Thanks Asheville Poets and 100 Thousand Poets for Change

100 TPC - Asheville graphic

A big thank you to Susie and Lance for hosting the event at the Sly Grog Wine & Beer Lounge located in The Downtown Market Asheville. Especially since 100 Thousand Poets for Change Asheville event ran a bit longer than scheduled.

Thanks again to all the poets who participated: Caleb Beissert, Steve Brooks, Jeff Davis, Barbara Gravelle, Britt Kaufmann Jessica Newton and Brian Sneeden. And to those who joined the event and read after the featured poets: Alice, Ashley, Chuck, Lance and Susie.

An audio recording was captured of the event. Details regarding that will be forthcoming. Also, a found poem will be featured on this blog later this week to commemorate the event and poets who chose to affect change in Asheville in beyond.

Thanks to the Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar for hosting the after party. And thanks to the Rankin Vault Cocktail Lounge for hosting the after-after party.

Special thanks to Michael Rothenberg and Terri Carrion for establishing 100 Thousand Poets for Change (read more about 100TPC here) and helping me track down the elusive bagpiper (in side joke… you’ll have to read my Twitter feed to get it).

Saturday, Sept. 28, Asheville, 100 Thousand Poets for Change

100TPCAVL Web Poster Tomorrow night, Asheville’s 100 Thousand Poets for Change event invade Sly Grog Wine and Beer Lounge (The Downtown Market, 45 South French Broad Avenue, Asheville, North Carolina). The Asheville event will be held Saturday night, September 28, 2013, from 7 PM – 9 PM. Featured poets and their bios are listed below. Please note: after the featured poets read, there will be time for you to read you poem. Bring your poem and join 100 Thousand Poets for Change in Asheville, NC.

Here are short bios of the featured poets:

Caleb Beissert is a poet, translator, and musician from Washington, D.C., living in Asheville, NC. His work has appeared in numerous literary journals, and his book Beautiful: Translations from the Spanish was published by New Native Press in 2013. Beissert hosts an open mic at Vanuatu Kava Bar and produces the monthly reading series “Poetry at the Altamont” in Asheville.

Steve Brooks a poet and author of Philip Blanc in San Francisco (Panjandrum Press, 1972), The Dancer in the Heart (Philos Press, 2001) and his latest collection of poems, Essential Occupation. He currently resides in Asheville, North Carolina.

Jeff Davis is a poet, host of the radio show “Word Play” (now on and author of Transits of Venus (2005) and Natures: Selected Poems, 1972 – 2005 (2006). He serves as director of MadHat, Inc., teaches in UNCA’s Great Smokies Writing Program and co-hosts the monthly “Poetry at the Altamont” reading series in Asheville.

Davon Dunbar,14 , was a member of the winning Asheville Wordslam Middleschool team two years running and is now a freshman at SILSA, a member of the spoken word poetry club, and local poetry slam competitor.

Barbara Gravelle, author of several poetry books including, Keepsake, Dancing the Naked Dance of Love, and her latest collection of poems, Poet on the Roof of the World.

16-year-old Shanita Jackson lives in Hendersonville and attends Blue Ridge Early College. She is a two-time member of Asheville’s Brave New Voices team, has won too many youth poetry slams to list here, and is a co founder of Soulspeaker, a youth-centered and youth-driven local organization devoted to youth spoken word poetry.

Britt Kaufmann lives in Burnsville with her husband and three children. She has written one chapbook of poetry Belonging and two plays: An Uncivil Union: the Battle of Burnsville and Between the Tackles.

Matthew Mulder is a graphic designer and poet living in Asheville. His poetry and prose have appeared or are forthcoming in Crab Creek Review, Small Press Review, The Indie, H_NGM_N, and other publications.

Jessica Newton’s poems have been published in Appalacian Literary Review, Stolen Island Review and Colere. She sees poetry as an engine that’s fueled by change on an individual level. A WNC native and graduate of UNC-Asheville, she lives in Candler.

Brian Sneeden has produced, designed or written for more than a hundred theatrical performances. His poems and reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in a variety of journals, including Beloit Poetry Journal, Ninth Letter, Third Coast, Asheville Poetry Review and other publications. He is the current Poetry Editor at Meridian.

