Peers at the Lit Cafe

11/11/08 | by steveg [mail] | Categories: Poetry, Literary Cafe

Peer \'pir\
1: one that is of equal standing with another : equal ; especially : one belonging to the same societal group especially based on age, grade, or status
2: companion
3 a: a member of one of the five ranks (as duke, marquess, earl, viscount, or baron) of the British peerage
b: noble
— Merriam Webster

This thursday, November 13 at 9:30pm, the Literary Cafe will celebrate my peers. These are poets that I have shared the butterfly stomach, the cold sweat, the self-doubt of being on a stage. They have, with me, exposed themselves to the gaze and the gawk of strangers. Even more vulnerable than the nakedness from the deficiency or absence of adequate apparel, the flinging of verse directly from our hearts created a respect and comradery. These are my peers.

I had the honor of sharing the third prize in this years Hessler Street Fair Poetry contest with Steve Thomas. Born and raised in Old Brooklyn before it was called old Brooklyn, he graduated from J F Rhodes a long ass time ago. Steve started writing in high school, and while working for a print shop in Berea went to Baldwin Wallace College but got side tracked from writing for 20 yrs or so by children, his business, and (get this) by being a professional bowler. He finally graduated from BW in December of 2006. The better half of the "Third Steves" has been published in The Mill in 1984-85 and again in 2006-07, as well as in Split Whiskey Bag-o-Zines, and The City e-zine. His natural talent for reading has just begun to be recognized in the area and has performed at Insights and at Macs Backs with Wendy Shaffer and Russ Vidrick.

Rachelle Gallant shared the stage with me at this year's Tremont Art & Culture Festival. She is a modern poet for the new world. With twenty-five years of English and Literary experience, her uniquely poignant work, looks into the everyday human condition. She is a talent of both poetry and photography, which she
fuses into art pieces that strike at the heart of life’s randomness. "Ray" is one of the founding members of the Hybrid Collective Gallery in Tremont and her artwork has been featured at Edison’s Pub.

Though this pair's humility will argue the converse, I was honored to share the limelight with these two gifted wordsters. They truly represent the 3rd definition of peer, noble. so come to the Literary Cafe Thurs. November 13 at 9:30 and hear what fine words are supposed to sound like. The Lit Cafe is at 1031 Literary Road in the Tremont Peerage of Cleveland.

Call Out for Help

10/18/08 | by steveg [mail] | Categories: Community, About me

Boys and Girls, I am doing the ridiculous and moving after a little more than a year in my present abode. Okay maybe that isn't too ridiculous, but I'm sure that moving back to the apartment I was at before this one is. So I'm slightly insane.

I'm staying in my beloved Tremont neighborhood to be close with all my dear artistic and poetic friends, and to keep with the rhythm of the hipster beat in the cool drinking holes. No surprise. Mind you, I really don't have that much stuff and really only need help with the bigger things. I've been migrating boxes for a few weeks already.

So I'm looking for some helping hands and backs to help me get back home. Trucks and SUVs will quicken the time. I'm going to do the big move next saturday october 25. Figure we meet here at 10am and finish by 1pm. I'll have good coffee and donuts to start and I'll buy lunch for my good helping buddies after.

Leave a comment or drop me an email or call for particulars. Thanks my dear poetic siblings.

Bad Poetry Need Not Apply

10/05/08 | by steveg [mail] | Categories: Poetry, Literary Cafe

The Literary Café poetry night does NOT believe in diversity. It has no time for checking how many of what type we have there. It does not worry about whether we are fair to all walks of society. It has no material assets, so cares naught if the self righteous boycotts, the overly sensitive protests, or the self proclaimed holders of judgment fines it, garnishes it, or blocks donations.

