My Poetry Book Wins Contest!

Some good news! My first full-length poetry collection has been accepted by Texas Review Press (see the first link in the comments). My book was chosen for their Southern Breakthrough Series, a contest that seeks new works from a different southern state each year. My collection, titled Scrape the Velvet from Your Antlers, was chosen to represent WV, my home state. The title refers to something bucks do to harden their antlers in anticipation of the fighting come mating season. This is my first full-length book, a longstanding dream of mine! The book will debut in February 2023. My thanks to TRP, all the editors who first published these poems, and especially the editors at Kestrel, A Journal of Literature and Art, where the title poem first appeared (thanks Donna Long, @Elizabeth Savage, Suzanne Heagy). #poetry

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New Poetry Chapbook Debuts: Antlers

Antlers by Kelly McQuain

I am long overdue in sharing this good writers news: My chapbook, Antlers, was selected by #SevenKitchensPress for their Editor’s Series. Much thanks to editor Ron Mohring for his hard work on this project. The chapbooks are painstakingly crafted and stitched by hand in a very limited quantity. More writing news is coming soon! Details on how to order the chapbook are here: https://sevenkitchenspress.com/2022/01/29/kelly-mcquain-antler-editors-series/

Antlers. $9.00 – ISBN 978-1-949333-87-9

This chapbook joings my previous chapbook, Velvet Rodeo, which is available through Bloom Books here: http://bloomliteraryjournal.org/shop/velvet-rodeo/

New Work at Cerulean Arts Jury Show

Artist Ying Lee has chosen one of my works for the 8th Annual Juried Exhibition at Cerulean Arts Gallery in Philadelphia, July 1-Aug. 9th. During Covid-19 times, to schedule a visit with the gallery, contact them here. For more information about my artwork, visit Art for Sale.

UPDATE: 6/29/2020 — Juror Ying Lee awarded my painting an Honorable Mention. It’s pictured at the end of the second row in the image below.

A Walt Whitman Sampler

WhitmanSampler1

 

Nov. 15, 2019

My art project on Walt Whitman, “A Whitman Sampler” is now on display at the Free Library of Philadelphia’s exhibition, Voyages by Road and Sea: Philadelphia Perspectives on Walt Whitman and Herman Melville. The artwork is now installed in the West Gallery at the Parkway Central Library, Free Library of Philadelphia, located on the Ben Franklin Parkway. This project is a collaboration of the Free Library and the Rosenbach Center and features historical context on the authors as well as newly commissioned artwork related to the works of Melville and Whitman.

That’s where I come in. The Library commissioned artwork from me that consists of a box similar to an advent calendar. Each box contains pictures and text that correspond with Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. Part puzzle, part Whitman fortune-telling device, the box is designed as an interactive tool to help readers engage with the Great Gray Bard in a new and compelling way. In the spring I will be participating in an event where I take the box out of its display case to show off its possibilities. Time and date to be announced.

Special thanks to the team that created the exhibition: graphic designer Nathanael Roesch, writer/editor Clare Fentress, registrar Jobi Zink, FLP Deputy Director Andrew Nurkin, the Rosenbach’s Alexander Ames, and co-curator Professor Ed Whitley. In the coming year, a series of related events and programs in support of the exhibition will be held. Watch for details!

 

Voyages1

Update: On the back of the sampler there is an illustration of Walt for the 21st century, departing as air, waiting for us along life’s path in the grass beneath our soles/souls:

I depart as air, I shake my white locks at the runaway sun,I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags.
I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.

Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

City Hall Art Opening, May 15, 2019

Faun in a Field of Flowers [detail] – watercolor

Dear Friends: Free art opening at City Hall this week! I have a piece in the show. Wednesday evening May 15th. Please come if you can after work. Here are the details on the show, called Visual Democracy, with the theme inspired by Walt Whitman as part of Literary Arts Week in Philadelphia.

“Join us in celebrating Literary Arts Week in Philadelphia by recognizing the Rittenhouse Writers Group, Mighty Writers, Philadelphia Young Playwrights and Blue Stoop – Philadelphia organizations supporting local emerging writers. Festivities will include a reception, a poetry reading by a special guest, and the opening of Visual Democracy, an Art in City Hall exhibit that celebrates the connection between the literary and visual arts as part of Whitman at 200: Art and Democracy.”

#Whitmanat200 #Whitman200

Wednesday, May 15, 2019
City Hall Philadelphia

Ceremony
Mayor’s Reception Room, 202
5:30-6:00 p.m.
Reception
Conversation Hall, Room 201
6:00-7:00 p.m.
Visual Democracy Exhibit Opening
Room 116
6:00-7:00 p.m.
This event is free and open to the public. Registration is required.

