WILKES-BARRE – Inside the Osterhout Free Library's reading room, a hushed audience listened Saturday afternoon to poetry and prose read by writers who were inspired by the catastrophic Agnes and Irene floods.
The readings were held to mark the premiere of a special flood edition of Word Fountain, the library's literary magazine, proceeds of which will help area residents impacted more than a year ago by Hurricane Irene.
The idea for a special flood edition came to Rachael Goetzke and Ed Lupico, the co-editors of the magazine and library employees. We both felt we should make a special issue where people express themselves, Goetzke said. I thought we should have a creative response to Hurricane Irene. And since 2012 was the anniversary of the Agnes flood, the timing seemed right.
Last year marked the 40th anniversary of Hurricane Agnes, which in 1972 ravaged downtown Wilkes-Barre and other regional communities bordering the Susquehanna River. Irene ripped across the region in 2011, inundating some of the same places.
Goetzke opened the premiere event by providing a brief history of Word Fountain, which was begun in 2009.
She doesn't know of another library with its own literary magazine, she said.
She then introduced contributors who had chosen to read their pieces.
Joseph Derench, 67, of West Hazleton read a poem about his experiences as a worker cleaning up after Agnes. His poem was filled with details about the exhausting work, the heat and the devastation he witnessed.
He said it was important to him to contribute to the issue. It's in my blood – writing, he said. I've always had a love for literature. I got it from my mother.
Bryne Lewis, 38, of Kingston, read a poem about a flood in her own home. She contributed because she's very supportive of the area's arts scene, she said.
The flooding here has been such an important part of our community history, said Lewis. It is an important conversation to have.
Goetzke was the final reader. Her poem was inspired by Psalm 93, which includes the phrase, the seas have lifted up.
The youngest contributor, 9-year-old Joseph Glazenski, is a student at Rice Elementary School. His drawing of brown floodwaters pouring through a neighborhood is printed on the back flyleaf. He said he entered his drawing because, it would be nice to have my picture in a book.
But he added, I thought my picture might help the community.
The special issue was funded by The Luzerne Foundation and Independent Graphics of Pittston. Copies can be obtained at the Osterhout and at its Plains, Parsons and Airy Street branches. Goetzke also said that, on request, issues could be mailed.
The 43-page, four-color publication contains poems, small essays and realistic fiction as well as photographs and art.
The ages of the 26 contributors range from 9 to 74.
Goetzke hopes the entire print run of 2,000 copies will sell out. A minimum $5 donation is requested.
The money raised will go directly to The Luzerne Foundation to aid those still suffering the consequences of the Irene flood.
Of the special edition, she said: We're glad it turned out the way it did. We hope to raise awareness and to help people.