Lake George

Lake George

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Lit Youngstown Hosts Heather Dobbins & Barbara Sabol


I closing in on scheduling Lit Youngstown's 2021 First Wednesday Readers Series, and we're soon hosting the last reading of 2020. It's one of the many true pleasures of working with Lit Youngstown--bringing in wildly talented writers from the region and beyond. 

I met Barbara in 2015 when she invited Nin Andrews to read for her series at the Root Cafe in Cuyahoga Falls. Nin included me and we loved the ambience, the enthusiastic and engaged crowd. Barbara's poetry is accomplished and compelling, and I'm grateful for her shaping of my own work. She has also contributed meaningfully to Lit Youngstown, serving on planning committees and leading workshops. 

I met Heather in the fall of 2017, after presenting at the C.D. Wright Women Writers Conference at the University of Central Arkansas. From there, I was just a hop away from my friend Christian Anton Gerard, and we arranged a reading and class visit with his students. As my great luck would have it, Christian and Heather are partners, and I spent a few wonderful days in their home where their young son made me sprinkle toast and we had a great time. I came home with Heather's books and love them.

Barbara's and Heather's books are deeply grounded in place, voice and meaning-making. One bright spot in this lock-down mess continues to be Zoom's ability to do this--to bring together poets from Akron, Ohio, and Fort Smith, Arkansas, with audience from everywhere. Last month an open mic reader popped in from the U.K., another from Hawaii.

I am so looking forward to this reading. Even if we have to look at one another in little boxes, it's good to see whole faces and hear creative work. Many thanks to poet Barbara Marie Minney for co-hosting.

The reading will be on Zoom and Facebook Live, Wednesday, December 2 at 7:00 PM EST (to read in the open mic, please register on Zoom).



Heather Dobbins is a native of Memphis, Tennessee. She is the author of two poetry collections, In the Low Houses (2014) and River Mouth (2017), both from Kelsay Press. Her poems and poetry reviews have been published in Beloit Poetry Journal, The Pinch, The Rumpus, TriQuarterly Review, and Women’s Studies Quarterly, among others.





  Barbara Sabol’s second full-length book, Imagine a Town, was awarded the 2019 Sheila-Na-Gig Editions poetry manuscript prize. She is the author of Solitary Spin (Main Street Rag Press) and two chapbooks. Barbara’s poetry has appeared widely in Journals and anthologies. Her awards include an Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council and the Mary Jean Irion Poetry Prize. She lives in Akron, Ohio, with her husband and wonder dogs.


Sunday, October 18, 2020

The Compost Reader



I am grateful to editor Katerina Stoykova and Accents Publishing for the publication of my first full-length book, The Compost Reader. The title poem riffs off the idea that we could bring a professional in to look at our compost and tell us something about ourselves. 

So many thanks to Carl Dennis, Kimberly Johnson and Phil Memmer for their generous readings of the manuscript and blurbs for the cover, and to printmaker Mary Gordon McFall for the gorgeous artwork "Lantern Ways," a monotype collage.

I know poets whose books have been sought and published quickly, and poets--really good poets--who have sent manuscripts out hundreds of times before finding a publisher. I don't know how many times this manuscript went out, but over the course of about 10 years I swapped out poems and changed the order and title until finally it won finalist in several contests, and I knew it was getting close. When Katerina accepted it for Accents, well. I was so pleased. I have long admired this small press with a big heart, and it's been as wonderful as I anticipated. 

Here is a poem from the book, inspired by Katerina's book Porcupine of Mind.  

Kissing the Whisk

 after Katerina Stoykova-Klemer

At first it felt like
kissing with braces
then my tongue
found the warm
caramel. We clicked,
teeth and wires.
You’re so loopy
I whispered.
Meet me tomorrow.
But in the morning
I longed for the knife
to slice hazelnuts
for granola, nosed up
the cinnamon and mace.
Whisk me away! I mocked.
I slid my finger along
the safe edge
of the knife, said
I love your cutting
I was on a roll.
If you see a knife
in the road, take it.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

The Goodbye House by Lawrence Coates

A lot of books in my queue are by writers I know--so lucky--and it's a pleasure hearing their voices as I read. I've read a few other novels and a novella by Lawrence Coates; they all circle around California and are each distinct and compelling.

The Goodbye House is a tight novel that begins at a sprint, with plenty of character and scene texture. Although some of Coates's fiction reaches back in time, this is a slight reach to San Jose in the late '90s, at the end of manic, uneven growth and a stretch of the community fabric. The skill here is the close rendering of characters of many ages: melancholy teen, well-meaning and careening parents, life-tested grandfather.

The point of view is an element I especially enjoyed. Each time a character comes within arm's length, their head hinges open and there is everything. The POV sometimes switches even within paragraphs. I'm making it sound confusing, but it's not--it's the kind of access I wish to have when I'm trying to figure out what is motivating the other people in the room.

Hats off to Coates for the wise elders. For all these characters. They are flawed, and I am sympathetic. Reminds me that empathy is too AWOL in our public discourse. Let's bring it back.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Fall Literary Festival 2020

Lit Youngstown's fantastic planning committee is already at work on the upcoming Fall Fest, Sept. 24-26 in Youngstown, Oh! Each year it seems we begin the planning process sooner, which, more than feeling too soon, makes me wonder how we pulled everything together before.

This year’s conference will be centered around the theme In Many Tongues: Constituents of the Barbaric Yawp, a conversation bringing together writing and publishing, literary inclusion, translating and translation, dialect and dialog, atypical modes of speech, and the generational, political, ecological, and experimental elements that add to the sublime literary cacophony.

Youngstown is a small city and Lit Youngstown is a newish organization, so it's pretty great when proposals come in from throughout the Eastern U.S., and also from the region. All year Lit Youngstown hosts local events, and we know there is enough interest to fill a room. But when people drive, bus, fly, train in from as far away as Michigan, Maine and Florida, they bring their voices and experience to our table, enriching our sense of being in a larger community.

And we like showing off our place to those who may only know Youngstown from sad (and true) statistics. We have been hit pretty hard. The arts have always been important here, but now they are a primary driver of quality of life and economics. We love being a small part of that. 

If the literary arts are your jam--as a reader, writer, translator, student, teacher, editor, librarian, bookstore owner--consider yourself invited to this rich conversation. If you'd like to submit a proposal, information on that is here. And as we say, write on.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Lit Youngstown Presents Holly Christensen & Chris Gibowicz

I was in one of the first graduating classes of the Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts. I knew a few people going through more established programs, and I was sometimes envious of their accomplished classmates and program grads. We can learn a lot from those paving the way.

But now that we've been around the block a time or two, NEOMFA's grads are doing all kinds of interesting things. I'm looking forward to hosting my classmate and creative nonfiction writer Holly Christensen at Lit Youngstown's February First Wednesday reading. While she was in the program, Holly's life was radically changing--but whose wasn't? She's now a columnist for the Akron Beacon Journal, giving expression to family life, including the experience of raising a daughter with Down syndrome.
L. Holly Christensen, R. Chris Gibowicz

Holly will be reading with Chris Gibowicz, an educator in Alliance whose poetry encourages mindfulness and self-care.I have enjoyed getting to know Chris in Lit Youngstown programs, included the Winter Writing Camp where she brings her nieces.

We'll follow up the reading with an open mic emceed by Jimmy Sutman. As if that weren't all enough happiness, we'll be celebrating National Nutella Day.

Come and join us if you're in the neighborhood.Wednesday, February 5 at 7:00 at the Soap Gallery in Youngstown.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Steve Thomas & Pamela Anderson Read in Youngstown

Looking forward to this reading! It will be a great ending to the 2019 First Wednesday Reader Series. I've known Steve a dozen years, since I was in the Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts, living in Cleveland and traveling around to the readings in the rich Cleveland poetry scene. Pam was in the wider NEOMFA circle, and it's been a pleasure getting to know her better.

We're also marking National Nachos Day with some blue corn chips and cheese sauce and whatever other toppings arrive on the scene. Come for the poetry, stay for the nachos. Thank you, ancestors, for the invention of warm cheese.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

The Compost Reader

After being a finalist several times, my full-length manuscript has been accepted for publication at Accents Publishing.

This is meaningful to me on a few levels. I had the great pleasure of interviewing the editor Katerina Stoykova a few years ago for Best American Poetry Online. I was a guest interviewer for Nin Andrews's series Meet the Press. Nin and I loved Katerina's responses.

I am also an admirer of Katerina's work. Her poetry collection The Porcupine of Mind is terrific, and in fact, inspired a poem that was published in Diode. I also loved her edited anthology of Bulgarian poetry, The Season of Delicate Hunger, many of which she translated, herself. I think we should be reading more work in translation, and if you agree, you'll enjoy exquisite collection.

Katerina seems to one of those people who is everywhere doing all things, and doing them well, and I so look forward to working closely with her. The Compost Reader will come out in mid-2020, and I just can't wait.