recite poetry on stage. The open mics gave her a gateway to express herself in a way that is truly rewarding. Even though she still loves getting lost in the world of books, she has also found it within herself to spin her own tales.
Underscore Review co-facilitators
Underscore Review co-facilitator
Writer, artist, educator, poet, and project manager – in that order: Rogers is all of these things. A Wayne State student studying Art Education and English Education, as well as Liaison and Writer with InsideOut Literary Arts, Rogers commits his life to those key things he loves. Rogers found poetry at a young age, and since has been published in numerous journals and anthologies, found himself a part of 3 national slam teams, and remains a traveling poet. Learn more about Rogers at Justin Rogers.
Naidra L Walls
Underscore Review co-facilitator
Naidra L Walls is a teaching artist and craftsperson with passion for poetry, music, creating functional art from reclaimed wood and collaborative projects. Walls contracts with organizations for business administration and creating infrastructure, graphic design, fund development, grant writing, and website management.
Walls is also the founder of build(h)er: artist residency™, a resource-share that helps people connect within their communities, provides classes for people (especially women) in computer skills, professional, academic & creative writing and basic carpentry.
Walls merges interests of art, creativity, and justice with forward movement toward good.