#LitArtsPHL

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/literary-arts-week-in-philadelphia-tickets-60065903735?aff=efbeventtix&fbclid=IwAR2ulwwilshzjJMKIjMRizLpYIxGW-1-kPM-DPGuociYJcRiwltCuDv_nTw

This event is part of Whitman at 200  https://www.whitmanat200.org/

Art Update – Jury Prize Win!

12/7/2018 – UPDATE! My painting, “Well, hello there!” won the jury prize at the William Way LGBTQ Center group show. This means that I and two other winners will have a combined show during summer 2019. We each get a wall in the giant parlor that greets visitors to the center, and I plan to fill mine up with new paintings that combine images and text! There is still time to see the piece below in the current group show, which is up until December 28th. There are numerous works for sale at the Center, so why not give someone a little queer art this holiday season? Stop by. Entry is FREE. William Way LGBT Community Center, 1315 Spruce St, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107.

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“Well, hello there!”  by Kelly McQuain, 2018.Watercolor and mixed media.

 

Art Opening Nov. 9, 6-8 pm

Hey, Philly friends–

I have new artwork in a group show at the William Way Center. Come if you can to the opening Friday, Nov. 9th around happy hour. Here are the details:

November 9, 6-8pm: Art Opening – 13th ANNUAL JURIED ART EXHIBITION. William Way LGBT Community Center, 1315 Spruce St, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107. You’re invited to the opening reception of the I hope you can make it to see the latest edition of dynamic Queer-American art in Philadelphia. Plenty of food & drinks. Lots of fun. Support the LGBTQ Community Center!

 

 

WllliamWay13

 

Barnes Update! Top 20

#LetsConnectPhilly #Art #PhillyArtDepot

Update! Recently  I wrote about the Let’s Connect! art show at Philadelphia’s famed Barnes Collection. My hipster postman mixed-media painting, “Mind, Heart, Soul” placed among the top 20 artworks out of over 310 paintings at the show. I was especially happy to see my friend Tim Barton also make the cut with his stellar wooden folk box. As a result, this coming year the other artists and I have been asked to work with the Barnes on a series of talks and lectures geared toward the public and fellow artists. It’s a very special piece to me, and I hope it will find a good home with you. (You can read more in this former post that includes my Artist Statement., which talks about how Van Gogh’s work served as inspiration.)

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“Mind, Heart, Soul: After Vincent’s The Postman” by Kelly McQuain, 2018

On this blog I’ve mostly posted about my work as a writer, but it’s true I also do a lot of artwork, which I’m hoping to post more about in the future. Below is my current Artist’s Bio, in case you are curious. My artwork ranges from comics and cartoons to watercolors, acrylic and the occasional oil painting. I often mix media and like to embed details and back-stories within my visual work, things that a viewer has to look twice to discover and that leave a person wanting to know more. For instance, if you look close you can tell Mr. Postman is a major Eagles fan, but perhaps not the most attentive deliveryman. I take the occasional commission and book cover project, but most works start from a strong visual idea and spool out from there, with hopes they find a buyer in the future.

About the Artist

Kelly McQuain is an artist and poet who combines words and pictures in poems, essays, book covers, comics, and large-scale canvases. His collection, Velvet Rodeo, won the Bloom Poetry Prize, and his work appears in numerous journals. He has twice held Fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Recent projects include a series of Poetry Portraits that have appeared on the cover of Fjords Review. The painting series was inspired by Barnes artist Charles Demuth, whose watercolor poster portraits of famous contemporaries included the likes of Georgia O’Keeffe and William Carlos Williams. When he’s not painting, McQuain teaches creative writing, literature, and film studies at Community College of Philadelphia.

Visit the #BarnesCollection for FREE!

#letsconnectPhilly  Now through IMG_1664June 4, 2018 get free admission to the Barnes in honor of their Let’s Connect Exhibition. I’m one of 310 Philadelphia artists who have work in the show. Participating artists chose a work in the Barnes Collection that inspired them, and then did their own 8″ x 10″ work inspired by the original. (For me, the hardest part was working that small.) The public gets to visit the Barnes for free and vote for four artists who will each get a three-month studio residency at the Barnes over the next year. Admission is free to encourage public participation in voting. If you’ve never been, the permanent collection is amazing–arguably the best assemblage of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism in the county.  Barnes created the collection to educate artists about form and technique. My painting is titled Mind, Heart, Soul, which alludes to what Albert Barnes sought to cultivate in the students who studied the masterworks he painstakingly displayed for them. The museum is open 11 am – 5 pm Wednesday through Monday. For FREE admission, you must register in advance at

https://barnesfoundation.formstack.com/forms/connect_voter_registration.

