Tag Archives: Matt Mason

Omaha Poets Populate 2018 One Book One Nebraska

October 24, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Nebraska poetry is not all about farms and cornfields (although some of it is). 

The state has inspired a wide variety of poets and poems, as demonstrated by the 2018 One Book One Nebraska selection, Nebraska Presence.

The book presents an anthology of poetry written by Nebraskan poets. Some of the poems do reference Nebraska land and farming communities, says book editor Greg Kosmicki, but many poems also discuss “major life events, births and deaths, weddings and funerals… the fabric of life.” 

“It’s not just Nebraska stuff; it’s human stuff,” Kosmicki says. 

The Backwaters Press (a small publishing press in Omaha that mainly focuses on poetry) published Nebraska Presence in 2007. Kosmicki, founder of The Backwaters Press, co-edited the anthology with Mary K. Stillwell, author of The Life & Poetry of Ted Kooser. 

Prior to 2007, the most recent anthology of Nebraska poets was Forty Nebraska Poets, edited by Greg Kuzma in 1981. 

Kosmicki says the idea for the new anthology was conceived by poet Marjorie Saiser and himself, born out of the desire to highlight the many modern Nebraska poets.

Nebraska Presence features poems from more than 80 Nebraska poets, including up-and-comers and nationally acclaimed veterans. Kosmicki and Stillwell used word-of-mouth and classified advertisements in Poets & Writers magazine to solicit poetry submissions. 

They invited poets to submit work on a variety of topics. Aside from Ted Kooser—a former U.S. Poet Laureate and winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry—no one had more than two poems included. 

Kosmicki says, “We didn’t want to have an anthology that was typical of a lot of anthologies that will be lopsided with three or four or five [poems] of the really well-known poets, and then one by everyone else.” 

Looking back on their selection process a decade ago, Kosmicki says they tried their best but did miss some people and types of poems. 

Twenty poets in Nebraska Presence are Omaha residents (though two died in the years following the anthology’s 2007 publication).

According to Kosmicki, the goal of Nebraska Presence was to provide a collection of poetry that was accessible to the average reader. Many of the poems are about the events of ordinary life and are relatable on a basic human level. 

“I’d like people to know that it’s accessible, and that the poems in it will make them think and make them move,” he says. 

The editors at The Backwaters Press were ecstatic when the anthology was named the choice for the 2018 One Book One Nebraska on Oct. 21, 2017. In addition to bringing recognition and potential donations to the nonprofit press, the selection of Nebraska Presence marks the first time in the program’s 14 years that the One Book One Nebraska committee has chosen a collection of poetry. 

As the 2018 One Book One Nebraska selection, Nebraska Presence has been the focus of library book clubs and reading groups across the state, allowing the general public to read poetry that they would not have otherwise. The program’s website states that the goal of One Book One Nebraska is to promote one book, either written by a Nebraskan or set in Nebraska, for all Nebraskans to read and discuss. The focus on poetry across Nebraska this year promotes a different kind of discussion and spurs new ways of thinking about Nebraska—including its land and people—that the previous selections of fiction and nonfiction could not. 

“I think that reading poetry can take the reader into a different place and to a different way of thinking about their world,” Kosmicki says.

Visit onebook.nebraska.gov or centerforthebook.nebraska.gov for more information about One Book One Nebraska.


Odes to Omaha

Short Home-Aha Poems by Local Poets

Omaha Magazine asked local Omaha poets featured in Nebraska Presence—the selection for the 2018 One Book One Nebraska—to provide a short poem about how the city inspires them (along with a brief biographical summary).

Twelve poets responded. Their poems are featured alongside bios, listed in alphabetical order by author’s last name.

Two of the Omaha poets published in the book, Brian Bengtson and Fredrick Zydek, died in the time that elapsed between the anthology’s original publication and the statewide recognition. 

 

Brian Bengtson
(May 13, 1966—Mar. 13, 2015)

Bio: Bengtson was born in Omaha and wrote poetry from the time he was “old enough to hold a crayon.” He was the author of three collections of poetry: Leavenworth Street (The Backwaters Press, 2009), Gay…Some Assembly Required (Lone Willow Press, 1995), and First Chill (PublishAmerica, 2005). Bengtson passed away on .

