Smile Politely

Readings planned at EIU to celebrate book releases by local poets

Per an Eastern Illinois University press release:

Two local poets will come together for a reading Thursday, Feb. 19 at 6 p.m. in the Doudna Fine Arts Center Lecture Hall on the campus of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Ill.

The event will be a celebration to mark the launch of “Many Small Fires,” the first full-length poetry collection by Charlotte Pence, poet and assistant professor of English and creative writing at EIU. She will be joined by author Caleb Curtiss of Champaign, Ill., who recently released his chapbook, “A Taxonomy of the Space Between Us.”

A second reading by Pence and Curtiss will be held on Saturday, Feb. 28 at 6:30 p.m. at Cafeteria & Company, 208 W. Main St., Urbana, Ill. to celebrate the release of Curtiss’s chapbook. Both events are free and open to the public.

In “Many Small Fires,” (Black Lawrence Press, 2015) Pence addresses her father’s schizophrenia and chronic homelessness through the larger evolutionary story of the human species. Questions about how we came to create communities and homes play out against more intimate questions of the speaker’s strange community and roving home. As the book moves from the speaker’s childhood in Georgia to her travels in Flores, Indonesia, we begin to understand a complex relationship between two people locked together by family, who sometimes understand, sometimes ignore, sometimes commit cruelty upon one another in competition, not just for resources, but survival.

Pence is also the author “The Branches, the Axe, the Missing,” winner of the BLP Black River chapbook prize in 2012, and “Weaves a Clear Night” (Flying Trout Press, 2011). Awards include the Discovered Voices prize, multiple Pushcart nominations, and the New Millennium Writing award. Her poetry has recently been published in Alaska Quarterly Review, Denver Quarterly, North American Review, Prairie Schooner and The Southern Poetry Anthology.

Curtiss’ chapbook, “A Taxonomy of the Space Between Us,” (Black Lawrence Press, 2015) won the Black River Chapbook Competition. His poetry has appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Passages North, New England Review, The Literary Review, TriQuarterly, and elsewhere. He is the poetry editor for HOBART: another literary journal, and co-organizes and curates the Pygmalion Literary Festival in Champaign. He is also a high school English teacher in Champaign.

He is a graduate of the University of Illinois where he studied English, Rhetoric, and Secondary Education, and currently serves as an active member of both the English and the Creative Writing Departments’ Alumni Associations.

To learn more about the poets, visit their respective website at and or the EIU Department of English website at

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