The Fox Cities Book Festival features authors from scores of genres, crafts, and writing styles. Poetry has always been a festival-goer favorite and this year promises to not disappoint. Fox Cities Book Festival has lined up eight poets–six of whom have roots in Wisconsin–to discuss their poetry, read from their work, and provide opportunities to ask questions and participate in discussions throughout the week.
Dr. Margaret Rozga
The Fox Cities Book Festival once again welcomes Wisconsin’s Poet Laureate. In 2017, Karla Hudson, Wisconsin Poet Laureate 2017-2018 spoke about poetry and memory, reading from her chapbook of poems, Grief Bone (Five Oaks Press, 2017). At this year’s festival, current Wisconsin Poet Laureate, Dr. Margaret Rozga, brings her own unique style and subject to the podium.
University of Wisconsin – Waukesha Professor of English Emerita Dr. Margaret Rozga creates poetry from her ongoing concern for social justice issues. She was a participant in Milwaukee’s marches for fair housing and later married civil rights leader, Father James Groppi.
Her book, Two Hundred Nights and One Day (Benu Press 2009), tells the story of the 1967-68 Milwaukee fair housing struggle. This book was awarded a bronze medal in poetry in the 2009 Independent Publishers Book Awards and named an outstanding achievement in poetry for 2009 by the Wisconsin Library Association.
As part of the 50th anniversary projects honoring Milwaukee’s fair housing marches, Dr. Rozga served as editor of a poetry chapbook anthology, Where I Want to Live: Poems for Fair and Affordable Housing. Also as part of the 50th anniversary events, she convened a housing task force that supported the successful initiative to close a loophole in Milwaukee County’s fair housing law so that it now covers people with rent assistance vouchers.
She writes monthly columns for the Los Angeles Art News and Milwaukee Neighborhood News. She leads poetry and journaling workshops and serves as a civil rights consultant to community organizations.
Dr. Rozga’s event, Putting Action Into Words: The Poetry of Fair Housing, will be held on Tuesday, October 8th, from 6:30 PM to 7:30 PM at the Lawrence Memorial Chapel in Appleton. She will be reading poems from Two Hundred Nights and One Day. She’ll also discuss recent fair housing policy and poetry successes during the 50th anniversary of those historic fair housing marches.
Louis V. Clark III (Two Shoes)
Born and raised on the Oneida Reservation in northeastern Wisconsin, Louis V. Clark III (Two Shoes) turned to poetry to continue the oral tradition of his people, the People of the Standing Stone. A member of the Iroquois Confederacy, his family is of the Bear clan. His first chapbook, “Two Shoes,” was published in 2011.
In a 2016 interview for the Author Showcase of Oshkosh Wisconsin, Clark spoke of his evolution as a writer and poet. In 1979, married and with two children, Clark quit his job and moved his family to Oshkosh. He started college and began writing. Clark started out in Journalism, focusing on English classes, before settling on a degree in business. “It took me 25 years to get my bachelor’s,” he said. Throughout his time earning his degree, working full-time, coaching baseball, and raising six children with his wife, Clark continued to write poetry.
“I started writing poetry the way that I heard it in my head. And that was rhyming, that was with a beat,” Clark said. He recalled his early childhood and listening to the drums of the pow-wows on the reservation. “You could hear the drums from your house. And it brought a security to a little boy…With those drums, I started using that in my poetry.”
Clark’s 2017 “How to be an Indian in the 21st Century” provided a platform for his unique voice, taking readers on a deeply personal and profound quest through a wide range of subjects: workplace racism, falling in love, and the Green Bay Packers.
He has been featured as a guest on WPR’s the Morning Show, as a guest lecturer for events in and around Wisconsin, and a featured speaker at The Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets’ Conference.
At this year’s Fox Cities Book Festival, Clark will be speaking on the follow-up to his 2017 memoir. Rebel Poet: More Stories from a 21st Century Indian, will be held Monday, October 7th from 4:30 PM to 5:30 PM, at The Gerard H. Van Hoof Memorial Library in Little Chute.
The festival welcomes Canadian-native and Wisconsin-transplant, Stewart Cole. Cole is a poet and Associate Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh.
Stewart Cole, of Toronto, Ontario. is the author of the poetry collections Questions in Bed (Goose Lane, 2012) and the forthcoming Soft Power (Goose Lane, 2019) and the chapbooks Alien Freight (Anstruther Press, 2017) and Sirens (Cactus Press, 2011). His work has appeared in many venues, including The Walrus, The Puritan, The Fiddlehead, The Malahat Review, and Riddle Fence.
He is also a literary scholar working at the intersections of modern British and Irish literature and animal studies. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and the Environment, LIT: Literature Interpretation Theory, Twentieth-Century Literature, Studies in Canadian Literature, and the essay collection Literature and Meat since 1900.
