Open Letter. LitMore Small Press Poetry Library Phase II: A call for staff and volunteers

To: LitMore Interactive Community and its supporters
From: Christophe Casamassima, Director, Small Press Poetry Library and Archives at LitMore
Greetings, friends and supporters of our growing poetry library at LitMore.

I’m very happy to announce that the LitMore Small Press Poetry Library is moving into phase two of its strategic plan: to establish a collaborative literary heritage site at LitMore that celebrates, promotes and preserves the rich and ongoing history of small press poetry publishing in Baltimore and the United States. In other words, we are on the verge of opening our collection to the public and providing browsing/research services for patrons interested in the long history of independent poetry publishing. We are inviting you to participate in these groundbreaking efforts, and to volunteer for the following opportunities:

• Organizing the physical collection in its entirety (including alphabetizing books and journals, electronic cataloging and archiving, monitoring book donations and donor information), (2) participating in literary events around the region to promote the library, collect potential member information and donations of books, (3) managing social media, including blogs, website programming announcements, media announcements and promotional materials, (4) conducting in-person and virtual interviews (audio, email, etc.) with poets from the Baltimore metropolitan region and recording audio of individual poets (for the Onthology/audio blog) and reading events happening around the Baltimore metropolitan region, and (5) keeping library hours at LitMore.
• Developing partnerships with like organizations in the region to help promote the library, its collection and its programs
• Volunteering on a board of influential culture workers and members of the literary community, including literary organizations and publishers
• Grant-writing and fund-raising

In the course of four short months, LitMore and its partners have moved the poetry collection (currently over 4000 titles) from Mt. Washington to Hampden, gathered and reorganized the collection to one location, built shelving and storage units for our books, chapbooks and ephemera, raised over $1600 for programming and collection building, and collected hundreds of donations of books from the public. This happened quickly and fluidly because the Baltimore literary community and its partners (including many of our friends who were excited to donate time and human-power to our cause) are ready to establish a literary heritage and preservation site at LitMore. I am confident that within the next 10 years we will have equal significance to The Poets House in New York City, the Poetry Foundation library and the University of Arizona Poetry Center. These are but a few the very important institutions in the United States that are making poetry available to the public and developing education programs for all.

If you have any questions about this letter, or wish to contact us about volunteering your time and talent, or know someone who might be interested, you can reach me at, or call 410.718.6574. I’d be very happy to give you a tour of our collection and explain the project in more detail. We are grateful for all that you’ve done, and will do.
Thank you,
Christophe Casamassima


Fundraising reaches $825, but we’ve got a long way to go

In the last two weeks we were very fortunate to receive close to $1000 in funding plus a shelf’s worth of book donations thanks to David Bergman and some NYC folks like Kimberly Lyons and Vyt Bakaitis. Our cause has drawn much attention and praise, but we have much, much further to go if we’re going to implement and develop a functional public library focused on small press poetry, book arts, creative writing and Baltimore’s literary heritage.

In recent days, I’ve had very interesting conversations with poets in Baltimore who have expressed concern that there is no centralized archives for Baltimore’s expansive and diverse literary scenes and cultures. In my estimation, a central resource of materials would represent a locus for finally defining a Baltimore Poetics, set apart from the range and roles of poetic communities around the country (especially strong in San Francisco, New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, DC… the list is too long). But where is Baltimore in this mix?

Our first project is to interview all our poets, young and old, to tell the story of the Baltimore aesthetic: what sets us apart from the others? What were the defining moments in Baltimore’s poetry history? Who are some of the influences that have shaped the way we think about and define Baltimore Poetics? This oral history project will be ongoing and complement/supplement our perpetual collection of materials from the poets themselves, creating a “living archive” that will come closer to explaining our unique literary heritage. This has never been done before, but with the burgeoning of so many brilliant reading series and poets, the time is right. And that is our most important mission at the Small Press Poetry Library and Archives.

I want to personally urge you to think about our potential in the community, and act toward becoming a partner and advocate for future programming and events, especially ones that help our community members become better readers and thinkers. This is called “creative literacy,” using poetry and writing as a tool for thinking through daily problems, and as a step in a young person’s professional development.

Without the help of people like you, we could have never curated two years of It Takes a Village, a writing/publishing program in which Baltimore City middle school students learned to write and edit poems in small workshops, with the help of poet-educators like Shirley Brewer, Fernando Quijano, Adam Robinson, and Amanda McCormick, then create a textual/visual layout, plus proofs, and finally publish a full-length book that not only highlights the students’ creativity, but also acts as a dossier for future employment and education. This is professional development at its best.

We also could not have published a series of chapbooks in conjunction with Community Visions, a homeless shelter in Silver Spring, MD at which Benjamin Warner, a professor of English at Towson University, hosts a writing program for its community. The publication is in its fourth issue, with more than 25 participants published.

