What do you get when you combine a passion, camaraderie, and a learned skill? A unique Buffalo-based press that’s made a name for itself, not only in the Rust Belt, but across the country! The Cringe-Worthy Poets Collective derives its name from a desire to get people out of their bubbles and bring about something foreign, yet familiar. Whether by hosting readings, being featured poets. or creating chapbooks, the members of the CWP are using their talents to connect poets while publishing poems that are sure to get under your skin.
Over the past year I’ve witnessed the impact the CWP has had on Buffalo and I've had a chance to learn more about the inception of this extraordinary group of poets. Nathanael William Stolte, Mistral Celeste Khan-Becerra and Julio Valentin could be just your average Erie Community College students, but they share a passion. It drew them together as friends, and they rose as some of the most talented writers at the college. To them, poetry is not just an avenue for creative expression, but something each of them knew would play a major role their lives. All they needed was a way to break through.
An opportunity and an idea arrived in the form of chapbooks and the Small Press Book Fair. For Nathanael and Julio, creating a chapbook was a skill they learned from their professor that they used in their capstone project. Mistral, on the other hand, taught herself how to create a chapbook, and she envisioned starting a small press centered around them. Not only did the group decide to create chapbooks for their own work, but for the work of other poets hoping to break into the world of Buffalo poetry. With a slew of chapbooks to sell, the group needed a way to promote their group and launch their business. Buffalo’s 2015 Small Press Book Fair provided the perfect stage, intended to promote small presses, sell books, and create community. With the Book Fair looming and a collection of chapbooks to sell, this hodgepodge group of poets, now the Cringe-Worthy Poets Collective, made the most of their opportunity, and the rest is history.
A chapbook is an early type of modern literature in which fiction or poems are printed in small, hand-made paperback book form, usually fewer than 35 pages. The CWP Collective Press uses cover artwork commissioned from local artists. They like to refer to themselves as a DIY kitchen table press. Their goal is to turn chapbook creation into a business for poets and as an outlet for their creativity. Not only does creating chapbooks give poets a way to compile their work, but it also makes it easier for would-be readers to access poems after readings and build a larger audience. This is especially for those who hope to eventually publish and sell full length books of poetry.
If you would like to get your hands on chapbooks by a host of star-studded poets, look no further than the CWP Collective Press website.
When the Cringe Worthy Poets Collective formed, its goal was to make poetry more accessible to other poets and fans of the art form. Publishing chapbooks through the CWP Collective Press is a major part their success, but there are other ways to take advantage of what they offer. One way is by attending poetry events where they are featured readers. They’ve already been invited to read at events such as the Third Wednesday series, Inspiration Point, Buffalo State College, and many other literary series and events around town. The CWP has also been featured, along with other poets, at venues across the country, during a Poetry Tour last Summer. In a mission to bring Buffalo poetry to other literary communities across the nation, the Cringe-Worthy Poets Collective took its amazing talent to places like Easton, Pennsylvania; Indianapolis; Kansas City; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and even Dallas, Texas at an event that lasted more than four hours!
Another can’t-miss opportunity to connect with the CWP is by tuning into its podcast called The Cringers Present: The Process. Every month, a poet is invited to talk about the process of writing poetry and how a muse can turn into a masterpiece. And don't forget about the Ground & Sky reading series, an event the Cringe-Worthy Poets host every first Thursday of the month at Rust Belt bookstore, where there is no mic, no podium, no judgement, and no reason not to attend! Just a group of poets sharing their work in a warm and inclusive environment. An extra bonus for reading at Ground & Sky is that a poem that you read at the series might be featured in the Ground & Sky Quarterly. If you missed your chance to publish in the Ground & Sky Quarterly Winter edition, the open submission period for the Spring issue will open soon.
Don’t miss an opportunity to be part of what Cringe-Worthy is building! To find out what the Cringe-Worthy Poets Collective is up to, check out the Facebook page.
As a group, the Cringe-Worthy Poets Collective has become a well-known literary press around town. But as successful as they have been, each of the member has garnered his or her own individual accolades. Whether it’s by publishing poems in well-known presses and literary magazines, being featured at reading events, or winning awards, every member brings an impressive set of credentials that has helped advance the success of the group.
Nathanael William Stolte is the Acquisitions Editor of the CWP Collective Press and the author of four chapbooks: A Beggars Book of Poems, Bumblebee Petting Zoo, Fools’ Song, and Unformed Creature. His poems have appeared in Ghost City Review, Guide to Kulture Creative Journal, Five-to-One Magazine, #thesideshow, Rusty Truck Zine, Poems-For-All, The Buffalo News, In Between Hangovers, Your One Phone Call, The Rising Phoenix Review, Trailer Park Quarterly, and Plurality Press. Nathanael considers his highest honor to-date to being voted Best Poet in Buffalo by Artvoices’ “Best of Buffalo” in 2016.
Julio Montalvo Valentine is the Content Editor and co-founder of the CWP Collective Press. Julio, who considers himself semi-confessional, is the author of two chapbooks: Don’t Give up the Ship and Ship Lost. Outside of the CWP, Julio is a blogger for Plurality Press and an editor for Mutata Re, Erie Community College's literary journal. Julio has two forthcoming chapbooks in 2017.
Mistral Khan-Becerra is a poet, fiction writer and the Editor-in-Chief of the CWP Collective Press. Mistral often draws on the complexities of mother and daughter relationships and, through her work, attempts to bridge the gap between the expectations relationships-how stark they can be and how inspiring they can be.
Jennifer Skelton is the newest member of CWP. She connected with the group at a fundraiser on the Summer Tour. She is from Buffalo and holds a Bachelor’s degree in English from SUNY Buffalo State. The themes in her poetry encompass the comedies and tragedies of personal relationships-from mother to lover, America to Japan, and back again. She had been a featured reader at Innisfree Poetry, Buffalo State College’s Rooftop Poetry Series, at Queen City Gallery, and at Words on the Rocks.
If you’re wondering why the Buffalo poetry scene has become such a important part of Buffalo culture, look no further than the Cringe-Worthy Poets Collective. They embody everything great about Buffalo poetry. They are passionate, talented, hardworking and willing to help other writers succeed. What began as a team of poets creating chapbooks has become a well-known staple in poetry communities all over the country. In just one year, they have made poetry more available via affordable chapbooks, maintaining an inclusive environment for poets, and put Buffalo poetry on the national map. Poetry is more alive than it has ever been! All because four friends believed that the pieces of a whole are greater than the sum of the parts.