Saturday, June 25, 2016

Columbus Foundation Grant Funding Continues for OPA

The OPA team is excited to report that for a fifth consecutive year, OPA has been awarded a grant from The Columbus Foundation (TCF) through its Community Arts Fund. This year’s award totals $1,826, which exceeds expectations by the OPA officers.

"Once again The Columbus Foundations has acknowledged the value of OPA to poets and artists throughout Ohio," said OPA President Chuck Salmons. "The Community Arts Fund has provided OPA with sustaining funds to help cover administrative costs so that our members’ annual dues and other revenue sources can be directed into workshops, readings, and other great opportunities."

The OPA first established a profile with TCF in 2010. The profile, part of the TCF PowerPhilanthropy program, is an effort to improve OPA’s ability to secure funding via charitable giving.

Since that time, the OPA officers have steadfastly sought other avenues of fundraising. Those interested in donating to OPA may do so via the TCF PowerPhilanthropy program website at Simply click the "Search PowerPhilanthropy" link and search "Ohio Poetry Association" to donate.

The OPA team is looking for volunteers to assist or even lead fundraising efforts. If you’d like to help out, email

The Ohio Poetry Association gratefully acknowledges The Columbus Foundation for its continued support.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Reflections on NFSPS Convention 2016

by Chuck Salmons, President, Ohio Poetry Association

It’s been a few days since I returned from beautiful Minneapolis and the 2016 NFSPS Convention. First,

Crescent moon and geese above lake at
Oak Ridge Hotel & Conference Center
many congratulations to the officers and members of the League of Minnesota Poets (LOMP) who volunteered their time to put on a terrific event. This year’s convention was held on the site of the Oak Ridge Hotel & Conference Center which features a fascinating building design and quiet, relaxing grounds that include a small lake with a 1.5 mile trail. I enjoyed both hikes and jogs around the lake on several days to take a break from the convention and get some fresh air.

The convention was full of activities to stimulate poets and artists alike. Opening day was highlighted by an optional tour of a local craft brewery, Excelsior Brewing, where participants got to sample some flavorful brews along with some tasty poetry. Later that evening, the dinner featured a delicious barbecue with a poetry and music show titled, “LAYERS.” 

From there, the LOMP coordinators treated attendees to a number of workshops during the weekend, as well as panel discussions, and a couple of keynote speakers. The headliner was writer and artist Natalie Goldberg, who is best known for her book, Writing Down the Bones. I found Goldberg to be an engaging and very pleasant speaker who charmed the audience during Sunday evening’s dinner, which was also highlighted with a slide show featuring images of some of her artistic works.

 Chuck Salmons with fellow state presidents
 Marilyn Baszczynski, Iowa Poetry Association (center),
and Peter Stein, League of Minnesota Poets (right)
Among the other featured poets was Phil Bryant, professor at Gustavus Adolphus College. For me, his poetry stole the show as he read from his latest collection, The Grand Terrace: A Jazz Memoir in Verse. Also giving a fascinating multimedia reading was Moheb Soliman, who recited his poems—written during his explorations of the Great Lakes region—while simultaneously projecting numerous images using an aging overhead projector. His work demonstrated how poetry and memories often blend to contort actual events. 

On the final day of the convention, I participated in a strategic planning meeting with NFSPS board members, chairpersons, and other state society presidents. Crucial discussions were held regarding the future of the organization and how it must adapt to modern technologies and expectations of its members in order to secure its development in the coming years. Much like OPA a few years back, it is an organization that 

Natalie Goldberg talks
with OPA member Amy Zook
after a panel discussion
needs to reinvent itself in many ways.

But perhaps the most important experiences for me were the new friendships I developed during the 4½-day event. Most of my evenings were spent in the company of poets from all across the U.S., but especially Minnesota, as we gathered for drinks, conversation, and sharing our poems. More importantly, we shared the parts of ourselves that we value most in others—our individual and shared histories as husbands, wives, and poets.

This is just my second convention; however, it is the first at which I built so many new friendships. And for that, I am most thankful. I appreciate the opportunity to represent OPA members and Ohio poets-at-large. 

I cannot encourage you enough to consider attending next year’s convention, which will be held in Fort Worth, Texas. As we know, Texans do things big. So, that event too is sure to offer great food and fantastic poetry.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

2016 Ohio Poetry Day Contests--May 31, 2016 Deadline

Don't miss this opportunity to be a part of Ohio Poetry Day. May 31 is the deadline for the dozens of contests that are a part of the event.

