Lake George

Lake George

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Dear Youngstown

So thankful to NightBallet Press and editor Dianne Borsenik for publishing this collection of poems that centers around my adopted home. As I began gathering these poems, it occurred to me that my life and my city were simultaneously reeling with profound change, reeling as in scale, and reeling as in dance. Love the cover, a painting by Cleveland artist Timothy Gaewsky.

I launched the book in the studio of Dragana Crnjak, and her painting students showed their work as well. Local musicians Jonathan Blackshire, Tony Armeni, Chauncey Hay, Dave Tamulonis, Gary Taneri & Josh Terlecki provided a wonderful interlude of original music. I think over 60 people came out, and the rush of a new book, being so surrounded by friends, and reading personal material was a gut punch, the good kind. (Photo credit: Arya-frencesca Jenkins)

Thank you to Laura Grace Weldon & Sherri B. Saines for these blurbs, for their generosity and care.

These poems are deeply rooted, yet in motion --- stumbling, rising, driving away and coming back from “not-home.” Their voices speak with “crackling electricity” and their bodies are “full of bees.” Karen Schubert is a gifted poet who finds meaning and rare dignity even in the darkest undercurrents of her adopted hometown, Dear Youngstown. Her words bring us back, fully, to the living complications of the places we call home.  
Laura Grace Weldon, author of Blackbird (Grayson Books, 2019)

The memory-laden landscape of Youngstown’s leanest years begins to yield moments of peace and growth, community and daring.  And, oh, Youngstown, aren’t you glad to have Karen Schubert there to chronicle, challenge, and care for you. Clear-eyed and clever, Schubert takes us home with her to see her orange bedroom walls, the gardens that must be raised above the toxic earth, the art being made from scrap.  “I’m saying sometimes / much is against us, then here comes / a good thing we don’t even understand” should be on a refrigerator magnet so none of us ever forget. 
Sherri B. Saines, Ohio poet & Ohio University Reference Librarian

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

"Autobiography" on Best American Poetry Online

Squee! Such a thrill to have my poem featured on Best American Poetry Online. Many thanks to Nin Andrews for this evocative series, and for including this poem. When I wrote it, I was working on a series of prose poems that took an aphorism and made of it an absurd vignette. This one was workshopped in a summer class with Craig Paulenich, and benefited from his and my classmates' astute critique.

The project was good fun, and led to I Left My Wings on a Chair, a chapbook selected by Kathleen Flenniken for a Wick Poetry Center Chapbook Prize. Flenniken noted that the poems reminded her of Roz Chast cartoons, the highest honor I have ever been paid. That, and this poem being named the first William Dickey Memorial Broadside Contest, which prompted me to learn more about William Dickey and his work.

The epigraphs are true: my professor, phenomenal poet Phil Brady did tell our class "Don't be married to autobiography," urging us, instead, to seek an emotional rather than a historical truth in our poems. Unlike Nin, I have written a lot of poems from personal experience. Narrative, yes, but  confessional? That seems like a term out of time, and I hesitate to take it up. But although this poem is made up of whole cloth, I am often wrestling with the historical/emotional truth dynamic. I know I'm not being unique here. But it's another engaging part of the process, one of the many reasons I love to write poetry.

And I send out a note of appreciate here for all of the poets and presses who are raising one another up.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Mike Geither Reads at the Soap

Lit Youngstown's First Wednesday Reading Series is scheduled a year at a time, so the end-of-year readings seem impossibly far away, yet arrive with light speed. Wednesday, December 5, we will host playwright Mike Geither reading from his original play Heirloom.

I have been looking forward to this one, especially. As a student in the Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts, I interned in Mike's creative writing workshop. His students and I enjoyed his high-energy engagement and perceptive advice. Mike was also on my thesis committee. When he suggested I try for an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award, I did, and won, and then he encouraged me to apply for the funded residency at Headlands Center for the Arts, which I was also wildly fortunate to win. I feel a personal gratitude for his encouragement which significantly enhanced my life. 

But that's just par for the course for Mike, who has been a champion of writers and the Cleveland theater scene for a long time. 

About Heirloom, Mike says the play 

considers the effects of incest and violence across four generations of a Cleveland family. It considers the commonalities between family dysfunction and the genocide of Native Americans carried out by the US government, in a search to bring dignity and awareness to their victims.

Each year we designate one First Wednesday as a NEOMFA Reunion Reading. We are a bit spread out, students, faculty and alums, and it's fun to gather. 

