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Heights Arts Names Ray McNiece as 10th Cleveland Heights Poet Laureate

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Heights Arts Welcomes New Poet Laureate

By Amanda Bohn

The Heights Writes Community Team of Heights Arts has chosen Ray McNiece as the next Cleveland Heights Poet Laureate. The two-year appointment begins this month. Says executive director Rachel Bernstein, “The Cleveland Heights Poet Laureate was, for many years, the only poet laureateship in the state of Ohio, and is one of Heights Arts core programs. We are thrilled to have Ray in place as we celebrate our 20th anniversary bringing music, art an poetry to the community. Even though our doors are closed at the moment due to the current health crisis, we will be continuing to  provide ways for our audience to experience Ray’s poetry online.”

McNiece is the author of 11 books of poems and monologues – Dis, (Burning River Press 1989) The Bone-Orchard Conga ( Wordsmith Press 1994), The Road that Carried Me Here (Bottom Dog), Song that Fathoms Home (Bottom Dog), and Wet Sand Raven Tracks (deep cleveland), Us — Talking Across America (Fractal Edge Press),  Us Versus (Fractal Edge Press), Our Way of Life (Bottom Dog), Love Song for Cleveland (Red Giant), and Breath Burns Away, New Haiku (Red Giant, 2019) two solo theatre works – Dis – Voices From a Shelter, Us? Talking Across America, two music/poetry collaborations – Mouth Music, A Rust bowl Hootenanny, and one collaborative theatre work – Homegirl meets Whiteboy with Shawn Jackson.

McNiece has been presenting his shows, writing and performance workshops for students from kindergarten through college for over 25 years.  He  has worked for both the Ohio Arts Council Arts in Education Residency Artist programs as well as doing presentations and workshops for The Center for Arts Inspired Learning (formerly Young Audiences) of Northeast Ohio.  He started his own educational company Page to Stage Productions in 1994.  He has worked as a consultant for WordForward in Singapore and for the nationally touring, Poetry Alive.  He is also an adjunct professor at John Carroll University.  He was recently certified into Young Audiences National Teaching Artist Roster, one of only twenty such teaching artists nationally.

I have high hopes for being Poet Laureate,” said McNeice in response to his appointment. “In the short term, we will find ways to respond creatively to our no-contact situation. I’ll be doing some workshops using Zoom, for example, which lets you do the live stream while also showing the printed poem on screen. But for me, nothing like that will ever replace the visceral experience of being in the room, making eye contact with the audience, and having that immediate synergy between the poem and the listener. It’s so in the moment. But until we can get back to that, we will improvise. Poetry is like a virus—it will find a way to live. I had a heart attack a year ago, and that was kind of a reset moment for my life. This pandemic could be a reset moment for the planet.


McNiece will be the 10th poet serving a two-year term as the Cleveland Heights Poet Laureate.  More information about Heights Arts literary programming including past poet laureates and its popular EKPHRASTACY, Artist Talk and Poets Respond series can be found HERE.

Read about Ray’s legacy project, A Poem for Cleveland, HERE.

Cleveland Arts Prize awards Ray McNiece the lifetime achievement award HERE

Find Poetry Books by Ray McNiece on his site, HERE.

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