Michael Catherwood

Bio: Catherwood’s first book was Dare, by The Backwaters Press. His second book, If You Turned Around Quickly, was from Main Street Rag. His third book, Projector, was from Stephen F. Austin Press. His work has recently appeared in The Adirondack Review, Bluestem, Louisiana Literature, Kentucky Review, Measure, The Minnesota Review, Numero Cinq, Red River Review, Galway Review, and Westview. Since 1995, he has been an associate editor at Plainsongs, where he writes essays. He is the editor of The Backwaters Press. 

“The Prayer”

These are the days we imagine
all light will soon go out, that our lives
will end sooner than we want. It’s expected
as we age while the sun directs the light 
show early mornings, the cardinals
in their dances in the backyard sky, our 
histories that sit like gargoyles 
in the trees. Fatalist. No. 
Just the spring days 
with their documentary of joy and beauty—
all the splendor that will be missed. All 
the beauty we will add slowly to 
while we return and

Marilyn June Coffey

Bio: Coffey, a Nebraska native, lived for 30 years in New York City. While there, her controversial novel Marcella broke a world record (for being the “first novel written in English that used female masturbation for its main theme”) and her wry poem “Pricksong” won a Pushcart Prize. Now an internationally published author, Coffey lives in Omaha with a feisty orange cat and an undisciplined garden. She writes history books. Her work has appeared on the cover of The Atlantic, including “Badlands Revisited: A 1974 Memoir of Murderous Days in Nebraska” (which can be found online). Coffey’s Mail-Order Kid was a bestseller on Amazon, and her Thieves, Rascals & Sore Losers also garnered accolades. Coffey’s latest—That Punk Jimmy Hoffa!—details her trucker father’s clash with the Teamsters. 

“From That Punk Jimmy Hoffa!
by Marilyn June Coffey”

“That cussing of yours must of
burnt up the reporter.”

“Come on. What difference
would my swearing make?”

“In the Omaha World-Herald?
It’s a family paper, .”

Lorraine Duggin

Bio: Duggin was born and raised in Omaha, a graduate of South High with B.A. and M.A. degrees in English from the University of Nebraska-Omaha, and a Ph.D. in English/creative writing from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She’s been a Master Artist in Schools/Communities since the 1980s with the Nebraska Arts Council and Iowa Arts Council and is on the Speakers Bureau of Humanities Nebraska. Her poetry, fiction, and memoirs have been published widely in literary magazines and anthologies, winning numerous awards, including a Pushcart Prize nomination, a Mari Sandoz Prairie Schooner Award for short story, an Academy of American Poets first prize, and a Nebraska Arts Council’s Individual Artists’ Award in Poetry, among others. She is an international folk dancer in three groups who perform locally and regionally, and plays recorder with an early music ensemble (Women of the Glen). She teaches English-language learners at Metropolitan Community College, where she won an Excellence in Teaching Award in 2010.

“Poets in Omaha—a Series of Haiku”

Imagination,
creativity blossom;
secret gardens thrive.

Heavenward, earthbound,
a cello’s sonorous drone—
Symphony of words.

Like fish multiplied,
gold splashing in backyard ponds,
plotting our dreamscapes.

Lyrical lines form
—Missouri’s meanderings—
A poem is born.

Shagbark hickory
—hiking Fontenelle Forest—
Inspirational.

Cumulonimbi
lure us; unlimited skies
nourish this.

Greg Kosmicki

Bio: Kosmicki is the founding editor of The Backwaters Press. His own poetry has been published in more than 100 literary magazines, and he is the author of 12 books and chapbooks of poems. His book of selected poems, Leaving Things Unfinished: Forty-some Years of Poems, is slated for publication by Sandhills Press. He and wife Debbie are retired, live in Omaha, are parents of three, and grandparents of two.

“A Visit From the Master”

Housefly lands on my keyboard 
Shows me I must write
v, f, r, 4, e,

Steve Langan

Bio: Langan earned his MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he received the Paul Engle Postgraduate Fellowship from the James Michener Foundation. He is the author of Freezing, Notes on Exile and Other Poems, Meet Me at the Happy Bar, and What It Looks Like, How It Flies. Langan’s poems have appeared in a variety of journals, including the Kenyon, Gettysburg, Chicago, Iowa, Colorado, North American, Notre Dame Review, Southern Humanities Review, Fence, Verse, Jacket, Slope, Pool, Diagram, and others. He teaches at UNO in the English department and Writer’s Workshop (where he serves as program development coordinator). He also holds the title of UNO’s interim director and community liaison for medical humanities. Additionally, Langan is founder and director of the Seven Doctors Project, established at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in 2008.

