Thursday, December 19, 2019

OPA Awarded a Greater Columbus Arts Council BOOST Grant

Funding will provide new audio/visual equipment

The Ohio Poetry Association (OPA) is pleased to announce it has been awarded a BOOST grant from the Greater Columbus Arts Council. The BOOST program is designed to help arts and cultural organizations with capacity building.

A total of $2,992 will be provided to OPA for the purchase of audio/visual equipment. The organization, its poets, and audiences will have the means to streamline poetry recording processes, improve the audience experience through better sound and image, and present poetry at both indoor and outdoor public venues, such as auditoriums, farmer’s markets, and festivals, especially where this equipment is not readily available.

“The support of the Greater Columbus Arts Council will afford OPA the means to expand its reach in the virtual community and provide our members the resources to hone their craft and ability to perform for an audience,” said OPA President Chuck Salmons. “This technology will help OPA build capacity for years to come.”

OPA will also be able to make audio recordings of its members and other guest poets for submission to contests and prospective venues. Basic video recordings of OPA’s public performances and workshops can be used for archival, demo, and marketing purposes. And attendees can take part in an educational workshop series (The Bootleg MFA), which equips poets with the tools and knowledge to maneuver the ever-growing technological aspects of poetic artistry.

This is the second grant awarded to OPA by the Greater Columbus Arts Council in 2019. Earlier this year, OPA received funding for its weekend-long National Poetry Month celebration featuring Angie Estes and Mark Irwin.

The Ohio Poetry Association is extremely grateful to the Greater Columbus Arts Council, the City of Columbus, and Franklin County for its generous support. For more information about the Greater Columbus Arts Council, visit its website at

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Student Poets Again Will Shine for Wellspring of Imagination

In November, the Wellspring of Imagination program will welcome young poets from across the United States and overseas to gather in Lancaster, Ohio, for a week of reading, writing, and performing poetry. The event culminates in a reading where the students present the poems they’ve polished during the experience.

“In a time where creativity and respect for the imagination take a back seat to proficiency-test driven schools, Wellspring provides an opportunity for young artists to shine,” said Alan Cohen, the event’s organizer and a retired school teacher. Cohen is also the founder and organizer of the annual Hocking Hills Festival of Poetry.

This year marks the eighth consecutive year of this event, where young poets from six states and Norway will work intensively on their poetry for three days under the mentorships of established poet/educators. The student poets include two city youth poet laureates and one youth state poet laureate. This year’s teachers are Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer (Colorado), Jon Lee (Massachusetts) and Valencia Robin (Virginia). After working with the students, the teachers will mentor them during the next calendar year, one of the major strengths of Wellspring.

The final poetry performance is free and open to the public and will take place on November 16, 2019, at 7 P.M. at Alley Park, 2805 Old Logan Rd SE, Lancaster, OH 43130. The teachers will also share their work. Admission is free thanks to a grant from the Ohio Arts Council and generous donations from the poetry community.

More information is available at and on Facebook at

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Ohio Poetry Day 2019 Celebration Returns to Troy, Ohio

Now in its 82nd year, Ohio Poetry Day will take place on October 18­–19 at the Troy Hayner Cultural Center in Troy, Ohio, for a weekend of workshop, readings, and fellowship. As always, attendees should bring notebooks and are invited to bring publications they would like to be sold in the book room for the weekend.

Saturday programs feature the workshop poems that won in the Evan Lodge contest with critic Nancy Breen. During this time, the book room will be open for display and sale of books, including the winning book by the OPD Poet of the Year, Laura Grace Weldon, who will read from Blackbird (Grayson Books, 2019).

Available for purchase will be the Best of 2019, featuring all prize-winning poems from OPD, as well as all honorable mentions. Poets who won prizes at OPD or any recent state or national contest will read.

Box lunches provided by Bakehouse are available @ $11.50 ea. Options: Turkey & cheddar sandwich; roast beef sandwich; and a veggie wrap.


