Sunday, December 28, 2014

On the Road with my New Chapbook

I was thrilled to pieces when so many friends and supporters came to my release for my chapbook I Left My Wings on a Chair (Kent State Press). We had a beautiful space, the studio of painting professor Dragana Crnjak. Her paintings would make a phenomenal book cover, right?

It was great hearing so much laughter. Some of my poems are grim, I know, but I like messing around with humor as well.
I brought a lot of food that night. I enjoy planning a big spread and trying new recipes. One of the new recipes was Martha Washington’s Great Cake. It called for something like 10 eggs, so much butter and sugar, lots of fresh fruit and nuts, wine and brandy. After baking for an hour, it was spread with a layer of meringue and baked for another hour until it was enclosed with a crackly crust. Mine was weird, though: the meringue stayed tacky, and wherever we bumped it, it made a mess.

Before the reading, someone cut a piece and the whole molten center came pouring out. I realized later that because it was an unleavened cake, the usual tests for doneness didn’t work. I think at some points in my life I would have been undone by this culinary failure, but we all just rolled with it. The outside was tasty, and someone suggested the batter would make an incredible pancake. Reader, it did. I scooped it out, added some baking power, and voila! 

I had waited several months to schedule that reading, since Americorps VISTA prohibits participants from any outside income. I finished my (great) VISTA year on Nov. 14, the reading was on Nov. 16, and I’m really excited about the readings coming up in this new year and grateful for the invitations.

On Wed. Feb. 11, I will be reading with fellow Wick Poetry Center chapbook winner Alex Fabrezio at 7:30 in the May Prentice House on the Kent State campus.

Tues March 3 at 6:30, I will be at the boutique micro-winery Your Vine or Mine? at 154 Main St., Painesville, Ohio.

Mon. March 9 at 7:30 I will be reading with Megan Erwin at Mahall’s, 13200 Madison Ave. in Lakewood, Ohio. I love this historic and charming bowling alley. Megan is a good friend and former classmate, and I'm a big fan.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Youngstown Cash Mob Hangs Out

Our first of two October cash mobs is upon us!
Join us Sat. Oct. 4th, from 5:30-8:30 at the
Encore Shop at 4427 Logan Way,
for a fall fashion show
and fundraiser for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer.
There will be scrumptious appetizers and wine tasting, and many vendors of clothing and accessories. It is sure to be an enjoyable evening. Grab your best girl and come on out. Tickets are $10 at the door. Even if you've taken a solemn vow not to add anything to your closet, come down for a good cause.

Our second October gig will be at
Loose Rack Billiards and Santa Fe Southwestern Café
3207 Mahoning Ave.
Fri. Oct. 17 from 4:00-10:00.
This will be a whiz-bang night as well, since we’re being co-sponsored by My City Hangouts! Check out this new app that lets you know all the great public places and attractions in our area.
They will have a tent and there will be a DJ from 4:00 to 7:00. Jamie is working on booking a band for 8:00. Jamie’s going to keep the café open until 10:00 so we can enjoy burritos while we play pool and hang out. Keep up with the details on the My City Hangouts app. Come on down for the last cash mob of the year to congratulate Jamie on her new digs and have some fun. We all have a lot to celebrate.

Our November cash mob will be a sharing of local food growers and vendors on our Facebook page. Think Thanksgiving. How to make your T-Day the localist. Where to get a locally raised gobbler or artisan bread to stuff it? What about squash? Corn and beans for succotash? (My grandmother made succotash--did yours?) Spuds? Greens? Cider? Wine? Pumpkin? Cream for whipping? Maybe you want something that isn't grown in Ohio, like pineapple for the famous family jello, or jello, cranberries, coffee. What locally owned market sells them? Maybe you'd like your ingredients to come ready to serve. Who sells pumpkin pie with a perfect crust, or smooth gravy, or cranberry sauce you can wiggle out of the can? Where can you get Ohio popcorn or maple syrup for your post-Thanksgiving guests? I am thankful for the local food options that have grown up in just the last few years, and of course some have been around for generations.

Our Buy Local for the Holidays in December rounds out another year of cash mobs. We have been to the downtown, looking at gifts for men at Silver’s, or for teenagers at Geo’s Music. We drank wine at Halliday’s Winery, craft beer over dogs at Suzie’s Dogs & Drafts and mango juice over curry at Bombay Star. We picked up boutique clothes at One Closet and stuff for the house at Re Arrangements and Mr. Darby’s. We picked out gifts at Hubbard Ohio Gift Shop and Center of Attention. We have talked to hard-working business owners who have a great faith in our community. I have met many of you and heard stories about the businesses that used to be here or there. Together, we’re working to keep the ones we have up and running.

I’m going to take a few months to think about how we might move forward in the most dynamic way. Meanwhile, I look forward to seeing you Sat. night and on the 17th.

Here’s to the strength, resilience and humor of this place we call home.

Cash mob: like flash mob, only the singing is optional.

Vintage trunks at Mr. Darby's Antique & Collectible Emporium

Tons of books at Pig Iron Press

Incredible food at Bombay Star

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Youngstown Cash Mob Dons its Derby at Mr. Darby's

What a whole lot of cash mobbery awaits us!

