The Poet’s Craft Blog

Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily: Our Words Cincinnati, April 2017

I invite you to join me 2 pm today at City Council when April will be declared as Poetry Month in Cincinnati. Below is the poem that I will read—not mine, but ours, composed of lines given me by poets throughout the Cincinnati area on the subject of poetry in our city. Let’s all show up and let our City leaders know that Poetry Matters.

Our Words

Cincinnati, April 2017

This blue city
is on fire
with words
marching across the page.
In rooms quiet as sanctuaries, our words
like light through stained glass
blend disparate notes in poetic symphony.
River crossings connect us,
bridging the arteries of our lives.
Most folks stay pretty busy
breathing, eating, looping ends
onto themselves or trying,
writing the poem entitled
If all art is political,
we’ve been given a lot to work with.
Hone your craft; spark
a question in someone’s silo.
Perhaps, there is a destiny for words.

A fair city’s pendulum swings
away from
back to
We, planted in Cincinnati’s glacial till,
have roots and rhythms deep in red-brown
mountain soil, all made plain
by the writers and readers and songsters in our midst,
the ever-rivering lines of the Ohio
carrying a river of words, voices
plush with silt.

You can’t understand the world
without telling a story.
At the corner
of Memory and Silence
a rogue cat in the heat of the word,
prowling for rhythm and rhyme,
open mouthed and echoing
through the dusting brick,
and bodies sway to her speech.
After seven too-early moon rains
seven robin men
stand in jagged, fabricated rows,
digging for ancient worms
in a public park
while three dove women fly
crooked and broken wings into a sun
of their own making to protect
our young who are unveiling their voiceless
voices through rhythm and rhyme,
their stew of stories and poems a blessing,
my belly growling, aching for that food.

Words flourish here,
roll along like the Ohio River,
sometimes clear as glass or murky as churned mud.
They grow under glass, these hot house voices,
spring ephemerals, trilliums which emerge
each April, seemingly delicate,
little crocuses peeking from under the snow,
these words that change the world.


Composed by Cincinnati Poet Laureate Pauletta Hansel with words by Ellen Austin-Li, John Cruze, Mark Flanigan, Terry Focht, Sean M. Foster, Karen George, Richard Hague, Pauletta Hansel, Annie Hinkle, Pam Hirte, Desirae Hosley, Karen Jaquish, Kamal Kimball, Theresa Kulbaga, Elese Monet, Rhonda Pettit, Lynn Robbins, Roberta Schultz, Sherry Cook Stanforth, Chuck Stringer, Thomas A. Trevor and Dick Westheimer.

Listen to an on-air reading on Sunday, April 23, 7 pm on WVXU’s Around Cincinnati.


Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily: Freedom by Desirae Hosley

I look forward to reading with Desirae “The Silent Poet” Hosley on tomorrow, April 5, at noon at Cincinnati State’s first Poetry Month reading. She is many things—poet, activist, mentor, WordPlay Cincy teaching artist, my friend—but silent, she is not!  Desirae lives in Mt Healthy.



Lift every voice and sing
How can one honor a land who captured my ancestors before knowing they could be free?
Yet tears shed for those chosen to fight for freedom
Because they are told they are brave
Blood shed on the very land represented by each line/strip
Paraded by stars that slaves wish upon to be freed
Yet I’m suppose to be free
Laughed upon because I barely know my history
Which was pushed/ held back
And the only representation you have of me
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
But I’m free
So black history month can pride upon those who came before us
Malcolm X
Those who found our freedom
Harriet Tubman
Those who showed us we could be anything we want to be
President Barack Obama
So yes I’m free
With voice of not only hope and faith
But doing the work that needs to be done
Well by being the minority
Yet I can do anything
Because those who went through the trials and tribulations to prove
Planting this seed of possibility can come true
So yes I’m free
I don’t need to be handled by negro spirituals, or whippings, or work that paved the way for me to stand here FREE
Enlightenment of freedom
This soil, this cotton, the breeding of your animals, land
Which in hindsight is mine
My ancestors did the work
So I could find pride in this land
So yes I’m free
There is no need to explain a pain that reflects your humanity
African American
Yet my heritage is unknown
Black being the shade that reflects my representation
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us;
Sing a song full of the hope that present has brought us
Facing the raising of our new day begun
Reflectively stated, see I’m that generation
Not afraid to hold back my tongue
Knowing that our ancestors wanted more than RIP shirts and us mourning the deaths of those with their hands up
Turning in their grave due to the marches they hear
Knowing we should be One
And not divided
Yet the Revolution is being Televised
And shared, going viral
So we are the demise of taking two steps forward just to go backwards
Trumping a civilization
With anger and hate
Yet I was taught love
Being told I am not from here
But I was born here
Being told that I am ignorant
Yet my education proceeds your
But I was taught love
Nothing can break me
Because we were built strong
Nothing can break me
Because I was taught faith
Nothing can break me
Because I stand on the land of the free
Nothing can break me
I will not be broken by one man
Because I know we are equal
So as I stand
Over the land of the free
I will be brave.