Use the hashtag #100tpcAVL when sharing details about Asheville’s 100 Thousand Poets for Change event.

Is poetry dead? or can poetry matter?

Is Poetry Dead?

Earlier this year a quiet and quite active discussion took place in a small corner of the public square. It began with Alexandra Petri’s article “Is Poetry Dead?” [1] John Deming immediately responded with an “Open Letter to Alexandra Petri.” [2] A Few days later, Richard Higgs tossed the question to a group of poets and writers. [3] The topic was actively discussed for months.

Alexandra Petri asked “Is poetry dead?” Referencing Richard Blanco, she writes, “. . . poetry, a field that may very well be obsolete.” She continues:

I say this lovingly as a member of the print media. If poetry is dead, we are in the next ward over, wheezing noisily, with our family gathered around looking concerned and asking about our stereos.

In her article she offers some harsh yet reasonable analysis: “These days, poetry is institutionalized. Everyone can write it. But if you want a lot of people to read it . . . there are a few choked channels of Reputable Publications.”

John Deming immediately replies to this “attack on American poetry” by stating that there are more than “2,000 books of poetry are published each year in the U.S.” He did not reveal where he got that number, but I suspect much of those poetry books are independent or small press publications. Further, knowing intimately how the publishing business works, I suspect that the majority of those poetry books published do not exceed press runs of more than 500 copies. With all due respect to Mr. Deming, his open letter is more a reaction to Ms. Petri’s article and less a defense of American poetry’s life (or death). He does offer a pointed question for both Ms. Petri and for poets: “. . . what kind of ‘change’ [do] you mean. Literal political change?”

Can poetry effect change?

Years ago Dana Gioia asked “Can Poetry Matter?” in his essay published in The Atlantic Monthly [4] [5] I will not go into a lot of detail about his essay because I do not want to spoil his conclusion, but I do encourage you to read it. Mr. Gioia’s question is a better question than Ms. Petri’s. Introducing great poetry in school is part of the equation as well as encouraging the love of reading books to children. Mr. Gioia offers other ways to promote the reading of and love of poetry. The Academy of American Poets published a report years ago that stated that adults who purchase and read poetry books were introduced to poetry at an early age.

Alexandra Petri does present some valid concerns. Like Ms. Petri, I have attended poetry readings where “the attendees were almost without exception students of the poet who were there in the hopes of extra credit.” For that matter, I’ve been that poet (like Charles Bukowski) [6] reading to an audience of “. . . friends, . . . other poets / and the handful of idiots who have wandered / in / from nowhere.” Mr. Deming makes some equally valid points that poetry is “far from obsolete . . .” As someone in the publishing industry I know that poetry books do sell, but not as well as fiction or non-fiction. But lack of book sales revenue does not mean that poetry books are not effective or revolutionary. How many memoirs or novels have you read that feature a few lines of poetry as an epigraph printed at the beginning of the work?

I am convinced that there is a large audience of people that do not know that they enjoy poetry. They have to be introduced to great poetry. The fact that the August 31, 2013 issue of the New York Times featured a large front page photo of the poet Seamus Heaney (printed above the fold in contrast to a small photo of the President of the United States below the fold) testifies to the relevance of poetry in America. [7] Can poetry effect change? The poem “The Names” by Billy Collins was read before a special joint session of Congress in 2002 commemorating the victims of 9/11. [8] Can poetry matter? These are just two examples that attest to it’s impact (if ever so little) in our culture.

NOTES: [1] Alexandra Petri, “Is poetry dead?,” The Washington Post ComPost, January 22, 2013, accessed January 29, 2013
[2] John Deming, “Open Letter to Alexandra Petri,” Coldfront Magazine , January 22, 2013 accessed January 29, 2013
[3] Richard Higgs, “Is poetry dead? Washington Post blog article, and a brilliant response,” LinkedIn Poetry Editors & Poets Group, January 25, 2013, accessed January 29, 2013
[4] The Atlantic Monthly; May, 1991; “Can Poetry Matter?”; Volume 267, No. 5; pages 94-106.
[5] Dana Gioia, “Can Poetry Matter?,” The Atlantic Monthly, May, 1991, accessed January 29, 2013
[6] Charles Bukowski, “poetry readings,” The Writer’s Almanac, September 11, 2008, accessed January 29, 2013
[7] “The New York Times pays tribute to Seamus Heaney,” , August 31, 2013, accessed September 25, 2013
[8] “Poet Billy Collins Reflects on 9/11,” PBSNewsHour, accessed September 25, 2013

This week in Asheville, 100 Thousand Poets for Change

100TPCAVL Web Poster
Just a few more days until the Asheville 100 Thousand Poets for Change event!

