The Launch Party Speeches

The following are the speeches given by River Heron Review founders and co-editors, Judith Lagana and Robbin Farr at the River Heron Review Launch Party held at the Doylestown Bookshop on Sunday, August 5:

from Judith Lagana:

"Welcome to River Heron Review’s official launch party. I would like to first begin by saying thank you to Glenda, for her generous offering of this space today, to Kristy, fo her behind the scenes help, and to Nathan, for his ongoing support of us and of the local Bucks County poetry community. We certainly appreciate the support from both the Doylestown and Lahaska Bookshops. Also, a warm and special thank you to Tony, Richard, and Anthony for their patience, consults, and good humor throughout this journey.

As many of you know, I am Judith Lagana and this is Robbin Farr and we are the founders and co-editors of River Heron Review. Both Robbin and I are so thrilled that all of you are here to help us celebrate the publication of our first online issue. Thus far, we have had nearly 3,000 visitors to Issue 1.1 since its online debut last Wednesday. That is pretty awesome for a first time online poetry journal created by two local gals with a passion for poetry.

This all started not far from here, at the Saxby’s in Lahaska, where Robbin and I would meet regularly on Saturday or Sunday mornings to workshop our poetry. We had taken our “chance meeting” at poet Peter Murphy’s Winter Getaway Writing Conference a step further and were now established, “writing partners."

As the story goes, one morning I believe I said, “We should start our own literary magazine, I’ve always wanted to do that.” And Robbin’s immediate response was, “Let’s do it.”

And we did. That was last December.

By month’s end we had a name, a format, and River Heron Review Gmail addresses. By January, we had established as a formal LLC. and created a website...and over the months since then, we have contributed something special to the poetry community in terms of promoting local readings and events, offering for sale the chapbooks of local poets as well as those of our contributors in our online bookshop, offering creative writing workshops, and as of last Wednesday morning, publishing the work of 33 poets who are as diverse in their perspectives, styles, and voices as they are in the locations from which they hail. All this is eight months.

To all of you here today, we thank you for your ongoing support and encouragement and couldn’t be happier that you are here to officially celebrate River Heron Review's launch with us!


from Robbin Farr:

"...I want to add that the process for choosing the poems was excruciatingly difficult as well as extremely exciting. Prior to retirement I was a high school English teacher. My process for grading papers was to grade three, clean the refrigerator, grade two more, do laundry, and so forth. However, and I speak for Judi as well, we read hundreds of poems, at least multiple times each, often more, and it never, not for a moment grew tiresome.

We loved it. That was the exciting part. The difficult part, as you might guess, was choosing poems, limiting the number. We mostly agreed, but sometimes differed and then we re-read, re-scored, and debated. Simply, there were so many excellent poems, such a variety…and as we found out later because we read blind, a diverse group of poets from around the world, which surprised us. We have published poets from Australia, Newfoundland, England, Africa, Europe and all across the United States.

All of the contributing poets were invited today, I’m sure much to the surprise of many of them. We received such regrets as, "I’m sorry, but I will be in the Netherlands," and  "It’s a bit far from Australia....from Oregon", and from one poet, “The airfare is too expensive.” That he would even consider attending our launch party, is wonderful indeed. Today we are honored to present a handful of those poets who will be reading their published poems."


River Heron Review ~ Issue 1.1. Launch Party
August 5, 2018
  Judith Lagana and Robbin Farr, Founders and Co-Editors, River Heron Review
Readings by Contributors
(with acknowledgements to those who could not be with us today!)

  • Shawn Jones ~ "Admission of Guilt"

  • Wendy Steginsky ~ "It's the Way of Passing Things"

  • Mary Jo Jerome ~ "Tokyo Underground Prayer

  • Steve Nolan ~ "A Woman's Touch"

  • Chris Bullard ~ "Injustice"

  • Jane Edna Mohler ~ "The Last Time the Skiff Sank"

  • Paul Ilechko ~ "The River Dreams of Winter"

  • John Speredakos ~ "Mars Ever Nearer"

  • Luray Gross ~ "Listening to Edith Piaf at Nineteen" (with special Guest, Katherine Falk)

  • Julie Cooper-Fratrik ~ "Homelessness" also "Somebody"

All in all, a wonderful afternoon!



In Honor of Poetry Month

No doubt about it, the month of April is a celebratory one for all of us who reside in the poetry world full time. Because the reach of National Poetry Month is so broad and wide, poets and their poetry are estimated to be appreciated by the public more throughout the entire month of April than at other times of the year.

Some say that due to all the hoopla surrounding Poetry Month, the market for poetry is now on the rise. This is good news for poetry journals and for publishers of poetry books, not to mention the poets themselves and their audiences. Whether you are all about, as poet, Lauren Yates puts it, “poetry on the page or poetry on the stage,” you can’t deny that the month of April, coupled with the impact of the Twittersphere and other social media sites, has helped to connect more poets than ever to growning audiences. 

