Cincinnati Poet Laureate
April 2016 – March 2018
In April 2016 I was appointed Poet Laureate of Cincinnati. My mission was to connect people to poetry and to connect people through poetry. This is my final report based on the plan I submitted as part of my initial application.
1. Offered 22 free writing experiences for adults and youth where we explored the nature of our communities and our city; crafted composite poems from these writing experiences.
- The Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Cincinnati
- Shifrah in Walnut Hills
- Dunham Recreation Center
- Clifton Recreation Center
- MyCincinnati Youth Orchestra (Price Hill)
- Lower Price Hill Women’s Group
- Cincinnati Walking Sonnet Program at Chase Public (Northside)
- Write Me I’m Yours (Clifton)
- Cincinnati Walking Sonnet Program at Mercantile Library (Downtown)
- Pleasant Ridge Recreation Center
- McKie Recreation Center Program (Northside)
- Cincinnati Walking Sonnet Program at Moeller High School
- Cincinnati State Technical and Community College
- City Gospel Mission (Queensgate)
- Cincinnati Walking Sonnet Program at Clark Montessori High School (Hyde Park)
- The Hive Poetry As Witness; Poetry For Change (Northside)
- Art for Artists at Dunham Recreation Center (Western Hills)
- WordPlay Cincinnati Scribes (Northside)
- Everybody Let’s Write (Mt. Airy)
- Springer School (O’Bryonville)
- Elementz Voices of Freedom (Over the Rhine)
- Artistry of Women Street Fair (Lower Price Hill)
- Carried out a plan to make poetry widely visible and enjoyed.
- 40 plus poems are published on or linked to the Community Workshops Writing section of my website (formerly linked to the City’s Cincinnati Poet Laureate Webpage.) These include composite poems created with a wide cross-section of citizens, poems shared by individual workshop participants and my own writing inspired by these projects.
- In April 2017 I posted poems daily by a total of 45 Cincinnati area poets in my Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily Project, which culminated in a Poetry Month Reading at People’s Liberty on April 26, 2017. The poems can be accessed here.
- I promoted readership of these through the Cincinnati Poet Laureate Facebook Page and Poet Laureate of Cincinnati Events Group. Over 500 viewers have subscribed to one or both of these pages.
- Explored reinstituting the City’s Neighborhood Poet Laureate program.
It quickly became clear that this project would take a greater infrastructure than we currently have in place. However, the Cincinnati Walking Sonnet Project encourages poets to get out into their own (and other) neighborhoods and be inspired by what they encounter, and have led Cincinnati Walking Sonnet workshops as part of my Community Writing Workshops. The Cincinnati Walking Sonnet Project instructions and sonnets were among the most popular links on my website. I also collaborated with CincyStories to craft a poem from Walnut Hills residents’ stories (see Community Workshops Writing).
- Promoted poetry as commentary on public events.
- Three Poems for Our City, collaborative poems each with lines contributed by over twenty poets from throughout Cincinnati
- Cincinnati: The State of Us, written for the occasion of the 2016 State of the City address
- Our Words: Cincinnati, April 2017, written for Poetry Month 2017
- Cincinnati: A Song of Ourselves, written for and performed at the City Council Swearing-in Ceremony on January 2, 2018. This poem has received the most attention of any of the nearly 100 poems posted on the site, primarily because of a Cincinnati Enquirer article with a misleading headline focusing on a few controversial lines. In fact, the poem evokes a wide perspective of all that makes Cincinnati unique.
- Multiple public readings of the above poems (Books by the Banks, Mercantile Library, Word Of Mouth Reading Series, Cincinnati Public Library Poetry in the Garden Series, City Council Meeting.) The full list of my readings while Poet Laureate can be found here, and is listed below.
- Several Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily Project poems are topical in nature, including a poem for Opening Day.
- Hosted “Art Now: A Reading From/ Discussion of Ionesco’s Rhinoceros & Other Timely Work” at Chase Public
- Led a “Write Our Democracy” Open Mic Reading on Presidents Day 2017, with over thirty poets participating.
- I posted photographs as visual prompts on the Poet Laureate of Cincinnati Events Group on Facebook, which has resulted in dozens of poems, many of which are in response to current events.
- Helped publicize and support the vast range of poetry organizations and poets in the greater Cincinnati area.
- I created and curated the Poet Laureate Group Facebook events page where organizations and poets list their events and learn about others. This group has over 500 members and serves as a clearinghouse for dozens of literary events each month.
- I was the first poet invited to participate as an author at the Books by the Banks Festival, in 2016. I assisted in organizing a successful pre-festival event at the Mercantile Library, kicked off the reading series at the Author Pavilion Stage and facilitated a panel discussion. In 2017, at least five additional poets were included at author tables.
- Served as judge for Regional Poetry Outloud, Louder than a Bomb, Cincinnati State’s Poetry Contest and the Overture Awards.
- Sponsored the Cincinnati Poetry Month Reading, Wednesday, April 26, 7 pm, People’s Liberty, 1805 Elm Street, Over the Rhine, which included 18 readers who had been part of the Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily project.
- Host for Cincinnati State’s weekly Poetry Month Reading Series in April 2017.
- Served as an “Ambassador for Poetry,” reading my own poems and the poems I crafted with a wide cross-section of the community.
- Poet Laureate Announcement Ceremony at the Mercantile Library, attended by approximately 100 people, with almost all of Cincinnati’s literary organizations represented.
- More than 30 Readings, panels and other speaking engagements including Mt Washington Community Council, Women’s Way of Ohio/Kentucky, Chase Public, Miami University/Hamilton, The Hive: A Center for Contemplation, Art, and Action, Cincinnati Neighborhood Games, MyCincinnati Youth Orchestra, Mercantile Library, ConcertNova, Tongue and Groove Literary Salon, Clifton Cultural Arts Center, Elementz, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, Word of Mouth, Greater Cincinnati Writers League, Cincinnati Public Library, Urban Appalachian Community Coalition, StoryCorps, Cincinnati City Council, Word of Mouth, Cincy Stories, Alzheimer’s Association, The Writers Collective , Arnold’s Bar and Grill, Artistry of Women Street Fair, Inkwell Reading Series, and Union Institute.
- My last event as Poet Laureate was co-sponsoring a Publishing Workshop with Chase Public.
- Represented the City’s Poet Laureate Program in other communities through readings and workshops hosted by Mac’s Backs Books in Cleveland, Miami University/Hamilton , Otterbein University. Northern Kentucky University, Thomas More College, Roebling Books, Lincoln Memorial University, Covington Center for Great Neighborhoods and Hotel Covington.
- Poet Laureate interviews for CityBeat, WNKU, WVXU, The Cincinnati Public Library’s Writer-in-Residence’s podcast, Inside the Writer’s Head and “Brat Chat with Belinda Cai” on INHAILER Broadcast.
- Acknowledged by CityBeat as Best Ambassador for Poetry, 2017.
- My own book of poems, Palindrome, written during my tenure as Poet Laureate, was awarded the Weatherford Award for best 2017 Appalachian book of poetry.
- I collected information on Cincinnati Literary Groups to include as resource page on the City’s Cincinnati Poet Laureate Webpage had staff support been available.