Harshman’s New Book Wins Prize

West Virginia Poet Laureate Marc Harshman’s newest collection of poems, “Woman in Red Anorak,” has been released, and it’s already an award winner.

This just-published volume is the winner of the 2017 Blue Lynx Prize. The book-length collection, published by Lynx House Press, is being distributed by the University of Washington Press.

The Wheeling resident is slated to participate in an author event at 6 p.m. Friday at Taylor Books, Charleston, where he will be joined by poet Kevin Rippin, whose new book of poetry is titled “Amber Drive.” Harshman also will appear Saturday at the West Virginia Book Festival in Charleston.

Commenting on Harshman’s new collection, poet James Harms of Morgantown stated, “His lyrical insight and empathic imagination remind us again and again of the solacing power of poetry.”

Harms, who appeared at the Ohio County Public Library for a Wheeling Poetry Series program last October, described Harshman as “a poet whose fidelity to humanity is matched only by his extraordinary vision.”

Poet Judith Vollmer of Pittsburgh said of the new work: “I have admired for years Marc Harshman’s poetry for its sanity and its eye on our great teacher, history. In this captivating book, Harshman leads us inside a startling rapid-lens simultaneity of events … Specters are omnipresent — I think of John Clare, and Hardy, and James Wright. Accompanying the breathtaking invisibles, always, are real and present people and things, beheld in beauty.”

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To open the fourth season of the Wheeling Poetry Series, Vollmer and fellow Pittsburgh poet Ed Ochester read from their work at the library on Oct. 9.

Vollmer expressed appreciation for the Ohio County Public Library’s “huge, amazing collection.” She also commented, “It’s nice to be in this beautiful library.”

She read several pieces from her 2017 volume, “The Apollonia Poems,” including the highly personal poem, “Children of October,” that began, “Those of us born in July, voluptuous and moody/frost the sun with our loneliness.”

Vollmer also spoke of “a sadness and a strangeness” that she felt when she had to sell her parents’ home, where she had spent her first 20 years. In the poem, “Another Dream,” she described how she hid “notes to the four winds” — behind plaster and paneling — for the house’s new owners to find.

Harshman, founder of the Wheeling Poetry Series, introduced Vollmer and Ochester to the audience at Lunch With Books. He related, “Ed was my first teacher of poetry, and I couldn’t have had a better one.”

Ochester has been a longtime editor of the Pitt Poetry Series, which Harshman called “one of the most distinguished poetry series in the United States.”

The poet laureate remarked, “I cannot say enough about all the joy that Ed’s work brings to me.”

Ochester responded, “It’s very nice to be here, and it’s very nice to see Marc again.”

The Pittsburgh poet added that his daughter, who is now grown, once said of Harshman, “He’s the nicest man I ever met.”

Ochester grew up in Queens, New York, but had relatives who lived in New Jersey. He said his godfather, Uncle Frank, inspired his poem, “The Damnation of New Jersey.” Other biographical selections that he offered included “Dreaming About My Father” and “September: Listening to the Old Songs.”

Discussing her interest in literature, Vollmer related, “Once I learned to read, I never stopped.”

In response to a question about poetry from an audience member, Ochester observed, “American poetry is a house with a lot of different rooms in it … The only way to find what you like now is to browse.”

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Meanwhile, the library’s Lunch With Books session drew a record-breaking crowd on Tuesday. Jeanne Finstein, president of Friends of Wheeling, gave a presentation on a new biography, “The Big Greek: The Rise and Fall of Big Bill Lias.”

Written by Wheeling native George Fetherling, it is the first book published under the Friends of Wheeling Publishing Loan program for authors of books of relevance to the city.

A man in the standing-room-only audience for Tuesday’s program was heard to quip, “Crime doesn’t pay, but it sure does draw a crowd.”

Linda Comins can be reached via email at: lcomins@theintelligencer.net

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