************

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Deep Cleveland suspended in flight

Over on the Deep Cleveland Poetry Hour facebook page, Josh Gage announced that the reading series is suspended indefinitely.  It had been one of the longer-running monthly poetry readings in the area.  It had been slowly dwindling in attendance-- actually, in my opinion, it never was quite the same after Border's bookstore went out of business and the reading had to move, over to the Mugshotz coffee house, and it never really recovered its attendance. 
The event was founded by Mark Kuhar at the turn of the millennium, back in 2001, but for most of the last decade was hosted by Joshua Gage, who kept it running rain or shine, over good years and bad.
For years, this had been my "home" reading; the one reading that I attended almost every month, if I could, although sometimes other events got in my way.  Apparently there was a reading with an attendance of only one audience member (that was one I missed), and then the next time the coffeeshop was locked-- there wasn't enough business to keep the venue open late for the reading.
This is the end of an era, I guess.  Or maybe just a breathing space. 
The area is rich in poetry readings, though. John Burroughs just updated the poetry calendar (which you can find at the top of the page here) and I count 41 events coming up over the 30 days of August.  Not all of these are readings, of course.  Still, that's over one event a day.

Over on facebook, I posted this:
I wish I had a solution to the problem of attendance at poetry events, but I don't. On the one hand, the Cleveland & north Ohio area is amazingly fortunately with a huge selection of live poetry events, on the average one every day, sometimes more. On the other hand, that does have its down side as well as its good side-- can't attend them all; can't attend even a small percentage of them.
The people running local poetry events here are amazing people, putting in long hours and many miles with, for the most part, only the occasional "Thanks! Good show!" as recompense. I do want to see people at the events.
There have been some excellent readings at Deep Cleveland-- one time or another, all the great poets of the area have featured.  So, thanks for the good times.

Josh Gage as the MC of Deep Cleveland,
back at the Borders venue

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Now We Are Six

On Thursday, July 17, Clevelandpoetics: the blog turned six years old.
Michael Salinger set up the blog and made the first post, "Welcome to Clevelandpoetics – the blog!" on Thursday, July 17, 2008, followed in quick order by posts from Joshua Gage, Sara Holbrook, Bree, Larry Smith, Steve Ferguson, and Mark S. Kuhar.

Happy birthday, Clevelandpoetics.

Cleveland Premiere of Poetry is an Island at Karamu House

Please join us for the Cleveland premiere of Poetry is an Island,
a new feature documentary about the life and work of St. Lucian
Nobel Laureate poet, playwright and painter Derek Walcott at
Karamu House on Sunday, August 17th, from 2 to 5 pm. It's
a celebration of the importance of the arts in everyone's life.
The program will include live St. Lucian Steelpan music, a reading
from the Derek Walcott play Dream on Monkey Island, images
of Derek Walcott's and his son Peter Walcott's paintings and an
80 minute feature documentary about Derek Walcott's life
followed by a live Skype Q&A interview with the director of the film,
Ms. Ida Does, from The Netherlands.
Tickets at the door ($12).
We hope to see you there.

Sponsored by the the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards,  
presented by the
Cleveland Foundation

Karamu House
2355 East 89th Street
Cleveland, Ohio

216-795-7070 

 
Sponsored by the the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards, presented by the
Cleveland Foundation
  
More about the film:
  
"Derek Walcott, Poetry is an island, is a feature documentary film about
Nobel laureate, poet, playwright, and visual artist, Derek Alton Walcott
(1930). The film depicts an intimate portrait of Walcott, as we visit his art
studio, his childhood home, and his current residence in St. Lucia. It also 
includes exclusive archive material from the Nobel Prize Festivities in 1992. 
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, this film is about Walcott’s poetry.
Derek Walcott grew up in St. Lucia–Castries–in a small family. His father
died when he was very young, and so, Derek, his twin brother Roderick,
and their sister Pamela, were raised by their single mother. Walcott is of
African, English and Dutch descent. He grew up in an artistic ambiance,
his father being a painter and writer, and his mother–a teacher–encouraging
him from early on to write poetry.
In Poetry is an island  we share Caribbean moments with Walcott as we
visit some of his favorite places, his studio, and St. Lucia home. We travel
through St. Lucia and encounter childhood friends whose ‘lives became
poetry’ through Walcott’s work. We discover the anger and frustration that
the poet holds against the downtime of the arts as he talks to us about the
meaning of poetry to him personally, and about the significance of art for
humanity. Family members reveal some of the poet’s life challenges, and
people who have worked with him speak frankly about their experiences
with Walcott. Poetry is an island is an intimate portrait of the man, the poet,
and son of the Caribbean: Derek Walcott."

