Come have a drink with us at the Happy Dog on Friday, April 19th! I will be debuting a collection of original songs with collaborators Jen O'Leary (voice), Daniel Bruce (guitar) and Aidan Plank (bass). $10 at the door (money goes to the band). Speaking of that ... I'm fortunate to be playing with an amazingly talented group of folks. Bios below ...
Jennifer Heinert O'Leary sings with the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus and lives in Ohio City with her family. She is Special Counsel to Cleveland City Council.
Dan Bruce is a recent transplant to Ohio after spending a decade as an important member of Chicago’s jazz community. He is active throughout the Midwest and nationally as a performer, recording artist, composer and educator. He has performed on more than twenty albums as a sideman, and is releasing his second album as a leader this summer. As a performer and recording artist, Bruce has had the opportunity to work with a number of eminent musicians including Seamus Blake, Ali Jackson, Dan Wall, Lynn Seaton, and The Cleveland Jazz Orchestra. Dan Bruce is a recent transplant to Ohio after spending a decade as an important member of Chicago’s jazz community. He is active throughout the Midwest and nationally as a performer, recording artist, composer and educator. He has performed on more than twenty albums as a sideman, and is releasing his second album as a leader this summer. As a performer and recording artist, Bruce has had the opportunity to work with a number of eminent musicians including Seamus Blake, Ali Jackson, Dan Wall, Lynn Seaton, and The Cleveland Jazz Orchestra.
A native of Oberlin, Ohio, bassist Aidan Plank enjoys performing a diverse range of music throughout Northern Ohio. He studied with bassist and composer David Morgan as well as with Kevin Switalski of the Cleveland Orchestra. Aidan is a graduate of Cleveland State University. Aidan has performed with Dan Wall, Joe Lovano, Judi Silvano, Joe Maneri, Janis Siegel, Frankie Avalon, Tierney Sutton, and many others. Aidan played baroque bass in the premier of Joseph-Nicolas-Pancrace Royer’s Le Pouvoir de l’Amour (composed in 1743) in 2002 at Oberlin College as well as in the world premier of Randall Woolf and Robin Stranahan’s ‘pop-up’ opera Frozen Community, produced by Real Time Opera in 2013. Along with enjoying playing in the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra, Aidan can currently be seen performing explorations of improvisation in duo with guitarist Daniel Lippel. Aidan teaches in the Jazz Studies program at Kent State University, as well as at Cuyahoga Community College’s “Jazz Prep Program”.
How to Live in Ruins is featured in the Feb. 2019 issue of Cleveland Magazine. Here's a quote from the story:
“Cleveland is the kind of place where, if you grew up here, it stays with you and becomes the master narrative that shapes your experiences,” says the Cleveland State University graduate. “These poems get at the universal experience of living in the Rust Belt, a place that is dying and being remade at the same time.”
Read the full story here.
Here are some photos from last night's book launch at Loganberry Books. It was so much fun! Many thanks to Jim Garrett and Diane Vogel Ferri for their wonderful readings of their work. Pick up a copy of their poetry books, as well as How to Live in Ruins, at Loganberry or another bookstore. Support your indies!
Last night, I attended my final event as executive director of Lit Cleveland, our annual holiday mixer at CLE Urban Winery (click on the image to the left to watch the video). Of course, as soon as we'd set the date I learned from a fellow board member whose kids attend the same school as mine, Campus International School in Cleveland, that our winter concert was the same night. After a series of emails to board members, as well as assigning new executive director Christine Howey her first task of "hauling shit," as she memorably put it, I delegated the event setup (something I normally would have done with volunteers) to them. Man, that felt good. And a perfect hand-off, in a way. Not that the job involves hauling a lot of shit ... well, yeah, it kinda does. OK, I guess it's actually the perfect metaphor for transitioning, since being director entails logistical behind-the-scenes magic-making to create events and programs (AKA "hauling shit").
I spent the night catching up with old friends, receiving compliments, and generally trying to avoid doing any work or talking shop. It was nice to see so many people (the room was full with about 60 people) and know that my work had made a difference in the community. Board member Aaron Schmidt stood on a chair (we also lacked a sound system) and feted my work over the past four years, and then I stood on the same chair and talked about what it's meant to me to help start a now-successful literary arts nonprofit in Cleveland and thanked everyone for their support. As I told folks at the event, I feel lucky to have been the vessel (wait, that sounds too religious -- vehicle? beast of burden? jalopy?) that has helped start and grow this community-supported organization. Now, others will help bring Lit Cleveland to the next level.
I have a feeling I'll write more about this later, but here are five takeaways I'd like to share about being a nonprofit executive director.
One of my memories from last night's event were all the people who came up to me and said, we'll still see you next year, right? It's satisfying to know that there's still a place for me here, if nothing else as a teacher. Next year, I'm looking forward to finding more balance in my life, helping with Lit CLE, and cheering on the next executive director. Onward!
