By Andrew McSorley

A good poem can live with you for a lifetime. The five poets reading for the Fox Cities Book Festival this year are here to tell their stories, share their visions, and leave you with words to describe the indescribable. Read about our incredible poets and pre-register for all of the readings on Saturday, October 17 at 2:00 PM. 

Leota Ester

Leota’s poetry is full of longing and learning.

The story at the center of her book Crossing: A Caregiver’s Journey, focuses on how she lived with the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease in her husband. These are poems of both suffering and joy, as Leota finds meaning in caring for her beloved patient, all the while mourning what has been lost, and processing the grief of a new normal. She writes and lives in a retirement community in Evanston, Illinois.

Her reading will be held on Saturday, October 17, 2020 at 2 PM

Matthew Graham

Matthew is the current poet laureate of the State of Indiana. He is a former professor, festival organizer, and champion of poetry in the Midwest.

Matthew’s latest book, Geography of Home, carefully centers us in place the way a painter would painstakingly capture a landscape. Of his poems, Marcus Wicker writes: “Matthew Graham traverses the topography of a life made satisfyingly whole through a steadfast examination of the everyday…It’s a potent combination that reminds me, in this moment of political divisiveness, that unwavering interiority is the first step toward bridging the invisible boundaries that divide us.”

Join us for a reading of these timely and exceptionally crafted poems on Saturday, October 17, 2020 at 2:45 PM.

Abayomi Animashaun

Abayomi’s new collection, Seahorses, comes to us during a moment in America’s history where the immigrant and the refugee are political objects.

Abayo’s work reaches into his own experience as an immigrant from Nigeria, and wrestles with the dichotomy of America’s ideals versus its reality. Abayo’s poetry is beautiful, though not delicate. In this collection, we find poems that Diane Seuss declares are, “By turns apocalyptic and tender…Seahorses is beautiful, disturbing, and sublime.” Here are poems elegant in their form, and raw in their storytelling. Abayo is currently a professor at UW-Oshkosh and lives in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Join us for his reading on Saturday, October 17, 2020 at 3:30 PM.

Cathryn Cofell

Cathryn just may be the finest poet hiding in plain sight here in the Fox Cities.

Her most recent collection, Stick Figure With Skirt, was awarded the 2019 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award. This collection finds humor and levity in a culture obsessed with productivity, deadlines, and working through unhappiness. In all of this ribbing, though, Cathy finds hidden truths and uncovers the ways we are, or perform, being human. Jericho Brown describes this collection as “Dickinsonian in its way of believing in the power of the mind, the internal world, the imagination that always reaches beyond the self.” Cathy is a true champion of poetry in the state, founding the Wisconsin Poet Laureate Commission, the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets Chapbook Prize, and the Poetry Unlocked reading series in Appleton.

Join us for a wonderful reading from her work on Saturday, October 17, 2020 at 4:15 PM

Ruth Awad

If you spend any amount of time with Ruth Awad you’ll learn two things: she loves her Pomeranians, and she’s one of the finest poetic minds in the country.

Her collection, Set to Music a Wildfire, sets us in Lebanon during the civil war. Telling the true story of her father’s escape from the country, her poems wrestle with questions of survival, culture, and what it truly means to leave one place and call another home. She tells a story whose weight would burden lesser poems, but here we see a debut as tenderly crafted as it is poignant. Maggie Smith says “Awad approaches the story–of a country, a man, a family–as if excavating priceless artifacts and holding them up to the light.”

Spend some time with Ruth and her poetry on Saturday, October 17, 2020 at 5 PM.  

Andrew McSorley is a member of the board for the Fox Cities Book Festival. He is the author of the poetry collection What Spirits Return (Kelsay Books, 2019), and works as a librarian at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin.