Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Poetry Anthology to Raise Awareness of Opioid Crisis in Ohio

Anyone following the news in recent months knows that Ohio, and the nation as a whole, is facing a severe crisis of citizens succumbing to opioid addiction. OPA was contacted recently by faculty at Ohio University to help raise awareness of the impacts of this epidemic. Specifically, a new anthology is being compiled to spread the word about this crisis. The new collection will feature poems, stories, non-fiction essays, and artwork. Currently, the editors are interested especially in receiving poems and non-fiction. The call for submission details are below.


Since the arrival of a full-blown epidemic in the abuse and addiction of opioids in the United States, Ohio has consistently ranked at the top of the list for overdoses and deaths. As a result of this epidemic the lives of many Ohioans have been significantly impacted in various ways. Policymakers and a wide range of professionals have attempted to devise responses, but opioid use and overdose deaths continue to rise.


In an attempt to give a voice to this crisis and provide an in depth look into the opioid epidemic in Ohio, we are compiling a collection of first-person accounts, to be published in 2018 by The Ohio State University Press, under its Trillium imprint. We are seeking a wide range of perspectives to illustrate the impact, severity and scope of how this issue has affected the people and communities of Ohio. Contributions may include: real-life stories in narrative form, fictional short-stories based on real-life events, photographs and other visual media, and poems. If you have an idea for an alternative format or medium, run it by us. If you would rather participate in an interview rather than contribute something on your own, we are happy to arrange for the conversation to be published in an edited form. Your name or other personal information will not be shared unless you prefer that it be.

The editors are seeking contributions from all regions within Ohio, and seek to capture a wide range of perspectives. Examples of contributors could include, but are not limited to:

Recovering Opioid Addicts and Current Opioid Users
Family and Friends of Addicts or Recovering Addicts
Educators and Coaches
Medical Professionals
Law Enforcement Officers and First Responders
Government Officials
Addiction Specialists
Residents of Opioid-Affected Communities
Representatives of Nonprofit Agencies
Community leaders and members of faith-based organizations
Other individuals impacted by opioid use/overdose

The editors aim to curate a diverse selection of contributors. Submissions from underrepresented minorities are especially welcome. All professional backgrounds and levels of education are welcome.

Any proceeds from the collection will be donated to a charity involved in addressing the opioid epidemic within the state of Ohio. Contributors must be over 18 years of age and residents of
the state of Ohio.

This collection is being edited by three faculty members at the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine:

Dr. Daniel Skinner, Ph.D, Assistant Professor of Health Policy
Dr. Jane Balbo, DO, Assistant Professor of Family Medicine
Dr. Berkeley Franz, Ph.D, Assistant Professor of Community-Based Health

The project is being managed by Kacy Gaddis, M.Ed, Curriculum Coordinator at the Heritage College, in Dublin.

If you believe that your story can have an impact, and are willing to share it, please send the following information, with the subject line “Opioid Collection,” to Dr. Skinner at skinnerd@ohio.edu.

Your Name
Brief description of your perspective, or the story you wish to tell
Your town or region
Proposed medium (narrative, poem, visual art, interview, etc.)
Proposed length, if known
Contact information
Preference regarding authorship/anonymity

Potential contributors can expect to hear back within a week of proposal submission. Proposals invited for submission will receive direction from the editors regarding length and scope.

Please send proposals no later than May 1, 2018. Early proposals appreciated. Actual submissions must be submitted by June 1, 2018.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

OPA member, Betty Bleen Named Runner Up in the Prestigious BlackBerryPeach Spoken and Heard Competition

The National Federation of State Poetry Societies (NFSPS), an organization to which the Ohio Poetry Association belongs, named Westerville, Ohio poet and OPA member, Betty Bleen as runner up in the prestigious BlackBerryPeach Spoken and Heard competition. Bleen has been invited to read her poem at the NFSPS national convention in Denver, Colorado on June 2, 2018, along with the other prizewinners. The BlackBerryPeach competition challenges poets to present their original poetry in print and spoken word.