Karamu: 100 Years in the House





Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Eye to the Telescope

We've talked here before about the poetry of science:
Just recently, I was the guest editor of the Science Fiction Poetry Association's poetry web-zine Eye to the Telescope for a theme issue on science poetry, which went live today.  If science is your passion, or if you just want to see whether science and poetry can mix, check it out.

Table of Contents
Editor’s Introduction • Geoffrey A. Landis
Some astronomy • Anastasia Andersen
The Linnet’s Nest • Erasmus Darwin
Discoveries • Emily K. Bright
Descent of Radium • Jim Fisher
Laboratory Philosophy • J. A. Grier
A Formulaic Love Story • Claire Ibarra
Oneshine • Dianne Borsenik
Coleopterblitz • David C. Kopaska-Merkel
The Epiphenomenalist • Rob Stuart
Gravity Drives the Blood • Bruce Boston
Grant Proposal • Adele Gardner

Monday, July 14, 2014

Forward thinking

The Forward Prize for best poetry collection-- one of Britain's most prestigious poetry prizes--wasn’t given out this year, and the judge, Jeremy Paxman, made some comments somewhat disparaging of current poets, and suggesting that they are failing the reading public. “It seems to me very often that poets now seem to be talking to other poets, and that is not talking to people as a whole.”

Over at the Daily Beast, Mandy Kahn takes him on. Are poets failing the audience?  Are the audiences failing the poets?  And, further, do poets have a responsibility to judge marketplace, or is a poet's job only "to find their own voice and to speak their truth"?
If this is a person’s project, he will know it. Each poet needs only learn to hear his own voice, and hone it, and present it. The thing that feels universal—that hits a popular chord—may be the sort of work that Paxman likely imagines it would be, the voice of a Yeats, ringing with music, one that feels solid and sure and wise—but perhaps for this generation, a generation of people whose lives are disjointed, often distracted, spent largely on screens, that voice will be something else: something broken, maybe, something quiet and disjointed.
She continues:
The bigger question is—or could have been—how do we keep morale up among those whose job it is to make something for a marketplace that seems not to exist? But that hasn’t proven to be a problem. Writing poetry is so necessary to some people—and I count myself among them—that they need perceive no water in the pool before diving in. You dive knowing the pool may never fill, or may, while you’re in the air.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Some Beautiful 'Zines

                                        Handbow.  Image by Smith, from The City
One thing about the new era of poetry 'zines published electronically is the full-color art.  Now, a great poem is a beautiful thing even typeset in black and white, but we are living in an era when 'zines are not merely text, but works of art, with images and poetry woven together.

I was thinking about this because a couple of 'zines I follow recently came out with new issues.

 Preeminent among local 'zines with poetry and art has to be Lady Smith's The City Poetry.  The summer issue, as usual, is gorgeous, with poetry (and art) by the Cleveland poets we're all familiar with.

 In the way of fantastical poetry, Goblin Fruit's Spring Issue recently came out.  Over the years Amal & Caitlyn have featured several northeastern Ohio poets; this issue has a poem by Mary Turzillo.

And, the summer 2014 issue of Astropoetica just came out, with the art and poetry of the stars.  Two of my poems reprinted here, but still, a bittersweet issue, since Emily Gaskin, the editor, says that it will be the final issue.  For ten years Astropoetica has been the premier showcase for stellar poetry, and I'll be sad to see it conclude its run.

NGC-6302, the Butterfly Nebula.  Photo by Hubble Space Telescope.
                                           Butterfly Nebula.  Photo by Hubble Space Telescope.
These are some of my favorites.  If you have your own favorite 'zines blending art and poetry, list them in the comments.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Poetry- who needs it?



The New York Times asks, "Poetry: Who Needs It?"

"The dirty secret of poetry is that it is loved by some, loathed by many, and bought by almost no one...
"This is not a disaster."

Sunday, June 8, 2014

A Call for Poets: Cleveland Heights EKPHRASTACY

I recently received a message from Kathleen Cerveny, a good friend and the current Poet Laureate of Cleveland Heights.  I'm posting it here at her request.  This is an open call, and promises to be much fun.  John Burroughs participated in EKPHRASTACY on May 8, 2014; you can read about it and link to the art he wrote his poem about here.  I'm scheduled to participate in the September EKPHRASTACY, and I'm very much looking forward to it.  If you are interested and intriguedand I know you areplease contact Kathleen at the email address embedded in her message.  Thank you!


