Published: November 11, 2011
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The Community Arts Partnership is proud to host a book launch event for the publication of Far From Home, an anthology of poetry by local immigrants, collected and edited by Tompkins County Poet Laureate, Gail Holst-Warhaft. The reception, including selected readings, will take place on Thursday, December 8th from 5:30 to 7 at the CAP ArtSpace, located in the rear of Ticket Center Ithaca on the Commons. In addition to readings from featured poets from the anthology, Holst-Warhaft will share some of her own work, as will members of Ithaca City of Asylum (ICOA).
The publication of Far From Home culminates Holst-Warhaft's first year as Poet Laureate for Tompkins County and marks the completion of a project begun as part of the Spring Writes literary festival in May, 2011. "Through various organizations I have been involved with in Ithaca, including the Bosnian Student Project, the Border Fund, The Eleanor Roosevelt Fund, and Ithaca City of Asylum, I knew that Ithaca was a place of refuge for many people from all over the world," says Holst-Warhaft. "When I was elected Poet Laureate of Tompkins Country for 2011, I thought how much I would like to have them write about their experiences in the form of poetry." Through visits with Grace Beeler's and Juanita Weber-Shirk's Adult ESL class in downtown Ithaca, she was able work with the teachers to inspire and encourage a number of immigrants to create the new verse featured in the collection. Some poets in the anthology, like Maimouna Harouna, had written and published poems before; for others, this was the first time they had written a poem in any language.
The poems were initially presented at a reading in the Kitchen Theater, whose management and staff kindly lent their premises and services to the Spring Writes Literary Festival. Ithaca City of Asylum also contributed to the event and Irakli Kakabadze, ICOA's writer-in-residence read a poem. Three previous poet laureates: Paul Hamill, Jay Leeming, and Katharyn Machan, helped edit poems and read for those who needed some assistance reading in English. Kathleen Gemmel, Secretary of ICOA, also read.
Copies of the new volume will be available for sale at the reception, as will selected publications from previous writers-in-residence from Ithaca City of Asylum. The position of Tompkins County Poet Laureate was established by the County Legislature in 2001 to honor local outstanding poets, integrate poetry into the community, enrich the education of our young people, and enhance the County's position as a cultural center. Since that time, the Community Arts Partnership has coordinated the selection process for the post.