The Literary Café poetry night is biased, is exclusive, is pretentious. It spits in the eye of fashionable causes. It rebels against sanctimony. It has only one cause celebre. The Literary Café poetry night only cares about GOOD POETRY. For that, we go to the bulwarks. We fight for independence. We explore the outer reaches of Akron, the mists of Toledo, climb the heights of Canton, wade the bogs of Burton. It is poetry of quality that is important. The poets are not important. We care little who they are, where they are from, what to they look like, what’s their orientation, are they from the orient. Do they like me, do I like them. Did they pay a bribe, did I pay them a bribe. Do I ever pay anybody anything. It does not matter! Only the poetry matters!

And so this Thursday, yet another in a long line of second Thurdays, October 9 at 9:30pm, we have GREAT poetry on demand. And yes from poets who do not matter except they make great poetry. And maybe that is reason enough for us to laud and respect our two features, Mwatabu Okantah and Bridget Kriner.

I first heard Mwatabu Okantah about 6 six years ago when he was the guest poet at the old Cleveland Slam nights at the Beachland. I was just getting into the scene and trying to find out what poetry was about, when this gentle man in dreadlocks and a smile read poems of heart and struggle in a soft voice. Between a couple of poems, he stopped and made just one comment that was a poem in itself. One that I have held as the reason why poetry is important. He said, “I don’t vote. I write poems.” Then he went to his next piece and I was searching for him again ever since, and now he is here to show how powerful a poem is, even compared to a vote. Mwatabu is an accomplished poet, musician, educator and has been published and performed widely. We are fortunate to have him with us.

Mwatabu S. Okantah holds the BA in English and African Studies from Kent State University (1976) and the MA in Creative Writing from the City College of New York (1982). Currently, he is an Assistant Professor and Poet in Residence in the Department of Pan-African Studies at Kent State University. He also serves as Director of the Center of Pan-African Culture. Afew of his books are: Afreeka Brass (1983), Collage (1984), Legacy: for Martin & Malcolm (1987) and Cheikh Anta Diop: Poem for the Living—published as a limited trilingual edition in English, French and Wolof (1997). He lives in Akron, Ohio with his wife and five of his seven children.

A familiar face in Tremont is Bridget Kriner, who r.a. washington introduced to me at Civilization just as she finished her M.A. from CSU in 2005. I read her thesis that afternoon and it was then I knew I was in the presence of a great poet. She has been published in Poetry Motel and Whiskey Island, which she served as the poetry editor for a time. She can’t quite recall the last publication she was in, but knows that it was good. I chased her for reading at the Lit for years, but Thursdays is working night when she slings beers at a local bar and restaurant. During the day she works as a counselor at a fantastic abortion clinic in Cleveland and lives in our happy little Tremont neighborhood with her cats, Nora & Stanley. When she grows up one day, she hopes to finish her book of poems and that someone will publish it. She also needs to read at more venues so we can all get the benefit of her words.

The benefit of maintaining high standards is that diversity follows. We have very diverse personages, with diverse motivations, and diverse styles. And yet Mwatabu and Bridget are the same in their love of poetry and their talent to write it. True excellence is diversity, not the other way around. For the rest of us that keep struggling and trying to find our excellence, the Literary Café allows us to show our efforts in the open mic portion of the evening. So come, this Thursday, October 9 at 9:30pm to hear the accomplished and to share our toil. The Literary Café is at 1031 Literary Road in the excellent (hence diverse) Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland.

There are Poetry Readings and

09/23/08 | by steveg [mail] | Categories: Poetry, About me, Literary Cafe

there are poetry readings with MARY WEEMS.

I'm bopping around the Pacific Northwest these few days. I stopped at an open mic in the bar of a Thai restaurant last nite. A small and slightly clichey group were there. Friendly enough, but no greeter or welcome for new faces. The poetry was okay with a few highlights. Nothing retching bad, but I decided not to read due to the extra 3 hour jet lag.

Anyway they don't touch what we have in Cleveland so don't forget to come and see Mary Weems at the Literary Cafe this Thursday nite at 9:00pm for a SPECIAL poetry nite to launch her new book, An Unmistakable Shade of Red and the Obama Chronicles: Poems. The Lit Cafe is at 1031 Literary Road in Tremont.

