Indiana’s Red Flag Poetry will host a live reading event to celebrate its latest publication April 13 in Pittsburgh.
The “Poetry Postcard Project,” which is mainly supported by the IUP’s English Literature and Criticism program, released Victor Clevenger’s newest book, “A Finger in the Hornets’ Nest.”
The event will feature him and other poets from 7-9 p.m. at The Big Idea Bookstore and Café.
It will be Red Flag Poetry’s second event in Pittsburgh.
Red Flag Poetry hosted other events in Cleveland, Ohio, and locally at the Artists Hand Gallery and Espresso Bar, Commonplace Coffee, Spaghetti Benders and on IUP’s campus.
“I look forward to meeting new people,” Clevenger said. “I believe that is what it is all about: the connections and being on the road doing these live readings across the country.”
Clevenger, a Missouri native, said his newest book explores the emotions he felt during good and bad times.
His story spans from his time serving in Iraq, the trauma surrounding a loved one’s passing and “times spent with ex-lovers.”
Clevenger said out of all the poems in his latest collection, his poem “I Fear” resonates with him the most. The 16-stanza poem contains fewer than 30 words but relays a powerful message about a future filled with regret.
“This poem, in a way, for me, sums up all the past and present emotions that circulate through me,” Clevenger said. “And given the current situations with society we are facing as well, I look at my children every day, and there are more and more moments that I fear.”
Clevenger met Red Flag Poetry through a friend and poet John Dorsey in January, 2017, for another book release event in Cleveland, Ohio. Dorsey and another poet, Anastasia Nikolis, are scheduled to open for Clevenger at the upcoming event.
“We like to hold a formal book release party for all publications,” said Sarah Everett (senior, communications media), Red Flag Poetry’s art director. “Each book release is a unique event for the poet, whose work we’re publishing. It gives people a chance to get to hear the poetry read, buy their own copies … and talk with the poet directly.”
Despite previous publications online and in print, Clevenger didn’t step into the limelight until 2016. Working evenings and late afternoons at a state correctional facility, the author said he was “pretty content to be sitting at the kitchen table writing” until he was inspired by his daughter’s school choir event.
“When I saw my daughter up there on the stage singing and performing, I knew that if she could do it, and be fearless about it, then I could, too,” Clevenger said.
“She helped push me in the right direction. I explored avenues and was able to connect with some amazing people.”
Clevenger submitted the manuscript for “Hornets’ Nest” last fall and got a response from Red Flag founder and editor Peter Faziani and co-editor Wesley McMasters.
“The process has been great,” Clevenger said. “They were interested in publishing the book. It was great news. They are an amazing group of individuals.”
In addition to publishing chapbooks, Red Flag’s website hosts an art and poetry archive and a monthly podcast called “Use Your Words,” featuring their published writers. Red Flag also accepts submissions to be considered for digital, monthly postcards that are sent to subscribers via email.
According to Faziani, Red Flag is run by a “wonderful staff” of four volunteers and two undergraduate interns.
“What makes Red Flag Poetry so great, in my opinion,” Faziani said, “is that [it] engages readers in a way that is convenient by combining poetry, art and mail.”
Students can also subscribe to receive a monthly digital poem postcard that combines art and poetry.
The monthly subscription is free for students and costs $12 annually for others. Red Flag has subscribers from two Canadian provinces, about 20 states and Estonia in Northern Europe.
Clevenger’s Red Flag postcard poem was featured in March.
Some of his other published works include the 2017 chapbook publication, “Sandpaper Lovin,’” 2016 “In All These Naked Pictures of Us,” and 2014 “Building Bird Nests,” which features “returned pieces” that were rejected by other publishers.