As PathwaysArts says, it’s dedicated to catalyzing creative projects in the visual arts, writing, dance, and collaborative forms. One of the important endeavors of this Chilmark institution is its Writing & Poetry Tuesdays, which have been going strong for the 13 years Pathways has been around.
When they were originally conducting the evenings on Zoom, Pathways co-director Keren Tonnesen realized how much she admired one of the participants — Aquinnah resident Ron Slate, the editor of the online literary and arts magazine “On the Seawall.” His new book of poems, “Joy Ride,” will be published in February by Carnegie Mellon University Press.
“I became aware of how wonderful Ron was at these meetings,” Tonnesen says. “He always had the most interesting perspectives. And I really appreciated his poetic knowledge. His unique way of seeing things was always refreshing. That’s why we decided that he should be the head of Writing & Poetry.”
Last year Slate arranged for someone from off-Island to read every Tuesday night. While they were mainly poets, this year Slate has curated a run of shows that is a balance between poetry and prose.
The evenings, which are hybrid — both on Zoom and live at Pathways, typically start with Slate sharing something about the featured author to help orient the audience. After the selected writer reads for about 15 to 20 minutes, there is time for questions and answers. Slate says as well, “I’ve asked everyone from the outside to talk about their influences or how the work got started…something about their life so they come alive on the screen.”
“It’s a great learning experience because most people who attend have some interest in writing,” Tonnesen says. “So many of these people are professors or have great positions in universities.”
After the Q & A, the process repeats with a local writer, and then there is an open mic period. So far this year, Slate’s diverse outside guests, who appear via Zoom, were Bessie Flores Zaldivar, Denise Duhamel, John Cotter, and Sean Singer. All of the authors have published several books each, whether poetry or prose, and have new books recently published or coming out.
On Tuesday, Dec. 13, there will be a break in format with both of the off-Island writers — Jenny Slate, Ron’s daughter, and her husband Ben Shattuck — reading in person at Pathways. “Jenny is an actress and comedian who I really like and I’m so excited that she will read from her second book, which is in progress,” Tonnesen says. Shattuck’s nonfiction book, “Six Walks,” was published to acclaim this year and follows the path of Henry David Thoreau’s walks around the Cape and the mountains of New Hampshire.
On Tuesday, Dec. 20, the guest is Nancy Naomi Carlson, a poet and translator. She will read some of her own work and speak about the state of translation today and why so many publishers are expanding their list of translated titles. Carlson’s fourth book of poems, “Piano in the Dark,” is coming via Seagull Books in May 2023. She is the latest winner of the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize for her translation of Mauritian poet Khal Torabully’s “Cargo Hold of Stars.” Island poet laureate Jill Jupen will follow Carlson that night.
Joanna Penn Cooper will read from her fiction to ring in the New Year on Jan. 3. She will also talk about the current popularity of flash fiction, which is a brief narrative, usually a paragraph or two. Cooper has published two books of lyric prose as well as two chapbooks, which are small books of usually 25-35 pages. Island poet Donald Nitchie will be the featured local writer.
Slate explains that on Jan. 10, the event theme will be “collaborative writing” as Meg Pokrass and Jeff Friedman read from their co-authored book, “The House of Grana Padano.” Pokrass is the author of eight flash fiction collections and is the series co-editor of Best Microfiction. Friedman has published seven poetry collections. Cleaveland House poet Warren Woessner will read from his work.
Tuesday, Jan. 17, will be fully devoted to former U.S. poet laureate Robert Pinsky who will read from and talk about his new memoir “Jersey Breaks.”
Slate, who is also a prolific book reviewer, receives a lot of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry that he donates to Pathways that sit on a special bookshelf inside the venue. People are encouraged to keep a book, pass it along, or re-shelve it. “We want to make the resource available to the community,” he says.
“I’ve been to many poetry readings over the years where the work went right over my head. It went by too fast. I didn’t know too much about the writer. The person was not a particularly good reader,” Slate explains about the Pathways’ approach. “What we try to do in these sessions is to create an experience, not just to have a reading. With the questions and answers, we have a very chatty audience. If you walk in there and you read your work, you really do get a response.”
For more information about the event and to join via Zoom see pathwaysmv.org/events/. For more information about Ron Slate see “On the Seawall: A Community Gallery of New Writing & Commentary” at ronslate.com.