Announcement: My Poetry Collection, Soul Picked Clean

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I am incredibly honored to announce that my first book of poetry, Soul Picked Clean, will be published by Crisis Chronicles Press in early 2019!

Crisis Chronicles Press was founded by John Burroughs in 2008. They’ve published writers from all over the world, in every continent except Antarctica, and from time to time give special emphasis to great Ohio poets. Crisis Chronicles recently published their 100th title.

I will also be appearing at the Massillon Library Local Author Fair on Saturday, November 10th from 1030am – 1pm. I will post updates about the book and future readings as information becomes available. Thank you!

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Book Review: Blood Work by Kisha Nicole Foster

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Blood Work by Kisha Nicole Foster is a thoughtful, moving collection of verse from one of Cleveland’s many great poets. Since her first collection was published, her style has evolved to become more visual, more elegant–relying less heavily on sound and more on the written form. Metaphors rather than multiple rhymes.

These are poems about family: specifically her father and son. However, the loss and regret felt over interactions with family are universal and relatable. The visceral connections of blood are used, as the title implies, as well as other metaphors. For example, she speaks about wooden roller coasters in both “Wooden Siamese Cats” and “I Smiled Back.”

[from “Wooden Siamese Cats”]

A wooden roller coaster

you and I

looping through air.

An unauthorized aerial act

of understanding.

She also references testimony in “Forcing Smiles” and (again) “I Smiled Back”, two complimentary poems placed next to each other in the collection.

[from “Forcing Smiles”]

you said whether you lived or died

you would be testimony

and

[from “I Smiled Back”]

When we talked on the phone,

he told me that this thing was life or death.

That if he lived he was going to be a testimony

and if he died he was going to be a testimony.

I wanted to overlook the death part.

I didn’t really need those words in my ears.

The shared use of key words and images makes the entire collection stronger. All the poems are so connected, each one feels like part of a larger narrative. Her streamlined approach uses straight forward language to eloquently convey deeply felt emotions. I know I felt emotional reading her words, especially the ones about her father, since it connected me to my own father’s loss a couple years ago. It’s beautiful.

So if you are a fellow poetry lover, I suggest you get this book immediately. If you are lucky enough to live in the Cleveland area, you can purchase it from Kisha Nicole Foster directly at a poetry event; otherwise, you can contact her through her FaceBook page. I’m sure you will enjoy these verses as much as I did.

POEM: Mourning Dandelions

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“Mourning Dandelions”

 

I walk in my front yard, the dawn

brings out golden lions

lounging in emerald grass.

Their teeth drip sunlight.

Perhaps later, I will

harvest bright blossoms for

an herbal infusion, light and sweet,

to celebrate May’s arrival.

 

Then I hear the lawnmower’s low growl.

Those sharp lion teeth can’t survive

the sharper blades cutting, splitting,

ripping them from the ground until

 

they come back again

Bright and beautiful.

Nothing keeps them down for long.

 

Upcoming events:

May 4th

Star Wars Day: look for events in your area, follow social media posts and celebrations, or just celebrate the franchise in your own way at home!

May 4th-5th

25th Annual Dandelion Festival at Breitenbach Wine Cellars! I used to take my son to this every year when he was little. There is a dandelion picking contest every year for the little kids, who then turn the blossoms into dandelion jelly. There are vendors and tours of the winery, dandelion wine and jelly for sale, and the big event is the annual Dandelion cookoff!

May 5th

Free Comic Book Day falls on the first Saturday of every May. Participating Comic Book stores around the country give away special edition FCBD comics to the delight long time comic book fans and the enticement of new ones. The special editions are created to be stand alones, so you don’t need to worry about jumping into the middle of an unfamiliar series. Many stores also hold costume contests and giveaways, so don’t miss out!

May 25th

Towel Day is a fan created holiday in honor of Douglas Adams, creator of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and other series, former Doctor Who writer, and all around hoopy frood. In addition to such activities as learning to fly or drinking (Terran versions of) Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters, fans conspicuously wear towels on this day in order to call attention to the author’s work. The idea is drawn from The Guide itself:

“A towel, [The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy] says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-boggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.”

I’m sure there are more obscure holidays this month that I’ve missed, but at least I’ve called your attention to my favorites. Go forth, and May the Fourth be with you…always.

 

*I wrote today’s poem in honor of the Dandelion Festival this weekend.

***image courtesy of http://publicdomainpictures.net/

 

POEM: Young at Heart

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“Young at Heart”

 

The oldest person I have known

had paper pale skin that hung

in sheets off her

frail emaciated frame,

a thin wisp of a woman

with silver white hair

and glasses with lenses so thick

they opaqued with light

or magnified her

round eyes anime large,

the bright blue orbs

of a young pretty girl

trapped in an old woman’s body.