Art, Culture, and Me

09/17/08 | by steveg [mail] | Categories: Poetry, Community, About me

The Tenth Annual Tremont Arts and Cultural Festival returns to Lincoln Park-Starkweather and West 14th Street this Saturday and Sunday, September 20 and 21 in Lincoln Park – 1208 Starkweather Avenue, in Cleveland’s historic Tremont neighborhood.

The mission of the Festival is to celebrate the cultural and artistic diversity of Tremont and Greater Cleveland by encouraging the artistic and cultural endeavors of its visual and performing artists. There will be fine art, sculpture, and original jewelry, children’s activities and programs, food booths, musicians and performers.

There is a big stage for music and dance entertainment and yours truly will be performing my poetry. I'm on at 11:45 on Saturday, so come down see some art, eat some diverse food, and listen to me pontificate in verse. Admission to the Festival is free and is a trolley stop on the Sparx Gallery Hop so you can see Ginley and her art as well.

Special Poetry Nites - Mary Weems

09/14/08 | by steveg [mail] | Categories: Poetry, Literary Cafe


I goofed up the date for this. The special nite for Mary Weems is NEXT WEEK, Thursday September 25 at 9:00pm. Sorry all.

maryweemsThe poetry never stops at the Lit café. Right on the heels of a magnificent second Thursday Night, we smack you in the head with another special night with one of our feature alumna, Mary Weems. So come down to Tremont this Thursday September 18 at 9:00pm and hear Mary read from her new book, An Unmistakable Shade of Red and the Obama Chronicles: Poems, her first full length tome from Bottomdog Press.

Dr. Mary E. Weems is the Poet Laureate of Cleveland Heights and an accomplished playwright, author, performer, and motivational speaker. Her work has been widely published in journals including the African American Review and xcp:Cultural Poetics, anthologies including Spirit & Flame: An Anthology of African American Poetry and Boomer Girls, and several books. She won the Wick Chapbook Award for her collection white in 1996, and in 1997 her play "Another Way to Dance" won the Chilcote award for The Most Innovative Play by an Ohio Playwright. Her last collection of poems, Tampon Class (Pavement Saw Press, 2005), is in its second printing. Mary Weems currently teaches in the English and Education departments at John Carroll University ands he give great hugs.

Some early comments on An Unmistakable Shade of Red:

…is the bomb. I found so many moments, so many moods, so many insights. Yours is the voice of compassion, of elegant rage. It is country but urban-wise.
-Lamont B. Steptoe

Yes, this writer is a woman, who knows that “every mouth’s its own love language, / lust’s first cousin.” And yes, she is a black woman, for whom the eyes of Barack Obama “are so deep brown / I see blue in them, / ocean water, / bones rising, / right fists raised.” And yes, like the rest of us, she’s getting older, “hair graying in places / I shouldn’t have hair.” But beyond all divisions, she is a poet, who knows that poetry is music, and music is “the first place Black and White / came together like unwritten notes / in a jazz composition.” In these poems Mary Weems both challenges and embraces America in all its turbulence and beauty.
We should be grateful.
-George Bilgere, author of Haywire

Remember, They Were Kids Once

09/10/08 | by steveg [mail] | Categories: Community, personal, humor, rant

Every year with only one exception, since that fateful year 2001, I have posted my memorial to two friends that lost their lives in the World Trade Center disaster. The fifth anniversary was turned into a governmental media event to justify a war based on lies. Victim families still did not receive promised help or compensation. I wasn't going to participate in the circus and give the warmongers a chance to manipulate the memory of my friends for their Machiavellian ends. My memory of my friends, Glen and Dennis, is too precious to be commodified.

