In 2018, a group of Des Moines poets wanted to go deeper with their poetry and learn more about presenting their writing to a reader. They saw a need for a space to bring their poems for critique.
The group decided to get together regularly to share their feedback and to help one another grow as poets. The group met once a month for over 2 years.
In March 2020, we went virtual with the world and continued on as best we could. By October 2020, the group decided to take a rest.
In December 2021, a small group decided to test-run getting the workshop back together. After a year of testing and gauging interest from the community, we happily announced the return of our workshop in a more public way.
Now, we're back stronger than ever and ready to welcome more and more local poets searching for the same thing we set out for in the first place:
A safe, welcoming place to critique and create together.
Who's behind DMPW?
Founder & Workshop Lead
Local professional poet, Kelsey Bigelow, is one of the founding members and has led the Des Moines Poetry Workshop since 2018. She has a vision of creating spaces for poets who want to dive deeper in their poetry and in our community. Learn about Kelsey at kelkaybpoetry.com.
Kelsey Bigelow is a spoken word and page poet based in Des Moines. In her work, she molds incredibly specific emotions into something human, digestible, and cathartic. She released her chapbook, Sprig of Lilac, in 2018 and released her spoken word album, Depression Holders and Secret Keepers, in 2021. Get to know more about Kelsey and her work at kelkaybpoetry.com.
Event Manager & Instructor
In 2021, Willette Holt joined the workshop and fearlessly took on the role of championing events for the Des Moines Poetry Workshop. She has a vision of connecting with our communities and amplifying our talented members.
Willette L. Holt is a poet, author, and founder of Untitled Project USA. Born to Liberian immigrants, her writing style centers on generational healing, blending biblical references with narrative language. Holt honed her craft while studying at Howard University and completed her debut poetry book, "WIFEFEE$," while apprenticing as a screenwriter in California. She has been featured in the Providence Journal and the Pan African Film Festival in LA. Her work is known for its raw honesty and ability to capture the complexities of modern life. Holt is also committed to education and community engagement, using her poetry to inspire and empower young people from all backgrounds. Originally from Providence, she now resides in Iowa.
Ashton Jordan is a photographer and poet in the Des Moines, IA metro. Her work focuses on the processes of self-discovery and self-love, and explores the human experience in all of its facets. She combines art forms, such as her photography, with her poetry to allow the mediums to converse and service each other in order to create something new and multi-faceted. Her first collection, “Mosaic” was released in February of 2023.
Updates on upcoming collections can be found on her Instagrams @ashtons_darkroom (photography) and @ashtonstypewritings (poetry).
Dallas Whitefield is a student at Western Govenors University. He is active in the Ames and Des Moines poetry scenes and is working on his first poetry collection. Dallas is also an artist and a advocate at ACCESS. Dallas loves building relationships with people, and sharing his love for poetry with others.
Follow Dallas on Instagram @OneOfUsPoetry
Anna Zilbermints is a multifaceted poet who skillfully blends written and spoken word to create a unique style of self-defense humor. Originally from Iowa, Anna draws inspiration from her experiences with mental health, Judaism, and growing up with immigrant parents. Her work is a reflection of her ability to transform truth and trauma into powerful art that speaks to the human experience.
Anna has been published in several literary journals, including Poets' Choice, Wingless Dreamer, Backchannels Journal, New Note Poetry, and Sheepshead Review. Her writing has been widely celebrated for its ability to evoke emotions, inspire change, and provoke thought.
Cainon Leeds is a business intelligence engineer by day and an active member of the Des Moines Poetry Workshop by night. His poetry has been described as thought-provoking and academic, yet accessible. He enjoys exploring philosophy, psychology, history, and his faith through poetry that connects. He placed 2nd in the Hackney Literary Award contest and has been featured in the Birmingham Arts Journal, the Fredericksburg Literary & Art Review, and the Stoneboat Literary Journal. Cainon is currently writing his first poetry collection.
You can get in touch with him at cainonleeds.com.