If it’s not every poet’s dream to do a book launch at a venue called Alphabet City, maybe it should be.
The new space on Pittsburgh’s North Side for literature and arts programming, established by City of Asylum
co-founders Diane Samuels and Henry Reese, provided a warm and congenial atmosphere for local poet Judith Robinson as she read from her new collection of poems and stories, “Carousel,” on April 6. The poet was surrounded not only by shelves upon shelves of books, and embossed letters from myriad alphabets scattered here and there on the walls, but by an eager group of poetry fans waiting to hear from an artist known for her generosity of spirit.
Robinson, who has been writing a poetry blog for the online version of The Chronicle since 2010, is well known in the community for her own talent as a wordsmith, and for her willingness to help other artists.
“What strikes you most about Judy is her generous humanity in her own work, and her giving in thoughtfulness, time and funds to other poets — in creating anthologies like ‘Along These Rivers,’ ” said Samuels. Robinson has been a friend of the arts community, Samuels noted, giving time and resources to City of Asylum, as well as to JFilm’s International Robinson Short Film Competition, which celebrates and awards prizes to the best Jewish-themed short films from around the world. The film festival was organized to honor the memory of the poet’s late husband, Sanford Robinson.
When she takes the podium, Robinson’s writings are brought to life through her gentle yet sophisticated delivery, lending a polished intimacy to her poetry, which ranges from the nostalgic to subjects that are vitally contemporary.
“Judy’s poetry is extremely courageous, insightful and poignant, which puts her in the category of extremely talented poets by any standards,” said audience member Arnold Gefsky.
“Carousel,” Robinson’s newest work, combines new poetry and short fiction with a selection of the writer’s past work.
The title poem of “Carousel” was featured in the online publication “Helen: A Literary Journal.”
“Writing for me has been a great pleasure, a great way of self-exploration, and of connection to others,” Robinson said in an interview. “I am particularly pleased with the poetry that relates to my heritage.”
In fact, much of Robinson’s poetry has a deep and personal Jewish flavor, whether in celebration of Jewish spirituality, or in tribute to the victims of the Holocaust.
Robinson is a 1980 summa cum lade graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, and is listed in the Directory of American Poets and Writers. In addition to publishing four poetry collections, one fiction collection and one novel, she has edited or co-edited 11 poetry collections. She also teaches Osher classes at Carnegie Mellon University and at the University of Pittsburgh.
Robinson will have additional readings from “Carousel” on: April 21, 7 p.m. at The South Side Presbyterian Church Café; May 12, 6 p.m., at Zed’s Café Poetry Series, Silver Springs, Md.; and June 3, 8 p.m. at the Spinning Plate Gallery on Baum Blvd.
Toby Tabachnick can be reached at email@example.com.