Here is a copy of the submission form. We realize the type is small. This is how it comes to OPA from Ohio Poetry Day staff in the mail. It's chocked full of great contest information, and as a result, the type is small. OPA recommends that in order to see it best, you should print a copy of the form which is in jpg or photo format. You can do that by saving the image to your computer and printing it.

You can also use your own paper as an entry form if you don't want to print off a copy of the form. Be sure to provide all the information required, including which poems you want to be considered for which contests. Follow all the submission instructions. (Many photo viewers will allow you to zoom out thereby enlarging the type so you can check to see that you have included everything.)  It is recommended that you contact the Ohio Poetry Day by writing to Amy Jo Zook at 3520 St. Rt. 56, Mechanicsburg, Ohio 43044, and ask to be placed on their mailing list so that next year you will get a form delivered to your home.

Friday, April 8, 2016

John Bennett Defines Visual Poetry in the Avant Garde

For National Poetry Month, the Ohio Poetry Association is excited to present a workshop led by John and Cathy Bennett, artists and poets whose work explores the role of language through visual poetry. One might ask: “What is visual poetry?” Indeed this medium may be unfamiliar to many poets.

To address the question, John Bennett offers the following brief examination, just in time for the exciting workshop on Saturday, April 9. The following essay is adapted from his Introduction to Visual Poetry in the Avant Writing Collection, originally published through The Rare Books and Manuscripts Library at The Ohio State University Libraries.

The avant garde workshop promises to be eye-opening for all in attendance, as John and Cathy offer a number of writing exercises, word games, and a close look at a fascinating artistic and literary community to which they have contributed so much during their careers. Get details about the workshop at the OPA website:


by John M. Bennett

“Como de costumbre, para ser futurista solo había
que ir lo más lejos possible al pasado.”
                                                                - Augusto Monterroso

All poetry is visual poetry. This idea, along with its corollary that all poetry is also aural, has become clearer and clearer to me as I have worked as a curator, practitioner, and collaborator. Visuality in poetry starts with the simple fact that there are blank spaces at the ends of lines, which is perhaps the most consistent factor that distinguishes poetry from prose. (A prose poem is poetry in the fact that the blank spaces are present by implication; present in their absence, you might say.) That blank space then extends to an almost infinite variety of forms and procedures, from typographic variance to three-dimensional constructions, from shaped poems to “classical” concrete poems, from recognizable words and phrases arranged in patterns to asemic scrawls and letter-forms and to purely graphic elements arranged in a “poem-like” manner. With respect to orality, it is safe to say that there is not a poem in existence that could not be performed aloud in some way. Even the most illegible asemic scrawl can be used as a script for the voice, and often is by many poets in these traditions. It may well be that poetry began before writing as a mnemonic social context for stories, news, and myths and thus as an oral form, but as soon as it began to be written, it became a visual form as well.

Mitosis, by Allen Bukoff, 1974
Sweeping aside the sweeping generality above, however, it would be of some use to discuss at least some of what it is that distinguishes visual poetry from standard textual poetry. Perhaps it simply has to do with the fact that it includes strongly visual dimensions that one cannot avoid considering as an important part of the experience of reading/seeing the work in question. Whereas in the case of textual poetry, the visual dimension is to a large extent unconsciously perceived, or it is at least possible to experience the work paying little attention to its visual qualities.

There is also the question of the long and varied history of visual literature, which to a large extent forms its own tradition or subculture. That history is distinct in numerous ways from the history or subculture of more strictly textual poetry, and therefore is a distinguishing characteristic from it.

Another issue is the relationship of visual poetry to visual art, and the use of linguistic elements in what is generally considered to be visual art. At what point does such art become visual poetry? I think it is more useful and enriching to think of it as either or both, depending on the context of one’s discussion or appreciation. Just as, at the other end of the continuum, it is most useful to think of poetry and visual poetry as either or both.