Desirae “The Silent Poet” Hosley with lyrics from Lift Every Voice & Sing and Star Spangled Banner


Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily: A Poem for Opening Day by Emery Greye

It’s Opening Day, Poetry People! You didn’t think I’d miss that, did you? Here is a poem (a version with photos is at the bottom of the screen) by writer, poet, and inspirational speaker Emery Greye of Madisonville that captures the wonder of baseball and spring. He told me he wrote it for his grandson. Lucky grandson!

Another Magical Spring

When I was a just little boy
I couldn’t wait for spring
I’d oil my mitt, the sun would shine
And all the birds would sing

And for fifty years of winter ends
The ice and snow would melt
We’d grab for balls and bats each day
I still remember how great it felt

We had a diamond built next door
We’d race to pick our teams
And play all day till dinner time
At least that’s how it seemed

The shed in left was a two base hit
If you flew it, a homerun
The fence in center was Portman’s farm
But you had to hit that ball a ton

And on Sundays after church we’d meet
And do the ground crews duty
We’d mow the base path grass so tight
Our field was such a beauty

I’ve played or coached now fifty years
Still can’t wait to hear that call
Two words that start another spring
When the umpire yells “Play Ball”

Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily: View From My Balcony by Mark Flanigan

In this poem Mark Flanigan of Prospect Hill engages in a long honored poetic tradition, irony. I thought this the perfect poem for the day after April Fool’s. Mark is no fool, of course (perhaps a bit of a trickster); he is co-facilitator of one of Cincinnati’s longest-running featured reader/ open mic poetry readings, Word of Mouth, held the last Tuesday of each month at MOTR Pub.

View From My Balcony

looking down on the city
the houses and tenements
rise out of the ground
like so many dollhouses

dwarfed by church steeples
advertising their riches
alongside boarded up shells.

to my left stand the P & G towers,
or as I call them
Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

straight ahead
the jail squats wide
like a defensive lineman
in a three-point stance

the casino runs like a pipe
or a dream, maybe both,

and the proximity of the three—
church, jail, casino—
a one-stop convenience shop.

looking out at the city
I wonder,
does the height of each skyscraper
signal relative wealth?

by such logic, Macy’s is lagging
behind Kroger’s

Fifth Third eclipses
both US Bank and PNC,
thanks to all the late fees
they’ve collected from me.

the Carew Tower remains majestic,
if without purpose,
despite playing second fiddle to
Great American Insurance’s headdress.

everybody knows they cheated,
who’s to say
they won’t cheat you?

I make a mental note
to buy some of their stock
as a single engine plane
sputters into view
flying above it all.

looking up into the sky
I marvel at its flight
when a banner slowly unfurls before me
with a printed green lizard
and the words

“Save Money.”

GEICO wins! I exclaim.
GEICO wins!

the American Poet
would roll in his grave,
if only he were dead.
Mark Flanigan
originally published in Versus (Aurore Press)

Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily: I Tell You by Susan Glassmeyer

Thanks to the Academy of American Poets, April has been our National Poetry Month since 1996. I am pleased to participate in this National Celebration by offering a poem (or more!) a day written by a Greater Cincinnati poet. Susan Glassmeyer is a fitting first poet. For ten Aprils Susan offered our community daily “April Gifts,” poems from across the globe she selected, researched and provided to our email inboxes. Susan retired the project last April 30 to give attention to her own writing (a new book soon, we hope!) but there may be an anthology of those delicious Gifts one of these days. Susan lives and works in Springfield Township and is a member of the Greater Cincinnati Writers League. I offer you:

I Tell You

I could not predict the fullness
of the day. How it was enough
to stand alone without help
in the green yard at dawn.

