Just Buffalo Literary Center had been planning to release its Lit City Voices video series this month, long before the COVID-19 pandemic swept through the nation and altered modern life. Produced last summer, the series highlights local poets "out in the community inspiring other people about what this great city means to us," said Barbara Cole, Artistic Director and Associate Executive Director at Just Buffalo Literary Center. "I think this is one of those moments, too, where you realize that we really do sometimes need to seek out some wisdom, and writers are there to offer it.”
The series features 15 local poets reciting one of their works at an area location that has special meaning. The Central Library and the Buffalo waterfront are two examples.
“Originally when we imagined it, we thought, we know that Buffalo is much more than chicken wings and snow, but we wanted to really proclaim that to the larger world," said Cole.
A piece is released every Friday at Just Buffalo's website. Sherry Robbins' "Buffalo" appeared last week.
“Sherry’s a perfect example of I think the power that the series has to show." Cole said of Robbins who has been a teaching artist for over three decades. She calls her a "dedicated" and "humble voice."
Like most every entity, Just Buffalo has closed its doors during the pandemic. While in-person workshops and events have stopped, the center intends to remain very active.
”We’ve really been reflecting on how our mission has even more relevance and importance now. You know, we’ve always been guided by the power of the literary arts to strengthen communities, but especially now," Cole said.
"It feels so necessary to turn to the literary arts to provide that hope in the face of uncertainty.”
In these strange times, the work of poet Lucille Clifton is being discovered around the world, Cole says. Clifton, born in Depew, spent her first 30 years in Buffalo. Though she died in 2010, her poem "won't you celebrate with me" is finding a new life recently.
"In this current moment where people are really trying to not just share news and information, but also inspiration, a number of people have been sharing" the poem, Cole said.
"It sounds from the title or from that first line like it might be just a celebratory poem, but like so much of Clifton’s work, it’s much deeper and there’s a little bit of a dark twist at the end.”