Please join us for a virtual reading and conversation between Ariana Benson, author of Black Pastoral, and Ashia Ajani, author of Heirloom.

Overview: The Oak Spring Garden Foundation and the Furious Flower Poetry Center are pleased to partner for this virtual conversation to celebrate the release of two debut collections of poetry: Black Pastoral by Ariana Benson, OSGF’s 2022 Eliza Moore Fellow for Artistic Excellence, and winner of the 2022 Furious Flower Poetry Prize, as well as Heirloom by storyteller and environmental educator Ashia Ajani. The reading and conversation will be moderated by award-winning poet Lauren K. Alleyne, Executive Director of the Furious Flower Poetry Center at James Madison University.

Black Pastoral explores the complex duality of Black peoples’ past and present relationship with nature. It surveys the ways in which histories (both Black histories and natural/ecological histories), suffering and thriving, are forever wound around one another.

Ashia Ajani’s Heirloom stands as a poetic homage to the profound legacy of her family’s migration journey – a path traversing from Bentonia, Mississippi to Detroit, Michigan, and finally to Denver, Colorado.

After successfully registering for the lecture, attendees will receive a follow up email containing the link to join the event. The event will not be recorded, and will include closed captioning. A PDF of the poems read will be shared with attendees prior to the event.

About Furious Flower: The Furious Flower Poetry Center, located is the nation’s first academic center dedicated to Black poetry. For more than 25 years, Furious Flower has reached thousands of poets, educators students and poetry loves through its decade-defining conference, groundbreaking media and anthologies, workshops, reading series and seminars. Furious Flower continues to impact literary communities on local regional, national and international levels, creating platforms for Black poets to engage new audiences and for audiences to experience Black literary culture. Furious Flower Poetry Center is also committed to ensuring the visibility, inclusion, and critical consideration of Black poets in American letters, as well as in the whole range of educational curricula. Our programming seeks to cultivate an appreciation for poetry among students of all levels—from elementary to graduate school and beyond. To learn more about the Furious FlowerPoetry Center, visit

About Oak Spring Garden Foundation: The Oak Spring Garden Foundation (OSGF) is a philanthropic foundation based at the former primary estate of the late Paul and Rachel Mellon, who were major philanthropists in the U.S. of the arts, humanities, and sciences in the second half of the twentieth century. OSGF is located in the northern Virginia Piedmont and Blue Ridge Mountains region (ca. one-hour drive from Washington, D.C.). Led by Sir Peter Crane, the Foundation’s inaugural President, OSGF provides workshops, short courses and supports residencies for artists and scholars. Its celebrated Library comprises rare books, manuscripts and works of art relating to horticulture, landscape design, botany and natural history. It is becoming a new center of stimulation of all things botanical, from fundamental research in plant evolution and conservation, to horticultural and plant conservation practice, to the history and art of plants, gardens and landscapes.