December 13, 2016

Poetry Center finds permanence on CSU library’s fourth floor

By Briana Contreras

Snacks and drinks greeted Cleveland State University students, faculty and local poets who gathered in Rhodes Tower Dec. 2 to celebrate the new Poetry Center room on the fourth floor of the Michael Schwartz Library.

Readings by essay writer Hilary Plum and author Leora Fridman, whose work has been published by the center, highlighted the reception after the opening of the new room.

Plum, writer of “Watchfires” (Rescue Press, 2016) — a nonfiction book — is an editor and director of three different publication companies. She is also an instructor for the arts in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Fridman, the author of “My Fault” (Cleveland State Press, 2016) and Cleveland State Poetry Center’s 2015 First Book Poetry Competition winner, is an artist, organizer and educator who works with both creative work and community care. Caryl Pagel, the director and editor of the Poetry Center as well as an assistant professor in English at Cleveland State, said the public event was not only to celebrate the new room, but to get more students involved in the organization.

“We officially became a room at the beginning of this semester, actually, but the Poetry Center felt that now was a great time to introduce ourselves to many while this semester is ending and a new one is coming,” Pagel said. “Now that we have our own room with more accessible resources, we’re hoping to work more with the English department as well as having students borrow books and feel more welcome to stop by.”

Since 1962, the Poetry Center, as part of the Fenn College of Engineering, has promoted poetry through readings and community outreach. In the early 1970s — after Cleveland State was officially born in ’64 — the center then became a small press and started to publish books written by undergraduates and staff and graduate assistants.

The Poetry Center staff  works with students — both graduate students and undergraduates — on editing and book productions.

According to its website, the Poetry Center works with students from both the Cleveland State English Department and the Northeast Ohio Masters in Fine Arts (NEOMFA) program in northeast Ohio, a three-year, graduate-level creative writing program. It is one of the many arts and education programs the Poetry Center collaborates with, including the Cleveland Museum of Art, Whiskey Island Magazine and University of Akron Press.

Before having its own room, the center resided on the 18th floor of Rhodes Tower. According to Pagel, the new Poetry Center was called the Hazel Hutchenson room, and the site of a collection of poetry books.

“The library was actually looking for something new to do to the room, so the Poetry Center decided to move in,” Pagel said. “Instead of moving from different rooms on the 18th floor, we now have a home for the first time where all students and writers can come seek help in one room to learn about creative writing.”

Pagel added the center publishes three to five books a year, part of the 200 that its students and staff has worked on for the past 40 years. The new room now showcases all the Poetry Center’s published books, creating a collection that represents many different forms of poetry. After publication of a book, the center holds a series of readings by the published writers.

Kevin Latimer, a junior creative writing major and member of the Poetry Center said that he was happy they have a new room to work in.    

“When we went from different rooms on the 18th floor, all we had was just a table,” Latimer said. “It’s really nice that we can finally have a room where it’s welcoming and easier to work in. We finally have a place to call our own.”




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