Actor, critic, playwright is new CH poet laureate
“No matter where you go in Cleveland Heights you see people you know or want to know.” So says Christine Howey, the incoming (2016–17) poet laureate of Cleveland Heights. Extolling the virtues of the Heights, including its diversity, Howey noted that very few cities have their own poet laureate: “How cool is that!”
Howey grew up, and has lived most of her life, in Cleveland Heights. She was a director and stage actor at Dobama Theatre for many years, and is the theater critic for Scene magazine. She was named Best Critic in Ohio by the Cleveland Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists.
Howey is also a playwright, and her one-woman play, "Exact Change," is a poetry-rich narrative which received its world premiere at Cleveland Public Theatre in 2014, and which she performed last year at Playhouse Square, at the New York Fringe Festival, in Provincetown, Mass., and other venues in Northeast Ohio.
In addition to her performance resume, Howey’s poetry has been widely published by Pudding House and Kattywompus Press, and in numerous anthologies. She has written articles for The Daily Beast, Northern Ohio Live, the Plain Dealer and other publications.
Howey identifies herself as a performance poet, not a "slam" poet (although she has performed successfully in that genre); one who actively pursues the drama and uses dramatic devices in reading her work. As an actor, she is very interested in how speaking poetry “creates a new way to access the words and helps people think in a different way.”
In fact, her project as poet laureate will be to offer workshops to help people learn and practice speaking their work. She will welcome writers of all levels of accomplishment, and is particularly interested in creating intergenerational workshops, where youth and older residents can learn and share together.
Cleveland Heights’s poet laureate is sponsored by the nonprofit arts organization Heights Arts, located on Lee Road near the Cedar Lee Theatre. Heights Arts and the poet laureate co-manage EKPHRASTACY, the popular visual art and poetry program that takes place in the gallery during each exhibition.
As she begins her term of office this April (National Poetry Month), Howey will direct two one-act plays she imported from the New York Fringe Festival, at Blank Canvas Theater in the 78th Street Studios building on Cleveland’s West Side. She will be formally introduced to the Cleveland Heights community at the April 18 City Council meeting.
Kathleen Cerveny was the 2013–14 Cleveland Heights poet laureate. She recently retired from the Cleveland Foundation where she was the director of arts initiatives for 25 years. She lives in the “Royal Heights” neighborhood of Cleveland Heights.