Open Door Reading Series Online: Lillian Gardner, Saleem Hue Penny, Precious Musa & Hayley Kolding

Join us for a live virtual reading with Lillian Gardner, Saleem Hue Penny, Precious Musa, and Hayley Kolding. The Open Door series presents work from new and emerging poets and highlights writing instruction and poetic partnerships. Each event features readings by two Midwest based writers and two of their current or recent students or writing partners. 

Lillian Gardner is an African and Native American poet, visual artist, musician, and dancer. She earned a BFA at Webster University from the Department of Art, Design, and Art History. Through her work, she acknowledges and promotes underrepresented groups in the arts. She believes that being an artist and writer takes a certain amount of strength and dedication. The arts are such a demanding field that draws out vulnerability, passion, character, perseverance, precision, intuition, and creativity. Her practice beckons her to translate the ongoing experiences she encounters in life into figurative tools that construct stories that change with time. Her work is a reflection of her current environment, the state of being present. She is currently writing a book of prose poetry analyzing the definition and genre of a “love story,” how relationships influence and shape us into individuals.

Saleem Hue Penny (he/him/friend) is a Black 'rural hip-hop blues' poet with a vestibular disorder and single-sided deafness. A Cave Canem Fellow, and winner of the BLR Review 2021 Marica and Jan Vilcek Prize for Poetry, Saleem’s writing explores how young people of color traverse wild spaces and define freedom on their own terms. He often punctuates his poetry with a drum machine, gouache, and birch bark. Nourished by the Southside of Chicago, Saleem’s spirit stretches across Pisgah Forest, forever rooted in Monck’s Corner swamps. 

Precious Musa is a first-generation Nigerian American Black girl trying. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Washington University in St. Louis. She’s a poet and evolving creative intellectual whose work often engages the inner life of the body, fugitivity, and belonging. Her work appears in Cosmonauts Avenue, Black Perspectives, and The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Precious currently resides in St. Louis, MO where she’s learning how to commune with her ancestors, speak to them, and language their story. When not writing, Precious can be found marathoning The Great British Baking Show.  

Hayley Kolding (she/her) is a teacher and naturalist with roots in Hartford County, CT, Dennis, MA and Burlington, VT. She and Saleem Hue Penney met in a Poetry Foundation workshop and bonded over their love of botany, education, and collaborative art. She would like to thank Saleem for inviting her to work together on this project, and for introducing her to the world of Black nature poetry.

Poetry Foundation's events are completely free of charge and open to the public. This reading will include live captioning and ASL interpretation. If you require any other accessibility measures, please contact us by emailing [email protected]. To find out more about Zoom’s own built-in accessibility features, please visit

A Zoom link will be provided to Eventbrite registrants the day of the event.
Register here.