Poet’s Log: January 10, 2016
Since becoming the Cleveland Heights Poet Laureate in April 2015, I’ve found literature thriving in a wide variety of places – some of them surprising. Here’s a look back at my year of living in poetry – Meredith Holmes
April 2 –Ekphrastacy for Heights Arts “Impermanence” gallery show. This exhibit of pairs of photographs of Cleveland places, taken decades apart was fascinating. Time and place are the stuff of poetry. “Then and now” photos of the Flats, the Cleveland Museum of Art, Terminal Tower, and Coventry Road inspired six poets to write about childhood, the Vietnam War, Cleveland’s robber barons, neighborhoods lost to gentrification, and landmarks that remain miraculously endure.
April 12 – Favorite Poem Project at the Lee Road Library. At this annual public celebration of poetry, all are invited to read their favorite poem. This being Cleveland Heights, many people read poems that spoke eloquently about social justice. I read “the Future” by Philip Levine, 2011 U.S. Poet Laureate. To find out more about him, go to www.poetryfoundation.org.
May 21 – Ekphrastacy for Heights Arts “Syncope” gallery show. Four poets, two of whom are also science fiction writers, responded to the subdued, abstract photos and drawing in the exhibit with evocative, dreamlike poems about dreamscapes, light and dark, shadow and shape.
July 13 –Release of Harper Lee’s lost manuscript, Go Set a Watchman, a sequel (although written first) to the beloved To Kill a Mockingbird. Suzanne DeGaetano of Mac’s Backs organized a festive midnight release party at the bookstore. Mockingbird fans were treated to a documentary film about Harper Lee, Tequila Mockingbird drinks, Miss Maudie’s layer cake, and Calprunia’s lemonade. And of course, while waiting for midnight, we all enjoyed the finest in book browsing. Mac’s is a favorite venue for poets and writers to present their work. Go to www.macsbacks to see who’s scheduled next.
July 21 – “Branch Out” at the Cleveland Botanical Garden was a celebration of trees and architect-designed tree houses. I was delighted to find, among the fanciful structures scattered throughout the Woodland Garden, one called Poetry House. It had lots of irregularly shaped windows for gazing at forest and sky and was equipped with paper and pencils to encourage visitors to write. Most of the tree houses have been taken down, but Poetry House will be a permanent feature of the Woodland Garden.
August 1 – Cleveland INKubator. Billed as a literary unconference, the INKubator was a free, one-day gathering of writers, readers, booksellers, and arts organizations at the downtown Cleveland Public Library. Heights Arts hosted a table, and Kris Platko and I talked up Ekphrastacy and the Haiku Death Match and hawked my second book of poems, Familiar at First, Then Strange. The INKubator was also the launch of LitCleveland, a new literary organization for writers and readers that offers classes, free workshops, and other literary events. To learn more, go to www.litcleveland.org.
August 2 –Distinguished Gentlemen of the Spoken Word. I’ve heard a lot about these talented young men, and finally got to hear them at the One World Festival held at the Cleveland Cultural Gardens. Their renditions of Walt Whitman, Langston Hughes, and Martin Luther King brought the written word powerfully to life. The Gentlemen have a loyal following that cares deeply about poetry; audience members spoke and sang the words along with the performers. To learn more, go to www.thedistinguishedgentlemenofspokenword.com.
The Gentlemen will be performing at The Singers’ Club of Cleveland on March 12, 2016. At this spring concert, “A Whitman Sampler,” the chorus will sing pieces inspired by American poetry. To learn more, and to find out about the poetry contest The Singer’s Club is sponsoring, go to www.singersclub.org.
August 21– Phil Metres at the Cleveland Museum of Art. I went to hear poet and professor Phil Metres read from his chapbook of ekphrastic poems, Museum Pieces, at a Friday evening Art Bites. Dr. Metres led a small group around the museum, stopping to read poems inspired by particular pieces. We began inside with “Stargazer,” (“What is most ancient / is most translucent ”) and ended outside facing the lagoon, standing next to “The Thinker” (“I trace the contours of detonation / tongues of flame still lapping the thinker’s feet”). Dr. Metres directs the Young Writers Workshop, a summer creative writing camp for young people. To learn more about the 2016 session, search, Young Writers Workshop, John Carroll University.
October 1 – Ekphrastacy for Heights Arts “Emergent 2015.” Young poets from the Northeast Ohio Masters in Fine Arts, Creative Writing program and from John Carroll University responded to work by emerging artists trained in northeast Ohio. The result was a stunningly original and authentic reading. One of the poets had been writing seriously for only a year.
October 10 – Haiku Death Match. This competition, in which poets vie for audience approval of graceful, meditative, 17-syllable poems, drew an enthusiastic audience and will be an annual Heights Arts event. Marc Zeale, a relative unknown, won the 2015 trophy. So start composing your Haiku now. You could be the next Haiku Death Match Master.