The art of writing is growing in southern West Virginia. The weather may hinder local meetings right now, however, it does not stop the knowledge to share of these opportunities that do exist.
The Princeton Poetry Project is one community function that enhances local talent through their publication and local meetings. The Holler is their free quarterly journal published of poetry and short prose with submissions by local students and citizens.
How does one begin to develop an organization as this? I was privileged to do an email interview with Mr. Thomas McKenna, Ph.D. who is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Concord University in Athens, WV. He was gracious enough to elaborate the journey in this interview about the focus of the Princeton Poetry Project.
1. How did the Princeton Poetry Project first get started? The Project got started over a cup of coffee with a friend of mine, Kayla Ward. We were talking about the Bluestone Review, an annual literary journal published by Bluefield College. We thought “why not more?” There’s a lot of talent in this area and not enough opportunities for poets to share their gifts. After all, gifts are meant to be shared.
2. How many individuals does the group consist of? I’m the Director of the Project and the Editor of Holler, our quarterly journal of poetry and short prose. Sarah Odle is our managing editor. So that’s two. But it really takes a lot of good people to make it work. Richie Lovell, Beth Bailey and Kim White help cater the receptions and then there are all the poets, their families and all of our friends, all of us working together that enables us to do it. We also publish the work of local graphic artists on the cover of each issue of Holler. Kayla Ward worked on our first cover, Casi Null on our second and Celeste Cantees is scheduled to do our third, which we will publish in a few weeks. It’s really a community effort.
3. Is this group affiliated through Concord College or strictly a community based non-profit organization? The Project is a community based non-profit organization. Currently, the funding for comes from private sources although we will soon be applying for grants to help meet our needs. But it is also part of my research and that, of course, is something that I do as a professor at Concord. I teach philosophy and one of my areas of expertise is aesthetics, the philosophy of the arts.
4. Do you have a membership available to join? We do. Membership is open to everyone, of all ages and from all areas. We have members in West Virginia, Virginia, New York and Arizona. All you need to do is to contact us through our website or through the mail: Princeton Poetry Project, P.O. Box 1924, Princeton, WV 24740. It’s free!
5. I have viewed the Princeton Poetry Project, what means of publicizing besides the website do you use to get the news out about meetings, projects and for the Holler? We post information on other websites, like West Virginia Writers, Inc., we advertise through local writing workshops, the Inkslingers, Lynne Bartlett at Bluefield College is their contact person, and Concord University . And then there’s a number of local establishments that help us circulate copies of Holler: The Book Exchange, Princeton, WV; Inspire Gallery, Princeton, WV; The Riff Raff Arts Collective, Princeton, WV; Sacred Ground, Princeton, WV; Sisters’ Coffee House, Princeton, WV; Gary Bowling's House of Art, Bluefield, WV; and Hearthside Books, Bluefield, WV.
6. What is the groups focus for Princeton Poetry Project? Is it to bring awareness or education or admiration of the Poetry Art to the area? It’s all of those things. As we say on the website, the Project provides opportunities for poets to publish, to read their work in public forums, and to connect with audiences in Princeton and other nearby communities. The Project’s principle initiative is the publication of Holler, a quarterly journal of poetry and short prose. Other initiatives include poetry readings and workshops.
7. What community effects would the Princeton Poetry Project hope to succeed in; with their gatherings, meetings and events? Well, we’d love to see more people read and write poetry. It’s educational of course, but it’s also about artistic expression, self-expression and, most of all, the building of communities through the arts.
8. Could you please tell me the next meeting that will take place? The date, time, location, and the content of the meeting? We announce the time and place of our receptions about a month in advance. The exact time and place vary depending on our publication schedule and Concord’s schedule, where we currently meet.
9. Would the Princeton Poetry Project be interested in assisting other writers, authors and creative minds of Southern West Virginia in a meet and greet? We would. Right now, we are in contact with a number of groups and other literary journals including: the Inkslingers, the Bluestone Review and, most recently, Kestrel, a literary journal published by Fairmont State University in Fairmont, WV.
10. If you would like to add anything else that the public would need to know or you would like them to know about the Princeton Poetry Project, please do. We would like everyone to pay a visit to our website, get a copy of the journal, submit their work and come out to our receptions to support the local arts. We know that there is a lot of talent in this area. We just want to provide opportunities for everyone to share their gifts with one another.
This is a free community resource for creative minds. If you would like to assist or participate, please sign up for email updates at their website.