Greatness isn’t achieved without a few follies and this poetry event was no exception to either. At first I thought that we were being punked by Gilbert & Sullivan or that Rod Serling would poke his head out from behind the stacks and say “gotcha!” Such was not the case. The follies were the christening of a great poetry event. So like El Santo and White Venus, Cathie and I tag-teamed our La Parka Negra and emerged victoriously. I won’t bore you with the details, but yes, there is poetry in wrestling and definitely wrestling involved in poetry events.
One worry that we didn’t have to deal with was setting up for the event. The marvelous staff at the Barnes and Noble bookstore generously takes care of that for each event, taking a huge amount of work and stress off of our shoulders. I love coming in and seeing the very welcoming and homey arrangement of tables and chairs for the reading and the mic ready to go. Such great support allows us to devote our attentions on those attending.
We were also not short on fabulous open mic readers and outstanding features! Dani Hedlund, the CEO of Tethered by Letters and Editor in Chief of F(r)iction magazine, joined us from Colorado. Our first featured speaker of the evening, Ms. Hedlund set the room on fire with her humor and passion for writing.
I sat in awe as she recounted the events of her life. She wrote her first book as a young teen and published it at 18 years of age. The experience of which led her to start her own non-profit at 19 years of age. Knowing first-hand just how frustrating and disappointing the publication process can be and how close she herself came to giving up inspired Ms. Hedlund change the landscape of publishing. Instead of enjoying her success, she wondered how many other writers had their hearts broken by rejection, put their “manuscripts in a shoe box and shoved it under the bed. And that’s where it’s going to die; a book that could really change the way we think about things.” Such a sad realization was unacceptable to her and she took action. Lacking the necessary funds and knowledge of how to start a non-profit were no problem for Ms. Hedlund. Armed with determination to succeed, she researched and acquired what she needed and created Tethered by Letters and from that, F(r)iction magazine. Conjoined in creativity and art, both companies give artists and readers a global reach.
At just 12 years old, “Tethered by Letters is on five different continents, has a staff of 56 and has nurtured 2.3 million authors.” F(r)iction was created to give the editors more freedom to publish what they love; artwork, flash fiction, poetry, sci-fi, genre and more. Most of their editions include a graphic novel-styled story and elaborate, beautiful covers. Truly stunning creations! With great resources and access to agents amongst its offerings, Tethered by Letters and F(r)iction are kind friends in a cold, often cliquish, publication world.
Our second feature of the evening, Matthew Minicucci, gave a phenomenal reading of his books, ‘Translation’ and ‘Small Gods’. “In college, I wanted to translate Greek and Latin and also wanted to write poetry. I didn’t think of them as connected.” For his first book, ‘Translation’, he wanted to write about his family and realized that the best way “to talk about them was to talk about mythology and talk about these classical figures.” Something that I can relate to as I too have a few mythical creatures in my familial bestiary.
As he read, Mr. Minicucci gave personal anecdotes and insights to set up each poem. His vivid descriptions made me feel as though I knew the people that he was talking about. He is genuine, warm and so funny and an ocean of interesting information. When I interviewed him this past winter, we had discussed his journey into the publishing world and he shared that there is about a two-year gap between when a book is accepted by a publisher and when it hits the shelves. A sharp blow to my fantasy of things happening all at once; my book is published and on shelves in a month followed by copious parades and celebrations. That’s ok, for all the work that goes into the quest to be published, it feels like copious parades when it happens.
Segueing to ‘Small Gods’, he shared that “both books were written at the same time” but focused mostly on ‘Translation’ and then finished ‘Small Gods’ once it was done. ’Small Gods’ he describes as “examining the interaction of faith and science at the point of loss. When we lose something very, very important, I think we either go to faith or to science; how can I explain this? How can I explain this away?”
One of the book’s most unique features is a collection of Greek alphabet-theme poems at its center. Letter by letter, it’s an examination of the dissolution of a relationship between two people. I found his ‘Paul’s Letter’ series to be equally novel and intriguing; provocative, heartfelt responses to their biblical counterparts. That is one element of the genius of Matthew Minicucci and what earned him the C. Hamilton Bailey Oregon Literary Fellowship in January 2018 and Artist-In-Residence at the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument this past summer. It’s also why ‘Small Gods’ was a finalist for the 2016 Green Rose Prize from New Issues Press and ‘Translation’ was chosen by Jane Hirshfield for the 2014 Wick Poetry Prize. At his closing, Mr. Minicucci shared a poem from his new project which is an exploration of the soundscapes of the American west. His poem, ‘Chorus’, was inspired by sounds during a volcano erupting and works in columns; it can be read down, across or all together. Genius!
Please join us on September 25th at 7pm. Our featured poet will be Stephen Lackaye reading from ‘Self-Portrait in Dystopian Landscape’. Look for my book review and interview with Mr. Lackaye in the next few days!
The Last Tuesdays poetry group is co-hosted by David Hill, Cathie Padgett and myself at the Barnes and Noble bookstore in Vancouver, WA. All are welcome to attend this community event and, if they wish, read a family-friendly poem or two during our open mic sessions. If you are an avid open-mic reader, Tiger Talk at the Paper Tiger coffeehouse gathers on the third Wednesday of each month and Ghost Town Poetry has an open mic on the 2nd Thursday of each month.
An additional piece of news, we have a new Clark County poet laureate. In a special “Passing of the Pen” celebration on September 30th, Clark County’s Inaugural Poet Laureate Christopher Luna will be handing the quill over to Gwendolyn Morgan. The event will be held in the Columbia Room at the Vancouver Community Library on C street from 2pm to 4pm and include artistic performances such as dance, song and poetry. Ms. Morgan, along with Clark County Arts Commissioner LaRae Zawodny, will be our featured speakers at the Last Tuesdays October poetry event at the Barnes and Noble bookstore.
All of the books and journals featured at these events are available for purchase either in the store or on-line: