By Mike Templeton
As we enter the New Year, we find that Core members and others involved with the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition are busier than ever in the literary life of greater Cincinnati. Keeping up with all that is coming in the next few months is something of a challenge. The New Year promises to be an exciting one with UACC members taking on new literary roles and continuing to stand out as leaders in the cultural life of greater Cincinnati. To begin, I talked to Richard (Dick) Hague about his more recent role in the literary life of our city.
I initially caught up with Richard Hague to talk about his interview for the Story Gathering Project. About this, I will say more in a future article, but I also found out that Dick Hague has remained extremely busy with a number of projects. Among these is his recent post as president of the Literary Club of Cincinnati. This is one of those cultural institutions I have heard about but knew nothing about until now. The Literary Club has always been part of Cincinnati mythology. But UACC’s own Dick Hague is now President.
The Literary Club of Cincinnati is the oldest continuing literary club in the United States. It had its beginning in 1849. Founded by a group of young men with a common interest in literary issues, the events of the day, and to provide a forum for discussion, the Literary Club remains all male to this day. I will return to this topic below. These kinds of literary clubs are as old as the United States. “Lyceums” and other small clubs were organized to promote discussions and debates on literary and cultural issues and to foster a burgeoning sense of a uniquely American literary sensibility. Along with private libraries such as our own Mercantile Library, the literary club has largely become a historical remnant. A few of the notable visitors to the Literary Club of Cincinnati include Ralph Waldo Emerson, Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, and Booker T. Washington. The Literary Club of Cincinnati is a genuine exception.
To be a member, one must be invited by a member. Dick Hague explained, “I was invited by Richard Hunt, the owner of Roebling Point Books. Hunt is a bookshop owner but also an editor, and definitely has the literary background for the club.” After attending a few meetings, one can agree to become a member of the Literary Club. “The Literary Club runs on semesters, just like a college or university,” explained Dick Hague. “We meet on Monday nights, and a member presents a paper. This can be a poem, short story, a short study, or a historical study,” he continued. There are rules. The papers are not to be political polemics or simple opinion pieces. The papers and creative works presented at the Literary Club are to be, well, literary.
Dick Hague was elected President of the Club and took on his tenure in June of 2021. He will preside until June of 2022. As President of the Literary Club, Dick has brought some Appalachian voices to the Club, and some women to this historically all-male society. “I started a writer’s series last year and continue to enlarge it by bringing in some Appalachian writers,” Dick told me. He has specifically brought in some of our region’s poet laureates. Kari Gunter Seymour, Poet Laureate of Ohio has presented at the Literary Club of Cincinnati. Core Member Pauletta Hansel, former Poet Laureate of Cincinnati and the 2022 Cincinnati Library Writer-in-Residence, will read on February 17 of this year (or April 21 if the current Covid surge causes a cancellation). And George Ella Lyon, a former Kentucky Poet Laureate and “grande dame” of Appalachian literature, will read on May 19.
As part of Dick Hague’s push to reach out to local colleges and universities and offer some public programming, including readings by Sherry Cook Stanforth and Mike Henson at dates to be determined. The theme of these programs is “the creative act.”
I asked Dick Hague about the influence of Appalachians in the Literary Club, and he did say there are members of the club who are Appalachian. The Clerk (pronounced “clark”) of the Club is from West Virginia. As Dick Hague works to introduce urban Appalachian literary voices to the Literary Club of Cincinnati, it is interesting to take note that the influence of Appalachians within the Club is already present. This, I believe, is further evidence of the reach of Appalachian life and culture in and on the cultural life of greater Cincinnati.
In addition to a long and distinguished career as a writer and educator, Dick Hague can now add President of the Literary Club of Cincinnati to the bullet points on his resume (you can check out his profile in our Cultural Directory). It certainly stands out, I would say. I will have more coming on Dick Hague’s interview for the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition’s Story Gathering Project. And in the coming weeks, I will catch up with a few Core members and others on more literary activities. It is shaping up to be a busy year, despite all the adversity we are up against these days. Leave it to Appalachian writers to remain undaunted.
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.