Mac's Backs and the Coventry Library will host Tess Taylor, editor of Leaning Toward Light: Poems for Gardens and the Hands That Tend Them on Saturday, September 9th at 2 pm in Peace Park at the corner of Coventry and Euclid Heights Blvd. Tess will be joined by poets Elsa Johnson, Philip Metres, Michelle Smith and Robin Beth Schaer
Much like reading a good poem, caring for plants brings comfort, solace, and joy to many. In this new poetry anthology, Leaning toward Light, acclaimed poet and avid gardener Tess Taylor brings together a diverse range of contemporary voices to offer poems that celebrate that joyful connection to the natural world. Several of the most well-known contemporary writers, as well as some of poetry's exciting rising stars, contribute to this collection including Ross Gay, Jericho Brown, Mark Doty, Jane Hirshfield, Ada Limón, Danusha Laméris, Naomi Shihab Nye, Garrett Hongo, Ellen Bass, and James Crews. A foreword by Aimee Nezhukumatathil, reflective pauses and personal recipes from some of the contributing poets, along with original, whimsical illustrations by Melissa Castrillon, and a ribbon bookmark complete this stunning, hardcover gift format.
Tess Taylor will be in conversation with Robin Beth Schaer and participating poets will read selections from the anthology.
Tess Taylor is the author of five acclaimed collections of poetry including Work & Days, which was named one of the 10 best books of poetry of 2016 by the New York Times. Her writing has appeared in The Atlantic, The Kenyon Review, Poetry, Tin House, The Times Literary Supplement, CNN, and the New York Times. Taylor has been Distinguished Fulbright US Scholar at the Seamus Heaney Centre in Queen’s University in Northern Ireland, and the Anne Spencer Poet-in-Residence at Randolph College. She has also served as on-air poetry reviewer for NPR’s All Things Considered for over a decade. Taylor lives in El Cerrito, California, where she tends to fruit trees and backyard chickens.
Philip Metres is the author of ten books, including Shrapnel Maps (Copper Canyon, 2020), The Sound of Listening: Poetry as Refuge and Resistance (University of Michigan, 2018), Pictures at an Exhibition (University of Akron, 2016), Sand Opera (Alice James, 2015), and I Burned at the Feast: Selected Poems of Arseny Tarkovsky (Cleveland State, 2015). His work—poetry, translation, essays, fiction, criticism, and scholarship—has garnered fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ohio Arts Council, the Watson Foundation. He is the recipient of the Adrienne Rich Award, three Arab American Book Awards, the Lyric Poetry Prize, and the Cleveland Arts Prize. Metres has been called “one of the essential poets of our time,” whose work is “beautiful, powerful, magnetically original.” He is professor of English and director of the Peace, Justice, and Human Rights program at John Carroll University. He lives with his family in Cleveland, Ohio. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @PhilipMetres
Michelle R. Smith is a writer, poet, educator, cultural facilitator, and native Clevelander. She is the Programming Director for Literary Cleveland and a teaching artist for Lake Erie Ink. She is the author of the poetry collections Ariel in Black (2015) and The Vagina Analogues (2020). She has been published in poemmemoirstory, Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism, The Normal School, The Gasconade Review, New Note Poetry, Merge Magazine, and io Literary Magazine. She has been a featured reader, instructor, and panelist at The Lakewood Public Library, The East Cleveland Public Library, The Cuyahoga County Public Library, The Cleveland Museum of Arts, Cleveland Drafts – Brews + Prose, PNC Fairfax Connection, Case Western Reserve University’s Writers House, and Literary Cleveland’s Inkubator Conference. She is also the creator, co-producer, and director of BLAX MUSEUM, an annual performance showcase for Northeast Ohio artists open to all forms and dedicated to honoring notable black figures in American history and culture.
Elsa Johnson is a poet, landscape designer, environmental advocate and long-time volunteer at Forest Hills Park. Her book The Wind Speaks, won 2020 The Hopper Award for eco-poetry and is published by Green Writer's Press.
Robin Beth Schaer
Robin Beth Schaer was born and raised in New York. She received a B.A. in Religion from Colgate University and an M.F.A. in Writing from Columbia University’s School of the Arts.
Her first book of poetry, Shipbreaking, received the Robert Dana-Anhinga Poetry Prize and was published in August 2015 by Anhinga Press. A Spanish translation of the collection is forthcoming in 2022. Shipbreaking was named one of BuzzFeed’s “Best Poetry Books” and “Best Literary Debuts” of 2015. The starred review for Shipbreaking in Publishers Weekly declared: "In Schaer’s voluminous, shipwrecked world, everything is beautiful and no one is safe. This is a gorgeous debut from a smart, incisive young poet.”
Schaer is the recipient of a Creative Writing Fellowship from The National Endowment for the Arts in 2021 and an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award in 2020. Her current project, a collection of essays and poems about the relationship between art and atrocity, was included on the Creative Capital 2022 Shortlist and was awarded research grants from Oberlin College and the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities for travel to Poland and Germany. Schaer has received fellowships from Yaddo, MacDowell Colony, Djerassi Resident Artists Program, Hillholm Writers Residency, Saltonstall Foundation, Vermont Studio Center, and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Her work has appeared in Tin House, Bomb Magazine, Paris Review, Denver Quarterly, Washington Square, and Guernica, among others.
For five years, she worked at the Academy of American Poets, directing the online programs, editing and writing features for Poets.org, and curating events. Her work included developing materials, resources, and lesson plans for teaching poetry in public schools and observing of National Poetry Month.
She has performed readings and led panels throughout the country, including recent appearances at Literary Cleveland, Litquake San Francisco, Brooklyn Book Festival, Texas Book Festival, New York University, Sarah Lawrence College, The Loft’s Wordplay Festival, and the AWP Conference.
For over a decade, she has taught writing in colleges, community art centers, middle schools, high schools, and museums. She has taught classes in all genres of creative writing and often teaches environmental writing, poetic and hybrid forms, lyric essays, queer poetics, and contemporary long poems. Her recent work includes positions at Columbia University, Case Western Reserve University, Oberlin College, Marymount Manhattan College, Cooper Union, The New School, and the College of Wooster. During the summers of 2009 and 2010, she worked as a deckhand aboard the Tall Ship Bounty, a 180-foot full-rigged ship lost in Hurricane Sandy in 2012. She lives in Ohio with her family.