“Omaha”
(Excerpt from a longer poem)

City no one’s said it best about;
city that ignores its river,
its young, its elderly, its myths.

I sat in its taverns for five years,
my pledge not to miss a day—
that pledge got me nowhere,

no perched bar to lean on, elbows
dug in like roots, to watch its river
spill mighty waste set down

to join its hostile older sister,
the Mississippi. For five years
I searched for the perfect tavern

like Ponce de Leon…

(Reprinted from Witness’ American Cities Special)

 

Matt Mason

Bio: Mason won a Pushcart Prize and two Nebraska Book Awards; was a finalist for the position of Nebraska State Poet; and organizes and runs poetry programming for the State Department, working in Nepal, Romania, Botswana, and Belarus. He has over 200 publications in magazines and anthologies, including Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry. His most recent book, The Baby That Ate Cincinnati, was released in 2013. Mason lives in Omaha with his wife, the poet Sarah McKinstry-Brown, and daughters Sophia and Lucia. Mason is also the executive director of the Nebraska Writers Collective, an Omaha-based nonprofit that supports and promotes both established and emerging writers. He was instrumental in organizing the Omaha affiliate of the national Louder Than a Bomb slam poetry competition.

“Omaha”

Omaha is more
than what you knew,
this dirty town carnival windy
small town metropolis
you thought
you were only
passing .

J.J. McKenna

Bio: McKenna is professor emeritus of English at UNO. For him, Omaha is a great place to observe and participate in people’s lives: to see former students like David Martin, who directs a writer’s camp at UNO each summer; or Leslie Irwin, chair of the English department at Millard North; or his grandson, Mason, who wrote an award-winning poem about Martin Luther King Jr. Day. McKenna witnessed the scene described in his poem, “On the Last Day of School,” one May as he was driving past Westside High School and four girls in high spirits swirled onto Pacific Street in a bright red Ford convertible. “I shared their joy, if only for a moment,” he says.

“On the Last Day of School”

On the last day of school
four in a cherry red Ford
cruising topdown
long hair flying

wind lifting their laughter
their spirits rising now
this day this time

Sarah McKinstry-Brown

Bio: McKinstry-Brown is the author of Cradling Monsoons (Blue Light Press, 2010) and This Bright Darkness (Black Lawrence Press, 2019). Born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, McKinstry-Brown is the recipient of two Nebraska Book Awards and an Academy of American Poets Prize. Her poems appear in RATTLE, Ruminate, Smartish Pace, Sugar House Review, West Virginia’s standardized tests (a beautiful irony given that she was, is, and will always be, a terrible standardized test-taker), and elsewhere.

“What the Farmer Knows”
(For Julie)

Breathing
is about giving each seedling a name,

though it may not take.
Hope is backbreaking.
Even in dreams, feel the pull, the till,

turning earth, soil so dark
it becomes night sky, and the seeds
in your hands, .

Michael Skau

Bio: Skau is professor emeritus of English at UNO, where he taught for 37 years. He studied under Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and Gregory Corso at Naropa Institute in Boulder, and has published books of literary criticism on Corso and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Skau was named the Winner of the 2013 William Kloefkorn Award for Excellence in Poetry. Wayne State College Press published his collection of poems, Me & God, in 2014. His chapbooks After the Bomb and Old Poets were published by WordTech Editions in 2017 and 2018. In 2014, Skau founded the Imaginary Gardens Reading Series, which he coordinates and hosts every month.

“James Joyce in Omaha”

My first year teaching at UNO,
I gave an exam in my fiction course.
One of the students, a little below
a B so far, chose Joyce’s “The Dead”
for his test topic, the lyrical force
of the ending, its melancholy awe:
“It would put your mind in
a wonder,” he said.
I found my vocation in .

James Solheim

Bio: Solheim is a children’s author with books from Simon & Schuster, Scholastic, Penguin Random House, and other publishers. He gives presentations at schools, conferences, and libraries, with previous programs all across the nation—including Florida, Washington, Minnesota, Alabama, Vermont, Arkansas, and Nebraska. His inspirational Think Big! presentations involve fun-filled activities to help kids aspire to greater futures. The Wall Street Journal and PBS included his book It’s Disgusting—and We Ate It in their lists of best books for getting boys to read. A graduate of the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop, he has taught writing at Southern Illinois University, Northwest Missouri State, and Washington University in St. Louis. He is also active in Omaha’s folk music and dance community.

