Thursday evening was a celebration of the northeast, Pennsylvania literary community. The evening marked the release of an anthology I had opportunity to co-edit, Down the Dog Hole: 11 Poets on Northeast Pennsylvania. We gathered at Keystone College in La Plume to read from the book, but also to mark the relaunch of Nightshade Press. An English professor at Lackawanna College, I was happy to see folks from other local colleges present, including Penn State Worthington-Scranton and Wilkes University. My hope is to continue to see this community grow among the colleges because we do far better when we support each other.
I’ve always struggled with my identity as it pertains to NEPA. As a teen, I couldn’t wait to get out of here, especially when the punk rock venues I hung out in high school closed. They were my only refuge in the area, places I could go where I didn’t feel like an outcast. They got me interested in writing, music, and art. I escaped to college outside Philly and spent most of my weekends hanging in the city, record shopping, book shopping, and reading some of my first poems (very bad drafts) at the Philly area open mics. I cut my teeth in the poetry community in Philly and still keep close connections to that area today. Graduate school brought me back here, and I stayed. At this point, I’m grateful for the chance to teach what I love at Lackawanna College and to help foster the growing literary community here.
As I listened to nine other poets read from the anthology the other night, I was reminded how much there is to mine in this area. One of the poems in the book references John Mitchell, the labor leader who lead mining strikes in the early 20th century and met with Teddy Roosevelt for labor negotiations. Other poems celebrate the natural beauty of this area. Now that I’m older, I’m more comfortable with my place as a poet as it pertains to my native area. As I joined friends the other evening to celebrate this literary community, I was reminded how much has yet to be written about this area. The anthology is a nice start.