If you go, please consider voting for #1295, my version of Van Gogh’s The Postman. Why did I choose The Postman? Here’s the Artist Statement I sent along with my project.

Albert C. Barnes didn’t collect work based on historical or social context; he assembled his works as a testament to the pleasure of form. Barnes’ method, however, poses a dilemma for contemporary artists: in this Age of (overwhelming) Information, is it possible to create work apart from the context from which it rises?

I’m drawn to a painting like Van Gogh’s The Postman not only because of its virtuoso brushwork but also because of its unintentional commentary on so many things: the bearded hipsters of my Philly neighborhood; the fact that few people write letters anymore; the way internet businesses have staved off the Postal Service’s obsolescence; that Philadelphia has offered massive tax incentives to lure Amazon.com’s new headquarters here—a bid that could turn life here on its head.

I like art that talks to me and keeps the conversation moving forward. The Barnes Collection does this, whether its founder intended it to or not. When Albert Barnes paired paintings with old hinges and primitive sculptures, he created a series of “eye rhymes”–visual pairings that call to each other and echo back. In doing so he created a living conversation about art, one that surmounts time. I’m inspired by the collection’s interplay of forms as well as its interplay of ideas. I believe that Barnes’ singular arrangement is a conceptual artwork itself. It teaches me to see the times I’m living through in new ways and to curate my life carefully. Barnes’ collection teaches me to honor the old, reflect my now, and imagine a future. That feels like a fragile message, but it’s one that needs delivering.

–Kelly McQuain, Artist Statement, May 2018

 

MindHeartSoul

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#vangogh @the_barnes @kellymcquain

Conference and Reading: Kicking off Poetry Month!

Happy poetry month! I’m doing two events to kick off the celebration. the first is a panel at the Rosemont College LitLife conference. Click here for details. Tim Seibles, a wonderful Philly poet who now teaches in Virginia (where he is the poet laureate for the state!) is just one of the amazing poets at the conference. I met Tim a few years ago when he read for us at the college where I work. What a great guy! I’ll be doing a panel on creating images with the wonderful poet Dawn Manning. Look for us there on April 1st.

And, speaking of my college, Community College of Philadelphia, our Poets & Writers Festival comes to a conclusion this coming Monday with a free event below. Check it out!

________________________________________________

Monday, April 3, 2017

6 – 8 p.m.
Klein Cube, Room P2-03

The Community College of Philadelphia Spring Faculty Showcase of Writers

Join College’s distinguished faculty members as they read from their latest poetry and prose in what has become an annual tradition. Refreshments will be served! Click here for more info!

 

The line-up includes: Jonathan Pappas; Amy Birge; Lauren Genovesi; Julie Odell; Kelly McQuain; Brian Goedde. Hosted by Jeffrey Markovitz.

#WritersResistPHL this Sunday! Update!

Update from the organizers: Dear friend:When we fill the Dell Auditorium of the National Museum of American Jewish History on Sunday we’ll be part of a national chorus of resistance: in more than 50 cities in the U.S. and around the world writers will stand up for free expression, truth, and dignity. The President-elect has already made clear he will violate these central tenants of American life.

The national #writersresist movement is spreading, as LitHub reports this week; in Philadelphia, the Inquirer and WHYY-Newsworks will be there to report on our gathering—a critical moment to demonstrate the power of being (as PEN America says) #loudertogether.
We in Philadelphia have a special role to play in this day of protest, as we describe HERE, in an essay in the Inquirer. On Sunday, about 33 of our colleagues will get up on the podium to read poems, letters, passages from essays and novels, speeches and pronouncements on freedom (and various freedoms), many of them legacies of Philadelphia.
Our event will also include a public school student from Mighty Writers, the inspiring service organization which will be on hand to talk about volunteering. On Sunday, you’ll be able to talk to immigrant rights and free expression advocates. Metro Philly has a terrific description of our plans, HERE.
If you haven’t already, please register for the event on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/424262767905244/
You can follow us on Twitter: @ResistPHL
Check in on our blog, where you can find our press release and other info and where we will publish Sunday’s readings: https://writersresistphl.tumblr.com/
Register your email with us HERE, so that we can continue to work together as a literary community.
Event details
Sunday, January 15, 2017
2-5 PM; FREE and open to the public (no museum entrance needed, but you will have to go through security)
National Museum of American Jewish History (@NMAJH), SE corner 5th and Market
If you would like to help out at the event and haven’t already told us that you’ll be available to do so, please let us know. We’re also looking for someone willing to video Philadelphia Writers Resist. If you are willing or know someone who might be, let us know.
Many thanks to all the wonderful people who have already donated hours of time to this endeavor.
Spread the word!
Nathaniel, Alicia, and Stephanie
phillywritersresist2017

Philly Writers Resist!

