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!



Finding the Time

Let’s hear it for the poets who write regularly and with consistency, for this is no small feat. Consider the challenges that have to be faced and managed. Time for instance.

On one hand, there are poets whose lives are such that they essentially find themselves with large blocks of unstructured time with which to fill. They must be organized, disciplined, and committed to segmenting part of their day, ideally every day, to their writing life. This requires thoughtful planning and scheduling. 

These poets undoubtedly exert much effort to remain committed to a regular writing practice despite opportunities to do otherwise. They must remain steadfast against distractions that may make them question why they choose to spend hours per week wrangling with words while in the outside world, there appears to be a whole lot of more active living going on daily. But for a writer, writing is living, is life, yes? Of course!

Temptations abound,  yet writers who are solely responsible for carving out and maintaining blocks of time to write deserve our respect for staying the course. They are clearly diligent and committed. We salute you!

On the other hand, there are those poets whose daily lives are so heavily scheduled with work and other obligations that their time is simply not their own. Add commuting and basic needs like eating, exercising, and sleeping, and the entire idea of blocking off time to write seems nearly impossible. But we all know, it can be done. 


“…if we really love something we will go out of our way to make time for it in our lives.”

Poets living this lifestyle, must be vigilant in picking up and utilizing those, “dropped minutes” in between appointments, meetings, and station stops by having Moleskin pads, digital recorders, or online notebooks at the ready, to jot down a good line or two, as needed. These poets must utilize whatever free time presents itself within a day and they must be ready for it. By ready, I mean having immediate access to a charged phone and whatever pens, notebooks, and online resources are needed to keep their writing practice active. 

Having a flexible attitude helps too. Poets living heavily scheduled lives must accept that maybe some weeks they will be writing late at night, while during other weeks, they will be writing only on early weekend mornings. When life becomes especially hectic, these poets need to be ok with some inconsistencies in their writing practice. 

Let's be serious. No one person can do every thing well. And poets who are going through life phases that require them to be a lot of things to a lot of people, will need to prioritize and be patient with themselves and their writing practice.

If the writing is important, the time-challenged poet will figure out a way to make it part of their ever-shifting, heavily scheduled lifestyle. When all is said and done, poets living this lifestyle require resiliency and commitment.  They also need to be resourceful and persistent in order to maintain some semblance of a writing practice while trying to balance everything else.

Again, it can be done. Kudos to the writers in this group!

Writing is hard work, but for most of us, it is a labor of love. And we all know that if we really love something, we will go out of our way to make time for it in our lives. No doubt. 

~Judith Lagana