He is Associate Professor of English, Affiliated Faculty of the Sustainability Institute for Regional Transformations (SIRT), and Honors College Faculty at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, where he teaches courses in modern and contemporary British and Irish literature, poetry writing, and literary criticism, as well as interdisciplinary Honors seminars and study-abroad programs.
Stewart grew up in the Rideau Valley south of Ottawa and lived in Victoria, Montréal, Fredericton, London (Ontario), and Toronto before moving to the U.S. Midwest. He holds a Ph. D. from the University of Toronto, an M.A. from the University of New Brunswick, and a B.A. (Honours) from the University of Victoria.
Fellow Ottawa poet and blogger, Michael Dennis has described Cole’s poetry as having “that crisp clean white sheet smell of spring and the first open windows because his language is so precise and dare I say proper. But the counterpoint to Stewart Cole’s explicit and careful diction are the ideas that fuel these poems.”
Cole will be reading from his second collection of poems, Soft Power, on Thursday, October 10, from 3:00 PM to 3:45 PM at Lawrence University’s Warch Campus Center. Details of the event can be found on the Fox Cities Book Festival Schedule.
The Fox Cities Book Festival provides a natural setting to foster and showcase the heart of Crystal Gibbins’ work. The fall festival, and its concurrent seasonal transition, provides a timely backdrop for the subject of her poetry.
Crystal Spring Gibbins is a Canadian-American writer from the Northwest Angle and Islands in Lake of the Woods (Minnesota and Ontario).
She is the founder/editor of Split Rock Review and Split Rock Press, editor of Rewilding: Poems for the Environment (Flexible Press, 2020), co-editor of Waters Deep: A Great Lakes Poetry Anthology, and author of Now/Here (Holy Cow! Press), winner of the 2017 Northeastern Minnesota Book Award in Poetry and runner-up for the 2017 Edna Meudt Poetry Book Award from the Council for Wisconsin Writers, selected by Sean Thomas Dougherty.
Gibbins holds a PhD in English with concentrations in Creative Writing, 20th and 21st Century American Poetry, and North American Environmental Literature from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, an MFA in Creative Writing and Certificate in Publishing from Minnesota State University-Moorhead, a BFA in Professional and Creative Writing from Bemidji State University, and an AA from Rainy River Community College. She has taught creative writing, literature, and composition for 15 years at several universities and colleges.
Currently, she is writing a second poetry collection that focuses on environmental issues affecting the Boundary Waters and Great Lakes. She also illustrates and writes UP NORTH, a comic about her life and travels.
She lives on the south shore of Lake Superior in northwest Wisconsin.
Fran Kaye, Professor Emeritus, UNL, describes Gibbins’ work: “She writes in ways that exactly place humans in the natural world. The reader suddenly sees a ‘diaspora of pine cones’ or ‘wind mean as bleach,’ images that lap out endlessly until their ripples fill the pond. Crystal Gibbins is a stunning poet!”
Gibbins will discuss what it means to write about place and read new and selected poems from Now/Here (Holy Cow! Press) at her event, Regreen: Writing Place and Nature Poetry on Thursday, October 10 from 2:00 PM – 2:45 PM in Lawrence University’s Warch Campus Center.
The Fox Cities Regional Partnership lists the Fox Cities combined population as greater than 300,000. While the Fox River Valley is one of the largest, fastest growing urban centers in Wisconsin, the cities and towns that comprise it retain a Midwestern, small-town feel. Tom Montag, poet, essayist, and writing teacher, is no stranger to the Midwestern small-town. A resident of Fairwater, WI–population under 400– Montag brings the themes of place and the nostalgic narratives of his work to the 2019 Fox Cities Book Festival.
Montag has long been interested in place and the hold that the land has on us. Much of Montag’s poetry reflects his Midwestern background, from his early long-poem, Making Hay to his series, Plain Poems: A Fairwater Daybook. In his memoir, Curlew: Home (2001), Montag returned to his roots, writing about his first fourteen years spent on a farm outside Curlew, Iowa, and about his sense of loss in revisiting the community forty years later. Kissing Poetry’s Sister (2002) gathered eleven of Montag’s essays about writing and being a writer, including his long piece on creative nonfiction.
After retiring from his full-time job as a printer in 2002, Montag began collecting stories from residents of twelve communities across the Midwest; stories of their families, their lives, and their connections to the places they inhabit. The pursuit resulted in Vagabond in the Middle, a five-year attempt to find what makes us Midwestern.
Montag is an independent teacher of poetry and nonfiction prose; in 2003, he delivered fourteen such sessions in Wisconsin, Iowa and Nebraska. He currently teaches a course, “Writing the Small Town Poem” with The Mill: a Place for Writers, non-profit organization that offers writing workshops and classes to residents in the Fox Cities.