Loganberry Books on Larchmere has always been one of my favorite bookstores. The space is beautiful, it's locally-owned, and it's big enough that you can get lost in it. (Be careful. You might find yourself coming out an hour later with eight books in hand -- not that that's a bad thing.)
I'm holding my book launch party there on Friday, January 11th from 630-8:30 pm. Please join me. There will be wine, some snacks and good conversation. I'll be reading with poets Jim Garrett and Diane Vogel Ferri, who also have new books out from Finishing Line Press.
In Jim's new chapbook The Sound of Water, he "returns to his summers as a boy on the beaches of the Jersey shore," as George Bilgere writes in his blurb of the book. "You can taste the salt water in these poems and hear the waves and seagulls and the ancient laughter of his family on the beach."
Diane's new chapbook The Volume of Our Incongruity draws from personal experiences over a lifetime. "These are poems for our times, stirring a compelling swirl where the past intersects with the present, where hope for the future can spring from a single sonogram," writes Gail Bellamy.
I had time, albeit not as much as I wanted, to dig into some reading, watching and listening along with seeing friends and family and stuffing myself with turkey over Thanksgiving break. Here are some recommendations:
I got to meet one of my writing heroes, Susan Orlean, on Saturday at Cleveland Public Library. She did a Q&A with a group of Lit Cleveland members and other writers who had attended a morning workshop on How to Create Creative Nonfiction. One of the things she talked about was how to organize your writing: "You can be the most beautiful writer in the world, but if you can't organize well, it won't work," she said. Orlean writes ideas down on note cards and then moves them around in order to visualize how they'll be presented within the book. While writing The Library Book, which has four separate story lines, she began telling people about the book and listening to herself as she did it. "I talked about the stories out loud a lot to begin feeling out the organization," she told us. She also suggested studying other books you admire and love: "Look at other books as structural models. Learn from them."
When I was editor of Fresh Water Cleveland from 2014-2015, I worked closely with Nikki Delamotte on several stories. She was a rising talent then, of course, and everyone knew it. She readily agreed to serve on Literary Cleveland's board in 2016, and then jumped off when she landed her job at Cleveland.com later that year. A lot of us at Fresh Water cheered because we knew she'd bring a smart, youthful energy to the job and that she'd write about cool stuff happening in the city, which is sorely needed.
Nikki's tragic death earlier this week, which left many of us stunned and sad, made me want to pay small tribute by reading my favorite Fresh Water stories by her. I love these pieces on historic buildings being renovated in Cleveland, young hispanic business owners breaking out of the box, and people changing the conversation about Cleveland. (And man, it reinforces how kind she was that she took on these lengthy, sprawling stories at all -- any one of these business owners or individuals being profiled could have been a great story on its own.)
To donate to Nikki Delamotte's memorial fund to help her grieving partner and mother, check out the GoFundMe site.
Story Club Cleveland asked me to be a featured performer on Wednesday night at their west side show at Forest City Brewery. I'm glad I said yes (and hopefully they are too). I told a story about raising my daughter in the era of Trump, while others told stories about moving to Cleveland, traveling and running marathons. The other featured storyteller was Liz Ferro, who told her own powerful story of surviving foster care and sexual abuse and how it led to her amazing work with girls through her nonprofit organization Girls with Sole.
One of the things that struck me about the evening was how well-versed the crowd clearly was in the form, and how kind they were to each performer. The individuals who took the open mic slots had some ideas of what they wanted to talk about, but they were not reading from a script or their notes, and that made it all the more fun and interesting. I guess in our digital age, people feel the desire to gather over a glass of beer and tell stories to each other. Aw. Plus the beer is good and the venue is fantastic.
OCFB: When did you begin writing poetry?
LC: I started writing poetry in high school. Although I was writing short stories in middle school, in high school I discovered poetry through my English teacher at University School, Kevin Kay. We completed a poetry unit in which I read poems like “Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hadyn (a Detroit poet), “Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio” by James Wright (an Ohio poet) and others. I fell in love with their lyrical voices and that was it for me.
As time progressed, I became interested in other genres of writing – songwriting, journalism and creative nonfiction. But I have always come back to poetry.
OCFB: Congratulations on the publication of How to Live in Ruins . Last year you published your first poetry collection, The Shape of Home and now your second collection will be released in November. Does the new collection expand upon the ideas present in the first?
LC: My first collection braids together poems about growing up in Northeast Ohio with pieces about urban parenting, and the whole endeavor in set in a recessionary environment. I’m exploring themes of creating your own identity amidst the echoes and influences of the past. How to Live in Ruins tells the next chapter of the story – one couple moving into and raising kids in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood of Cleveland, a place that might appear “ruins” when viewed from the outside. The poems grapple with challenges facing urban neighborhoods like crumbling schools, homelessness, people losing their homes to foreclosure. They’re personal but also political.
Click here to read the whole interview and check out the work of OCFB.