Literary walk to bring a taste of poetry to St. Clair Shores

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published June 17, 2019

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — Step into the pages of poetry with the first-ever St. Clair Shores Literary Walk by the Lake June 22 at Wahby Park.

The walk is a chance for residents and visitors to experience the poetry of local and nationally known writers while having the ability to interact with those writers on a more intimate level.

This will be the first literary walk in St. Clair Shores, but St. Clair Shores poet laureate M. L. Liebler, who is bringing the event to the city, said that he first hosted one in 2008 in Chelsea, Michigan. That event, the Midwest Literary Walk, is still going on 11 years later.

Liebler said that he began another literary walk in midtown Detroit about eight years ago, and it, too, has been a success.

Liebler said he’s excited to bring the event to St. Clair Shores.

“Everyone complains to me that there’s no literary happenings on the east side,” he said.

The Michigan Council for the Arts provided a grant for the event, which Liebler said has helped him to attract some well-known writers. It is also supported by the Detroit Writers Guild, the Friends of the St. Clair Shores Public Library, the St. Clair Shores Public Library, the St. Clair Shores Cultural Committee, and John M. Steinberg and Associates DDS.

Although it is termed a walk, Liebler said that the different staging areas are not very far apart and will not require very much walking in between.

“We’re going to do it at Wahby Park. Just three little areas designated within close proximity there,” he said. “We’re going to try it out and see what happens with it.”

The event will begin at 11:30 a.m. June 22 at Wahby Park, 24800 Jefferson Ave., with a performance by the Batesville Memorial Library Ukulele Club of Indiana and readings by poets from the St. Clair Shores Public Library Poetry Club, including L. Bush, Mark Morgan, Debbie Benedic, Andy Vinstra, Yvonne Vinstra and Sharon Franco.

At 12:30 p.m., Cindy Hunter Morgan and Diane DeCillis, both poets and Michigan Notable Book award winners, will read from their work. The walk will move to readings from editor and author Jenifer DeBellis, poet and writer Dwight “Skip” Stackpoole, and poet and journalist K. Michelle Moran at 1:30 p.m.

It will conclude at 2:30 p.m. with readings from American Book Award-winning poet Maria Mazziotti Gillan, the founder of the Poetry Center and the director of the Binghamton University Creative Writing Program, as well as from Anne Finger, a fiction and memoir writer from California who is also a disabilities activist.

Liebler said that he’s happy to have some local poets participating in the event.

“There’s a lot of poets who just write poems for themselves and their families,” he said. “I’ve invited them to read a couple poems.”

Liebler said that the poets he has chosen for the event all have work that is easy to understand. With each reader on the walk spending about 15-20 minutes sharing their work, “It’s like a smorgasbord, a taste.

“My theory is always, less is more,” he said.

Moran, who also writes for C & G Newspapers, said that she feels fortunate to have been asked to participate in the event. Although she is a resident of Harrison Township, she grew up in St. Clair Shores and has been writing poetry since she was a child.

“Some of my work is darkly funny; some of it is sad. Some of it is very personal, and some of it comes from other sources — a story in the news, something I’ve heard from a friend or relative,” she said in an email interview. “I’m looking forward to the St. Clair Shores Literary Walk because there are some remarkable writers on the bill — I feel fortunate to have been asked to participate!”

After each stop on the walk, the writers will have copies of their work available for purchase. Those attending are invited to bring a lawn chair or blanket to sit on at each stop.

“It’s not just poetry. There will be fiction and stories and poems and music,” Liebler said. “I just wanted poets that people who might not be as exposed to poetry can come listen to and go, ‘All right, I like that; I get that.’ I leaned a little toward accessibility.”

The walk is free and open to the public. In the event of rain, it will be moved to the Jefferson Yacht Club, 24504 Jefferson Ave.

St. Clair Shores Library Director Rosemary Orlando said that the library works with Liebler on many programs, and his poetry workshop is the longest-running program at the library.

“We just thought it was another opportunity to bring people together from the suburban and urban communities at a local, arts-based event that has not happened in St. Clair Shores,” Orlando said.

She said that every event Liebler has put on that she’s ever attended has been enjoyed by everyone there, and she hopes this won’t be any different.

“I think it’s an open invitation to come to an event that we might not go elsewhere to experience,” Orlando said, adding that it will be a family-friendly event. “I’m hoping they will enjoy it and be pleasantly surprised at how much they do enjoy it.”