Before Jonie McIntire was a poet, a writer, a tireless advocate for the arts in Toledo and one of the main contributors behind the website ToledoPoet.com, she was a child growing up near Pittsburgh who loved the work of Lewis Carroll.
“The way in ‘The Jabberwocky,’ he would play with words. You get the musicality of words through that, and how silly it could be. It wasn’t just dead white guys talking about daffodils and war. You can kinda say anything,” McIntire said.
McIntire’s affection for the written word came to the forefront as she worked her way through college— first attending university in San Francisco and then, 23 years ago, moving to Toledo to finish. Attending classes, she met fellow poets Kerry Trautman and Adrian Lime (who is now McIntire’s spouse). Those three would form the nucleus of a poetic community that has endured well past their school days, called the Almeda Street Poetry Co-op.
“We would read at Sam and Andy’s, (a former restaurant) where Manhattan’s is now,” McIntire said. “We read there all the time, and we read with our professors, so we thought we were hot stuff. And so there was a really strong community going at that time.”
But real life interferes sometimes in artistic dreams. The Almeda Street members went their separate ways, started families, settled down. About ten years ago, they started finding each other again on social media. The group began communicating, expressing interest in new readings and workshops. And the members reflected on how difficult it could be to focus the efforts of an artistic community without consistent leadership or a meeting place to gather around.
But what if that gathering place was in cyberspace?
“We got about a dozen poets together and met in June 2014 at Black Kite,” McIntire said. “We talked about the whole concept, how do we know when events are? How do you know who’s a writer, or what to do? If you were coming in from out of town, and you want to go to an event, how would you know (how to find an event)?”
The end result was ToledoPoet.com, a website where area artists can learn of upcoming events and readings, as well as be introduced to new talents in the area. Though first helmed by poet Trina Stolic when launched five years ago, it is a true collaborative effort, mostly curated by the original three poets who met in college all those years ago: Trautman, Lime and McIntire.
“The good and the bad of modern technology is, there are a million ways for people to get in touch with each other, or to learn about things. The bad is, there are a million ways, so which one works, and which one works with whom in particular. That’s why we did the website— it is something people can go to,” McIntire said.
As the site continues to grow and evolve, McIntire said that one of the big signs, in her mind, that it is working is the variety of people they are seeing at area poetry readings these days— new faces, and faces you wouldn’t expect at certain kinds of readings.
“When we go to events, there will be people there who don’t just write in that genre, or in that style. There seems to be some crossing over into different communities, and being supportive of each other.”
For more info, visit toledopoet.com.