Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Thank You to The Columbus Foundation!

The Ohio Poetry Association (OPA) is excited to announce it has been awarded a grant of $1,710.00 from The Columbus Foundation (TCF) Community Arts Fund, marking the third consecutive year that OPA has been awarded a grant through the fund.

“The grant couldn’t be more timely,” said OPA President Mark Hersman. “It will enable us to tighten our infrastructure and complete our ekphrastic workshops, followed by another anthology of ekphrastic poems.”

This year’s grant is the largest that OPA has received through the program. Previously, OPA received grants of $500 and $740 in 2012 and 2013, respectively.

“The Community Arts Fund is a unique grantmaking offering that we’re pleased our Governing Committee has made a community priority,” said Dr. Lisa Courtice, Executive Vice President for Community Research and Grants Management at The Columbus Foundation. “The Community Arts Fund is unique in that it supports organizations through operating funds. We’re pleased to see the continued good work of the Ohio Poetry Association, and encourage its continued success and capacity building.”

The application process for the Community Arts Fund program involves two steps. First, the OPA organizational portrait must be updated on the TCF PowerPhilanthropy website. OPA officers gather information and financial data for the previous year to share, along with organizational goals, programming initiatives, and officer profiles.

“The PowerPhilanthropy website is a great way for potential donors to learn more about OPA and how its efforts impact the arts community,” said Chuck Salmons, OPA Vice President. “People can use it to donate to OPA at any time. It’s been very helpful in raising funds, especially during the past Big Give events sponsored by The Columbus Foundation.” To view the OPA portrait on PowerPhilanthropy or to make a donation, click here.

Once the portrait updates have been submitted, the Community Arts Fund grant application can be completed and submitted by the deadline in early February. The application also involves compiling financial and demographic data and describing the forthcoming goals that the OPA has in using a grant.

“The process isn’t necessarily difficult, but it is robust,” said Salmons. “And it helps to have all our ducks in a row, especially financially. Our treasurer Rinda Sansom has done a great job keeping the books.”

The Ohio Poetry Association is extremely grateful to The Columbus Foundation for its continued support. For more information, visit the TCF website at

Saturday, May 24, 2014

OPA Picnic and Scrabbletry on July 12th in Bexley

Will Ohio Have a Poet Laureate? (by Steve Abbott)

Steve Abbott testifying on behalf of S.B. 84 on May 21st
in Columbus [photo by Michael Salinger]

BIG news for poetry in Ohio: the State Senate is considering legislation that would create the post of Ohio Poet Laureate.

The proposed law, Senate Bill 84 (SB 84), was introduced by Senator Eric Kearney, D-Cincinnati, (9th District). Under provision of the bill, the Ohio Arts Council would administer the selection process and provide recommendations to the Governor, who would make the final selection.
Most other states have already established Poet Laureate posts. Ohio neighbors West Virginia and Indiana have two of the more successful programs.

OPA Vice-President Chuck Salmons and Common Threads Editor Steve Abbott met with Senator Kearney on April 9 to discuss the bill, offering suggestions that OPA believes will strengthen it. These included shortening the term as Poet Laureate from four years to two and modifying language defining the qualifications for the post.

Most state Poets Laureate serve two-year terms. OPA also recommended to Senator Kearney that anyone nominated to be state Poet Laureate should have significant peer-reviewed publications that go beyond self-publications and vanity presses. Further, OPA suggested that the requirement of providing four annual readings include the stipulation that readings include both rural and urban counties to ensure that all Ohio residents have the opportunity to attend readings by the state Poet Laureate.

SB 84 is significant and long-overdue legislation, and OPA members, our audiences, and our friends can assure its passage. Legislation becomes law when constituents push their elected representatives to approve it. The most effective way to do that is direct contact.

Legislators weigh constituent contact using a simple scale: phone calls are at the bottom, e-mails come next, and letters are golden. So choose how effective you hope to be and contact your state senator and representative. Contact information is available at or A short communication identifying yourself as an OPA member and urging your legislator’s support for SB 84 and why it’s important will do the job. Tell your friends to get on board, too. Also, please cc Sen. Kearney on all email or postal letters.

We know this matters, let’s make it happen. Do it NOW.

[JUNE 5th UPDATE:  The Ohio Senate passed S.B. 84, and it has now moved on to the Ohio House for consideration.  So thank your state senator if he or she supported the bill.  And now it's time to write to your state representative.]

