Writers Explore Omaha’s Old Market

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Writer in the Old Market

A record-breaking 18 NeWP marathon writers gathered on a brisk spring morning at Delice European Bakery and Cafe in Omaha’s Old Market on April 12. After traditional introductions and writing marathon orientation, four groups headed out into one of Omaha’s most colorful and historic neighborhoods. Popular writing spots included the Most Excellent Slide in the Gene Leahy Mall, the Passageway, the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, Mr. Toad’s Library and Pub, the downtown branch of the Omaha Public Library, a windy construction site, and La Buvette. Soul Desires, a wonderful bookstore specializing in books on spirituality, graciously hosted the read-around in a quiet space appropriately ringed by books and fair-trade coffee. The marathon concluded with a celebration at the Upstream Brewing Company.

This marathon brought several new Omaha-area faces into the writing marathon fold and also included our first family group. Olivia, Shelby, and Deron Larson teamed up with Maija, Kyle, and Jeff Grinvalds for an afternoon of writing adventure. Some of the best writing at the marathon came from these brave young writers!

Other participants included Kay Vetter, Mary Birky, Dan Boster, Jeff Lacey, Stephany Kecy, Cindy Cronn, Lisa Laviolette, Robert Brooke, Gloria Waters, Jen Stastny, Chris Lund, and Susan Martens-Baker.

Mary Birky Writes…

                      Urban Renewal                     

The pain

                      Jagged edges expose

                      Innards of history

                      The crane operator pummels, pulverizes

                      The wrecking ball of renewal.


                      Before I write, I need to thaw

                      My hands stiff from the cold

                      Absorb the warmth

                      Until the blood moves, then flows,

                      Then runs hotly through veins

                      Before I write, I need to thaw

                      My mind–stiff from the week’s

                      To-do lists, alarms clocks, job demands

                      Absorb and look deeply

                      Until the ordinary moves,

                      Then extraordinary flowing beneath

                      The surface

                      Words, suddenly, hot in my veins.

Robert Brooke Omaha Writing Marathon entry:

Leahy Mall, Omaha, by the slides and original National Bank arch

The day: cold for April, slight snow flurries. The kind of April that leads me to imagine 1880 in this place, when the limestone bank whose arch we saw was in full swing. The story then of this mall was a nascent dream of possible urbanization. Could the new money of the West make in teime a St. Louis or Chicago of this place, a crossroads to the newly capitalist, newly railroaded interior continent? Now, 130 years later, we’re at the other end of the urban dream. I’m sitting in third wave urban renewal, an arts and eateries market trying desperately to bring the metropolitan area’s peoples back to the central city for Culture. Jon Teaford (in The Metropolitan Revolution) says the new urban centers across the nation are now home to exactly such folk who see themselves as Cultured: the bohemian, the single upscale professional, the university professor, the gay, the multi-or-cross-ethnic. They make neighborhood–or as close to neighborhoods as possible in central cities at the cusp of gentrification–out of a built landscape that’s moved from industrial core to abandonment/ghettoization through at least one wave of reneweal. I love this kind of place, for a city place. But then, I am part of the demographic Teaford identifies. Yet I’m aware, statistically, how different my life is from the average American–who, the census tells us, lives not in the city or in the country, but in the edgeless, endless development that is suburbia. And the average American has been in suburbia since the end if World War II, when the boys came home and the freeway system got going, and the automobile allowed the average American to move out of the Culture and “problems” of any city to a supposedly safer, certainly more homogenized, built landscape.

 Kay Vetter Writes:

The unmasking of brick under plaster
lends the underpinning of strength
and comforting longevity….


Ah, the stalwart growth
of a long-planted plant
aiming itself
upward and toward the skylight:
“Feed me! Feed me!”


Plant pot bottom
encrusted with its own decay.
A cracked rim,
holding in the heaviness
of wet, black soil.
Should be a sign of warning:
“Caution: Plant at work!”

(From the third level steps of The Passageway)

is a place to perch
and love almost as much
as the old farm tree
I scaled.
and into it’s easy-access limbs.
Settle in.
Observe from behind the leaves.
Secure in the shady semi-seclusion.
I long
for the daily business of the birds:
their cheeky beak-talk,
the preaching to their own choir
and then–

–Kay Vetter

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