Chuck Joy Takes Us Inside the Poetry Scene of Erie, PA
Chuck Joy is a child psychiatrist by day, and a poet by night. And, this year, he’s Erie County (PA) poet laureate.
Joy is a graduate of Fordham University and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. It was while a student at the latter that he started writing.
And it was in Erie, PA, that Joy became active in the poetry community. This now includes hosting a weekly poetry reading.
And Chuck Joy was named in September the new Poet Laureate for Erie County.
Joy’s poems have appeared in several publications. He’s also published or anthologized a few poetry collections:
- Fun Poetry (affliate link)
- Said the Growling Dog (affiliate link)
- Theme of Line (affiliate link)
- Percussive (affiliate link)
Below is my interview with Chuck Joy, conducted over email. And at the bottom of this post is a poem by Chuck titled “TRUTH.”
If you’re a published poet or author, you too could be featured on Bidwell Hollow. Reach out to me via the Contact form on this website.
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Q&A with Chuck Joy
When did you first start writing poetry?
I enjoyed reading from an early age and in college learned to write about reading. Determined to help others, I entered medical school and while completing it identified a need to pursue writing as an art, an effort toward truth and beauty, valuable in itself.
I started with prose, but by 1980 I began to experience the depth and intricacies of writing line by line, poetry. The collection Theme of Line (affiliat elink) contains poems of mine elucidating that use of line.
Since then I have engaged in productions including music and theatre while increasingly focusing on poetry itself.
What’s changed about how poets publish and share their work over the years?
Somethings have changed, there’s the internet. Submissions go in quickly although sometimes take as long. Self-publishing makes us authors of books.
Posting poems on Facebook give the immediacy of an audience. I like reading poetry live on a real stage, damn the stage fright, but I have no objection to television.
I tried self-publishing with Fun Poetry (affiliate link), a fun collection of my poems from Lulu.com, including a section of Italian-American poems. (I am a member of the Italian-American Writers Association).
What about your poetry? Has that changed over time?
My poetry has become increasingly cinematic. I call it “poetry you watch”. A recent collection Percussive (affiliate link) includes poems selected for their narrative quality.
Chuck Joy on Poetry in Erie
What’s the poetry scene like where you live in Erie, PA?
Like almost everywhere around the world, Erie has a history of poetry.
When I appeared live readings were happening at a coffee shop, a pizza store, and another coffee shop. I would also travel to Meadville, PA, and New York City to read.
Having appeared a few times to read at The Erie Book Store, I proposed a weekly poetry event to Kathleen Cantrell, the book store owner, and she agreed to house, while I would host. We started as an open mic and soon included featured poets.
After eight years, Kathleen retired, the business sold, and the poet Cee Williams hosted weekly poetry in Erie for five years at his place, Poets’ Hall. When Cee retired from that job, I picked up the weekly poetry baton at a tavern called Calamari’s in Erie’s entertainment district, starting in October 2017.
What happens at this weekly poetry event?
The weekly event I host, Poetry Night, often begins with me introducing a featured poet. We like a 20-minute feature. Especially if the poet has books, we’ll take an intermission so folks can get a look at those books. I come back to open the open mic, often with brief announcements of poetry news.
We have no sign-up, just stand up, introduce yourself. I often demonstrate by reading my own poem or poems first. We like open mic contributions limited to two poems, three if they’re short, or five minutes.
How did you become Erie County’s Poet Laureate?
An application is required to be considered for Erie County’s Poet Laureate. The selection is competitive. A panel of judges considers an applicant’s resume, a 12-page poetry sample, and a proposed project the candidate would administer to contribute to the county’s culture through poetry.
Finalists are selected, and they face off before the judges live on stage. At that competitive reading in September 2018, I was judged the winner. My position requires me to provide one formal public reading and to administer my project.
Chuck Joy on Poets and Books He Enjoys
Who are some poets you admire most?
The poets I admire most begin with those around me: Cee Williams, Kim Noyes, Monica Igras, Matt Borczon, Ron Andola, Sean Thomas Dougherty, Berwyn Moore.
Next are the contemporary poets I host in Erie and have met on stage around the region: John Burroughs, Dianne Borsenik, Don Wentworth, Scott Williams, Ray McNeice, George Wallace, Danny Shot, Amy Barone, Gerry LaFemina. Yuyutsu Sharma is a world poet.
Poets whom reading has changed me include Billy Collins, Charles Bukowski, Diane Wakoski, Frank O’Hara, Gregory Corso, Edna St. Vincent Millay, John Keats, E. E. cummings, William Carlos Williams.
Have you read any good books lately?
I have read some good books lately. Second Tuesday Anthology 2000 came from the poetry workshop to which I have belonged for many years. I just completed a memoir from a television cameraman of the Vietnam War. I am almost done with Eric Idle’s “sortabiography.”
Thank you to Chuck Joy for this interview. You, too, could be featured on this blog. Use this website’s contact form to reach out.
as poet becomes poem
the voice goes first
given over to phrasing
every line its tune
any room, no matter how crowded, recedes
eye contact reduced to resting the gaze
your eyes hungry birds, other eyes their nests
each nest exerting its unique attraction
posture, standing, become dance
any movement, sometimes personifying certain actions
body English, always powering the breath, the trumpet
hitting a sweet spot wah wah, kicking up a knee
soon clothes in fact the body gone
the poet not naked, transparent
all barrier removed, straight
through to the truth
— TRUTH from Charles Joy. Copyright 2019. Used with permission of the author.