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Ashland Poetry Workshop

We were twenty-five souls who took arms against windy snow to join the Ashland Poetry Workshop for a weekend this past November 23-24. The schedule comprised four hours of workshop with highly accomplished poets, an open reading for participants, and readings by workshop leaders. Several OPA members were there, Patricia Black, Jennifer Hambrick, Sharon Mooney, Deb Strozier, and Laura Weldon, among them.

The leaders were Deborah Fleming, Steven Haven, and Sarah Wells from Ashland University and Robin Davidson of the University of Houston.

For two hours Saturday morning and two the next, Steven Haven, director of the MFA program at Ashland, led six of us in workshop. He had obviously read the poems carefully, and he encouraged plenty of discussion.

About the other leaders, I heard few, if any, mutters of discontent. A single hitch: one leader, who thought the Saturday workshops would continue after lunch, didn't start to entertain participants' poems until the morning session was nearly over.

We heard plenty of strong poetry in the afternoon. I especially enjoyed hearing finished poems on themes we had heard in the morning's session. However, I strongly recommend a smaller, more intimate room.

Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon, each workshop leader read his/her own poetry. I most enjoyed Robin Davidson's translations, written collaboratively with the Polish poet Ewa Lipska; likewise, poems on a year-long absence from her husband. (In "April Storm" she writes, "to feel in the pulse of rain pelting the window/your fingers of weeks, months ago/still tangled in my hair.)

Sarah Wells writes lean meditations on marriage, family, and religion. Much of Deborah Fleming's work is in specific forms--—stanzas alternating between quatrains and couplets, for instance. Of Stephen Haven's poems, I most enjoyed his last, based on a late nineteenth pastoral painting (whose title and painter I forget).

One criticism: too much open time. I suggest a community lunch or dinner. Also, participants might lead our own informal discussions: on drafts we start from prompts set by morning leaders, for instance; or on specific poems by our leaders; or on poems by canonical or experimental poets--what if everyone were to come ready to talk about "Because I could not stop for Death"?

The weekend was free, with a recommended donation of only $20. This was greatly appreciated; I would gladly pay more for a fuller schedule, however.

I think most OPA members would enjoy the Workshop. Could the weekend be even more satisfying? Yes, I believe so.

- Craig McVay, Columbus

Monday, September 23, 2013

Poetry Problem Solving 101 with Bruce Weigl

The September 21 OPA event featuring Bruce Weigl was another great afternoon of poetry and writing. Weigl, who has twice been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, treated the audience to a terrific reading from two of his most recent books, followed by a writing exercise that stressed the importance of using the imagination—especially when writing about the familiar.

The poet’s working-class background is prominent in his work, though Weigl referred to it as a blessing and a curse. But he strongly believes in poetry reaching the wider public through organizations such as OPA. He drew the analogy to Europe and other parts of the world where writing organizations are prominent and often revered.

One of the interesting things Weigl mentioned during the afternoon was that his latest book, The Abundance of Nothing (Triquarterly Books, 2012), took eight years to write. After Declension in the Village of Chung Luong (Ausable Press, 2006), Weigl felt he had said everything he had to say as a poet. But he kept writing poems and the manuscript went through, in his words, “a hundred iterations.” In fact, he mentioned that just before sending the manuscript off to the publisher, he gave it one more read and cut another eleven poems because he had just the slightest doubt about them. The hard work paid off, as Abundance was nominated for the Pulitzer.

Weigl’s approach is like that of a mathematician. “I like to sit down and try to solve the problem of a poem,” he said. For example, he asks why might a poem be meaningful to a reader or what is the appropriate form for the poem. The Abundance of Nothing features many unrhymed sonnets and other forms because Weigl “needed the form to hold the immensity of the subject of the book.”

He also stressed the challenges of putting together a manuscript. As Weigl noted, last lines are key as they should somehow link to the next poem. First and last poems are also critical to a book. The first poem, according to Weigl, should be like a map for the rest of the book, “almost like a thesis.” The last poem should also be thoroughly considered and the poet should ask: Where do I want to leave my reader?

Finally, Weigl addressed a question about distinguishing between good writing and “crap.” He noted that he doesn’t see such things as successes and failures. “The crap is what you don’t write,” he said. In his view, the sheer act of writing about something indicates that it is important to you in some way. The trick—the problem—is elementary: figuring out how it is also important to the reader.
by Chuck Salmons
OPA Vice President