And most importantly is our relationship with other libraries in the area (Towson Library, Waverly Library, The Village Learning Place) at which we have hosted free events for the public (The Cruellest Month Poetry and Performance Festival), for both adults and children, where community members are invited to attend workshops, perform their poetry, and collaborate with artists from different genres to create a living street performance in real time.

The introduction of a central library, The LitMore Small Press Poetry Library and Archives, will centralize our efforts, making it easier to host and develop programming aimed at strengthening community participation and collaboration, and create cultural capital with our representatives as assets for the future prosperity of Baltimore’s literary heritage.

But it’s going to take a lot of work, and a good amount of funding from grants and donations to keep it viable. Since we don’t have a steady source of income, we have to rely heavily on contributions from the public, which will secure a foundation where we can apply for institutional grants and finally be able to stand on our own legs. With your donation, you will put in motion a resource that is second to none in the Baltimore metropolitan region, serving you and your neighbors, making us servants of and advocates for community sustainability, without corporate intervention or commitments.

We are an independent and free library for all. Help us make it, and keep it, that way.

Please visit our Go Fund Me campaign now. Thank you.


News about the LitMore Small Press Poetry Library Fundraising Campaign and More Book Donations


I visited my friend David Bergman yesterday. He is currently the poetry editor of the Gay and Lesbian Review, a professor of English at Towson University, and a great poet in his own right. As you can see above, I will need to make more room on the shelves for this massive donation of poetry books that David was slowly weeding from his own collection (to our benefit!) I think there’s probably 50 or so books here, including some great finds like Joe Brainard’s I Remember from Granary Books and a lovely edition of poems by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, translated by Fernando Pessoa. There’s also a good selection of gay and lesbian literature, some which is very rare and self-published.

I’ll be in the library tomorrow, and will take some more pics of the rare objects and write a little more about the archiving and cataloging procedures. And I also want to create a list of donors to our book collection and monies for our massive fundraising campaign. I’m happy to say we’ve reached $740 as of 10 AM this June 13, 2014.

In other news, I have two very interesting leads that might ensure the longevity and sustainability of the LitMore Small Press Poetry Library.

Tomorrow afternoon I will be meeting with Megan McShea, a Baltimore poet and Audiovisual Archivist at Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. She mentioned something that had been on my mind for ages, but could not be put into words: What’s stopping LitMore from centralizing the archives of the recent avant garde Baltimore poetry scene (dating back to the 70s, possibly earlier), which is scattered throughout the city in its manifest costumes? In other words, LitMore is slated to become a heritage site for Baltimore’s rich literary history. This is all in theory, of course, but because the space is real and the infrastructure to make it so is slowly being brought to function, the theories are no doubt to become practical, necessary achievements.

On another front, Rosalind Heid from the Maryland Humanities Council contacted me in order to talk about a possible partnership with LitMore. I’m not very familiar with the organization, but just having looked at the website they are doing some very interesting and important literary programming in the city, much of which mirrors our own efforts. They, too, are developing a database of works by local authors, like us, but their focus is expansive, not just poetry. The potential for partnership, with both organizations covering just about all possible centers of literary production in the area, is ripe for evolution. They also host a literary map of Mt. Vernon, which is complementary to Doug Mowbray’s efforts to create a poetry resource map of Baltimore (in conjunction with Washington College).
And so another day opens on this exciting new project. Thanks again for reading, sharing, and donating to the cause. We hope to represent you in the future.


LitMore Small Press Poetry Library seeks to raise $10,000 to support programming and collection development

In an effort to act boldly and audaciously, I have started a fundraising campaign for the LitMore Small Press Poetry Library. All the details are located here at our Go Fund Me dashboard, and each donation comes with special rewards for your generosity.

$10,000 is a lot of money, and it will all go to infrastructure and collection development, stipends for volunteers and interns, and programming.

Please feel free to share this message.

Once again, we thank you for your future support and your kind, generous donations, no matter what amount.

Donations and Fund-Raising in NYC


While in NYC for a few days, visiting family and curating a release party for Thomas Devaney’s new Furniture Press Books title, Calamity Jane, I had the great fortune to meet many generous and like-minded people at Berl’s Poetry Shop in Brooklyn, where the reading took place with Kimberly Lyons hosting me, Thomas and Brenda Coultas (who wrote the foreword to Calamity Jane).

Kimberly is the publisher of Lunar Chandelier Press, and she donated a handful of new titles from her catalog, along with Vyt Bakaitis’ Deliberate Proof. I had time to talk in depth with Vyt, who, along with a bunch of people at the reading, had/have ties to Baltimore. Maybe Baltimore is NYC’s 7th borough (Philly being its 6th)? But as you can see from the stack above, the support behind the library goes beyond city/state borders. It’s a universal project that promotes small press poetry publishers and poets, readers and lovers of poetry, in all its forms, and advocates for creative literacy and programming focused on getting poetry into a larger world and giving it more importance, most importantly, in our daily lives.