Join Caleb Beissert, Steve Brooks, Jeff Davis, Davon Dunbar, Barbara Gravelle, Shanita Jackson, Britt Kaufmann, Matthew Mulder, Jessica Newton and Brian Sneeden at Sly Grog Wine and Beer Lounge (The Downtown Market, 45 South French Broad Avenue, Asheville, North Carolina), Saturday, September 28, 2013, 7 PM – 9 PM.

Asheville Poets represent 100 Thousand Poets for Change


Here is your official invitation to join a global event called: 100 Thousand Poets for Change.

The Asheville event will be held September 28, 2013, 7 PM – 9 PM at Sly Grog Wine and Beer Lounge (The Downtown Market, 45 South French Broad Avenue, Asheville, North Carolina). Featured poets include: Caleb Beissert, Steve Brooks, Jeff Davis, Davon Dunbar, Barbara Gravelle, Shanita Jackson, Britt Kaufmann,  Matthew Mulder, Jessica Newton and Brian Sneeden.

Use the hashtag #100tpcAVL when sharing details about Asheville’s 100 Thousand Poets for Change event.

For more information, or if you have questions, please leave a comment. Thanks!

UPDATE: Here’s a PDF file of the event poster for 100 Thousand Poets for Change Asheville event next week. Download here: 100TPC AVL Poster.

100 Thousand Poets for Change – Asheville


With 11 days to go before the global event, the Asheville event planned in coordination with 100 Thousand Poets for Change ( will feature many local poets. Sly Grog Wine and Beer Lounge will host the event September 28th, 7PM – 9 PM. More details will be presented later this week.

The origin of Friday the Thirteenth

The origin of Friday the Thirteenth, as told by Damond Benningfield, comes from Norse mythology.[1] He writes:

First comes the fear of the number 13. According to one tale, 12 Norse gods held a banquet at Valhalla. A thirteenth god — Loki, the spirit of evil — tried to attend…

If you believe that the Norse have little impact on modern culture other than to inspire Marvel comic book movies (and an Emmy nominated television series on the History channel, Vikings), keep in mind the days of the week are named after Norse gods (Tiu’s Day, Woden’s Day, Thor’s day and Freya’s day). Here’s what Benningfield writes about Freya’s day:

Mythology says that when Norse tribes converted to Christianity, Freya was called a witch and banished to a mountaintop. There, every Friday, she hosted a coven of 11 other witches plus the devil — 13 in all — to plot vengeance against her former believers.

So, TGIF. And while you are in enjoying the day, give a listen to Óláfs Saga Tryggvasonar in the Viking language.[2]

[1] You can read the details at Star Date, “Friday the Thirteenth”:
[2] Learn from the Viking Language series:

Strange Familiar Place returns

Stange Familiar Place - Comic Strip

After a very long hiatus, “Strange Familiar Place” will be back in print. Or at least it will be in a very limited capacity. More details on that later.

The creative non-fiction comic “Strange Familiar Place” first appeared in The Indie. Inspired by the works of Harvey Pekar, Jessica Abel, and Eddie Campbell, I wrote and illustrated “Strange Familiar Place.” Eventually I collaborated with illustrator and comic book artist James E. Lyle on six comic strips.

Comic Stroll, a publication of the local chapter of the National Cartoonist Society, will feature that collection of previously unpublished comic strips. Read the evolution of what started as a couple drawings and became a creative non-fiction comic:

  1. Comics and Narrative Non-Fiction
  2. Comics and Narrative Non-Fiction Continued
  3. Narrative Non-Fiction Comics: part 3
  4. Narrative Non-Fiction Comics: part 4
  5. Narrative Non-Fiction Comics: part 5
  6. Narrative Non-Fiction Comics: UPDATE
  7. Narrative Non-Fiction Comics: UPDATE
  8. Strange Familiar Place comic series

More details about Comic Stroll distribution will be made available later.