Oh, What a Night!

Review of the Ekphrasis Art Opening and Readings by our CNY branch of the NLAPW

at the Szozda, Gallery,Syracuse NY  by Rachael Z. Ikins



The opening took place to a full house, Friday, May 11.Gallery director, Caroline Szozda-McGowan did a magnificent job hanging our show. Many multi-talented members have we! Poetry hangs beside tapestry and painting alike or is free standing from hand made paper in the center of the exhibit with a pair of cotton gloves for those who wish to peruse the contents of the works there to touch without hurting the paper.


The exuberant energy of all the combined artists can be felt as soon as one enters the room. It was standing room only, that first night, topped off when I, (Rachael Ikins) newly a woman of the arts as well as of letters, donned my cowboy hat to read “The Outlaw Women of CNY” at the request of our president, Joan Applebaum. PW Mary Kester and her husband Mike provided wonderful musical accompaniment to our hors d’oeuvres and conversation. Linda Bigness snapped shots of the reading.


The second event or first full length reading happened last Thursday, May 17. Rachael invited musician Bob Carbone of the Piano andOrganCenter, Clay, where many of our members have hung and do hang artwork to play for us. The turn-out of women of the brush for the women of letters was inspiring. We letters women can only express a heartfelt “thank you” to our sisters in art!


The readings were a wonderful, eclectic mix by a variety of writers whose many genres encompass our letters portion of our chapter. I alternated prose with poetry for an easy and interesting flow. Not only did we have good poetry by our Poetry Contest chair, Mary Gardner, but Sheila Byrnes followed my poetry reading and explained for us how we could start a research project into our own family trees. Nancy Keefe Rhodes read an informative film review she had written comparing the older version of “True Grit”the movie starring John Wayne with the more modern version starring Jeff Bridges. Put in historical context, her review was truly fascinating. New PW Lorraine Arsenault brought tears to audience eyes with her intimate poetry about her mother and family. Her entire family turned out in support.

I was especially moved that from various writers’ groups I have visited over the past decade, two carloads of far reaching guests responded to my invitation to read during the guest portion of the evening. It was good to reconnect and listen to Mike Sickler’s poems again as well as to hear from the head of Creative Writing at CazenoviaCollege, David Waite and his colleague DM Shepard who made us laugh with her uproarious poem “TV Dinners” followed by her son, Paul who recited his work with passion. From Canastota came Donna Ward who is a photographer and a poet, with a nostalgic piece about playing marbles. She is considering joining our ranks as a woman of the arts. The evening finished with one of our 2012 Friends, Tish Dickinson who read a poem and then from a sensitive, compassionate prose piece about her mother’s decline into Alzheimer’s.  Tish says she is at work on the entire memoir entitled “Just How Long Have You Been My Daughter?”


Sunday’s 1 p.m. reading was more sparsely attended what with all of us being gardeners and wishing to be out on our knees working in the earth. Many thanks, however, to those who came to read none the less. Georgia Popoff entertained us with excerpts from works old and new. Especially interesting to me is her in-progress collection of poetry from the point of view of inanimate objects belonging to famous people ie. Emily Dickinson’s inkwell and Janice Joplin’s cowbell. Looking forward to the book.

 We heard from new PW poet, Bobbie Panek ofAuburnas well as Janet Fagal’s passionate talk on the teaching of poetry and her debut to PW poems. Her passion was contagious. How lucky her students to have been inspired by her. No wonder young Tim, one of this year’s elementary school winners dedicated his poem “to Mrs. Fagal, my poetry teacher.” at the award ceremony last month.

We had a special guest, Alexandra Aureden, one of Mrs. Fagal’s fourth grade poets who recited a poem for us. We hope she continues in her passion for reading and writing. Perhaps one day, she ‘ll be a Pen Woman, too. In her honor, and because I write more genres than poetry, I read from an award winning fantasy  short story, the manuscript of which novel it is taken from, is currently under consideration in its entirety. After the reading Alex and her mom  asked me how to order the book so that she could find out “what happens next. “Success!


During each reading Caroline provided a table where those of us who have published books and other items could display them for sale.  We all really appreciated it. Several writers were able to sell some books! And this artist was lucky enough to have someone purchase a print of the artwork hanging in this exhibit and an owl mug (the “PW” letterhead Owl) as well. Thanks everyone for bringing the wonderful array of refreshments and beverages!


Yolanda and I enjoyed working with Caroline Szozda. We meshed beautifully. She thought of everything! Her hanging of our artwork is spectacular. If you haven ‘t yet stopped down at the gallery to see the Ekphrasis exhibit, you really should brave the construction before we take our work home the first week in June. It is well worth the effort. Artists include Joan Stier, Joan Applebaum, Roscha Folger, Linda Bigness, Rachael Ikins, Mary Kester, Mary Ranieri, Jeanne Dupre, Georgia Popoff, Wendy Harris, Sallie Bailey, and Yolanda Tooley. Poets hanging with others’ art include Mary Gardner, Rachael Ikins, Lorraine Arsenault, Bobbie Panek, and Georgia Popoff.

If I left anyone’s name out, it is totally an oversight of an overloaded mind. Please forgive me and feel free to post it on our PW blog.


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