Dear Poet,


This message is being sent to a number of Cleveland-area poets (whom I know well, slightly and perhaps not at all) as an open invitation to participate in an exciting series of ekphrastic poetry events.  

As the current Poet Laureate of Cleveland Heights,  I have worked with my sponsor, HeightsArts, to create a new program in which local poets are invited to view the works being assembled for each of the HeightsArts gallery exhibitions and write poems inspired by these works.  

At a date near the end of each exhibition's run, we invite the public to come and hear the artists talk about their work, and the poets read and talk about their poems.  We have held two of these EKPHRASTACY programs to date, with the audience in the gallery packed to capacity.  It's an exciting cross-discipline event that draws both art and poetry lovers. So far we have featured work by 12 local poets.

Although we are not yet in a position to offer an honorarium (we are working on this for the future), we are offering a free membership in HeightsArts, with full membership benefits, to the poets chosen to participate in EKPHRASTACY.  You can check member benefits at the HeightsArts website www.heightsarts.org
If you are interested in being considered for one of the upcoming EKPHRASTACY programs, please contact me through my email at HeightsArts and I will share more information about the program:  plaureate@heightsarts.org

Right now we are looking for poets to participate in the July 10th EKPHRASTACY and the final one of the season, in September.  We already have the schedule for 2015, so I will soon be putting those programs together as well. 

Hoping to hear of your interest,

Kathleen
Kathleen Cerveny

Cleveland Heights Poet Laureate, 2013-14

Art is not a thing.  It is a Way.

website: http://kathleencerveny.com

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Ohio Senate Passes Bill Establishing Ohio Poet Laureate - House Next!

Steve Abbott testifying on behalf of S.B. 84 on May 21st
in Columbus [photo by Michael Salinger]
Click here to read about it on the Ohio Senate's minority caucus blog.  

Many thanks to the senators, including many from our area and from both political parties, who have stepped up and supported Senate Bill 84.  Letters from poets and other bill supporters from across the state, as well as great support from the Ohio Arts Council and Ohio Poetry Association have helped immensely.  But our work's not done yet.

Now Senate Bill 84 is moving on to the Ohio House for consideration and this is the perfect time for us to write to our state representatives and express our support for the establishment of a Poet Laureate position in Ohio.  It doesn't seem right that Ohio, the home of so many fine poets statewide, is one of only five or six United States not to have such a position.

So please write to your state representative and urge him or her to pass this bill.

Click here to find your representative.
Click here to read Senate Bill 84, the Ohio Poet Laureate bill.
Click here to read Michael Salinger's testimony before the Senate in support of S.B. 84.
Click here to read John Burroughs' testimony before the Senate in support of S.B. 84.

Click here to read a statement by Steve Abbott on the O.P.A. blog in support of S.B. 84.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Best Cleveland Poem!

Photo
Ray McNiece rocks the house
Here they are, the ten finalists and three alternates for the 2nd Annual Best Cleveland Poem Contest.  Come to the Willoughby Brewing Company at 4pm this Sunday  to hear them read, orchestrated Master of Ceremonies Ray McNiece.
Please invite one or two hundred of your friends to support this event sponsored by Tim "I'll make them rhyme" Misny.

In no particular order:
  • Steven Smith
  • TM Göttl
  • JP Armstrong
  • Dianne Borsenik
  • Jeffrey Bowen
  • Lee Chilcote
  • Renay Sanders
  • Michael Murray,
  • Geoffrey Landis
  • Danilee Eichhorn
  • Anita Keys
  • Mary Turzillo
  • Frances Lograsso
This will be great!

See you all Sunday. Please promote the event on fb, twitter and other media platforms!

Willoughby Brewing Company:

--oh, and check out the book from last year's contest.   If you love poetry, and love Cleveland-- this is the book for you.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

New Books from Bottom Dog Press...Our Midwest Connection

Bottom Dog Press has released two new books by Cleveland area writers: Robert Miltner's And Your Bird Can Sing: Fictions (flash fiction, each to the title of a Beatles song) and Larry Smith's Lake Winds: Poems (works of nature, family, friendship, and faith set along the lake land). These are both seasoned writers who have done the work of keeping literature alive in our region not just as writers but as teachers and organizers. Bottom Dog Press Homepage

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Have you ever tried to sell a poem on Craigs List

On The Atlantic, Micah Mattix  asks, Have you ever tried to sell a poem on Craigs List?  Aaron Belz has.
"Poet available to begin work immediately. Capable in rhyme and meter, fluent in traditional and contemporary forms. Quotidian observations available at standard rate of $15/hour; occasional verse at slightly higher rate of $17/hour. Incomprehensible garbage $25/hour. Angst extra."

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Defending the art

Lisa Marie Basile says:
"When you're at a party, a family gathering, a wedding, a bar-wherever people might ask you about life as a poet, be honest: tell them about your work. Don't self-deprecate. Defend the countless hours, the late-nights wading through submissions, the pain and glory of rejections and acceptances. Tell them about why you write, why it matters and why it has an impact. Don't settle for hobbyist because it's easy to explain... Tell them that poets aren't all wimpy and sad"

Friday, May 9, 2014

Almost Arrested for Selling Poetry Books...but a BIGGER Crime Was Committed, and the Perp Got Away Free.

Here's the scene of the crime: the RTA station at West 117th and Madison in Lakewood, Ohio, on Cleveland's west side, in broad daylight, between 11 AM and 11:30 AM.
 
 
It all started with a poetry book, Mosaic by Ohioan Margie Shaheed, published by NightBallet Press in June, 2013.  In the months since NBP published her book, Margie has sold an average of 40 books a month, for a total of well over 500 books.  I have an admittedly hard time keeping up with her demand! 

It was no different this month.  With the Ohioana Book Festival coming up tomorrow (May 10th) in Columbus, Ohio, Margie needed 50 books for her appearance and signing there.  All book sales have to go through Barnes & Noble for Ohioana, but since B&N doesn't carry Mosaic, I needed to physically get the box of books to her.  We arranged to meet midway between our residences, at the RTA station. 

I saw her bus pull up as I turned into the RTA parking lot in my car.  At the same time, she phoned me to say she was there.  I parked at the end of one of the rows and started walking toward her.  She was easy to spot in a dandelion-yellow shirt and headscarf.  I saw her put out her cigarette on the concrete, and she walked toward me.  She couldn't have taken more than a puff or two on the cigarette; there hadn't been enough time for her to do so.

We embraced, and started talking about Ohioana.  I gave her the box of books and she gave me the money she owed me for her last shipment of books.  I wrote her a receipt.  We continued to talk animatedly about Ohioana.

We had been talking for about ten minutes when It Happened.  The RTA cop, who had been sitting in his car in front of the station, swaggered over to us.  Without so much as an "Excuse me, Ma'ams", he aggressively interrupted our conversation, addressing only Margie:  "I KNOW you saw the sign because you were sitting right under it."  Margie said "What?"  He repeated his statement, then he said it was the "No Smoking sign".   Margie tried to say she hadn't immediately seen the sign and that she put out her cigarette as soon as she saw it, but the cop wouldn't allow her to complete a sentence.  He interrupted her and took a very confrontational stance, like she was backtalking him.  She wasn't.  I was right there next to her.  She was polite to him and never raised her voice.  She said she put out the cigarette.  He threatened her with a $250 fine. I couldn't believe what I was seeing and hearing.  I wish I had thought to turn on the video on my phone.  He finally blustered and turned on his heel to go.  I thought it was over.

It wasn't.  He turned back to her (mind you, he never once glanced at me or addressed me in any way...but maybe the paleness of my skin made me blend into the background. Yeah.) and once more started in on her: "Do you have a vending license?"  He indicated the box of Mosaic I had just delivered.  "Because you're selling without a vending license!"  She said "I'm not selling anything," and he said "I saw money exchange hands!"  Again, he's being very confrontational and nasty.  Keep in mind that I am the one who "sold" her the books, so he should have been addressing me.  She responded that he was looking for something to get her for, and she was right.  It was escalating fast, and Margie was visibly shaken.  I had tried to stay out of the conversation up to this point, as there was no point in agitating the bully cop any more, but it was time for me to step in.  I pointed out to the cop that I was her publisher and that she was "my star seller, and an important part of tomorrow's "big book festival down in Columbus".  I told him she had owed me the money (true) and that no transactions were taking place on RTA ground.  He then addressed me (in a much nicer tone than he had addressed Margie) that he was "just trying to keep an eye on crime".   Liar.  What he was doing was committing a crime.  He was obviously rousting Margie because of her skin color.  I've heard about things like this happening before, but it's the first time I've actually seen it. 



This is the bully who harassed us at the RTA station. 

I was ready to tell him to go ahead and arrest me for the illegal sale of Mosaic to Margie, but when he saw that I was involved and that we were sticking together in the incident, he backed off and the Perp Who Committed the Crimes of Indecency, Racism, Rudeness, Ignorance, and  Harassment swaggered away, free as a bird. 

 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Lost Art of Memorizing Poetry


 
Pushkin reciting his poem before Old Derzhavin, Ilya Efimovich Efimovich Repin, 1911. 

In The American Reader, Nina Kang discusses The Lost Art of Memorizing Poetry.

Can it really be as simple as... modern poems are just harder to memorize?

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Cleveland Poets do Poem A Day

A number of local poets took up the challenge of "A Poem A Day" for the duration of April, National Poetry Month. Some responded to challenges and prompts--such as the CCPL's poetry prompts, Robert Brewer's "Poem-A-Day" prompts or Writing Knights superhero challenges-- and some just took the challenge of writing a new poem every day for the month.

Marie Vibbert took Robert Brewer's "Poem-A-Day" challenge, where he posted a daily prompt on his "Poetic Asides" blog. Here's her poem from Brewer's Day 1 prompt, "write a beginning poem/write an ending poem":


Unlooping

I'm living a black vinyl record
And you gave me a scratch.
Every year I hit your chord.
What's past is future is passed.
It's an unwanted time travel catch.
At least we're spiraling inward -
Your impact fades with each pass.
Time is all travel and life is scored
With tragedies lost and dispatched
And all the things we forget to record -
What's passed is future is past.


--Marie Vibbert

Marcus Bales also took up the challenge of a poem a day, posting each one to his wall on Facebook.  Here's his poem for day 18 of the challenge:


On the Bus

She swayed with unexpected grace
            Along the pitching bus
Indifferent to the brutal race
            Aroused in each of us.

Her cotton dress was of that bare
            Beyond unbaring kind –
She pressed against the lucky air
            And trailed her scent behind.

She didn’t speak, but we could hear
            A lyric siren sing,
And our most lurid dreams were clear
            In wild imagining.

You couldn’t hear a sneeze or cough
            Among that motley lot
Til moments after she got off –
            As we, of course, did not.


--Marcus Bales

John Clarke was taken by this one enough to put it to music. You can see a video of him playing the song version.

Of course, with the press of time, poems from the poem-a-day challenge sometimes are a little rough.  My technique was to just write, don't think. Or at least, that's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it. I didn't even make half of the quota for poem a day, but here's my poem for Brewer's Day 24 prompt, which was to write a poem titled "Tell it to the (Blank)":


Tell the Mountain
 

Tell your woes to the birds in the air,
tell the ravens, tell the sparrows.
The birds will fly to the edges of the Earth,
and carry away your sorrows.

Tell your tale to a stranger on the street,
and listen to his own;
your stories are both different, your stories are the same,
your lives are both unknown.

Listen to the wisdom of the flowers of the field,
the blowing of the wind;
the buzzing of the bees and the ripple of the brook,
the knowledge that the world has an end.

Go tell your sorrows to the graveyard on the hill,
to the folk sleeping there;
in the silence of the cool grassy meadows,
they listen without care.

Shout your love into the sighing of the storm,
to rain and sea and sky;
the wind will listen, the wind will hear,
the wind will give you your reply.


--Geoffrey A. Landis


Did you do the challenge this month? If so, pick one of your challenge poems and post it in the comments, and I'll post it here.

where to find more...

Friday, May 2, 2014

R.A. Washington Featured

photo Joshua Gunter/ The Plain Dealer

Poet and bookstore entrepreneur R.A. Washington was interviewed by Minister of Culture Michael Heaton in today's Plain Dealer, talking about the first anniversary of the founding of the Guide to Kulchur bookstore, in the Gordon Square Arts district.

The Guide to Kulchur, a text, art and news store on Cleveland's West Side, will turn a year old in June -- something of an achievement in itself in this era of shrinking independent bookstores. R A Washington, a poet and musician, runs the bookstore, which is just north of the Capitol Theatre on W. 65th St. R A talked about the Guide to Kulchur with the Plain Dealer's Michael Heaton -- our Minister of Culture.



Cited...

The poet doesn't invent. He listens. ~Jean Cocteau