Tag Archives: Ethelbert Miller

Community: noun – a unified body of individuals

One take away from last year’s amazing trip to Erice, Sicily to work with the Breadloaf Writers’ Conference: the essence of being a writer is directly hinged upon the community you create for yourself. At least for this writer.

Six years post MFA I’m finally “getting out there” in terms of establishing and becoming a part of a poetic community. I was a bit of a recluse for quite sometime, still am in a lot of ways, which is in direct conflict with my personality, but so goes it. In realizing the benefit of a supportive and encouraging group of writers to have surrounding you, what I have become more settled with is that sometimes your best, most supportive community is far-reaching. It’s not under your nose in all cases. It’s not even 10 minutes of DC traffic away. Sometimes you have to travel internationally, across email communication channels, or all the way to the abyss that is the west coast to find that which you seek: open minds, warm hearts – and by that I mean a warm reception where people are welcoming and encouraging most the time, but brutal and honest in the times you most need it.

Over the past year I’ve been blessed with continued relationships with Elizabeth Weiss McGolerick,  Shelley Puhak and Ethelbert Miller. I’ve also expanded my circle to the far reaches of Dubai with Ms. Hananah Zaheer , Ms. Ara Tucker in Jersey, Sonja Livingston in Tennessee, Hope Maxwell Snyder in WV. You see my point.

862459_10200858395248723_1575216453_nAnother instance of community was given to me last weekend in Lost River, WV. The kind souls and proprietors of the Guesthouse at Lost River, a cozy little retreat away form the hustle and bustle of the city life DC offers, have been our neighbors and friends for the two years we’ve owned our little “home away from home.” A few weeks ago, Jesse & Gary of Guesthouse fame and friendliness, proposed to my husband that I come down and share some of my work with them and their guests. My first response was “Thank you, I’m flattered” followed quickly by “I’m not sure how many people I can bring you or what you’d gain from it all.” They were less than concerned with what I could offer them. Their response: “We are doing it to support you!” And support me they did. We chatted often about the ins and outs of the reading, setting a date in April to coincide with National Poetry Month. As I visited over the months prior to the reading I’d see flyers for the reading posted in local businesses, I’d hear business owners telling patrons to attend, local friends were rallying the community to hear some poetry.  I was absolutely taken aback by the sense of community.

I’m not sure this blog post has an epiphanic takeaway as much as it serves as a gigantic “Thank you” to my community.

“By writing poetry, even those poems that fail and fail miserably, we honor and affirm life. We say ‘We loved the earth but could not stay.’” ― Ted Kooser


Poetic Influence: Where Are All the Readers?

Weeks ago, NPR reported that they found some long lost poems of Robert Frost right around the time of the 50-year mark of his death.  I immediately thought of an interview the College newspaper printed about me my sophomore year at Morehead State University. The title of the article: “Poet-cheerleader says writing makes her relax.” I found the article in a shoebox cleaning out my closet last week and cringed as I read my comments. I was naive and engaged in way too much posturing. The interviewer asked what my poetic influences were, and I said I read a lot of Robert Frost.

That was a lie. I said Robert Frost because of a book of poems my father gave me for Christmas one year. I never read the book. I said I read Frost and that he was an influence to me. Probably in an attempt to sound smart or influenced. This leads me to a common problem within the literary landscape.

Where are all the readers?

I ask this question knowing I have committed the sin of writing without reading in my earlier years as a writer, but seeing as how I’ve had some brilliant minds and good guidance over the last decade, I can say that I know see the intrinsic link between being a writer and being a reader. But do the masses?

With just over 100 full-residency and low-residency MFA programs in the country, the space for creative development is expanding far more quicker than the audience of poetry readers is expanding. In fact, some would argue the readership is diminishing if anything.

I had a student approach me after class the other day and announce, “I want to be a writer.” My first response: “Who are you reading?”  His response was similar to the response I get from my beloved dog when I ask him a question: tilt of the head, furrowed brow, expression of “huh?”.  I told him to read religiously – as often and as a much as he could. To read that which is appealing and that which is not. To discover what the landscape is and how his voice will play a role. He seemed discouraged. So I tacked on to the end of my speech, ” and keep writing.” His smile returned.

I was asked months ago “What do you want to do with your literary career?” Ethelbert Miller started an obsession that has had me tinkering with various thoughts and plans since that meeting. I believe part of it is to assist in curing the problem above. Reinvigorate the readership. And merge fashion with poetry (hang in there for more on this one).

Poet Lore

Thanks to Ethelbert Miller & Jody Bolz and Poet Lore for selecting my poem “Harvesting” for publication in the Fall/Winter 2013 issue.

Jeffrey Levine

poetry, publishing, and mentoring

Thought Catalog

Thought Catalog is a digital youth culture magazine dedicated to your stories and ideas.

Wild, Wonderful Lost River Valley, WV

A project of Friends of Lost River Valley

Write Despite

The write-20-minutes-a-day-for-365-days-come-hell-or-high-water challenge

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