Friday, 10/18

7 PM                Refreshments & social time, overnight contests announced

Saturday, 10/19

9–10 AM          Registration & book room set up
10 AM–Noon   Evan Lodge Contest poetry workshop; $1.50/person fee (free to students)
Noon–1 PM      Lunch break
1–2 PM            Reading by OPD Poet of the Year, Laura Grace Weldon
2–4 PM            Open-mic reading by OPD and other prize winners


To register for the workshop and/or reserve a lunch, download and mail in the completed form below by October 12 to:
Amy Jo Zook
3520 State Route 56
Mechanicsburg, OH 43044

Checks made payable to Ohio Poetry Day. For questions, call (937) 834-2666.

Those who have not entered OPD contests in the last five years, or are not an active member of a group (such as Ohio Poetry Association) that submits yearly membership lists, should contact Amy Zook to stay or get on the mailing list before next spring's mailing date.


The Troy Hayner Cultural Center is located at 301 West Main Street, Troy, Ohio 45373. From Interstate 75, take Exit 74 (US Rte. 41/Main Street) and travel due east on Main Street. The Troy Hayner Center is approximately 1.5 miles on the north side of Main Street, between Short Street and Oxford Street.
All parking is available outside the building, with lots behind the Center and across the street, as well as on the street. On Friday night only, parking is available in the public library lot across Oxford Street.

OPD flyer page 1

OPD flyer page 2

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Remembering Doug Rutledge – Poet, Ambassador, Advocate, Host, Mentor, & Friend

Doug Rutledge. Photo courtesy of Randi Cohen.
Recently, OPA lost one of its own, Doug Rutledge, a poet and scholar who had a lasting impact on all who knew him. His poetry and reviews have appeared in Chautauqua, River Teeth, Rattle, Asheville Poetry Review, The Journal, Quiddity, Third Coast, Southwestern American Literature, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Common Ground Review, Jabberwock Review, Harvard Review online, and Lumina. He taught at Capital University, worked at Jewish Family Services, owned and managed a book store with his wife Rebecca, coordinated the Peripatetic Poets reading series in Columbus, and served as President of the Ohio Poetry Association. Below, we have gathered the sentiment of those poets who crossed paths with Doug, expressed by a few who worked with him in the poetry community. More about Doug, including examples of his fine poetry, can be read at his website:

"Doug served as OPA President from 2008 to 2010, and he and his wife, Rebecca, graciously hosted OPA’s business meetings in the Areopagitica Books store. Doug’s efforts to connect OPA members to well-published, highly respected poets, especially those who worked primarily as educators, helped to bring a greater emphasis on craft to the organization’s programming. He also re-envisioned the newsletter by including articles on poetic analysis and reviews. I served with him as a contributing newsletter editor and then as OPA secretary, laying the foundation of my involvement with the organization. He was a kind, generous man and one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. I will miss him greatly."
– Chuck Salmons

"To be sure, Doug Rutledge was a tall man and handsome too – but he was soft spoken with a gracious demeanor, in other words, Doug was a true gentle man. My first encounter dates back to 2003 when he and his wife breathed life into Areopagitica, their vintage and antiquarian book shop, a place that turned into a neighborhood hub, a community gathering place. None other but its proprietors, Doug and Rebecca, extended that warm welcome beyond creed and all else, turning the back of their store into a center for writers' groups, poetry readings, music sessions, and coffeehouse gatherings. To expand on a quote by fellow Clintonville resident Bill Cohen who remarked about Areopagitica upon its closing seven years later that it has a body and a soul – so does Doug; while his body has died, his soul lives on in our fond memories of the voice of this poet, his advocacy of the craft of writing, his passion about the creative impulse, and his leadership of the Ohio Poetry Association (OPA). The OPA is so much the richer of having found in him a dedicated supporter and past president who remained active and true to the cause to his very end. Not even half a year ago, I had the privilege to aid him in his invitational grant proposal for poets Angie Estes and Mark Irwin during National Poetry Month. Doug, eloquently but ever so humbly, impressed upon the Greater Columbus Arts Council that National Poetry Month would be well served by their workshops and readings. And in April, there he was, introducing both poets to the audience…"
– Susann Moeller

