Heights Writes is a committee that nominates and supports the Cleveland Heights Poet Laureate. Programs vary with each Poet Laureate’s creative ideas of bringing poetry into the community’s daily life.
Publications (available at Heights Arts Gallery):
Awake at the End, 2008. Heights Writes and Bottom Dog Press. A collection of poems by the first three Cleveland Heights Poets Laureate.
Poetography, 2010. Ten poets and ten photographers collaborated in randomly-assigned pairs to create poems and photographs about some aspect of Coventry Village, Cleveland Heights.
Current Poet Laureate
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Honored, but a little surprised to be named the city’s Poet Laureate, Faithwalker is energized about the possibilities of the post. “First of all, I love Cleveland Heights,” he says, “and I want to add to the creative energy already here.”
Modest about his own accomplishments and abundant creative energy, Faithwalker says “My role as a poet has been to provide access.” Committed to encouraging others to tap into their creativity and to tell their own stories, he may be best known as the co-founder, 18 years ago, with Vince Robinson, of the NIA coffeehouse, an open-mic poetry venue where all are welcome.
Faithwalker is also owner of Left Thumbprint Solutions, a social media, organizational, and arts network consulting company. “We work with companies, cities, and school systems, but lean toward projects that involve the arts, culture and community.” he says.
Citing Muhammad Ali as an early influence and a creative catalyst, Faithwalker says, “His prose excited me and got me into writing. I used to recite my own prose in the locker room and during football practice!” An English teacher, Joanne Howard, showed the young poet that writing takes practice and discipline. “I won a poetry contest in 1974 and have been writing ever since,” he says. Other favorite writers include Rita Dove, Jack Kerouac, Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, and “even local cats like RA Washington, Michael Salinger.”
Faithalker’s poetry combines deep conviction, humor, and a conversational tone that gently pulls the reader in. He often celebrates the heroic in the mundane, as in his poem “Trouble in Paradise.”
Cleveland Heights is suburban bliss.
The couple across the street? A concert pianist
and her husband. Don’t know about him.
Only that he gets mad about the corporations stompin’
the little guy. He drives off most mornings
Hunter gathering schedule to keep
I presume. In the summer,
in the morning, in my sleep,
she serenades me.
Of his own work, Faithwalker says, “I hope also that the beauty, challenge, and even the ugliness of the human condition can be looked at through a poetic lens. I really have an appreciation for conflicting voices dancing instead of clashing.”
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Meredith Holmes served as the inaugural Cleveland Heights Poet Laureate.
In her poem "When Poetry Was," Meredith writes:
shouted their dreams
and the poets built cities
with these conversations.
Everyone was housed and fed.
Meredith's poems balance compelling beauty with sober detachment. She recalls images that are at once personal and universal, often meditating about places we have all visited, like a city street, a movie theater, or a classroom. The public face of poetry is also important for Meredith. As she points out, "Poetry requires no paint, no instruments, no armature....only that people pay attention."
Enjoy some poems Meredith wrote during her tenure as Cleveland Heights Poet Laureate
Meredith tells her favorite stories of events during her tenure:
I have three favorites. First, the delight on the faces of city council members when I read “Cleveland Heights Field Notes,” at the Monday night meeting in April 2005, when I was installed as the first poet laureate of Cleveland Heights. Council was delighted with Heights Arts, of course, and with being the first city in the region to have a Poet Laureate, and with a brief respite, no doubt, from zoning variances, budgets, and complaints. But it was more than that. They seemed to be genuinely enjoying the poem – really listening and enjoying it. If you are a dead poet or a very, very famous one, people will pay attention because they have to, but the appreciation I experienced that night is rare.
When I was invited to open a teen poetry slam at Studio You, sponsored by the CHUH Library Youth Services, I figured I better memorize my poem. Fortunately the poem I’d chosen (the only one I’ve ever written that could hold its head up at a slam), “When Poetry Was in the Life,” is short. I also figured I better wear a jeans jacket to disguise the 40-year age difference between me and all the other poets. I’ll never know whether it was the delivery, the poem, or the jacket, but afterwards a young poet came up to me and said, “Your poem? It was raw!” I worked with teens at the Cleveland Heights Main Library on narrative poetry in preparation for Tellabration – National Story Telling Day – on November 20. “Worked with” here is a euphemism for I arrived with books, handouts, markers, and a large newsprint pad and tried to lure about a dozen kids away from the video games. Because Nancy Levin, the youth librarian asked them to, because they like her, and because they are good kids, they dragged themselves away from the monitor and sat down at a table where I had set out copies of “For My People” by Langston Hughes:
The night is beautiful,
So the faces of my people.
