Members of the Mulberry Poets &
Writers Association gathered in the Heritage Room
of the Weinberg Memorial Library on Thursday, December
9, 2004, to launch the publication of an anthology
of their poetry, Palpable Clock: 25 Years of Mulberry
Poets. The evening had the air of a family reunion,
and indeed it was a reunion for many of those attending
according to Bernie McGurl. McGurl is a member of
the 2004-2005 Advisory Board of the Mulberry Poets
& Writers Association, or MPWA (pronounced meep'
wa), as it is affectionately called by its members.
He remarked, "Some of us don’t know all
of us, but all of us know some of us." He hadn’t
seen some of the poets who attended the program for
Brian Murray welcomed everyone to the event, sponsored
by the Friends of the Weinberg Memorial Library, on
behalf of his sister, Diane, President of the Friends,
who was unable to attend. The highlight of the evening
was the reading of their poems by nineteen of the
poets featured in the book. Tom Blomain, Emcee and
also the Vice-President of the MPWA Board of Directors,
introduced each of the poet/readers.
Poets read in the sequence that their poems appear
in the anthology, that is, in alphabetical order.
The first reader, Richard Aston, strode back and forth
in front of the audience in a dramatic "telling"
of his poem, "Using the Tools of My Ancestors,"
complete with sound effects. Unfortunately, those
who followed him were requested to remain behind the
microphones on the podium because the program was
being recorded by Channel 61.
The anthology was available for sale both before
and after the program, and poets were busy signing
copies for those in attendance. The Mulberry Poets
presented a signed copy of the book to Dean Charles
Kratz for the Weinberg Library's archives. All of
the poets in attendance signed the book which was
published by the University of Scranton Press. Its
Director, Father Richard Rousseau, noted that Coalseam,
MPWA's first volume of poetry, was one of the first
"local" books published by the University
Press. The University of Scranton is the only University
Press in Northeast Pennsylvania.
As the title states, the book marks MPWA's silver
anniversary. Jerry Grealish, the organization's founder,
describes the anthology as embodying "the work
of many of the poets who have been featured at MPWA
events over the last quarter century--from the very
first season through the 25th--a kind of time capsule,
a palpable clock of our existence." Grealish
was the Chairman of the Editorial Board whose task
it was to choose which poems to include from the many
entries submitted. They selected 119 poems for inclusion,
the work of 68 different authors. In his introductory
remarks about the undertaking Grealish commented,
“Who figured that poetry would last 25 years
in Scranton?” Grealish, a poet and an attorney,
is the founder of Mulberry Poets. Several of his poems
are contained in the book although he was not among
Some interesting comments by readers in their prefatory
remarks included D. Brett McHale who said that he
began coming to Mulberry Poets' readings, possibly
so that his mother wouldn't need to get a babysitter
for him. Brett's mother is Karen Blomain, one of the
association's original members. She was an editor
for both Palpable Clock and Coalseam, is on the current
MPWA Advisory Board, and is the sister of Tom Blomain.
Ann LaBar Russek mentioned that her husband, Karl,
gained a lot of points courting her by "hanging
out at poetry readings." Karl is a 1989 graduate
of the University of Scranton. Other MPWA members
also have ties to the University. Jerry Grealish is
a 1968 graduate; Bernie McGurl was also a Scranton
student and his father was a faculty member; and Gilbert
Sorentino, whose poem "Calafawnya" is included
in the anthology, was the Edwin S. Quain Professor
of Literature at the University in 1979.
Poets came from far and near to be a part of this
special event. Among those who traveled a distance
were Lamont Steptoe from Philadelphia, Maggie Martin
from New Hampshire, and Joanne Growney from Bloomsburg,
where she founded a spin-off organization called the
River Poets. Those who came from Scranton included
Suzanne Harper, Scott Thomas, and Rondo Semian. Rondo
was a co-founder of Mulberry Poets and according to
Bernie McGurl, he "breathed life into it every
now and then" to keep the organization together.
Also in attendance was Erika Funke, WVIA-FM personality.
To promote the book's release, Erika arranged for
the radio station to broadcast some of the poems--read
by their authors--weekday afternoons at one o'clock
beginning on November 15.
With all the electricity in the air that night, could
it have been just coincidence that on that same evening
the "Scranton, The Electric City" sign was