'Distinguished poets and published authors' coming to Norwalk

Cary Ashby • May 1, 2019 at 7:00 PM

MILAN — Twin sisters are hoping to bring poetry “back to life” in Northeastern Ohio with an upcoming public poetry workshop in Norwalk.

“Grey Skies & Blue Hearts: Healing through Poetry” is a class project by Edison High School juniors Hannah and Micaela Coon, the daughters of Chad and Donna. The event, which includes a discussion, readings and signing, will be at 9 a.m. May 11 at Sheri’s Coffee House, 27 Whittlesey Ave.

Micaela said she hopes the workshop will help audience members learn how to write poetry and where the poets “get their inspiration.” She also said most of the participants are “acclaimed authors” from the Cleveland area and have their own websites.

So far, the following poets are confirmed for the workshop: Dianne Borsenik, Nicole Hennessy, Ray McNiece and Claire McMahon.

“Helping us host the event are some of Ohio’s most distinguished poets and published authors, such as Claire McMahon and Ray McNiece. We are also reaching out to George Bilgere and Ohio's poet laureate, Dave Lucas,” Hannah said.

The sisters are in a college government class at Edison in which they’re required to complete a final public project of personal interest. The Coons used connections and friendships that their teacher, Joseph Collins, has with area poets.

“He’s a part of that community,” Hannah said.


Edison students give back

Some of the other students’ projects are focused on community renewal, paranormal investigation and a “tech talk” on astrophysics. One Edison student created a song about the drug epidemic.

“We have a couple students creating a mural that might go on the side of a building,” said Collins, who wants his pupils to have real-life experience while giving back to the community. 

“When they go to (college), they can say, ‘I did a real thing for my community; I held a real event’ and I think that’s one of my inspirations for this,” the Edison teacher added. “The book learning was the first semester and now we’re taking that and applying it to real life.”

Juniors Jared Everman, Chase O’Dell, Halle Patton, Kaylee Ries and Emily Vogus are creating a new sign for the American Legion building in Berlin Heights. The ribbon-cutting ceremony will be at 9 a.m. May 4.

“As a teenager, I drove by that (original) sign and I saw quotes from our founding fathers on it and I was inspired by it. Having moved back to Ohio from Colorado after 15 years, I was troubled to see that the weather had almost blown that sign down,” Collins said.

Everman said he and his friends thought it would be a great idea to “give back to his amazing organization that has been giving back to this amazing community going back to before we were born.” A story about the project appeared in Friday’s issue.

Schools are supposed to “prepare students for readiness in life” and in addition to test scores, universities are looking for how much they have done for their community, Collins said.

“I want to do my part in that. I want to make projects now that revolve around community service and (students) giving back to their communities,” said the teacher, who sees such experiences as a “resume-builder” and “a feather in their hat.”

“We are showing that ideas matter, that communities matter, that governments matter, that politics matter. This is not just something that old people do,” Collins said. “(Students) are the future. … They can go out and make a change and see their work.”


‘Beneficial’ poetry workshop

Originally, the focus of the poetry workshop was mental health.

“Because I have bad anxiety, I cope through writing,” Hannah said.

The Coon sisters admit they and other teenagers aren’t necessarily familiar with poetry, but they said “we thought a workshop would be beneficial for us and the community.”

“I think it’s a wonderful art form for our generation,” Micaela added. “I think it’s a beautiful art form and it should be shared with other people.”

Collins said he sees the workshop as a way of giving back to the community through fine arts and doing so through a connection a local business, Sheri’s Coffee House.

“The beauty of it here is that this something adults could do, but students are taking it upon themselves to do,” he added.

Collins has been to a poetry reading at Mr. Smith’s Coffee House in Sandusky.

“They (the Coons) were thinking, ‘What about Norwalk?,’” he said. “They’re like the Lewis and Clark of what they’re doing. … It’s going to be great for the coffee shop; it’s going to be great for that section of town and downtown for just a moment. It’s going to show what is possible — that the arts are alive. I know the Imagine (Norwalk) series is big in Norwalk and this is their little contribution to that.”

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