#writersresist    January 15 is the date for Philadelphia Writers Resist: United for Liberty. The event is part of PEN America’s country-wide mobilization to let the Trump administration know that we writers will not back down or backtrack when it comes to human rights and civil liberties. I’ll be reading alongside many Philly friends from works that speak to empathy and justice. Nathaniel Popkin, one of the organizers, writes, “We chose the word united because this event is meant to bring us together as a literary community with abundant shared interests. We are poets, novelists, filmmakers, artists, publishers, readers, promoters, journalists, essayists, narrative non-fiction and experimental writers, editors, scholars, and translators, all to say, loudly, that we will stand for the freedoms written right here.”

The event will happen on Independence Mall at the location of the Centennial Religious Freedom sculpture, the National Museum of American Jewish History, and in sight of Independence Hall.
This event is co-facilitated by Nathaniel’s fellow organizers Alicia Askenase and Stephanie Feldman.
Philadelphia #WritersResist: United for Liberty
Sunday January 15, 2017
National Museum of American Jewish History Dell Auditorium
5th and Market Streets
2:00-5PM
The Museum is generously donating the auditorium for our event.
phillywritersresist2017
More on ways you can #WriteOurDemocracy at this link.

America’s Promise: Community College of Philadelphia at 50

The premiere blog of all things Philly–Philebrity.com–publishes my take on the challenges as CCP looks ahead to another fifty years. Read by clicking on this link.

“As CCP looks to the future, changes are afoot. The college has a nationally recognized Reentry Support Project that has helped over 500 students with criminal records meet academic goals. It provides a growing number of study abroad opportunities, and classroom designs are currently being overhauled in a push to make the college’s facilities world class. To attract new foreign students, CCP hopes to build student housing and retail space…”

[Source: Wikimedia Commons]

[Picture source: Wikimedia Commons]

 

 

 

How Do We Pollinate Identity? The Empathy Machine, Part 2

MonsterPullOutGanesh, Cthulhu, Keats and honeybees! Sherman Alexie, Kenneth Goldsmith, Vanessa Place, and the Muppets!  What can this strange mash-up teach us about the pitfalls and triumphs of poetry and art-making? Part two of my comix essay, The Empathy Machine, is out now. Click here! It’s a hybrid graphic narrative I’ve worked on for Cleaver Magazine, a meditation on art-making, poetics, identity and appropriation. There’s even a board game you can play. You can read last fall’s part 1 of the project at the link below if you missed it (the Cleaver editors nominated it to Best American Essays!)
Make sure to link to the cartoon version. Cleaver published a text version as well for the visually impaired and for search engines that can’t (yet?) read comix.

Shelter In Place

#ShelterInPlace #GunViolence #CampusShooting
Earlier during the fall 2015 term, my students and I were in lockdown at the college where I teach due to a suspected gunman. The multiple mass shootings endured by the country recently have me revisiting what it felt like that day. This essay originally appeared in Think Tank at Philly.com (Oct. 15, 2015) and later in The Philadelphia Inquirer Sunday paper.

Think Tank: At CCP, students and teacher endure lockdown

“Shelter in place,” came the texts and the robocalls on Oct. 6 when I was teaching my morning English class. Someone with a gun had been reported on campus.

ShelterInPlaceSquirrel

Our inadvertent class mascot. He (she?) seems to be doing okay.

I didn’t know that at first. The guard who first stopped by my door to tell me to keep my students in place seemed subdued. He made no mention of a gun, and from his demeanor I imagined whatever was happening might just as easily be a medical emergency. I’ve had students have seizures in class; I know it’s important to keep people out of the way when help is needed.

Our class had about a half-hour left. I wanted to keep rolling. Run-ons and comma splices don’t teach themselves.

I called on a young woman in back by the window, a student whose attention I usually have to reel in. “I can’t concentrate,” she told me. “There’s all these helicopters outside!” I glanced out our second-floor window but couldn’t see for the trees.

That’s when text messages started arriving on my students’ phones via our campus alert system. A few also received messages from concerned family members who were watching what was happening on TV. It was through these outside sources that we learned of a possible gunman. I felt out of the loop.