When I posted last year, after putting up the pictures published by the New York Times Portraits of Grief, I realized that these were pictures of men I never knew. They had families and careers that I heard about but never shared. They had bellies like me and had lost some hair (not like me). I didn't really know the men in those pictures.

So this year I present my friends as I remember them. The boys that I grew up with, played soccer with, discovered girls with. The friends that helped shape my view on life. Glen Wall is on the left, picture is from 1975 I think. We were 13 years old.
Dennis Buckley is on the right from recreational soccer team that he captained (I was on a different team) in 1973. He was 11.

I am dedicating tonight's Literary Cafe Poetry Reading to them. If you come, try to remember that the victims were kids once, too.

All I Am Saying....

09/07/08 | by steveg [mail] | Categories: Poetry, Literary Cafe

A rare thing that our regular second Thursday Poetry Night at the Literary Café actually falls on a date that has transcending significance. This month, the month of my birth, the month of Virgos gone wild, September has our not-so-humble poetry venue falling upon the date that shattered the world view, that changed the way we treat strangers, the way we travel, what we hear, what we see, what we expect. That changed the skyline of my beloved home city. Yes, this second Thurday is 9/11 and beginning at 9:30pm we will commemorate and even celebrate this day with two of the finest poets in Cleveland, Peacenik Phil Metres and Tremont homegirl Amy Bracken Sparks.

I first met Philip Metres when we sat next to each other at dinner after a reading given by Elton Glazer at John Carroll University. He was serious, obviously intelligent, and very witty in conversation. I have enjoyed his writing in the ensuing years and has hit his stride this year by winning CSU’s Book Award with To See the Earth; by getting published in this quarter’s issue of the prestigious Field magazine; and just recently been honored by The Lit Center’s Writer and Their Friends award. Phil has been very active in the local peace movement, which makes him a very appropriate part of this evening’s program. As a poet and a translator whose work has appeared in numerous journals and in Best American Poetry (2002), his publications include the chapbooks Instants (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2006) and Primer for Non-Native Speakers (The Kent State University Press, 2004), the translation (with Tatiana Tulchinsky) Catalogue of Comedic Novelties: Selected Poems of Lev Rubinstein (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2004), and the translation A Kindred Orphanhood: Selected Poems of Sergey Gandlevsky (Zephyr Press, 2003). Recently, he published Behind the Lines: War Resistance Poetry on the American Homefront, Since 1941 (University of Iowa Press, 2007). He teaches literature and creative writing at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio. Were it not for Ellis Island, his last name would be Abourjaili, but he still responds to “Hey, Phil”.

Amy Bracken Sparks is one of the pioneers of the Lit Café poetry readings. Don’t believe me? Check out all the video on the 90’s poetry tab at the Literary Café website. I met her while I was writing for the nascent e-newletter and Amy was pushing through with a new literary and arts magazine, Angle. The goals of CC and Angle were similar so we would bump into each other often. When I actually started to live in Tremont, I started to learn what an amazing force for the arts she is. Amy is an award-winning critic, writer and poet. She has won top honors in film criticism from the Association of Alternative Newspapers in 1995, and Best Critic in Ohio in 1998 and Best Columnist in Ohio in 2000 from the Society of Professional Journalists, as well as numerous other press awards. She is the author of two books of poetry, Serious Red (Cleveland State University Poetry Center) and Queen of Cups (Burning Press) both, which I own autographed copies, and the recipient of TWO Ohio Arts Council Individual Fellowships and a residency at Headlands Center for the Arts in California. She has been published in American Poetry Review, Barn Owl Review, Hobble Creek Review, DMQ Review, Nimrod, Southern Poetry Review, Denver Quarterly, Whiskey Island, ArtCrimes, kiosk, situation, mirage period(ical), Angle, Taproot, Wray, Cleveland Slam Anthology, and others she can't remember or lost track of. Poems forthcoming in Harpur Palate and Gargoyle, and is currently online at wicked alice. She used to slam with the big boys, but now lives on a great lake, held in abeyance. Amy recently completed her MFA with the NEOMFA program in Ohio. We welcome her back to the neighborhood that loves her so dearly.