The stars are beautiful,
So the eyes of my people.
Beautiful, also, is the sun.
Beautiful, also, are the souls of my people.
When I was invited to open a teen poetry slam at Studio You, sponsored by the CHUH Library Youth Services, I figured I better memorize my poem. Fortunately the poem I’d chosen (the only one I’ve ever written that could hold its head up at a slam), “When Poetry Was in the Life,” is short. I also figured I better wear a jeans jacket to disguise the 40-year age difference between me and all the other poets. I’ll never know whether it was the delivery, the poem, or the jacket, but afterwards a young poet came up to me and said, “Your poem? It was raw!”
I worked with teens at the Cleveland Heights Main Library on narrative poetry in preparation for Tellabration – National Story Telling Day – on November 20. “Worked with” here is a euphemism for I arrived with books, handouts, markers, and a large newsprint pad and tried to lure about a dozen kids away from the video games. Because Nancy Levin, the youth librarian asked them to, because they like her, and because they are good kids, they dragged themselves away from the monitor and sat down at a table where I had set out copies of “For My People” by Langston Hughes:
The youngest of the group, a boy of about seven or eight, leaned over the poem, as if he were looking into a pool of water at his reflection, and read it aloud. When he finished, he looked up at me and said, “That’s God talking, right?”
Loren Weiss' poetry contains the wisdom of experience as well as the wide-eyed openness of innocence, two qualities that make him a fine choice for a city that values its diverse community. Loren’s poetry reflects the immediacy of experience and treats fairly the experiences of others. With his understanding of the art of poetic form and of poetry’s true community function, Loren represents Cleveland Heights admirably.
Here's a story about a memorable event from Loren's Poet Laureate service:
My "term" had started in April of 2006, the same month as I turned 80 years old. One of my assigments was to compose a poem for the Cleveland Heights Volunteers' recognition night at Cain Park, and to present it just prior to a performance of Kiss Me Kate in mid July. (A thrill in itself to be reading my stuff in front of over 800 people.)
As I waited in the wings for Mayor Kelly to introduce me, I noticed a man in a wheel chair next to me, also waiting to be called onto the stage. I recognized him as Victor Schreckengost, and so I introduced myself. (He was to be honored by mayor Kelly on behalf of Cleveland Heights, in celabration of his 100th birthday.) After I read my poems, as I passed him when I left the stage, he reached up, shook my hand and said with a smile, " Very nice, young man."
I guess anyone 80 years old is young to Victor. What a nice memory to carry with me from my term as your Poet Laureate.
Mary Weems is a seasoned poet, performer, and educator. She respects the value of poetry as a fundamental art form, and brought copious experience as a public speaker and a deep appreciation of the role of the poet in the community to her tenure as Poet Laureate. Heights Arts welcomed her strong presence and impressive credentials as Dr. Weems as the third Poet Laureate of Cleveland Heights
...one of the poems Mary Weems wrote during her tenure as Poet Laureate in 2007.
Gail Bellamy's wide-ranging interests and talents are on display in her detail-rich poems, which combine a poet's startling metaphors and associative leaps with a journalist's deadly accurate, and often very funny observations. "I love all kinds of writing," Bellamy says, "poetry, journalism, fiction, and memoir, but poetry has always been my first love."
Her sense of history is especially vivid when she imagines her own heritage, as in Papa's Violin:
Papa's strings spun Transylvanian horas
evoked oxen, pitchforks, thatched roofs
far away in incense fog
Bellamy is just as fascinated with the here and now, the hurly burly of popular culture. In If Advice Were a Vaccination, she considers what she might have missed if she'd heeded her mother's advice:
...I never would have become engaged and unengaged
to a heroin addict, owned a quarter horse, slammed
my hand in the car door or been lingering at the
anti-military ball when the first punch
Don't mess with Gail Bellamy; she knows the score. But in The Waxy White Berries of Fortune she lets us in on a secret:
... Mistletoe is a thin wire stretched across your path
providing the Uncle Lesters of this world
with an opportunity to kiss their nieces.
Like a good musician, Bellamy improvises; she is open to all experiences, all vocabularies. "I never know exactly what I'm going to do next", she says, "If I did, I probably wouldn't like writing so much"
As Executive Editor of Restaurant Hospitality magazine, Gail Bellamy writes about food and beverage and has interviewed chefs, mixologists, and restaurant owners all over the world. She has noticed that most people are very genial and charming when they are talking about food. "They open up and share interesting insights", Bellamy says. "And that's because they are talking about more than food. Food is something all people have in common; it's a very rich subject: There's food as metaphor, food as memory, food as history."
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