A different kind of imagery will fill a Downtown Crown art gallery on Sunday, June 11. This first-ever poetry reading and open mic at the Gaithersburg community’s Chesapeake Framing and Art Gallery will be held from 3 to 5 p.m.
Organizer Lucinda Marshall has gathered talent from the metropolitan area, including Serena Agusto-Cox, Donald Illich, Gregory Luce, Katherine E. Young and Leeya Mehta. Marshall is on the roster, too.
“I’m really excited about this and would love this to be an ongoing opportunity to…showcase DMV-area talent,” said Marshall, who is spreading the word to her extensive network of writers and friends via a Facebook page dedicated to the event.
Why Gaithersburg? Why Now?
“With its wonderful book festival that attracts writers from around the world, Gaithersburg already has a strong presence in the literary world,” Marshall explained. “Having a poetry reading in the community is a way to [further] make this a hub for showcasing and nurturing our local DMV writers.”
The idea has been brewing for years. “When Chesapeake Framing and Art Gallery opened, we gained a wonderful venue for making this happen. [Gallery owner] Mary Jo Moon has really been really great at handling the logistics,” Marshall said.
“I don’t really have any connection to poetry, per se,” said Moon, but “we are always on the lookout for cultural events to offer the public. Lucinda is a customer who mentioned that she was part of a group of poets, so we asked if they would be interested in having a reading in the gallery. In the future, we are hoping to have an event with storytellers and some musical events,” she added.
While “walk-ins” are welcome, the event has drawn an impressive list of known, published poets.
Serena Agusto-Cox is a Pushcart Prize-nominated poet, freelance editor, book reviewer, entrepreneur and blogger. As creator of the blog Savvy Verse & Wit and a virtual company, Poetic Book Tours, she advocates for poets and independently published authors. Agusto-Cox has moderated poetry and fiction panels at the Gaithersburg Book Festival since 2012. Multiple poetry journals have published her work.
Leeya Mehta, author of “The Towers of Silence,” won the 2016 Readers’ Choice Award from DistrictLit, has been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize and was a finalist for the 18th annual Arts and Letters Rumi Prize for Poetry. She is Associate Editor-at-Large at Plume Poetry. Her fiction, non-fiction and poetry have been published. Mehta, who grew up in India, studied at Oxford and Georgetown universities; she served as editor-in-chief of The Georgetown Public Policy Review. After being employed at the World Bank for most of the past decade, she is working on a novel, “Extinction.”
Rockville poet Donald Illich was recently selected as a finalist for the Gold Wake Press Open Reading and for the Washington Writers’ Publishing House Poetry Contest. He has received several nominations the Pushcart Prize as well as a scholarship from the Nebraska Summer Writers Conference. He has published two chapbooks, and his poems have appeared in many journals.
Katherine E. Young is the author of “Day of the Border Guards” (2014) and two chapbooks; she is a Miller Williams Arkansas Poetry Prize finalist. Her poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner and The Iowa Review. A prize-winning translator, Young is a 2017 National Endowment for the Arts translation fellow and currently serves as the inaugural Poet Laureate for Arlington, Virginia.
Gregory Luce has written four books, and his poetry has been published in print and online. He was the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities 2014 Larry Neal Award winner for adult poetry. Retired from National Geographic, the Arlington, Virginia resident works as a creative writing instructor for Writopia Lab.
Lucinda Marshall is a writer, artist and activist who has written poetry on and off since childhood. Her poetry has appeared in Sediments, Ground Fresh Thursday, Indolent Books’ What Rough Beast Series, Stepping Stones Magazine, Columbia Journal and Poetica, and her poem, “The Lilies Were In Bloom,” received Honorable Mention in Waterline Writers’ Artists as Visionaries Climate Crisis Solutions. The Gaithersburg resident volunteers as a facilitator for the Gaithersburg Teen Writing Club, which meets at the Gaithersburg Library, and leads teen writing workshops at the Gaithersburg Book Festival.
Marysol Hohl, who Marshall described as “a gifted Gaithersburg High School ninth-grader from my teen writing club,” also will be reading at Sunday’s event.
A Writer’s Circle
According to Marshall, participants’ shared passion for poetry brought them together, citing “a number of poetry/writing organizations around the area (like Split This Rock and The Writer’s Center) as well as reading venues and events.”
“I have met and/or read with everyone but Serena (Agusto-Cox) at one or multiple events,” she added. “It’s like any other profession. You get to know folks.”
Regardless of whether you are a published poet, all are welcome to share or debut their work and network with other poets. “We will have an open mic at the end of the event, so I know that will be a draw [for the general public],” Marshall said.
“In talking with Mayor (Jud) Ashman (who started the Gaithersburg Book Festival), working with the teens at the library, as well as talking with other writers,” concluded Marshall, “I think the poetry reading will have broad support in the community.”
The Chesapeake Framing and Art Gallery is located at 123 Crown Park Ave., Gaithersburg. Admission is free. Call 301-339-5578.