In the past year, I've been working on a collection of songs I'm calling "Time Won't Wait." They're a mix of poems that I've adapted and songs written as songs. The narrative thread that runs through the collection is the passage of time, from childhood to adulthood. It's about seeking moments that make time slow down in a busy, frenetic world, about how time changes your life perspective, and about how time takes its toll on Cleveland neighborhoods.
I'll be performing these songs, as well as a few classic covers, with some fabulously talented musicians -- Jen O'Leary on vocals, Aidan Plank on bass and Dan Bruce on guitar with special guest Ariel Karas on violin -- on Sunday, October 13th at 8 pm at the Happy Dog (W. 58th and Detroit Ave.). The cover is $5 and thanks to Brian Straw we'll be recording the gig. Afterwards, I'll put some songs on the site. Come be part of history! Ha, ha.
In the past few years, I have to admit that I've wrestled with my own interest in songwriting and music ... How does it fit in with my interest in writing? Can I be both a singer-songwriter and a poet/journalist/nonfiction writer at once? It certainly helps to work with great musicians that help me get better ... I think that's the trick, in the end, to find a community.
Who are the Bad Garfunkels? In my mind, it's me, Jen and whoever else decides to show up, ha, ha. Several years ago, Jen and I were playing together and we missed a vocal or harmony or something, and she said, "Sorry, I was a bad Garfunkel there." It stuck, and in my head that's always been our group name.
My essay, "Out and Back Again," which was published in Cleveland Magazine's Aug. 2019 issue, is now featured online on their home page here.
It's a struggle for many parents to get their kids out of the house, off screens and into nature. Especially living in the city, where there are safety issues and there aren't as many green spaces.
Katherine and I have perfected our method: lying. When we go to the Cuyahoga Valley, we call it a trip. An adventure. A walk with ice cream at the end of it. Anything but a hike, no, not that!
I'm continually amazed at how beautiful and secluded the Valley can feel once you're in it, and so close to the city. Sure, the highway sounds linger, but it's 30 mins. away ...
On Saturday, Sept. 21st from 12-1 pm, I'll be at Cleveland Public Library's main branch to explore and discuss place-based writing with local writer Damien Ware. We will read from our works and share our experiences living in and writing about Cleveland. Copies of my books How to Live in Ruins and The Shape of Home will be for sale along with Damien's recent works.
Click here for more info.
On Sunday, Aug. 25, the Cleveland Cultural Gardens will celebrate the 74th annual One World Day, a festival highlighting the 32 different cultures worldwide that are represented in the gardens as well as the 100-plus nationalities residing in Northeast Ohio.
The event will be a milestone for the cultural gardens, a completely unique entity that only exists in Cleveland, says Lori Ashyk, executive director of the Cleveland Cultural Gardens Federation. “I think it’s going to be bigger and better than ever and will help further our mission of peace through mutual understanding,” she says.
Read the full story in FreshWater Cleveland here.
"A decade after Ohio City leaders began trying to capitalize on the success of West 25th St. by luring new businesses to Lorain Avenue, local entrepreneurs are moving to this funky west side main street to take advantage of affordable rents and a newly emerging restaurant, retail, and nightlife scene."
Read the full story in FreshWater Cleveland here.
Cleveland Needs More than Painted Bike Lanes to create Safe Streets for Pedestrians and Cyclists. Is Vision Zero the Answer?
Read the full story in Cleveland Scene here. Cleveland.com covered protected bike lanes a few weeks later in this story.
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!