 

She wore flowers in her hair.

 

 

 

If you enjoyed that poem, please come to the Massillon Public Library’s Local Author Fair on Saturday, April 14th from 11am – 2pm where I will be reading, along with other talented local authors.

Thank you for visiting. I hope you enjoyed the poem.

.

*This poem was inspired by the day 9 prompt for National Poetry Month, courtesy of Cuyahoga Library

*image courtesy of http://publicdomainpictures.net/

 

Current Events: Writers’ Con Season is Upon Us!

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2016 view of Eastman Reading Garden at the Main Branch of Cleveland Public Library

Literary Cleveland’s INKubator conference takes place tomorrow, Saturday the 29th, from 8:30 am – 5 pm, at the Main Branch of the Cleveland Public Library. If you are interested in going to this completely free writers’ conference, there’s still time to register for craft talks and workshops. Instruction is given by experienced writers in different genres, in everything ranging from poetry and comics to researching nonfiction books. Since this is an all day conference, you may want to pack a lunch to eat in the library’s lovely Eastman Reading Garden. Between events you may also want to stop at the library’s Superman exhibit, basically the closest thing there is to a Superman museum, since Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created Superman while living in this great city.

There’s always plenty of smaller writing events taking place in Northeast Ohio as well, such as the bi-monthly Poetry Workshop, another free event at the Cleveland Main Library. The next meeting will be on Saturday, August 12th, from 10:30 am to 12:30pm. If you’d like to get the most out of the experience, be sure to bring about a dozen copies of a poem you would like to get feedback on–although if you’d like to just sit in, that’s perfectly welcome as well. Either way, you’ll be sure to learn more about the craft!

And it’s still early, so you have plenty of time to get ready for the annual Western Reserve Writers’ Conference on Saturday, September the 23rd. It’s another completely free writers’ conference, this time hosted by the South Euclid-Lyndhurst Branch of Cuyahoga Library!

Also, I’d like to leave you with a friendly reminder to check your local libraries as well as the Literary Cleveland website for more free (and sometimes not) writing events in the Northeast Ohio area. Even if you are not blessed to live near two of the top ten library systems in the entire country, chances are your local library will do everything they can to support their writers–so take advantage of every opportunity.

 

Current Events: April and May 2017

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First of all, thank you for visiting! Normally, I post either poetry or short fiction, but every so often I like to share events going on in my area of Ohio. I try to update this blog once every two weeks.

I’m not sure how you made your way here, but I’ve recently attempted to consolidate my brand by updating my blog addresses and emails. This blog can be found via both https://catrussellwriter.wordpress.com/ and http://ganymeder.com/ . My other blog, which is more formal and serves as a resume, can be found at https://authorcatrussell.wordpress.com/ . My updated email, should you wish to contact me about my writing, is authorcatrussell@outlook.com .

Second, on to the fun stuff! There are several literary and creative holidays coming up, both internationally and locally, that I would love to share with you. Behold!

Saturday, April 29th

TABLETOP DAY: A wonderful geeky holiday for those who love tabletop gaming–from Dungeons & Dragons to card games like FLUXX! This may not seem very literary at first, but just think of all the storytelling and creativity involved in role-playing games. Plus, it’s just FUN. If you like, you can watch some TableTop via YouTube to help get into the mood; think Celebrity Poker meets Nerds.

Sunday, April 30th

CUYAHOGA LIBRARY POETRY OPEN MIC: The South Euclid-Lyndhurst branch of the Cuyahoga Library is finishing off National Poetry Month by providing a platform for anyone who writes poetry to share with an audience.

Come between 1:30 and 3:30, especially if you have written to one of the prompts they’ve provided during the month of April!

Thursday, May 4th

STAR WARS DAY: Watch out for deals and events at your local bookstores and comic book shops, because *ahem*

May the Fourth be with you…Always.

Saturday, May 6th

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY: This day is exactly what the name implies; it’s a day when comic book shops give away specially-printed FCBD editions of comics for free. You can visit the FCBD site to see what comics will become available, though each comic shop (that chooses to participate) decides which comics they will be giving away. Participating shops may also have special events such as cosplay costume contests, comic artist signings, and other giveaways. To find out which stores are participating in your area, simply visit the site and do a location search.

Wednesday, May 10th

HOOKS AND BOOKS: The Barberton Library hosts its monthly meetup up for crafters and bibliophiles at the local Kave Coffee Bar (584 W. Tuscarawas Ave.). Knitters, crocheters, and other needlepoint crafters are welcome to bring their latest project to work on and share whatever book they are reading. They also have a Pinterest group to share projects and book recommendations!