“Winter’s First Note”
(A triple haiku about the after-concert
air outside the Holland Center)

After Beethoven,
the cool loose noise of night wraps
us with Omaha’s

last fall snap. Feels like 
the pond wind’s chilled just for us.
Whirling from on high,

one flake, light enough
to float, dimples the water.
A touch and it’s .

Sarah Voss

Bio: Voss, a retired Unitarian Universalist minister, currently serves as a contract chaplain at Methodist Hospital and is a state family-plan mediator. Her first chapbook of poems—Possum, Beaver, Lion: Variants—was released in October 2017. A mother, grandmother, and step-great-grandmother, she lives in an old Omaha farmhouse with biochemist-spouse Dan Sullivan and two cats, Orange and Gravy. In an earlier career, Voss taught math at UNO and then was the math program director at the College of St. Mary. She carried math into her ministry. Her doctoral dissertation eventually turned into What Number Is God? (SUNY, 1995) and she has since published and lectured extensively about the relationship between religion and math/science. She’s now working on a collection of essays based on metaphors drawn from math, i.e., “mathaphors.” One such essay—“The Miraculous in Number(s)”—can be found in the summer 2018 edition of Parabola: The Search for Meaning.

“The Gravel Road”

where else can you live
as close to a gravel road
as the one framing the farm 
of my midwestern youth yet

still be smack in the midst
of a city filled with arts 
music, math, metaphor
poetry, philanthropy, pride 

pleasure

Richard David Wyatt

Bio: Wyatt was an associate editor of The Backwaters Press for 15 years. He retired from UNO’s Criss Library in 2016, after 20 years. He has published poems in publications such as Alaska Quarterly Review, Christian Science Monitor, Poetry, Southern Indiana Review, and The Midwest Quarterly. A book of poems, Gathering Place, was published by WSC Press in 2016. Born in California, Wyatt has lived in Omaha for 30 years, having earned a BFA in creative writing from UNO in 1977. He has also lived for stretches of time in Oregon, Illinois, and Long Island, New York. But Omaha, on the edge of the “sea that once solved the whole loneliness of the Midwest” (to borrow the words of James Wright) has been his “true home.”

“Sunset”

What the crow flies toward
isn’t important—rather his shadow,
ever-present, the sky, too,
afraid it won’t have enough stars.

Fredrick Zydek
(May 18, 1938—May 6, 2016)

Bio: Zydek was the author of eight collections of poems, a biography of Charles Tase Russell, Learning the Way of Coyote (a novel), and numerous articles, reviews, and essays published in a wide variety of religious, commercial and educational journals. He published over 1,000 poems in literary magazines. Born and raised in the Northwest, he taught at UNO and later at the College of Saint Mary. When retired, he divided his time between home in Omaha, from which he edited Lone Willow Press, and a small working farm near Brunswick, Nebraska. Fredrick passed away May 6, 2016. 

Other Omaha poets published in Nebraska Presence include: 

  • Paul Dickey 
  • Art Homer 
  • Bruce Koberg 
  • Clif Mason 
  • Sally Molini 
  • Ernst Niemann

Visit thebackwaterspress.com for more information about Nebraska Presence: An Anthology of Poetry.

This article was printed in the November/December 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

From left: Michael Catherwood, Matt Mason, Lorraine Duggin, Michael Skau, Sarah Voss, J.J. McKenna, Rich Wyatt, and James Solheim

Never Get Involved With a Writer

October 20, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Never… Ever… Never, never, get involved with a writer.

Now, that is not to say that writers are not nice people.  Many of them are perfectly decent sorts, especially when they are sleeping.  It’s in their waking hours that they do most of their damage.

I know, you’re saying to yourself, “Otis, you’re a writer. Are you suggesting that we should avoid all contact with you?” I must reply, “Exactly.”

Now I know some very fine writers. Here in town Timothy Schaffert has kept the Omaha Lit Fest growing and penned some very fine novels including his latest, The Swan Gondola.  He seems okay.  Rebecca Rotert’s latest, Last Night at the Blue Angel is skillfully done and emotionally evocative indeed. She must certainly be safe to be around. Rainbow Rowell, former World Herald columnist, has turned out a few very successful books including Landline that just went into paperback. With a name like “Rainbow” how could she be any sort of a risk?  And Sean Doolittle keeps turning out gems like my favorite, Rain Dogs – all while also pitching for the Oakland Athletics. Go ahead, look it up.

