Abracadabra: Joel Lipman plans magical experience with new studioWritten by Matt Liasse | | email@example.com
University of Toledo Professor Emeritus Joel Lipman has learned from nationally known poets who told him to keep his focus local. That is his intention with ABRACADABRA Studio of Poetics.
“I want to build a local poetry community,” Lipman said. “My goals as a publishing poet were not to reach everybody, but to reach people that somehow I happen to cross paths with.”
Lipman came to Toledo in 1975 after already being involved in the poetry community in Buffalo and Chicago. He assumed a position in UT’s Department of English Language and Literature to teach creative writing.
Opening ABRACADABRA has been a family affair. His son Eli is a partner while his daughter Samantha designed the website.
“ABRACADABRA gave me a chance to plug into my three kids,” Lipman said.
Eli opened the Toledo former coffee shop The Ground Level in 2009, which included studios upstairs for developing work. Lipman said he wanted to be part of that venture, but was busy.
“I’m 71 years old and had a very active, artistic life for a very long time; a very satisfying, rewarding career at the University of Toledo,” Lipman said. “I’m not a person who carries regrets, but I said I’m not going to let that happen again.”
Lipman was inspired to move further with his idea for ABRACADABRA while visiting his other son Jesse, a slam poet who lives in Honolulu, as he competed in the National Poetry Slam Finals in Boston.
“It’s a national movement with enormous participation,” Lipman said. “Going there and seeing the vibrancy … made me aware of the fact that there was a huge appetite for poetry in the country.”
As a founding co-director of the Toledo Poets Center, over the years Lipman has planned many successful poetry readings.
“But one thing that nagged at me was the audience, and this isn’t a condemnation, this is a self-directed criticism. The audience never seemed to mature. They never seemed to expect more,” Lipman said.
When he retired in 2012, he set out a goal to make a center where writers can elevate themselves in poetry.
He took inspiration from Lois-Ann Yamanaka, a poet he met who had opened a school in Hawaii called Na’au.
“I really liked what she was up to,” he said.
The studio will provide small once-a-week workshops for beginner poets and practicing writers. Lipman wants to offer conversations about specific, selected topics concerning poetry. He also wants to stay away from the academic curriculum he had to work with as a professor. There will be no tests.
“I’ve done my academic work; I’ve done my curriculum-based stuff for 40 years,” he said. “What that means for me is a chance to teach people about poetry in ways that being on a university didn’t allow me the opportunity to.”
He also looks forward to offering a tutoring service for anyone interested in one-on-one instruction. Lipman wants those who complete ABRACADABRA to host poetry readings, invite poets to town from other communities or start literary magazines, either in print or online.
Lipman remembers the first time he was introduced to poetry in school. He was a junior in high school and was assigned to read “John Brown’s Body” by Stephen Vincent Benet. Lipman said he wants to teach how he was taught when he studied under Pulitzer Prize winners Gwendolyn Brooks and James Wright.
“At ABRACADABRA, I want to wave the magic wand of my educational past over the people who are drawn to the studio,” Lipman said. “I think ABRACADABRA can contribute to that richness of cultural and entertainment environment.”
He added that he wants the studio to become part of the Downtown arts community.
For more information on classes, complete a response form on abracadabrapoetry.com or contact Lipman at (419) 490-4384. More than 30 people have contacted Lipman with interest. Workshops, conversations and tutorials are forming and will begin early in November.
Tags: 'John Brown's Body', ABRACADABRA Studio of Poetics, Buffalo, Chicago, Hawaii, Honolulu, Lois Ann Yamanaka, Na'au, National Poetry Slam Finals in Boston, Pulitzer Prize winners Gwendolyn Brooks and James Wright, Stephen Vincent Benet, Toledo Poets Center, University of Toledo Professor Emeritus, UT Department of English Language and LIterature