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Cavana Faithwalker: 2011-12 Cleveland Heights Poet Laureate

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Faithwalker has lived in Cleveland Heights for eight years. He grew up in Cleveland’s Lee-Miles area, moved to Woodmere, and graduated from Orange High School in Pepper Pike. Admitting to one-year sojourn in Shaker Heights, he says, “I felt like a citizen of Cleveland Heights the whole time I was there.”

Honored, but a little surprised to be named the city’s Poet Laureate, Faithwalker is energized about the possibilities of the post. “First of all, I love Cleveland Heights,” he says, “and I want to add to the creative energy already here.”

Modest about his own accomplishments and abundant creative energy, Faithwalker says “My role as a poet has been to provide access.” Committed to encouraging others to tap into their creativity and to tell their own stories, he may be best known as the co-founder, 18 years ago, with Vince Robinson, of the NIA coffeehouse, an open-mic poetry venue where all are welcome.

Faithwalker is also owner of Left Thumbprint Solutions, a social media, organizational, and arts network consulting company. “We work with companies, cities, and school systems, but lean toward projects that involve the arts, culture and community.” he says.

Citing Muhammad Ali as an early influence and a creative catalyst, Faithwalker says, “His prose excited me and got me into writing. I used to recite my own prose in the locker room and during football practice!” An English teacher, Joanne Howard, showed the young poet that writing takes practice and discipline. “I won a poetry contest in 1974 and have been writing ever since,” he says. Other favorite writers include Rita Dove, Jack Kerouac, Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, and “even local cats like RA Washington, Michael Salinger.”

Faithalker’s poetry combines deep conviction, humor, and a conversational tone that gently pulls the reader in. He often celebrates the heroic in the mundane, as in his poem “Trouble in Paradise.”

Cleveland Heights is suburban bliss.
The couple across the street? A concert pianist
and her husband. Don’t know about him.
Only that he gets mad about the corporations stompin’
the little guy. He drives off most mornings
Hunter gathering schedule to keep
I presume. In the summer,
in the morning, in my sleep,
she serenades me.

Of his own work, Faithwalker says, “I hope also that the beauty, challenge, and even the ugliness of the human condition can be looked at through a poetic lens. I really have an appreciation for conflicting voices dancing instead of clashing.”

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