Cover photo by Steve France
Ever resilient, members of the urban Appalachian literary community continue to push ahead no matter the adversity that surrounds us these days. Even as we struggle through another difficult winter, the urban Appalachian literary community remains active. We still have poetry, we still have ways of connecting to share stories, and the work of furthering the cultural life of greater Cincinnati remains a priority. We need look no further than the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition Core member Pauletta Hansel for one who leads by example.
Core member Pauletta Hansel has been chosen by the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County as the 2022 Library Writer-in Residence. With a new book of poems due out in March of this year, this position marks yet another stellar achievement for Pauletta Hansel in the literary community of greater Cincinnati. Our former Poet Laureate and resident Soupbean poet continues to be a leader in shaping the cultural life of greater Cincinnati as an urban Appalachian poet and educator.
One of the key responsibilities of the Writer-in-Residence is to foster engagement between the Library and local writers. Pauletta Hansel has several programs lined up to meet this requirement which I will get to below, but the very idea of fostering engagement with the community is one of the chief reasons she was chosen as Writer-in-Residence, including, Pauletta told me, “My engagement with the urban Appalachian community. I plan to use this position to continue to build these relationships.” It would be important to mention that when we talk about the urban Appalachian community this necessarily means engagement with greater Cincinnati in general. Urban Appalachians are diffused throughout the city and all it’s communities. Pauletta Hansel’s work in advocacy and as a literary leader in these communities put her in good stead for the job of Library Writer-in-Residence.
The Writer-in-Residence program has been around since 2014. The first person to hold the position was Kathy Y. Wilson. There is now a substantial list of books published by the Writers-in-Residence that cover areas as diverse as fiction, memoir, poetry and contemporary culture. Pauletta Hansel explained that “the position is fairly unique, and it speaks to the Public Library’s commitment to community.
Among the things Pauletta Hansel has in store for engaging local writers and others is a memoir workshop, Writing Our Lives, held virtually on Saturday, January 29, from 2-3:30 pm. This will make contact with UACC’s Story Gathering Project, which is all about first-person accounts of individual life stories through asking people to interview a friend, family member, or someone important to them about their Appalachian roots and cultural ties.
Pauletta Hansel has a life-long love and appreciation of public libraries. As she remembers, “we didn’t have bookstores in the small towns where I grew up. The public library was a place of solace and wonder, a place where I could explore books and, of course, poetry.” Pauletta Hansel even wrote a poem called “Ode to Library Basements,” included below. Pauletta told me, “Once I moved to Cincinnati, the public library was one of my first discoveries.” The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County has also been a community ally of UACC. You may recall a presentation from the Price Hill Branch on the vast collection of resources on Appalachian history, culture, and life in Cincinnati.
As Writer-in-Residence, Pauletta Hansel has a full calendar of projects for the coming year. “In April I will focus on poetry,” Pauletta explained. “I am also presenting workshops for teen writers and multi-generational writers.” Providing instruction on the craft of writing is part of the duties of the Writer-in-Residence. A link to the Cincinnati Public Library Writer-in-Residence page can be found here.
Workshops will begin this month with the afore-mentioned memoir workshop. Pauletta Hansel will also be hosting the podcast “In the Writer’s Head.” You can listen to outgoing Writer-in-Residence Dani McClain’s podcast interview with Pauletta. now We can also look forward to a literary blog, something I am especially interested in reading. Finally, as Writer-in-Residence, Pauletta Hansel will be providing regular office hours for other writers to stop by and chat. Much of this will be virtual to begin, but there is hope in-person meetings will return. And Pauletta said she has hopes we will see “the return of the longstanding Poetry in the Garden series in April.” Information about all of this can be found at on the Writer-in-Residence webpage.
In addition to her work as Writer-in-Residence, Pauletta Hansel as a new book of poetry coming out in March of this year. Heartbreak Tree, available now for pre-order by Madville Publishing, has been called by the press’s poetry editor, Linda Parsons, “the breakout work of a lifetime, a work of breaking silences and ancestral truth telling.” The launch of this book will occur at the Mercantile Library on March 29, 6:30 pm, co-sponsored by Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.
Urban Appalachians are no strangers to adversity. Perhaps this partially accounts for the fact that urban Appalachians remain at the forefront of leading the cultural life of greater Cincinnati even during times of hardship. The Urban Appalachian Community Coalition Core member Pauletta Hansel has plenty in store for greater Cincinnati as Writer-in-Residence at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. With a new book of poems, Heartbreak Tree, coming in March and a full schedule of workshops and other community events, Pauletta Hansel is at the forefront of the literary life of greater Cincinnati.
An Ode to Library Basements
and to the girl
who skittered down the steps
Sunday afternoons to lose herself
You made me.
hours spent wandering
the moors, Parisian streets,
the gravity of stars—
the endless alphabet
of other people’s lives.
My mother’s Sunday roast,
TV’s pallid drone
I breathed you in.
You breathed me out again
by Pauletta Hansel (from Coal Town Photograph, Dos Madres Press, 2019)
For information on the Writer-in-Residence Program and a list of workshops: https://cincinnatilibrary.org/writer-in-residence/.
For more on Pauletta Hansel’s book Heartbreak Tree: https://madvillepublishing.com/product/heartbreak-tree-poems/
For information in the Story Gathering Project: https://uacvoice.org/storygathering/.
Pauletta Hansel’s website is https://paulettahansel.wordpress.com/.
Mike Templeton is a writer, independent scholar, barista, cook, guitar player, and accidental jack-of-all-trades. Check out his profile in UACC’s new Cultural Directory. He lives in downtown Cincinnati with his wife who is a talented photographer. They spend their free time walking around the city snapping photos. She looks up at that the grandeur of the city, while Mike always seems to be staring at the ground.