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,
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.
Crescent moon and geese above lake at
Oak Ridge Hotel & Conference Center
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
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.