Poets are a sub-set of “writer,” that are especially hazardous to your mental health. Matt Mason, The Baby That Ate Cincinnati, and his band of misfits at the Nebraska Writers Collective, including Michele Troxclair, who puts on the most amazing spoken word events around town, are supremely talented and not to be trifled with if you want to lead a settled, comfortable life. Britny Cordera Doane can make myth and madness sing, as she does in her collection, Wingmakers. She also writes poems on demand in the Old Market. Yeah, a busker with a typewriter.

Perfectly nice people, all of them.

Don’t be fooled.

Writers will steal from you. If you say something clever, like squirrels we will stuff it away into our verbal cheeks and use it in a chapter years later. You will not get any credit.

We will tell all of your secrets; family tales left best untold, quirks in your love life, or reveal your most reprehensible personal hygiene secrets by assigning them to a particularly disturbing villain in one of our stories.

We will lie. Remember that time you and Betty took the underage me to the movies and sat in the back row? We will remember it differently. Our graphic details will shock you and destroy your reputation. Our memoirs will completely shake your sense of reality, and perversely, after you read and re-read them, even you will begin to believe our version.

We will drive you crazy. “Do you like my book?”… or…“Do you get what my poem means?”… or…“I’m the greatest talent ever!” … or… “I’m the worst writer ever.” We will be euphoric and then suicidal all within a half-hour. Our insecurities will baffle and exhaust you.

And worst of all, writers are like the Naked Guy in Friends, sometimes you see things about us you can’t un-see.

If you hang around with us, be prepared to stand on the edge. Be ready for us to risk falling. Be careful we don’t take you with us.

I know all of this because I have a novel coming out this month. It’s the best book ever. Or, it’s the worst waste of paper since God invented gerbils. You should read it. You might learn something about yourself. Or, you shouldn’t. We’d both be safer then.

It’s just true.

Never…Ever…Never, never, get involved with a writer.

Otis Headshot

The Masons

August 3, 2015 by
Photography by Sarah Lemke

This article appears in August 2015 Her Family.

It seems like the stereotypically idyllic life of a poet: a gravel path leading to a house in the woods, one that calls to mind Walden Pond and literary greats such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Poet Matt Mason and his wife, poet Sarah McKinstry-Brown, share that home with daughters Sophia Mason, 11, Lucia Mason, 7, and rescue dog Max. Their lives are as busy and hectic as those of any other working parents—even if they do revolve around words and the constant effort to construct them into something profound and beautiful.

“Being two poets seems like this really romantic existence,” explains McKinstry-Brown, “but it’s a lot of hard work and love, sweat, tears, and making time for the kids. Sometimes I wish people would have more of an understanding of how hard it is.”

The couple’s professional achievements speak to exactly how hard, especially in terms of how hard each poet works. Mason, 46, is executive director of the Nebraska Writers Collective. He won a Pushcart Prize and served as a cultural envoy for the U.S. State Department to Botswana, Nepal, and Belarus. McKinstry-Brown, 38, leads literary workshops and garnered the Academy of American Poets Prize as well as a Blue Light Book Award for her full-length collection of poetry, Cradling Monsoons. Each has received Nebraska Books Awards, and they are influential members of Omaha’s flourishing poetry slam scene, a scene that Mason was instrumental in creating.

The poets met in 2002, when McKinstry-Brown appeared at a poetry slam in Omaha. “I announced on stage that it was my birthday, and Matt ordered me a piece of cheesecake,” the mother of two remembers. “It was carrot cake,” Mason interjects. “No, it was cheesecake,” responds McKinstry-Brown. “Carrot cake,” insists Mason.

While poetry drew Mason and McKinstry-Brown together, Sophia and Lucia, who both attend St. Philip Neri Catholic School, remain nonplussed about what their father and mother do for a living. When asked what they think about their parents’ jobs, they shrug their shoulders.

“It’s funny,” remarks McKinstry-Brown. “It makes you realize how much your idea of normal is and how it’s shaped. Sophia’s asked a few times if everyone has a photograph on the back of a book. They’ve grown up going to a lot of readings. It’s their normal, and they’re very blasé about it.”

Indeed, rather than talk about their parents, the sisters are focused on Max’s affectionate antics and the next door neighbor’s puppy, which is staring plaintively into the living room window hoping to gain entry. “Don’t let the puppy in—we’ll never get rid of him!” exclaims McKinstry-Brown. The girls exchange mischievous glances as if trying to figure out how to get around this order without getting into trouble.

