Walnut Springs Mountain Reserve, near Union in Monroe County, West Virginia

Does W.Va. Need More Poetry?

Perhaps not surprisingly, West Virginia’s poet laureate, Marc Harshman, seems to thinks so.

He’s been collaborating with several organizations, including West Virginia Public Broadcasting, to conceive new events that will bring more poetry to the daily lives of West Virginians.

When asked why poetry should be broadcast or heard more often in any event, Harshman doesn’t mince words; he prepares them:

“I have a great faith in poetry to refocus in us what it means to be human, and with every passing year I feel an ever-greater need to be reminded about what it is that we hold in common as men and women who value beauty and the kind of meanings revealed in artistic expression.

“I’m not embarrassed to continue to quote as immensely relevant, William Carlos Williams’ adage that ‘it is difficult to get the news from poems, yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.'”

“In a political season that is perhaps more sad and pathetic than ever before, perhaps the news that may be found in poetry will hold a brightness, a freshness more useful than the soundbites from talking heads reporting on the doings of the millionaires and corporate figureheads dominating what currently passes for news here in America.”

Poetry in Wheeling

One of the initiatives Harshman has undertaken is shaping a regular poetry series in Wheeling. The germ of the idea for the series sprouted out of conversations with Ohio County Public Library’s Sean Duffy, orchestrator of a popular weekly Lunch with Books program that features authors, poets, and more. Harshman says conversations with Duffy, as well as memories of other events, inspired the series.

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“I recall the legendary James Wright Poetry Festival, which had been held in Martins Ferry for many years and was truly a real part of the landscape for the poets in America.”

Harshman remembers how people came from all over to hear the writers who were gathered at the festival and to take workshops.

“People that were here remember that some of the events would occasionally take place in Wheeling so it seems only fitting that we can do it again, slightly differently.”

When he’s available, Harshman will host the Wheeling Poetry Series, which will occur three times each year. The inaugural event is Sept. 29 at noon at the Ohio County Public Library and features Kentucky’s poet laureate George Ella Lyon.

Lyon will read from her collection Many-Storied House. She’s also slated to give a workshop at West Liberty University earlier in the day and a second reading in the evening that will kick off a second regular poetry initiative in Wheeling: The Word on the Blue Church (aptly named for the building where it will be held in downtown Wheeling).

The Word on the Blue Church will be a monthly series. Harshman, who also had a hand in shaping this series, says the plan is to rotate among more traditional readings by poets, fiction readers, and feature story tellers, and on every third month there will be an open mic.
The Word on the Blue Church — Co-Hosted by Dr. William Scott Hanna and occasionally by  Harshman

  • Sept. 29 (evening): George Ella Lyon
  • October: Judy Tarowsky – storyteller
  • November: Open Mic

Wheeling Poetry Series – Hosted by Sean Duffy and Marc Harshman

  • Fall 2015: Sept. 29, Tuesday, noon , at the Ohio County Public Library — Kentucky Poet Laureate George Ella Lyon
  • Spring 2016: Steve Scafidi
  • Summer 2016: TBD