We're also celebrating Comfort Food Day with ginger cookies and hot cocoa, maybe a small consolation to those who will miss Cocoa & Carols at Stambaugh that evening. This calendar page tends to look like a pen was murdered on each square, right? So cookies is the least we can offer to those giving up everything else to come to this incredible reading. Hope to see you at the Soap.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Coffee with June Cleaver

Last night I dreamed I was talking with June Cleaver about American civility. I was telling her I had just finished re-reading The Garden of the World by Lawrence Coates, the next selection of Lit Youngstown’s food-themed book club.

This historic novel, circling the family of a French immigrant vintner in Prohibition-era California, unveils plenty of provincial meanness. When a young man returns home from trench warfare deeply scarred, he is both gawked at and avoided. The orchards and vineyards in this fertile landscape hire teams of fruit pickers, favoring white locals, who, even then, are increasingly hard to find. Mexican migrants get worse work for less money, and even though the growers absolutely need the harvesters, the migrants live under continuous fear of deportation, and caution their kids, American citizens by birth, not to have any aspirations. The local newspaper editor is careful to portray his town as an idealized place, filling the social pages with uplift, ignoring much of the gritty truth.

I didn’t stay in the dream long enough to hear June Cleaver’s response. I was too young to watch this white, 1950s t.v. mom in her show Leave it to Beaver in prime time, but caught up with her later, in afternoon syndication. I can’t say it meant much to me. My fantasy family was The Waltons; many tearful appeals were unsuccessful in turning my warts-and-all household into anything like them. In fact, I was not even able, myself, to rise above my squabbling, slothful, brooding soul and be like one of the Walton kids, altruistic, ambitious, and scrappy. But years later, when I watched The Simpsons with my own kids, I felt something missing, the role models that allowed us to measure our failures. We were just like the Simpsons: well-intentioned, mostly, but each week stepping in it, with some new twist.

I love it when my dreams are vignettes, little scenes staging my waking mental dramas. Presidential elections really get me ticking. One of the topics this year among my kind friends is notion that, as a people, Americans are mean as spit. They lament this change of national heart! Yet really, there’s no time when America was nice, through and through. 

Still, in The Garden of the World, Mrs. Clever will also find the good strength of community and family, people forgiving and assuming the best of others. We as a nation are that, too; sometimes we listen to our better angels. The writing is vivid and well-informed, and as I drove past the vineyards of Lake Erie's shore on a recent trip to Buffalo, I was pulled back into the scenes of testing sun-warm grapes for sugar and acidity, listening to the gurgling of fermenting wine in large tanks, leafing through notebooks written in the hand of several generations of vintners. It is a fine book, deserving of its praise.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

For the birds

Local steel sculptor Tony Armeni loves animals, and he calls his series of original, sculpted bird baths For the Birds.

Lit Youngstown is raffling this sweet piece of art and we’ll split the proceeds with Tony. To buy a ticket ($3.00 for one, $5.00 for two), visit us at the July 1 reading in our First Wednesday Reading Series featuring Larry Smith and Paul Gentile.

Larry Smith, editor of Bottom Dog Press, will accompany himself on guitar as he reads new work, and also poems from his collection Lake Winds. Larry Smith is an Ohio institution, and we’re lucky to have him. 

Bottom Dog Press published several books this year, including one by our second featured reader Paul Gentile. Salvatore and Maria: Finding Paradise is a well-researched working-class immigrant family story. 

The readings will be followed with an open mic, emceed by Youngstown author Carmen Leone.

We will draw the winning raffle ticket the afternoon of Sun. July 12 at the Summer Festival of the Arts at our Lit Youngstown booth, where you’ll find the winning poem of our ekphrasis contest (writing from art!), “Disco,” by Cleveland poet Dianne Borsenik. We’ve printed Dianne’s gorgeous poem on a reusable tote and will give them away at our booth. We will also have writing activities and readings. It will all be amazing. Hope to see you there! For more information, visit Lit Youngstown.

For more information, visit

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Thank you, editors

I’ve long admired these journals, so I’m particularly pleased to have my work included. 

Diode Poetry Journal, edited by the amazing Patty Paine, accepted these five poems for the anniversary issue. This is my third time in Diode, and I’m a big admirer of the spare layout and the aesthetic range. I also like the way I can scroll down and read multiple poems by the same poet. Bob Hickock also has several poems in this issue, and while I’m blown down by any one, the force of all of them in one reading is tremendous.

I’m a big fan of Waccamaw, and grateful my poem “Code Violations” found a good home.

My first creative non-fiction came out in PoetsArtists. I’ve lived in many places and was messing around with a list one day, and realized I’ve defined much of my experience in living with animals. Thanks to guest editor Nin Andrews.

And my first short story was published by Ragazine, a terrific journal produced by talented editors in Binghamton, NY. I like writing fiction—all that space!—and plan to do more of it, so I appreciate the encouragement that comes with seeing this story in print, or e-print, so to speak.