How two geese would spin out
of the opal sun, opening my spine,
curling my head up to the sky
in an arc I took for granted.

And the lilac bush by the red
brick wall flooding the air
with its purple weight of beauty?
How it made my body swoon,

brought my arms to reach for it
without even thinking.

In class today a Dutch woman split
in two by a stroke—one branch
of her body a petrified silence—
walked leaning on her husband

to the treatment table, while we,
the unimpaired, looked on with envy.
How he dignified her wobble,
beheld her deformation, untied her

shoe, removed the brace that stakes
her weaknesses. How he cradled
her down in his arms to the table
smoothing her hair as if they were

alone in their bed—I tell you,
his smile would have made you weep.

At twilight I visit my garden
where the peonies are about to burst.

Some days there will be more
flowers than the vase can hold.
Susan F. Glassmeyer
Body Matters (Pudding House Press, 2010)
The poem can be found online .

Your Poet Laureate’s Guide to Poetry Month in Cincinnati

Here we are at last: Poetry Month Eve! I am thrilled at the response to my call for poems for the Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily Project. Beginning tomorrow and every day in April I will post a poem or more by Cincinnati area poets. I’ll send these out via my blog and repost each day on the Cincinnati Poet Laureate Facebook Page and in the Poet Laureate of Cincinnati Events Group (which is also on Facebook).I encourage you to “Follow” my blog by clicking the “Follow” button on my website so that you will receive the poems in your email inbox as they are posted. (You will also be able to find each day’s offering in the blog section.) I do hope you will share!

You are also invited to come hear a selection of these poems (and some of my own) at a Cincinnati Poetry Month Reading, Wednesday, April 26, 7 pm at People’ Liberty, 1805 Elm Street, near Findlay Market.

You can never have too much poetry! There is a wealth of poetry activities around the region this month and in our honor on Wednesday, April 5 at 2 pm  Cincinnati City Council will proclaim April as Poetry Month in Cincinnati at its Council meeting I’ll read the new composite poem “Our Words: Cincinnati, April 2017” composed with lines by more than twenty Cincinnati poets.  I can’t find in the Oxford Dictionary website what you might call a group of poets: a pack? an observance? a shrewdness? a pod? I’ll just say that a passel of poets in attendance will be yet another way to show the City that Poetry Matters. (And might I just take a moment to thank CityBeat for acknowledging Poetry in the Cincinnati as well!)

As always I urge you to find and post all literary events, Poetry Month or otherwise, on the Poet Laureate of Cincinnati Facebook Events Page. Go there for a listing of the wide array of events and venues. Here’s what I’m up to:

 Tuesday, April 4, 7 pm, Cincinnati Public Main Library, Popular Library Lounge: I’ll help kick-off their annual Poetry in the Garden Series by reading the afore-mentioned “Our Words: Cincinnati, April 2017.” (This event happens each Tuesday in April and cosponsored this year by Chase Public (recently honored in CityBeat’s Best Of issue) and the Greater Cincinnati Writers League. The format is always featured readers followed by an Open Mic; if you are on Facebook, more information is here. Otherwise, check the Library’s weekly calendar.)

Wednesday, April 5, noon, Cincinnati State Technical and Community College ATLC Auditorium (ATLC 211): Desirae Hosley and I will read at the first of the college’s Poetry Month Reading Series along with winners of the college’s first annual poetry contest, which I had the honor of judging. Info about their weekly line-up (Wednesdays at noon) can be found on Facebook by following Poetry Month at Cincinnati State .

Wednesday, April 5, 2 pm, City Hall: Council proclaims April as Poetry Month in Cincinnati!

Thursday, April 6, 7-9 pm, Lydia’s on Ludlow, 329 Ludlow Ave: A reading from Palindrome:  Poems of My Mother by Poet Laureate Pauletta Hansel, (An Urban Appalachian Community Coalition First Thursday Literary Salon) A discussion of poetry as a tool for both documenting what was and understanding what is will follow the reading.