It should be an uplifting evening of quality poetry, of comradery in Peace, big P. Bring your words, your ideals about the possibility of No War, No More, of peace, of the elimination of violence, of the possibility of Nirvana. We will still have fun, of course. In fact we couldn’t do what we do without the peace that exists every second Thursday, 9:30pm at 1031 Literary Road in the Peace-loving neighborhood of Tremont in Cleveland, the home of the Literary Café.

No Grudges

08/10/08 | by steveg [mail] | Categories: Poetry, Literary Cafe

At the Literary Cafe, at least 96% of the events, speeches, and embarrassing activities that happen in the Lit, stay in the Lit. It is not quite Vegas, but then we have plenty of water and snow. It is our method of keeping a lid on things so the Feds or vigilantes don't get suspicious. It is also a way to prevent grudges from forming and its devastating repercussions. So in line with that philosophy, we maintain the open culture of forgiveness in spite of the imminent abandonment by one of our feature readers and an impersonal rejection letter for my book from the other. All this and more this Thursday August 14th at 9:30pm.

Okay, the reality is that Kent State's Wick Center sent the letter, not our reader, David Hassler. David is the program and outreach director for the Wick, where he conducts writing workshops in local schools and senior centers. He has received an Individual Artist Fellowship and an Artists and Communities grant from the Ohio Arts Council. The author of two books of poems, his most recent, Red Kimono, Yellow Barn, awarded him the Ohio Poet of the Year in 2006. With photographer Gary Harwood he is the author of the documentary book, Growing Season: The Life of a Migrant Community, which received the Ohioana Book Award, the Carter G. Woodson Honor Book Award, and was a Finalist for the Great Lakes Book Award. With Maggie Anderson, he is co-editor of Learning by Heart: Contemporary American Poetry about School and After the Bell: Contemporary American Prose about School. His poems and essays have appeared in Prairie Schooner, The Sun, DoubleTake/Points of Entry, Indiana Review,and other journals. And we will have to check if he, in fact, was one of the first line readers for this year's book contest. If he was......oh yeah. No grudges.

Our other reader is about to make her journey into life, by leaving us all behind....but as long she is happy (sigh), we won't hold it against her. Michelle Krivanek has been reading around the local scene at open mics and warehouse salons as she finished her BA in English from CSU. She has won the top prize in CSU's annual creative writing contest not once, but three times in a row! Michelle is abandoning Cleveland to pursue an MFA at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco. We will resent not seeing her pedal about Tremont anymore and though she claims she can kick your ass, I'll be waiting for the opportunity to see if she can prove it with me, the betraying b.... Oh wait, ah no grudges.

So come to the Literary Cafe to see and hear these two talented poets, even though they don't deserve it for treating me so poorly. I'll be waving my rejection letter around while pouting in the corner. That should be entertaining. When else but the second Thursday of the month, August 14th at 9:30pm and where else but the Literary Cafe located at 1031 Literary Road in the unforgiving neighborhood of Tremont in Cleveland.

A Hell of a Review from Jesus

07/21/08 | by steveg [mail] | Categories: Poetry, Literary Cafe

A packed house for the Lit Cafe reading with Dave Smith and Theresa Gottl included Jesus. Now I find poetry to be very uplifting and spiritual at times, but Nick sometimes says things that make some glance to heaven to check for a lightning bolt. However this time Jesus himself shlepped all the way over from Galilee Elyria to check out the scene and boy did he like it.

Yeah, it's my butt!

Of course, I am talking about relatively new myspace friend, John (Jesus Crisis) Burroughs. He did a great review of the night complete with tons of pix. He also read and sang a bit for the open mic and quickly made himself and his wife Geri a member of our Lit family. Check out his take on our hardly-ever-humble-anymore venue.

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