I want to thank, first and foremost, the following individuals and organizations for their generous donations:

Kimberly Lyons/Lunar Chandelier Press;

Vyt Bakaitis;

Kimberly Lyons;

Sommer Browning;

Berl’s Poetry Shop;

Unnameable Books

We were also fortunate to receive our first monetary donation for $300 from a very generous pair of individuals who want no notoriety or acknowledgment. They merely ask that the funds be used to purchase books for the collection, or subscribe to a small press or three.

And so, our adventure begins.

A Short Graphic History of the LitMore Small Press Poetry Library (Part II: More Clicks than Tricks)


This almost-all-inclusive post is meant to be a somewhat comprehensive resume of the events Douglas and I have curated over the course of our careers as community arts advocates and educators. From about 2005 till the present we have collaborated with Cook Library at Towson University, Towson Arts Collective, Bread and Circuses Cafe, Towson Public Library, Waverly Public Library and The Village Learning Place to host the Cruellest Month Poetry and Performance Festivals (including the annual Poem Walk), two school years’ worth of “It Takes a Village” (in support of the LINK after school project) writing, publishing and professional development program for school-aged kids, and two volumes of Voices and Visions (Benjamin Warner, ed.), a writing workshop and journal of works by homeless men and women at Community Visions in Silver Spring, MD. We have also given talks/lectures at Towson, Goucher, Johns Hopkins, Fairmont and Frostburg Universities, and participated in countless arts advocacy panels and meetings, most in light of expanding the term “arts,” which is typically relegated to visual, performance or plastic arts, to include literary arts.

And now, an exhaustive, but not complete, list of images and headlines that help put our endeavors on the map.

This video was shot, produced and edited by a former student of mine who dedicated much of his time to documenting our efforts in the community. It is considered our introduction to Poetry in Community.

Some pics from the 8th Annual CruMoPoPerFest (including the Poem Walk in Waverly and Charles Village and the PoeTrees) at Waverly Library.

This is from the 7th Annual CruMoPoPerFest, at which we had the honor of seeing Magus Magnus’ Idylls for a Bare Stage performed for the first time in Baltimore).

Just in time for prom season, a Poetic Formal. Poets and listeners came in their best (or worst) formal wear for a reading of form poems—from the traditional to the twisted. Poets Shirley Brewer, Clarinda Harriss, Bruce Sager, and Laura Shovan chaperoned an evening of glorious ghazals, sumptuous sestinas, tasty triolets, and seductive sonnets.

Artichoke Haircut presented an editors feature at the Village Learning Place, with readings by the makers of the magazine: Justin Sanders, Jonathan Gavazzi, Adam Shutz, and Melissa Street.

These photos are from the Annual National Library Week celebration at the Village Learning Place, where the new Local Small Press collection was unveiled for the first time.

Poetry in Community celebrated the first 100,000 Poets for Change event at the Waverly Library in 2012 with the slogan, “Read Locally, Listen Globally,” in light of further developing creative literacy and community advocacy programming for our neighboring communities.

Douglas and I curated a very interesting exhibition (The Text & its Discontexts) of text art at the Towson Arts Collective for the sole purpose of linking the notion of text as sound/rhetorical device and text as image in an early effort to problematize the notion of “arts” belonging only to the plastic and performative realm.

This is a short interview with Benjamin Warner discussing the Voices and Visions project.

This was my first interview with the Library as Incubator Project, discussing the outlook for Poetry in Community and its endeavors.

This is the press release for our talk at the Maryland Writer’s Association.

Here’s some press for 100,000 Poets for Change and It Takes a Village.

A Short Graphic History of the LitMore Small Press Poetry Library

Before posting further, I thought it might be interesting to contextualize the gestation of the LitMore Small Press Poetry library from its birth at Towson Arts Collective (2008-2011), to Douglas Mowbray’s home office and my basement (2011-2013), and to LitMore (October 2013-present).



The image above details the view into our small library space in the basement of the Towson Arts Collective, which was located below the Towson Framing Gallery in south Baltimore County. In a former life I acted as the Secretary of TAC, and even had a hand in curating my first ever exhibit of text-based artworks called, appropriately, The Text and its Discontexts. As you can clearly see from the frames to the left of the door, my curatorial duties and librarianship garnered much praise in the community, something I will always cherish for the rest of my life because it brought meaning to an often thankless and exhausting endeavor. But about the library…

Notice the slimness of the collection. At this point there were no more than a few hundred volumes, including the very-hard-to-define-and-catalog ephemera (broadsides, unbound cards and drawings, packages, etc.) that crossed my path via trades with writers, mail artists and other creative peoples. As the publisher of a small poetry press (Furniture Press Books), I had the esteemed joy of swapping books and chapbooks with people from around the world (all of which will be available for your visual pleasure in the coming months). But this collection was just a mess: disorganized, piled up in heaps… but it had a home.