Three OPA presidents: Mark Hersman (left), Doug Rutledge (center), and Chuck Salmons
at the book launch for
A Rustling and Waking Within in 2017.
"As I sat in the backyard of Bill and Randi Cohen during the beautiful memorial service, they held for Doug last week, I imagined seeing his statuesque frame standing in the shadows and hearing his melodious baritone in the breeze. What a gracious man Doug was. I first met him twenty years ago when I moved to Columbus. He invited me to critique sessions where he, Chuck Salmons, and I sat on living room chairs in the front window of Areopagitica Books and talked craft. I was appreciative to connect with local poets and to connect with Doug, a poet with such lively, professorial ways. I always found his poetry inspiring in its depth and sophistication. Just last year, when he invited me to be a feature in the Peripatetic Reading series, he not only granted me the opportunity to use that time as a book launch, but also offered to write a most generous blurb for my new collection. I am grateful for his friendship, mentorship, and most of all, the way he walked his talk as an impassioned world citizen."
– Rikki Santer

"Doug and I, who knew each other from the bookstore Areopagitica, became especially good friends when, last winter and spring, I was able to meet and bring him home after chemo treatments. Though he was often terribly tired and in pain, he was always happy to talk–about poetry, of course, but also about history, politics and language. He wanted to improve his French. He also continued to read seriously, Vergil’s Aeneid, for instance. Of his death, I think of Doug as sliding quietly into the sea, and I am very, very sad."
– Craig McVay

"My husband and I were introduced to OPA during trips to the Areopagitica Book Store which were highlighted by brief but always meaningful encounters with one of its proprietors, Doug. We loved to come early to the meetings to browse in the bookstore and return home with one o the other treasure. We both appreciated Doug’s emphasis on the craft of poetry in the workshops. During my online teaching in nursing, I am referring students in service learning projects involved with Somali refugees to Doug’s insightful book: The Somali Diaspora: A Journey Away. And so, Doug lives on, beyond the confines of his life."
– Sharon Mooney

"I will always remember the moment Doug asked me to serve as Vice President of the Ohio Poetry Association. It was a great honor to work closely with him and see the organization thrive under his leadership (2008-2010). Guided by a sound vision, he invited well established Ohio poets to share with our members their knowledge through poetry readings and workshops. He inspired me as a poet and friend to read more American, British, and world literature to bring insight to and deepen my own poetry. He served as an inspiring example when I witnessed how his poetry grew and transformed through his MFA studies with Angie Estes and Mark Irwin. I was very sad when I learned of his death. He touched the lives of so many in the poetry community. I miss him."
– Deborah Strozier

Thursday, September 12, 2019

From the City to the Lakes: An Interview with Dionne Custer Edwards

Tomorrow is the official start of the 2019 Sun & Moon Festival, and the Ohio Poetry Association is honored to host Dionne Custer Edwards as a workshop leader!  Click here to learn more about Dionne and her workshop, "reWrite." 

In the following interview with the Ohio Poetry Association's treasurer, Sayuri Ayers, Dionne shares her insights on the craft of poetry and the natural world.

SA:  May you tell us about a memorable experience you’ve had with the natural world?

DCE: A few summers ago, my family and I went to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We spent time on Lake Michigan and on Lake Huron. I loved getting my three kids out of the city to breathe different air and to move with a different rhythm and pace. I loved staying on the lake and watching the sky change over the water in the mornings and evenings. So beautiful.

SA:  Is your poetry influenced by the natural world? If so, please tell us how.

DCE: Not all of my work is influenced by the natural world, but I do write a lot about nature and the environment.

SA:  If you could introduce yourself to others through a poem, which poem (yours or one by another poet) would you choose?

DCE: I like “blessing the boats,” by Lucille Clifton. I also often return to the poem “Harness,” by Jane Hirshfield.

SA:  What element(s) of craft do you focus on in your poetry?

DCE: I often pursue sound and rhythm.

SA:  How would you encourage poets who are navigating the current political/cultural climate? Is there a poem that has helped you?

DCE: I encourage poets to continue to read, write, and exist on this earth as best as one can. Be safe. Be well.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

On Letting in the Wild: An Interview with Ruth Awad

During OPA’s Sun and Moon Poetry Festival, Ruth Awad will be leading a workshop, “On Persona: Exploring Other Voices Respectfully.” Please click here to learn more about Ruth and her workshop.  We are so excited to have her at the festival!

