Kathy Engel is a poet who has founded, co founded, and directed social justice and human rights organizations, and worked in the nexus between art and social change internationally and domestically, as a communications/strategic/creative consultant and producer, for more than 35 years. Her practice has proposed injection of the imagination and art in efforts related to prison reform, domestic violence, economic, gender, and racial justice, peace, education, health, and U.S. policies in Haiti, Central America, the Middle East, and South Africa, suggesting a re-imagining necessary for meaningful change.
She is Chair and Associate Arts Professor in the Art and Public Policy Program at New York University, Tisch School of the Arts and an advisor in NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study.
In 1983, following the production of talking nicaragua, a dramatization involving testimony of Nicaraguans affected by the U.S. contra war, with actors Susan Sarandon, Edward Hermann, Rosalba Rolon, Alvan Colon (PREGONES Theater), and Giancarlo Esposito; with a group of women she founded the women’s human rights organization MADRE, which she directed for five years. Before that she worked at the Academy of American Poets, New York Mobilization for Survival and was the executive director of the Fund For Open Information and Accountability. She has produced and conceptualized numerous cultural/political projects involving a wide range of artists including Danny Glover, Jonathan Demme, The Hot 8 Brass Band, June Jordan, Susan Sarandon, Eve Ensler, Tiye Giraud, Pregones Theater, Suheir Hammad, Harry Belafonte, John Trudell, Joy Harjo, and Tony Kushner, to name a few. Projects include: No More Witch Hunts, (a national day of resistance involving artists and activists to Ronald Reagan’s efforts to implement domestic repression while escalating intervention in Central America), MOVING TOWARDS HOME, (Palestinian, Israeli, Lebanese and American poets in performance together for the first time, in 1982, in New York City, then brought to Washington and Detroit by Congressman John Conyers), the cultural component of the massive June 12, 1982 march for disarmament and human needs in NYC, who’s gonna be there? a dramatic dialogue on mentoring with actors Danny Glover and Roy Scheider, and Imagining Peace, a program following the attack on the World Trade Center and preceding the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. She was co producer and performer in the Carnegie Hall event, RePlant Haiti, following the floods in Gonaive, 2002. She was creative and communications consultant for United For Peace and Justice, a national effort to stop the U.S. war in Iraq, and served as one of the four Emcees for “The World Says No To War” in NYC.
She is co founder and former president of Riptide Communications, a public relations consulting firm set up to service social change organizations. Projects include “Stand with Sisters for Economic Justice,” created with Tiye Giraud, Gwendolen Hardwick, and women who had been living on public assistance, performed in a Senate Building, compared to the “Vagina Monoloques” by a Washington Post reporter; and “Who I Will Be,” a performance piece with formerly incarcerated women.
She produced a web radio show and wrote a bi weekly column for a Suffolk County Spanish Language newspaper.
She co produced “On The Cusp”, with three other artists, interviewing 200 women from all parts of Eastern Suffolk County, New York, on the eve of President Obama’s first election, after co convening an historic outdoor rally “East End Women for Obama.”
She is a co-founder of the Hayground School, East End Women in Black, Poets for Ayiti, and most recently, Lyrical Democracies and its Center for Poetic Healing, with writer/scholar/activist Alexis De Veaux. Engel and De Veaux inaugurated The Center for Poetic Healing with a workshop series called “Harlem Narratives” at the Schomburg Center for Study in Black Culture in 2014.
She has given workshops, talks and readings nationally.
Poems, essays, and reviews have been published and anthologized, including in The Nation online, Pleaides, The Iowa Review, The East Hampton Star, Vandal, Pequod, and Poet Lore. Books include “Ruth’s Skirts”, IKON, 2007, “The Kitchen” with artist German Perez, and “We Begin Here: Poems for Palestine and Lebanon” co edited with Kamal Boullata, Interlink Books, 2007, which, through readings nationwide, has been a tool for community conversation.
Recent and forthcoming publications include: The Mom Egg, Beloit Poetry Journal, The Lake Rises (an anthology), Poet Lore, Poetry, Split This Rock Poem of the Week, Women’s Voice for Change, Adanna, Liberty’s Vigil: The Occupy Anthology. Ghost Fishing, an anthology.
Featured poet in the 2012 Split This Rock Poetry Festival.
Dean’s Faculty grant for production of “The Lost Brother Alphabet,” an elegiac poetic suite, with choreography and dance by Suchi Branfman, performed at The Highways Performance Space, Santa Monica, Calif. 2014.
Featured guest artist at Judson College at the time of the 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, Marion, Alabama, 2015.
Fellow at the Hedgebrook Women Writers Retreat, The Macdowell Colony, The Gaea Sea Change Cottage, Blue Mountain Center