Thursday, May 25th

TOWEL DAY: This fan-created holiday honors and promotes the work of the late great Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, the Dirk Gently books, and Last Chance to See. There are tons of events around the globe, but the main way to bring attention to this holiday is by conspicuously wearing or carrying a towel with you wherever you go. For as The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy points out:

A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you — daft as a brush, but very very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have “lost.” What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

Hence a phrase that has passed into hitchhiking slang, as in “Hey, you sass that hoopy Ford Prefect? There’s a frood who really knows where his towel is.” (Sass: know, be aware of, meet, have sex with; hoopy: really together guy; frood: really amazingly together guy.

And, of course, if you haven’t already read his books, the best way to honor an author is to read his work. If you can not afford to buy a book, simply visit your friendly neighborhood library either in person or via its online digital library. Trust me. His books are amazing.

I hope you are able to participate in at least some of these activities, and I wish you all the best! Have a lovely week!

 

Akron Art Museum’s New Garden

I learned a couple months ago about Free Thursdays at the Akron Art Museum, located near Summit Arts and Akron Makerspace. I brought some quarters so I could park at a meter, and it only took a few minutes to walk to the museum. I have visited the museum infrequently in the past, less frequently after its remodel several years ago* when it began charging for admission, but a few months ago I found out about their Thursday specials and began stopping by more often.

As a regular visitor to the nearby Akron Makerspace (formerly SynHak), I have become familiar with the area near South Summit Street in downtown Akron. There are meters for parking on South Summit, costing a quarter per fifteen minutes, and they are just a block away from the museum!

Every Thursday, the Akron Art Museum allows people to visit without charge. Lockers are available by the first floor restrooms for $.50, which is refunded once you return the key to the locker, and visitors are encouraged to take advantage of them. My last Thursday visit I brought my son to see the Mark Mothersbough Myopia exhibit, which we both enjoyed. I had also heard about the museum’s new park, a garden area behind the museum, but during my last visit it was raining. This time, it wasn’t.

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Walking towards the museum, I cut through a parking lot and saw the sign for the Bud and Susie Rogers Garden. Immediately behind the sign is a plain concrete area with a metal sculpture. At least I thought it was a sculpture, but then I spotted the can of drumsticks. I spent the next few minutes cheerfully hitting different metal pieces and making happy noises. Some of those noises were even made with the drumsticks.

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I’ve begun a regimen of daily walking and was hoping to use the park for that day’s jaunt, though the park was not as large as I had anticipated. Still, the concrete area turned into a path that zigzagged through carefully manicured patches of grass, flowers, and other flora.

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Once inside the museum, I passed the cafe  (which I was pleased to note also had vegetarian options) and deposited my bulky bag in a locker. Unencumbered, I climbed the front steps to the main gallery.

Some of the exhibits I’d seen before, such as It’s Not Easy Being Green (one of my favorites), but others I had not. I was particularly taken with a photorealistic painting of a shop window which appeared normal at first blush, but upon closer inspection seemed confusing–the layers of reflection weren’t as realistic as they first appeared.

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One piece reminded me of an elaborate afghan. I was puzzled, then delighted, to discover it was composed entirely of flattened bottle caps and copper wire. I love when artwork upcycles discarded materials!

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Another one was created with painted geometric shapes and splotches over a map, which reminded me of Edwin A. Abbott’s Flatland. I could imagine the circles pompously looking down on those poor lines.*

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There was also a photographic exhibit of National Park Service sites, and this one struck me as particularly beautiful and sad. The image is actually many photos mounted together, giving the entire work a picture window feel.

I would have spent more time at the museum if I could, but before I saw everything I needed to leave. There is simply way too much artwork on display to really appreciate in a single visit, but fortunately I can afford to return on future Thursdays.

 

*Truthfully, the remodel expanded the area the museum has and the building is much nicer than in the past. Now, in addition to the added space, both the interior and exterior of the building look like functional artwork. It was just that the cost was prohibitive for me until I learned about Free Thursdays.

**I asked @AkronArtMuseum if they minded if I posted the photos I took from my Thursday visit, and they very kindly granted me permission to use them on my blog for this post.
***The world of Flatland is populated by 2d geometric shapes whose place in society is determined by the number of sides they possess. The highest ranking individuals are “circles”–not true circles but polygons whose sides are so numerous they are almost indistinguishable from circles. Rank lowers with the number of sides, with the poor lines being the lowest rank; all lines are female.