Montag is currently preparing two additional collections of his essays for publication and continues working at his Plain Poems. He remains involved with Fairwater’s Historical Society, where he handles publicity and collects oral histories from current and former village residents.
Montag lives with Mary, his wife of more than thirty years, in a big cinnamon-colored house in Fairwater. The couple has two grown daughters, Jenifer and Jessica.
He will present a reading from his collected works at a Poetry Reading, at the Neenah Public Library on Saturday, October 12, from 11:30 AM to 12:30 PM.
Gaochi Faith Vang’s message is simple and substantial: it is one of human connection. A resident of her hometown of Kaukauna, WI, Vang brings her experiences as a Midwestern, Hmong woman to the Fox Cities Book Festival, and explores themes of mental health, artistic expression, and evolution of identities.
Vang received her Bachelor Degree in Psychology with a minor in Women/Gender Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Currently, she is working toward her Master of Science in Psychology, specialization in Social Psychology, holding a great interest in research. Additionally, Gaochi has a strong passion for mental health advocacy, particularly addressing its significance within the Hmong community, and believes that expression of one’s well being can occur in many artistic forms–through music, art, or pen. Specifically, writing has become her outlet bridging the gap between her experiences and her expression. As a Hmong American woman, her life and observation of life has been the foundation to the evolution of her identities.
Her book, Building Walls to Break Down, is composed of poems that embody topics surrounding mental health, identity collision, self-love, and self-acceptance. The importance of working together is also integrated within the pieces because she believes that human connection is far greater than any fear or insecurity that has grown and rooted itself within us.
Simply, Building Walls to Break Down speaks to the narratives that have often been dismissed, compromised, or adjusted for the convenience of others. It is a validating journey of support, self-acceptance, and empowerment. It integrates intersectional realities that form our instinctual need to protect ourselves from falling vulnerable into heartbreak, agony, and adversity. The book is composed of poems that touch on experiences contributing to the construction of our walls we have built around our hearts and the liberation of breaking them down, together. Rooted with emotion, the pieces discuss mental health, self-revelations, identity collision, love, pain, and a collaborative process of healing with the author and reader.
Vang will be reading from Building Walls to Break Down at the Kaukauna Public Library on October 8 from 10:30 AM to 11:30 AM, and at the Appleton Public Library on October 9, from 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM.
Allison Joseph and Jon Tribble
Allison Joseph and Jon Tribble, literary and life partners, are no strangers to the Midwest. Their poetry carries a relevance and timelessness state borders cannot transcend. They live in Carbondale, Illinois, where Joseph directs the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Southern Illinois University and Tribble directs internships in editing and publishing for the Department of English at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
Festival goers can listen to Allison Joseph and Jon Tribble read from their acclaimed work at a Poetry Reading on October 12 from 6:30 PM to 7:30 PM at Lawrence University’s Warch Campus Center.
Allison Joseph grew up in Toronto, Canada, and the Bronx, New York. She serves as poetry editor of Crab Orchard Review, the publisher of No Chair Press, and the director of Writers In Common, a writing conference for writers of all ages and experience levels. In 2014, she was awarded a Doctor of Letters honorary degree from her undergraduate alma mater, Kenyon College.
A prolific writer and poet, Joseph’s 16 books and chapbooks titles include What Keeps Us Here (Ampersand Press), Soul Train (Carnegie Mellon University Press), Multitudes (Word Poetry), and a dozen more. She has published fiction and nonfiction, and travels frequently to read from her work at various festivals, conferences, and universities.
Her latest full-length book of poetry, Confessions of a Barefaced Woman, (Red Hen Press, 2018) was chosen as the Gold/First Place Winner in the poetry category of the 2019 Feathered Quill Book Awards. Confessions of a Barefaced Woman is also a 2019 nominee in the poetry category of the NAACP Image Awards, and a 2019 finalist for both the Montaigne Medal and the Da Vinci Eye Book Award.
Jon Tribble was born in Little Rock, Arkansas. He grew up in Aldersgate, a church camp devoted to medical and social services programming. He has an eclectic background of jobs and life experience, which he carries into his written works.
“I spent around two and a half years working in fast food as a cook and over seven years doing about every job you can do in movie theaters. I also worked as a dishwasher, maintenance worker, data processing clerk, and security guard. All of these jobs have influenced the writing I do because I have always written with my co-workers from these jobs in mind when I think of my ideal audience,” Tribble told The Atticus Review, in a 2015 interview.”
Tribble is author of three collections of poems: Natural State (Glass Lyre Press, 2016), And There Is Many a Good Thing (Salmon Poetry, 2017), and God of the Kitchen (Glass Lyre Press, 2018) and has received various nominations and awards for his work. Tribble is also managing editor of Crab Orchard Review and series editor of the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry published by SIU Press.