Our September cash mob is coming up this Saturday, Sept. 20 from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. at
Mr. Darby’s Antique & Collectible Emporium
11734 South Ave. Ext.
North Lima.
Stop by anytime! With 88 vendors, I think you will agree that this cash mob has something to offer everyone. One vendor has a steam punk room. What! Crates, blankets, stuffed squirrels, Halloween decorations, milk paint, enamel cookware, comic books, antique trunks and typewriters. Not making this up. Bring your grandma and ask her what she remembers. New stuff, too. Bring your Christmas list! Bring your kids! North Lima is a short drive south of Boardman (we venture out of Youngstown a few times a year), and there is a big parking lot.

The last two cash mobs of 2014 will be in October. We’re mixing it up with evening events! The Encore Shop at 4427 Logan Way Plaza is hosting a fall fashion show with food, wine, fashion and shopping on Sat. Oct. 4 from 5:30-8:30. The appetizers will be catered by Kennsington Golf Club in Canfield. And to make it even more impressive, this event is a fundraiser to research a cure for breast cancer. Tickets are $8.00 in advance or $10.00 at the door.

Later in October, we are co-sponsoring an event with My City Hangouts!!!!! It’s great to find a gig dedicated to spotlighting locally owned hangouts for kicking back and enjoying an evening with your fellow Youngstownians. We are putting a fantastic event together at Santa Fe Southwestern Café, inside Loose Racks Billiards at 3207 Mahoning Ave., on Sat. Oct. 17 from 4:00 to 10:00 p.m. Come on down for a burrito and a game of pool.

In November, we are shopping locally for the big T-Day dinner, so if you are sourcing your ingredients from a local farm or unique, independent vendor, you might save your receipts so you can enter our Thanksgiving contest. More on that soon!

And we don’t try to mob December, but encourage everyone to support the mom-and-pops.

I did a little traveling this summer and everywhere I went, I drove by billboards and banners encouraging people to buy local. And speaking of banners, I'm so proud of the Youngstown Business Incubator, named the best business incubator in the world. We're not the only ones who think that locally owned businesses will make our economy strong!

Try someplace new this week, if you have a chance, and I hope you will also put these events on your calendar if those squares aren’t already packed full. Our businesses are crazy excited about their cash mobs, and a big turnout makes it tremendously fun. It’s nice to feel appreciated, right?

I appreciate you. A cash mob of one wouldn’t be much of a mob. That’s the best thing about Youngstown, I think: the people and their generous spirits. We’ve been through a lot, and we don’t take our successes for granted.

Thanks for helping us spread the word!

Cash mob: like flash mob, only the singing is optional.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Review: American Dervish by Steven Reese

 The poetry collection American Dervish by Steven Reese deserves recognition for its insights and command of language. From the opening line, it grabs the reader by both hands and takes her for a beautiful spin, where landscape and the music of culture whirl by. With his intellect and pacing, Reese controls the dance, and the reader relaxes into it, feeling a range of emotions. Although in these times it’s a cliché, I laughed out loud in some places, and the gut-punch sadness of other places made the laughter sweeter. 

One of my favorite poems was featured on Verse Daily. It begins:  

While we're asleep, the brain tends
To the animals.
It drops the electric fence
And they hurry out, they've waited all day.
They wander through town
Down the middle of streets, it's alright,
They know the benevolent mayor here
And his brother the butcher
Who sits outside the locked door
Of his shop and smokes
A joint, watching and laughing.
From the delightful title that sends me to the dictionary, I am hooked.  The poem continues to poke fun at our animal psyches, and our attempts at creating an intellectual society that is better than we are. More than mocking, it's a kind of sophisticated deprecation of our collectives selves that I appreciate, in a you-can-tease-me-if-it's-funny kind of way.

Several times I arrived at the end of a poem and realized I was holding my breath. Then I realized the whole one or two page poem had only one full stop. I found myself going back to see how the construction worked. I love it when a poem makes me think, how did he do that?
Reese offers the theory that America began with a quick-step, a clumsy thump-thump, then we dervished our way across the land, dizzy and ahead of ourselves, and here we are today, in love with the dance even if we don’t always understand it. 

 Our history personified might begin
as that B western scene where the liquored up villain
pulls six-shooters, says dance,
and starts blasting the ground out from under out feet--

we're pressed into it,
                         this hide-saving highstep
                  improvised in extremis, this whirling
that goes on even after the shooting stops
It is a complicated view, both critical and affectionate, of our complicated history. But the book’s zoom level moves in tight, as well. The breadth of this work is impressive, from Pilgrim Thomas Morton to John Chapman to Fallingwater to the tender domesticity of struggling to raise a son with Asberger’s, living through a father’s death, and loving a wife. 

Practice Elegy for my Father

This kite-flying wind, these slow-drift grays
Feathered with white, a rain that will be hours
Filling the shallow bird bath

Are all that's left of a storm that once launched
An exodus for shelter, then seized on the roofs
Of the emptied houses and peeled them back
Like the pull-tab lids of our cat food.

Steve Reese is among Ohio’s finest poets. His work is imaginative, poignant, witty and evocative, his mastery of storytelling, word play, imagery, movement, the line and the break, is so fine.

Cover image by Ohio artist Mary Farragher.