Luckily, I teach in a smart classroom. I logged on to a local news station and we watched the drama live-stream via computer projector. My students were getting anxious, and I wanted them quiet and focused. I shuttered the blinds. I turned off the lights. I told them they could stand by the wall where they couldn’t be seen from the door. Most did. At some point two SWAT officers with rifles came by and did a head check but told us nothing.

Our lockdown came a day after the FBI and ATF warned of a threat at “an unspecified university near Philadelphia.” That threat was posted on 4chan, an anonymous Internet board also used for lesser malfeasances — like uploading celebrity nude photos. More dire was the recent news of shootings in Oregon at Umpqua Community College, which left nine people and the gunman dead — and there would be two more shootings later that week, at Northern Arizona University and Texas Southern University.

For many of my students, guns are a regular part of their lives. I’ve read countless personal narratives of how gun violence affects them: the drive-by casualties, the friends jailed. A beloved cousin who was shot on the sidewalk as a former student watched helplessly from her front steps.

“Can’t you lock the door?” asked the young woman who sits in back. She was in a tight cluster of her peers now.

“The door doesn’t lock,” I told her, feeling helpless.

“Can’t we barricade it?”

I’d already checked. “The door opens into the hall,” I said. “We can’t barricade it from inside.”

In my head I was wryly thinking #ThingsTheyNeverTaughtYouInGradSchool.

I urged my students again to be quiet, to stay away from the door and windows. But crowd-controlling anxious freshmen is like herding cats. I finally received official word about the emergency via a campus robocall to my cellphone a few minutes before 11 a.m.

We waited in our classroom roughly an hour and a half more. I spent that time talking to my students and fielding email messages. One student in my afternoon class wrote: “Is today’s class canceled because of the gunman? I just want to be sure before I don’t show up.” On our projector, my students and I watched a handcuffed suspect being led out of another building. Finally, amid complaints of bursting bladders, I watched my students go.

The class I teach on Tuesdays combines composition with reading across academic disciplines. It’s also a course in acquiring college survival skills. Students are trained in comprehension and learning strategies. We talk about theories of metacognition and how the brain processes and stores data, all in hopes my students apply more effective practices to their studies.

In an age when our very thoughts are increasingly winnowed into hashtags and tweets, I struggle to get my students to become deep thinkers capable of focused, sustained inquiry. I try to keep their attention off cellphones and onto the task at hand. But clearly social media has its place in classroom safety.

Later I learned colleagues in other classrooms had begun text-message chains, comparing notes about what was going on. In conversations since, some instructors say they’d like to see metal detectors at every door. Others groan at the thought of reminding our students there’s one less place they can feel secure.

On Thursday, when my students and I next met, we discussed what happened. We’d read that no gun had been found, that charges had been dropped. The scare seemed to have bonded them.

Our college’s new president held open forums the day after the incident to discuss security. I followed suit, asking my students what they would like to see happen. Already the college is beefing up security, which includes checking IDs at building entryways all day as opposed to after 5 p.m. and on Saturdays, which was the previous standard.

“We need guards with actual guns,” one young man suggested.

Temple and Penn have armed police, I told him, but in all my years at the college I couldn’t recall seeing an armed security guard. “Hiring better security costs money,” I said. “A third of our budget is supposed to come from the city, another third from the state — but that hasn’t been the case. Tuition has to make up the rest. How do we pay for it?”

The young man shrugged. Someone again suggested metal detectors, but others said that would only bottleneck entryways. A couple suggested searching bags and backpacks. It became clear to me that what millennials are willing to concede is different than what I am as a Generation Xer.

To be clear, I am not an institutional spokesperson. I’ll look to the wisdom of my college’s administration about how best to revise policies as threats change in the 21st century. But as a taxpayer and citizen, I want my students to feel secure. One way to help offset budget deficiencies from the city and state might be to dedicate local or state police to cover college security.

Eventually another commotion outside the window caught my students’ attention. Great, I thought. Another interruption.

But it was only a hyperactive squirrel, busy building its winter nest. For a moment, I wondered whether I should call physical plant to see if they could knock the distraction away.

Or should I let the squirrel shelter in place?

Winter’s coming. I hope it stays.

 

The Community College of Philadelphia was on lockdown on Oct. 6 after a report of a man entering a building with a gun. Philadelphia police later said a suspect was taken into custody but no gun was recovered.

Kelly McQuain is a poet who teaches English and communication arts at Community College of Philadelphia.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/thinktank/At-CCP-students-and-teacher-endure-lockdown.html#DUJkGVUDVQf4zcde.99