In the following interview with Sayuri Ayers, the OPA Treasurer, Ruth shares her views on the natural world and poetry.

SA: May you tell us about a memorable experience you’ve had with the natural world?

RA: I think of my dogs as a tether to the world itself, but they are also representative of what it means to let the wild into our lives. I am in awe all the time that these beautiful animals, bred down from wolves, don’t eat me while I’m asleep and helpless.

SA: Is your poetry influenced by the natural world? If so, please tell us how.

RA: I can’t compartmentalize the natural world from – what exactly? There are trees outside my window. There is grass beside the sidewalk. I live in the city, but does that mean I am divorced from the natural world? I like to think that’s not the case. So yes, the natural world exists in my work. I recently downloaded this bird song recognition app called BirdGenie so I can identify what type of bird is chirping and what they’re going on about. Highly recommended.

SA: If you could introduce yourself to others through a poem, which poem (yours or one by another poet) would you choose?

RA: Probably this poem because it really speaks to my obsession right now with how we can never fully understand the interior lives of others.

SA: What element(s) of craft do you focus on in your poetry?

RA: I’m always trying to cultivate a more active imagination to improve my metaphors and associative leaps.

SA: How would you encourage poets who are navigating the current political/cultural climate? Is there a poem that has helped you?

RA: Your poetry is a political tool – use it as such.

I love this poem by Jamaal May – “There Are Birds Here” – how it pushes back against harmful tropes about Detroit.

Friday, August 30, 2019

The Art of Haiku: An Interview with Joe McKeon Ohio Poetry Association is excited to have Joe McKeon as a Sun & Moon Poetry Festival workshop leader!

To learn more about Joe and his workshop,
"Can everything that schoolchildren are taught about haiku poetry be wrong?" please click here

In the following interview with Sayuri Ayers, the OPA Treasurer, Joe shares his thoughts on haiku and shares some of his selected works.

SA: Is your poetry influenced by the natural world? If so, please tell us how.

JM: Man’s interaction with, and being a part of, nature is at the core of haiku. It is a common misconception, however, that haiku is about nature. A major element of traditional haiku is a seasonal reference called a kigo. We will discuss this at length in the workshop. Suffice it to say that seasonal references include many nature images. They appear throughout my poetry. For example:

moonless sky

one firefly lights

the path

headwinds shift

the lead goose moves

to the rear

SA: If you could introduce yourself to others through a poem, which poem (yours or one by another poet) would you choose?   

JM: This is an incredibly difficult question for a haiku poet. Haiku are egoless poems. By that I mean that they do not call attention to the poet’s opinions, judgments, language or “poetic” skills, or cleverness. The goal is for the poet avoid leaving his “thumbprint” on a poem. That is not to say, however, that haiku cannot be personal. By way of introduction here are two of my poems that are very personal to me:


memorial wall

dew drips through the space 

where my name should be

empty nest

snow deepens

the silence 


SA: What element(s) of craft do you focus on in your poetry?

JM: Interesting question!  [A part] of this workshop is “Haiku – The Poetry of Focus." Writing haiku is all about focus and capturing a specific moment. We will discuss the key elements of haiku, including brevity, openness, objectivity, simplicity, humility, engagement of the senses, and emotional impact. The real craft and challenge of writing haiku involves bringing as many as possible of these elements into a one breath-long poem. For example, here are two of my poems:

frozen pond

tiny cracks grow

between us

dining alfresco

the touch of a toe

under the table

SA: How would you encourage poets who are navigating the current political/cultural climate? Is there a poem that has helped you? 

JM: Haiku have addressed political and social issues for centuries. Much of what I write falls into this category and I find it very therapeutic. The challenge is to do so while honoring the most basic of haiku principles – “show, don’t tell.” Once again, this means blunt objectivity - no opinions, commentaries, or judgments. Here are some of my poems that are of this ilk:

oil swirls

in a sand castle moat

screeching gulls

outdoor exhibit

the darkness of winter

in the gorilla's eyes

breeched levee

a white stork shifts

to the other leg

dark alley

an ash can fire warms

the shadows

To find out more information about the Sun & Moon Poetry Festival, please click here.  

Festival registration is now open and will end on August 31.