Ray McNiece Named Heights Arts’ 10th Poet Laureate

Heights Arts has just announce that its Heights Writes Community team has chosen as its 10th poet laureate a writer, musician and performance poet who is one of the best known such performer/writers in Cleveland: Ray McNiece. He takes over from previous poet laureate Damien McClendon; his appointment starts this month and runs for two years, through April 2022.

In his announcement of his new role, McNiece said, “Yesterday I posted a tribute to my mother and it really was her encouragement to follow my dreams to be a poet (my immigrant Grandparents were drilling “Doctor, Lawyer, Engineer” in my head all through my childhood) that has brought me here. That, and the love of poetry instilled by my father’s mother Zelma McNiece Cline, who always told me if you learn a poem by heart it lives with you your whole life!”

McNiece is known for his collaborations with other poets, spoken word artists and musicians, so he’s ideally suited to expand the poet laureate role in multiple ways and he is bursting with ideas.

“My big proposal is intergenerational poetry circles with elders and youth which will obviously be on hold until we can find a way to do workshops safely,” he says. “Likewise the community poetry workshop, which will probably be done through Zoom (I’m currently leading one for the Lit). I’ll also be soliciting local poets for the very successful Ekphrastacy Series, poets responding to Art for Heights Arts Gallery Shows. I’ll be leading Seasonal Ginko (Haiku Hikes) at Cain Park and initiate a revival of the Best Cleveland Poem contest, named for Daniel Thompson, Cleveland’s legendary community poet and longtime Cleveland Heights resident, with Student, Adult and Senior Categories.”

Enough? No, not yet!

“Eventually we hope to have quarterly Lit Jams, performances of poems, stories, songs, monologues and stand up comedy backed by the Tongue in Groove Band at a Cleveland Heights Music venue — imagine Literary “Happenings,” he continues. “I am also going to start a blog dubbed “An Analog Man in a Digital World,” where I’ll post news updates on all of the above, poems, prompts and contest information.”

Find out more about Ray and his many accomplishments here.


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