Each girl has a personality that mirrors one parent. Sophia, who sports a pixie cut and wears a t-shirt and shorts, is serious and introspective like her father. A Minecraft enthusiast, she loves the different worlds she can build. “There are so many things in it,” Sophia explains. “You can build absolutely anything. You can build a castle. I’ve gone really far.”

Lucia, despite being laid low with a cough, is outgoing like her mother and sprawls comfortably across the floor in a white sparkly dress. She loves to cook and is competitive with her sister in developing recipes. “Sophia likes gross stuff,” she observes with an impish grin before rattling off some of the ingredients for one of her sandwiches. “It had bread, yogurt, and chocolate sauce,” she recounts.

Even so, what Mason and McKinstry-Brown do for a living has influenced their daughters. At a young age, the sisters set up poetry slams, performing to audiences of stuffed animals seated around the living room couch. Sophia is interested in writing a children’s book with her mother titled Max at the Window, which would imagine the family pet’s fanciful daydreams while the the girls are at school. “I was thinking that for ‘about the author’ we should put something about Max and put glasses on him for his photo,” she suggests.

While the girls may not always be aware of the challenges facing full-time poets, Mason is keenly so, indicating they’ve just returned from Disneyland. “It was our first real family vacation,” he says. “You look at how everyone lives very different lives from us, and there is a certain attraction to that.”

“Like everyone else, it’s figuring out what’s sustainable,” McKinstry-Brown adds. “It’s more challenging because of the path we’ve chosen. The girls have given us so much of our art and how we see the world. They have given us so much insight. I’m really, really proud of us.”

Masons1

Zedeka Poindexter

February 19, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Zedeka Poindexter has had a good year.

In the spring, the Omaha-born performance poet was named slam master of the Om Center Poetry Slam, a monthly event where Omaha’s nationally recognized slam teams come together. She was named a 2014 fall fellow at the Union for Contemporary Art. In January, she—alongside Nebraska State Poet Twyla M. Hansen—will present in a new interactive poetry reading series at KANEKO called Feedback. A week and a half after that, she’ll read at a Backwaters Press-sponsored reading at the Community Engagement Center. She was nominated for the Omaha Entertainment and Arts Award’s Best Slam Poet title for 2014 and again for 2015.

“It’s really strange,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting it. It’s like all the things I thought I possibly might want are all happening.

“Matt told me I should probably start investing in lottery tickets, because this is a pretty good run.”

That Matt is Matt Mason, the longtime master of the Om slam who handed the reins to Poindexter in May. A longtime fixture of the slam scene—and a three-time member of the Omaha Slam Team, the rotating members of which compete at the National Poetry Slam—she was well-positioned to take the role. Now that she’s in it, she’s been hosting regular “slam family meetings” and trying to connect the city’s slam poetry, spoken word, and other creative communities.

“It hasn’t been without its challenges,” Poindexter said. “While slam has a very specific following, I wouldn’t say it’s as wide-reaching as I would like it to be. A lot of it is just a matter of making sure we’re talking to each other. Spoken word is so diverse, and slam is just one specific outlet. There’s so much out there—it’s a matter of us all appreciating things we do well and opening our arms wide.”

To that end, Poindexter has her eye on bringing one of slam’s most prominent national competitions, the Women of the World Poetry Slam, to Omaha in 2016. Started in 2008, WOWPS is a three-day event designed to foster women’s involvement in the global slam poetry scene.

“We could have the top 80 women in performance poetry from this country and other countries here,” Poindexter said. “I think we’re well-placed for that.”

She’s also at work on an exhibition piece she’ll show with the other Union for Contemporary Art fall fellows at the completion of their fellowship. She’s been working with the ideas of food and family, building a table with place settings and love letters for people living and dead she’d like to have at her table.

It makes sense for this poet locally known for a piece about her family’s recipe for peach cobbler, for a writer who’s filled a notebook with the Southern idioms her mother and grandmother would use, for a woman who wants to help people tell stories while she tells her own, too.

“There’s this idea that you can go into someone’s mind,” she said. “Slam is the perfect vehicle for that: You can see it in [poets’] faces and their reactions, and they can see it in your face and your reactions. No matter how tired or frustrated or fed up I get with art in general, I don’t think I could ever truly walk away. There are so many stories out there to hear that keep me coming back. I’m certain there’s something I haven’t heard yet. And then I think if I listen hard enough, I’ll be able to write it myself.

“With the way things have been going, maybe I’ll be the first to write something I’ve been waiting to hear. I hope. I hope.”

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