Underlying these considerations is the fact that inherent in Western Civilization, and probably in the human mind itself (as in large part a creation of that civilization) is the need to categorize phenomena. This is certainly true for visual poetry, which is generally regarded as a phenomenon separate in itself. In fact, however, as suggested above, it is an aspect of all written language, and has been since written language came into existence. Being inherently visual, written language must be seen to be apprehended (or, as in the case of Braille or other technologies, in some way physically experienced—in the case of a blind person being read to, the reader must see the text) and its very nature is founded on signs and symbols referring to things in the physical or mental world, be they sounds, objects, or actions. In the case of poetry in particular, the usual modern poem, with its blank spaces either at the ends of lines or surrounding the words, requires a visual experience to be fully known.

Visual poetry calls to mind doubts about the stability of meaning in language—that is, the strict relationship between language and reality. Visual poetry, perhaps more than “normal” textual poetry, presenting or suggesting meaning on several levels and through several processes of consciousness simultaneously, mirrors that doubt. Or perhaps it is an attempt to do what language has always tried to do: capture “reality” and make it conscious. The difference is that visual poetry perceives reality—or the world—as multiple, ambiguous, shifting, polyvalent, and paradoxical. The opposites join into one total perception. The fact that different parts of the mind and/or mental processes address visual experience and linguistic experience (and within linguistic experience itself there are very different and separate processes for each functionality of language: speaking, thinking, writing, translating, etc.) means that visual poetry is especially useful for dealing with and presenting this multivalent/multiconscious experience of the world. I suspect that has something to do with why it is so often a field of endeavor that is ignored in the genre-categorizing institutions of our society: those genres (visual art, literature, music, and so on) are not only socially constructed, but present a much simpler and therefore more comforting vision of what the world is. I suggest that that simple vision is limited and illusory, however. Clemente Padín, the great Uruguayan visual and experimental poet, has discussed at some length how visual and experimental poetry stand in direct opposition to the dominant socioeconomic paradigms of our day (see his essay in Signos corrosivos, Mexico: Ediciones Literarias de Factor, 1987; translated by Harry Polkinhorn as Corrosive Signs, 1990).

Most visual poets have worked in a variety of other modes and genres, as textual poets and writers, media artists, and in other formats. Their work as visual poets, then, does not exist in a completely separate category, a “compartment” in which the artist/writer works in isolation from his or her other work, but functions on a continuum with all that other work. Many of these works, for example, have also been treated as performance texts. As Michael Basinski has stated, “A function of visuality is performance...a visual poem should be interpreted as a literary score...visual poets should consider their pieces to be literary scores rather than purely literary, visual images” (in CORE: A Symposium on Contemporary Visual Poetry, ed. By John Byrum & Crag Hill, Mentor, OH/Mill Valley, CA: Generator Press, c1993). (Another excellent recent source and anthology is The Last Vispo Anthology: Visual Poetry 1998–2008, ed. by Crag Hill & Nico Vassilakis, Seattle, WA: Fantagraphics Books, 2012.)

Visual poetry is a field of endeavor that is expanding exponentially just now, helped immeasurably by the ease of distributing it through the Internet: web sites, blogs, e-mail, social networking sites, and so on. 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

An Exciting Opportunity to Visit the Ohioana Book Festival and Become More Involved with OPA

OPA is looking for 2-3 member volunteers to help staff its table at the Ohioana Book Festival on April 23, 2016, from 10:00 am to 4:30 pm at the Sheraton Columbus at Capitol Square. Duties would include:

           - Helping to set up and tear down the OPA table

-          - Greeting visitors who stop by the OPA table

-          - Talking to people about the benefits of joining OPA

-          - Passing out OPA literature

-          - Selling OPA publications

-          - Keeping the table presentable

-          - Enjoying yourself

The Ohioana Book Festival is an annual event which boasts more than 3,000 visitors who come to meet writers and poets from across Ohio. It is a fun-filled day with more than 120 Ohio writers onsite (including ten featured authors), panel discussions, special activities for children and teens, a book fair, and more! The book festival offers something for every reader of every age—and it’s FREE! Visit the Ohioana website to learn more. 

We are hoping to get enough volunteers so that those who staff the table can trade off duties so that everyone can check out all the books, and attend readings, panel discussions, and book signing. It’s a great opportunity to meet other writers from Ohio, to become involved with OPA, and to learn more about the art and craft of writing.

If interested in learning more about this exciting opportunity, please contact Chuck Salmons, President, at by no later than April 15. 


© 2016 Ohio Poetry Association