Arts & Culture: Diversity Dialogue

Cultural Diversity and Inclusion in the Arts in New York State’s Southern Tier

Dreams to Remember 3: A Local Literary Center

There’s a national program sponsored by a number of Ys which supports writing. These Ys sponsor/act as literary centers.

“Arts and humanities became a YMCA core program area in 1998 …  the YMCA National Writer’s Voice, a literary arts center that inspired not only the largest network of literary art centers in the country, but the idea that arts and humanities belongs at YMCA of the USA.”

I wrote and called our Ys for over a year in an effort to have such a center here, obviously without success.  I wish we had one of the “More than 25 YMCAs” which “host the YMCA National Writer’s Voice program, a network of independent literary arts centers at YMCAs. Writer’s Voice centers meet the needs of their communities through local programs while sharing national programs, training and other resources.” The nearest one is in New York City, or perhaps the one in Silver Bay is closer.

There are significant number of writers in our area and for years, I have met hundreds of young people interested and engaged in creative writing, through the wonderful Young Author’s Day Program( yay, Eileen Bowen!), the Quarry Farm Program and the peerless Short Story Writing Program (created by writer Karen Alpha).

I don’t mean to lay this at the Y’s feet, but as I’ve spent more than two decades here on various writers group formations, workshops, gatherings and readings, it seems that with a designated keeper-of-the-flame, a lot more could happen.

I have warm memories of readings upstairs in that bar on Market Street…. and am bemused that when “the folks” are involved in their art-making/creating, it is automatically integrated in other stuff of life. What a delight to hear a poem and eat a slice of pizza, have some tea or expresso. The program might include someone’s latest song and an argument might be had about whose favorite poet might win the Nobel Prize. I was right and mine, Derek Walcott, won first. But later, his, Seamus Heaney won. It was delight to run into that poet professor a decade or so later at a conference and compare notes and laugh. Writers are a community here, but they’re homeless.

Musicians have spaces, artists have spaces, dancers have places and while more would be so much more, writers hereabouts have no equivalent. Knowing this, occasions have been created for youth writers. The Short Story Writing contest encourages young writers. For a couple of years I organized a similar effort for young poets. Next door, the venerable Steele Memorial Library sponsors its long-running, all-age-inclusive, annual poetry Festival. But these are just blinks and winks in the cool dark of our unsupporting landscape.

About Akua Lezli Hope

Akua Lezli Hope uses sound, words, fiber, glass, metal, and wire to create poems, patterns, stories, music, sculpture, adornments, and peace. She wrote her first speculative poems in the sixth grade and has been in print every year, except one, since 1974 with over 400 poems published. Her collections and chapbooks include Embouchure: Poems on Jazz and Other Musics (ArtFarm Press, 1995; Writer’s Digest book award winner), Them Gone (The Word Works, 2018), Otherwheres: Speculative Poetry (ArtFarm Press, 2020; a 2021 Elgin Award winner), and Stratospherics (a micro-chapbook of scifaiku available from the Quarantine Public Library). A Cave Canem fellow, her honors include the NEA, two NYFAs, an SFPA award, and multiple Rhysling and Pushcart Prize nominations. She has won Rattle’s Poets Respond twice and launched Speculative Sundays, an online poetry reading series. Her work has also been published in numerous literary magazines and national anthologies, including: The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, The 100 Best African American Poems (Sourcebooks MediaFusion, 2010); Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora (Warner Aspect, 2000), Asimov’s Science Fiction, Gyroscope Review, Pensive: A Global Journal of Spirituality & the Arts, Strange Horizons, Star*Line, SciFaikuest, Eye to the Telescope, The New Verse News, Breath & Shadow, The Crafty Poet II: A Portable Workshop (Terrapin Books, 2016), The Cossack Review, Silver Blade Magazine, Stone Canoe, and Three Coyotes. She is the editor of the record-breaking sea-themed issue of Eye To The Telescope #42, and of NOMBONO: An Anthology of Speculative Poetry by BIPOC Creators, the first of its kind, from Sundress Publications (2021). A third-generation New Yorker and an avid hand papermaker and crochet designer, she exhibits her artwork regularly. She sings songs from her favorite anime in Japanese, practices her soprano saxophone, and prays for the cessation of suffering for all sentience from the ancestral land of the Seneca, the Southern Finger Lakes region of New York State.

3 comments on “Dreams to Remember 3: A Local Literary Center

  1. The ARTS
    September 29, 2008

    thanks for this post, akua. The ARTS is, in fact, exploring this issue, with the help of a new literary arts advisory committee. made up of writers from across our 3+ county service area, the committee has met once and identified the need for creation of a “resource list” of sorts to assist local writers of all ages. the committee is currently engaged in identifying resources, which will be posted on a soon-to-be-created page on The ARTS’ website.

    The ARTS is willing to offer its space on market street in corning, without charge, to any writer or group interested in holding readings, slams, etc. while we currently do not have the person power to organize events beyond what we’re currently doing, our door is open to others who have the time and inclination. all people have to do is call!

  2. akualezli
    September 29, 2008

    Wundebah! Good to know! This is very exciting! Hope the committee will have an area on the Arts website so information can be gathered and
    shared readily. I’ve got a list of national and online resources that I could upload/send when the time comes.

  3. Kathleen Masterson
    October 5, 2008

    Re: NYS Literary Resources

    Many resources already exist to serve the literary community in NY State; as you plan or search for resources, you might find this literary network useful. There is a very active Writers’ Voice project at the Downtown Y in Syracuse, run by Phil Memmer. There is a Finger Lakes Literary Consortium project in the works, which is being sponsored by the Community Arts Partnership of Tompkins County (talk to Brett Bossert). Check also the NYS Literary Website NYSLittreeat for statewide information about literary activity, and the literary maps of NYS. Writers who wish to do readings around the state may register (see Circuit Writers) on this site. This site is administered from Treadwell, NY in Delaware County by Bertha Rogers at Bright Hill Literary Center ( Technical assistance for organizations that are literary presenters may be found at – Laurie Dean Torrell at Just Buffalo Literary Center is the administrator of this program ( Technical assistance for literary magazines and small presses may be accesssed through (see the NYTAP project). This is the website of the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses and Jamie Schwartz ( is the Director of the statewide NY Technical Assistance Program (for non-profit literary publishers). Jeffrey Lependorf is the Director of CLMP ( Technical assistance and career development information for writers may be found at (Poets & Writers) through their Information Services Dept. Writers may apply for matching funds for fees for public literary readings and workshops through P&W’s Readings and Workshops program – the sponsoring organization must apply. Bonnie Rose Marcus is the director of this program. There is a strong reading series and literary community in Olean at the Olean Public Library; talk with Tom Krampf or Robert Taylor there. Contact information for all these groups can be found by searching the names of the organizations at NYSCA sponsors a statewide literary convening called Facing Pages which brings together literary organizations, publishers and writers from around the state. The next convening is scheduled for August 28-30, 2009 at Minnowbrook Conference Center in Blue Mt. Lake and information about that convening and others will be posted at

    Hope this helps with your projects and your dream for Corning’s literary community.

    Kathleen Masterson
    Dir., Literature Program
    NYS Council on the Arts

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