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Poetry Reading


Featuring Sylvia Cavanaugh and Ed Werstein

Two activist poets share their work.

Sylvia Cavanaugh

Sylvia Cavanaugh

Sylvia Cavanaugh teaches high school cultural studies and has advised breakdancers and poets. Her students are actively involved in the Sheboygan chapter of 100,000 Poets for Change. A Pushcart Prize nominee, her poems have appeared in various periodicals and anthologies and she is a Contributing Editor for Verse-Virtual: An Online Community Journal of Poetry. Her third chapbook, Icarus: Anthropology of Addiction, is published by Water’s Edge Press.

Sample Poems

Shirley Jackson was My First Analyst

Even before I read The Lottery
in high school
my number was up
I had come to believe the only way
to pretend to be sane
would be to marry Daedalus after all
I understood the odds
stacked against women who began
as awkward introverted girls
Shirley laid out Eleanor Vance
as exhibit number one
in The Haunting of Hill House
when I was eight
and my mother took me too young
to see the film at the college campus
I learned that even mothers
smother in their bitterness
that to be alone is the real cold
dark of hell
that the underworld is not alight
with flame and crowded
in a shared camaraderie of misery
Shirley pressed upon me the danger
of my own mind looking back at itself
from the curved glass of a mirror
careening through off-kilter rooms
crafted by men
that some spaces I dare not enter
libraries and domestic scenes
most lethal
that the voice in my head
lost in a labyrinth
will be loud as a jackhammer
that my scream will be silent

The Labyrinth

What if the famed maze of Crete
were a tomb?
A signifier of death
in carefully crafted tile.
But there is sex, too,
of course.
Jeremiah bespoke entrapment
in the Aegean pagan partridge dance
come to nest in Canaan. 
Winged men spiraling outward
erotically hob-stepping
to the moon goddess.
Maybe the sun was jealous,
blazing down on the boy’s wax wings.
And what about addiction?
The way my husband would spin
a web of words,
linguistic dead ends
and illogic conclusions.
I wanted out with my mind intact.
So, I followed the golden thread
of words
in hushed percussion
nightly from my keyboard.
And what about the Minotaur?
Was he my husband,
or was he the addiction?
Why does he stay there
consuming maidens,
waiting to be slain?

Ed Werstein

Ed Werstein

Ed Werstein, a regional VP of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets, is also the WFOP representative on the Wisconsin Poet Laureate Commission. Werstein was awarded the 2018 Lorine Niedecker Prize for Poetry by the Council For Wisconsin Writers. His work has appeared in Stoneboat, Blue Collar Review, Gyroscope Review, among other publications, and is forthcoming in Rosebud,. His 2018 book, A Tar Pit To Dye In, is available from Kelsay Books. His chapbook, Who Are We Then? was published in 2013 by Partisan Press. Find out more here:

Sample Poems

Headline Poem

Eight out of 10 of women have felt unable to cope in the past year
                                                                                    - Guardian Headline

So, I’m wondering,
who are the other two?
What’s their secret?
I’d like to learn some of their
coping strategies because, frankly,
I’m not coping too well myself.

Do they live on deserted islands?
Did they invest in one of those
sensory deprivation flotation booths
and never come out? Did one of them
shoot Harvey Weinstein? Set fire
to a Trump Tower? Was there
any alcohol involved?

If there was alcohol involved,
I’d like to know about it.


            “Time may be an abstraction, but it helps the days go by.”
                                                                                       - John Koethe

The last time I was with Lalo
we were sitting in his Santiago, Chile
living room watching a Pavarotti DVD
tears streaming down our faces
and into our beers.

I was thinking how terribly lucky we were
to be alive. I could tell by his tears
he was thinking the same thing.

And I was thinking how terribly certain
it was that eventually we would not be alive.
He was thinking the same thing. Nessun Dorma
sung with such passion will do that to you.

And now Lalo is dying, but then,
so am I, and just as certainly. Yet no one
would write the sentence: Ed is dying.

But who could say I’m dying any slower
than he? Who could say with certainty
that I will outlive him even though
his doctors have stopped treating him
and sent him home to die?

Some philosopher-physicists say that
all things just are. That time is an illusion
caused by our conscious sequential awareness
of what are discreet moments of being.
Everything just is.

Maybe Lalo and I are sitting on that couch
salting our beers somewhen right now.

What does now even mean if time is an illusion?
We’re born, we’re living, we’re dead.
We’re laughing, crying, singing, drinking. All now.

Five years, or fifty
or five-hundred.
And what if it were five-hundred?
It’s still just one big lucky chance
to live, to love, to be, and then not be.

Earlier Event: July 25
Poetry Event
Later Event: December 5
Poets' Calendar Reading