Hashtags like #poetry community, #poetryvoice and #amwritingpoetry showcase just how much the poetry world has evolved and expanded. Perhaps this is a direct result of the cumulative impact of twenty-plus years of National Poetry Month-inspired activities.

In today’s world, readings and poetry book promotions are hailed through 20 second video clips and 250 character tweets. Book shops and online sites laud poetry book promotions and community poetry events through their Snapchat and Instagram sites.  We are all just a keyboard click away from an array of diverse poets and their work. This is more so true now than ever before. And is, in part, due to the influence of National Poetry Month.

Who wouldn’t agree that April’s collective focus on all things poetry is made all the more enjoyable since it is the season in which many of our friends, coworkers, and family members become more attuned to how and why we poets combine our poetic talents with a straight out passion for the written and spoken word. It is nice to be appreciated and understood for our art. Poetry Month celebrations and activities honor this.

For many, the best part of National Poetry Month is having non-poetry world people reach out with requests for poetry recommendations. And who would deny that flash of inner joy that comes when a non-poetry-world friend shares an experience with a new poem that came their way because of a Poetry Month activity?

One of my personal favorite National Poetry Month activities is “Poem in Your Pocket”   Yes,  I carry a miniature copy of W.S. Merwin's "January" in my wallet. #poeminyourpocket (Ask to read it should we meet.) I have even given loved ones gifts of wallet sized poems that I felt would be appreciated. With both experiences,  these Poetry Month strategies essentially became the gift that keeps on giving.  And by the way, “Poem in Your Pocket" Day 2018 is April 26, so start prepping.

National Poetry Month is a trademark by the Academy of American Poets which touts this event on its website,, as the “largest literary celebration in the world." The purpose of National Poetry Month, according to Wikipedia is, “ to increase the awareness and appreciation of poetry in the United States.” I believe that since its inception in 1996, National Poetry Month is directly responsible for making thousands of people aware that they actually do have a favorite poem once they discover it. #poetryexposure  

For these reasons alone, Poetry Month is awesome.  

Wondering what thoughts others have regarding National Poetry Month? Any unique experiences? Favorite activities? Projects? Events? Insights? Would love to hear about them. Please share!

~Judith Lagana

A Challenge: Memorize a Poem

Every poet knows April is National Poetry Month. And April is just about here. So why not challenge yourself, in honor of National Poetry Month, to memorize one of your favorite poems?  Do this for the joy of it. Select one poem from among your favorites. Make it one that you have not previously memorized for a performance or a reading. Make it one that you do not already partially know by heart because you’ve read it so many times it has already embedded part of itself into the fabric of your brain.

Consider this act of memorizing a creative exercise.  One that you are committing in an effort to not only celebrate National Poetry Month, but to also further your own practice as a poet.  

Accept the challenge to memorize all or part of your chosen poem.  But, be smart about it. Segment and chunk the poem in phrases, lines, or stanzas as you go. Know thyself in terms of how you’ll manage learning the lines best. If you need to consider the poem line by line over the course of a week or a month, then do it. If you are a quick study and can memorize a stanza or two easily within minutes or hours, go for it. If you need a few days or weeks, who is watching? If it takes you months, no one will be the wiser. This is not a competition.

Memorizing a poem is a creative and personal challenge.  So go pick a poem. Consider writing or typing out a copy of it to help you initially work through it.  Set the goal of memorizing individual lines first. Start small. Take the poem apart bit by bit. Honor the poem in your commitment to memorizing it.  Enjoy the words, the rhythm, the cadences. Remember that this is not a race. Unlike so many other things in our lives, there is no sense of urgency, other than committing to finishing what you start.

Try it. See what happens.

Memorizing a favorite poem may change your life. Or it may do nothing for you at all other than give you something to recite to yourself when you are stuck at a traffic light or going for a walk.

Both options could be wonderful. Are you in?

~Judith Lagana

On Reading Your Poetry Yourself

Listening to the nuances in our own work, especially as we near the stage of finalizing a poem, is a strategy that many poets embrace and some avoid. I find it particularly valuable.

A great way to further refine your work is to listen critically to your own words. Read slowly, as if you were at a formal reading. Read softly as if pretending to prevent anyone who is standing further than a few inches away from hearing you. Pay attention to the cadences of the words you've chosen. Notice should you stumble over a word or phrase as you read. Note moments where an additional word could be replaced or deleted. Notice the entry points in a line where a detail or idea might be further explored. Consider how enjambments, which read well on the page, sound when read aloud within the context of the entire poem.  

I'll often read a piece aloud to myself many times before I declare it complete. Moments in a poem that are not rising off the page with the impact initially hoped for often come to light when a poem is read critically and aloud. 

Remember to relish all that sounds just right.  

I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Do you find reading your work aloud a valuable exercise?   

~Judith Lagana