Amidst the collection sprang up a very important project called Onthology/audio, which was my extension of Paul Blackburn‘s audiophilia. When time permitted, I invited local poets to the library and recorded their poems. This, I believe, is a natural aspect of collection building, archiving the beautiful voices of our contemporaries for future enjoyment and research. It was (and still is, since this is an ongoing project) my hope to archive and celebrate the manifest voices of Baltimore and regional poets whose work defines our current state of affairs. When I left TAC in 2011, I took my gear on the road and began recording in the field. The Onthology/audio site will soon be part of the interactive catalog of text, images and audio.


When the library was removed from TAC, some titles went to Douglas Mowbray’s home office and some to my basement office. Above is an image of the collection shortly after it was moved, and includes a large portion of books from Douglas’ private collection. Unable to locate a large enough space to relocate the library, the collection remained stagnant for three years, with titles coming in randomly from our purchases or jaunts to The Book Thing (a warehouse in midtown Baltimore that houses thousands upon thousands of books that are FREE for the taking).

But when Douglas and I founded Poetry in Community,  developing poetry programming in conjunction with libraries in the Waverly and Charles Village neighborhoods, we envisioned a resource center where a small press library could act as a hub for events and research into contemporary practices in poetry. As word of our endeavors and collection building spread through the literary and educational communities, we began receiving donations of books from individuals and presses, and in a few years we amassed approximately 2500 books. Our largest donation came from Alan C. Reese, publisher of Abecedarian Books, in the form of the entire archives of the now defunct Harford Country Poetry Society. I do not lie when I say we were sitting on cartons of books for about a year before a breakthrough occurred in the form of an angel: Julie Fisher, host of numerous reading series and events and manager of the very awesome poetry resource, Poetry in Baltimore, and the leasing of the former rectory for the nuns of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Mt. Washington, a quaint neighborhood in the heart of Baltimore.


On a rainy day in mid-October 2013, Douglas and I took turns driving boxes and bags of books, shelving, book ends, everything associated with that vagabond library. When the last box was opened and the last book put into place in the built-in shelving units, we stood back and assessed the enormity of the task before us: separating titles by genre (single author collections, anthologies, poetics, etc.), alphabetizing and serializing the periodicals, weeding out works of prose and fiction that did not fit out poetry-only criteria, developing a cataloging system and applying a unique code to each and every object in the collection, and finally, digitizing images of each and every piece in the “rare books” collection. By a stroke of luck, and because I work for Cook Library at Towson University, I was able to acquire about 76 large archival clamshell boxes, which we will use to store and catalog the rare books. I have been very fortunate to find many helpful tools from their archives department, which saves us a lot of money (and time) locating necessary infrastructure to keep the collection safe and sturdy.

As you might see, this has been an ongoing process for six years, even if the changes and progress are too small to measure and account for. But one very noticeable difference is that the collection has grown to more than 4000 pieces! But we are making progress every day, and this blog will help to alert our current and future patrons to the extent and necessity of this very important resource for Baltimore’s exciting and vital literary arts communities. We are currently soliciting for donations of poetry books from small and micro presses, individuals with private libraries, and community libraries and organizations that are weeding their own collections. Without a steady source of income, we rely heavily on donations (which are tax deductible through the Greater Homewood Community Corporation, who have been sponsoring LitMore for almost a year). In the future, we hope to accumulate enough funds to start subscribing to small and micro presses around the world. In the meantime, your help, and resources, are greatly needed. And appreciated.

Keep looking for updates. I’ll have pictures from the library and past events and the rare books collection posted very soon. (Apologies for the lack of images here. I only hopes to put the library’s endeavors into perspective while we gear up for big things!)

Library Feature / June 2, 2014

When I first met the Mobtown poets (Justin Sirois, Lauren Bender, Aaron Cohick, Kevin Thurston, and a whole bunch of MICA students), I became a part of a truly fresh scene of poetry that was vastly different than my days at The New School in NYC. In the early oughts, when the Broom Factory was thriving, I was invited by Bonnie Jones to participate in the CHEAP! POETRY! event, where each artist created 10 unique objects, which were put into plastic sleeves and bound with red Chistmassy paper and sold for $3.oo each. I have about 16 of these gems, but this is just a sampling.

cheap poetry


Library Feature / June 2, 2014 / Birch Bark Book

This beautiful, and very, very delicate book is made from the bark of a birch tree. I wish I had the technology and the patience to digitize this collection, but like many things in this library, you have to see it and handle it yourself. There’s no author name or publication details, so if you recognize this piece, please contact me. I’d like to credit all parties properly in the catalog.