First Place went to  Rosemerry Trommer of Placerville, Colorado. As 1st place winner Trommer receives the grand prize of $1,000. The second place prize winner of $500 is Susan Chambers of Good Thunder, Minnesota. Third place winner of $250 is Ryan Jones of Grayson, Georgia. 

Vice President Joe Cavanaugh, chair of the contest stressed the importance of reaching out to all poets by recognizing spoken poetry in its many forms as a powerful poetic genre.

A video of the convention performances will be posted on YouTube and NFSPS will publish the prizewinning entries including written and oral versions of four poems from each, in a 6" by 9"book that will be for sale at the Convention and will be marketed on Amazon.com.

To learn more about the National Federation of State Poetry Societies, visit there website at  www.nfsps.com.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Kari Gunter-Seymour named Poet Laureate of Athens, Ohio

Kari Gunter-Seymour was recently named poet laureate of Athens by the Athens Municipal Arts Commission (AMAC). Gunter-Seymour began her tenure as poet laureate on February 19, 2018.

A third-generation Athens County native and longtime OPA member, Gunter-Seymour will hold the position of poet laureate for one year and, pending an evaluation at the end of her first year, potentially a second. She will have access to a $2,000 stipend to pursue projects as poet laureate.

Gunter-Seymour holds a BFA in graphic design and a MA in commercial photography, but she is a self-taught poet. She started writing poetry after her son was deployed for Korea in 2002 and is now an active member of the arts community in southeastern Ohio and an award-winning poet.

“I woke up each morning, when I was able to sleep, wondering if my son was alive,” said Gunter-Seymour. “It was poetry, finding those few precious words to explain my fear and analyze my faith, that kept me grounded, got me through.”

The many awards she has won for her poetry include two Pushcart Prizes and a first-place finish in the BlackBerryPeach Spoken and Heard competition, sponsored by the National Federation of State Poetry Societies. However, Gunter-Seymour said that the position of poet laureate is different from any other she has held or award she has won. The Athens community is growing as a center for diversity and the arts, and she owes much of her success to the place and the people that helped her get where she is now.

This service to my community is something deeply personal for me,” said Gunter-Seymour. “A way of giving back in honor of all who reached out to me to ease my journey.

Gunter-Seymour already has a number of projects she hopes to implement. She has created an official Athens Poet Laureate Facebook page for poets to interact and connect, and she has scheduled monthly poetry readings at The Dairy Barn Arts Center in Athens. She’ll also be spending time working with Athens High School students towards the end of March. She has scheduled her first reading and discussion as poet laureate for April 26 at ARTS/West in Athens.

Her future plans include a coffee table book entitled Expressly Athens, “a place-based mixture of community poetry submissions and art that has been selected for ‘Art Outside the Box’ throughout the years.” “Art Outside the Box” is a project that creates vinyl wraps from juried fine art submissions to cover the city’s traffic control boxes. Poetry for ages kindergarten through adult will be accepted for jury starting in September.

Upcoming Poetry Event Organized
by Gunter-Seymour
Gunter-Seymour’s biggest goal for her time as poet laureate is to “bring all who wish to participate in poetry – write it, read it, teach it, share it – together as many times as possible, in environments conducive to rich interactions, networking and empowerment building. I want everyone to have a voice in what is/should/could be happening with poetry in Athens County.”

As someone who had a long and non-traditional path to becoming an acclaimed poet, Gunter-Seymour wants to provide opportunities for both established poets and beginners to grow and share their work. She hopes that the position of poet laureate will open some doors that would otherwise have been closed to her, allowing her a level of autonomy to organize poets and events.

“I want to spend time with my fellow poets in celebration of the natural beauty that surrounds us here in Athens, [as well as] our inclusive attitude, our inventiveness, our interconnectedness, diversity, and love of the land and the arts,” said Gunter-Seymour.

Learn more about Kari at her website: www.karigunterseymourpoet.com.

Written by Abby Studebaker, OPA Intern