Sunday, April 16, 7 pm: WVXU’s Around Cincinnati: This one you don’t have to leave your house for! Listen in as I read a few poems and talk with Barbara Gray about poetry.

Monday, April 17, 2 pm, City Hall: I’ll provide a Cincinnati Poet Laureate “Annual Report” to the Neighborhoods Committee. All are invited!

Wednesday, April 19, 7 pm, Joseph Beth/Crestview Hills, Kentucky: Come across the river for a reading from my From Draft to Craft Poetry Class, an intergenerational class at Thomas More College.

Sunday, April 23, 7 pm: WVXU’s Around Cincinnati: A reading of “Our Words: Cincinnati, April 2017.”

Wednesday, April 26, 7 pm, People’s Liberty, 1805 Elm Street: Cincinnati Poetry Month Reading, Join us for a celebration of Poetry Month, Cincinnati-style, featuring poets included in the Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily Project.

Saturday, April 29, 10 am-12:30 pm, The Hive (Northside): Poetry As Witness; Poetry For Change  with Poet Laureate Pauletta Hansel. I offer this workshop as part of The Hive’s Contemplation In Action Series. Registration is required.

Saturday, April 29 3-4 pm, Cincinnati Public Main Library, Popular Library Lounge: The Public Library will conclude its Poetry Month celebration with a reading from The Realms of the Mothers: The First Decade of Dos Madres Press by Dos Madres editor Robert Murphy, Richard Hague, Karen George, Pauletta Hansel and other Dos Madres poets. (Check out CityBeat’s shout out to Dos Madres Press!

Let the wild rumpus start!


Pauletta Hansel, Cincinnati Poet Laureate


Our Masks/Ourselves: The Men of City Gospel Mission

Earlier this month, writer and teacher Annette Januzzi Wick offered me the privilege of writing with the men of City Gospel Mission who are part of her “Journey in Words” program. Formerly located in Annette’s neighborhood of Over the Rhine, it is now located around Crosley Field’s Home Plate, and is home to men seeking the spiritual, emotional, mental and physical skills and resources needed to achieve life transformation.

Our Masks/Ourselves
City Gospel Mission, March 2017

My mask sees lots of troubles, fences, mountains, thunderclouds.
I don’t want people to know my troubles or to burden them.
When you see my mask, you see what I want you to see.
Underneath there are mixed emotions:
creative, humble, impatient.
I need a girlfriend. I hate being alone.
My mask became my face because I wore it for so long.
A lie is a modified person.
I was wearing a mask of my lie.
When you see my mask you see what I want you to see.
A mask allows me to be seen,
and to give others the grace to be seen through
a lens of acceptability,
of respectability, of positivity.
We all want to be seen as we wish to be.
On rare occasions, I allow it to slip off—
somewhat confused, tentative, and unsure;
somewhat bold, funny, truthful.
Hurting, anxious, joyful, lonely, optimistic
Without my mask, you see a person that’s happy.
But I’m not because I’m not where I want to be right now.
The amount you see of me depends on who you are to me.
Without my mask I feel alone and vulnerable and unprotected. Too nice.
I feel most comfortable when I wear my mask.
When I remove my mask I am scared of the real world,
about responsibility,
about being sober and alone.
When you see my mask you don’t see the inner gears
of my constant worry, clicking, clacking,
wondering, adjusting, seeking.
When you see my mask you see a cover for comfort.
My mask sees loneliness,
struggle in the world.
My mask sees people who need me to be strong.
Without my mask I see predators.
As time goes on I choose my masks.
Who are they helping, me or others?
Don’t wear a mask.
Be who God has called you to be
and leave the results up to him.
I finally realized I didn’t need to be something I’m not.
It’s tiresome.
Without my mask I see a world
that wants to hold me, give me comfort.
I want to know “Me,”
to like what I see in the mirror now.
I know it’s my choice and I choose to be me,
clean and sober.

By participants in Annette Januzzi Wick’s City Gospel Mission Writing Group, March 2017.
Compiled by Cincinnati Poet Laureate Pauletta Hansel

Some Mask Pictures