The Last Alleyway Reading

Kent Ohio / 7.07.2001
hosted by cheryl 'cat' townsend
Akron Beacon Journal

Published Sunday, July 8, 2001, in the Akron Beacon Journal.

Impetuous haven doesn't go gently

Final chapter written for bookstore as owner takes Kent's 2nd offer


Beacon Journal staff writer

KENT: A group of poets had their last howl at an independent bookstore that has served as an artistic haven for a half decade.

     Cat's Impetuous Books is tucked behind a barbershop and comic book store at the edge of downtown on South Water Street. The store and its neighbors will close sometime in September; the buildings are to be razed to make way for a hotel and conference center.

     Owner Cheryl Townsend took the city's second buyout offer to escape an inevitable eminent domain purchase.

     Yesterday's ``Last Alleyway Reading,'' was once an annual gathering of live performances by poets who came from as near as Stow and as far as New Jersey to share their poems, music and short stories.

     Yesterday's reading -- driven from alley to attic by spitting rain -- was part performance, part wake for a vanishing link in a fragile chain of outlets for artists without major publishers or record labels.

     Townsend opened Cat's Impetuous Books on her 40th birthday. She also publishes the anthology series Impetus and founded W.A.R.M, the Women's Art Recognition Movement.

     On the wall near the door is a bumper sticker emblazoned with a four-letter kiss-off to the chain-store competitors. ``Try saying that in Borders,'' said Dave Pishnery of Willoughby. He took a long pull on a Rolling Rock beer for emphasis. ``Try having a beer in Borders,'' he said. ``This is a home for the underground and the off-the-wall.''

     ``Cheryl's a miracle of the small press,'' said Ron Androla. The 47-year-old, third-shift factory worker drives from Pennsylvania to attend the readings. Like most in attendance, his poems are included in the chapbooks. The works are also posted on Townsend's Web site at

     The local authors bunk on the shelves with their idols. Upstairs, each writer read aloud. Verses rang of the drama and dullness of daily life: The sexual politics of teen-age store clerks, the twinge of a first, unrequited crush, the last gasps of dying friends and ailing industries.

     Fingers frettin' over union-busting scabs

     ``Frettin over the no-job, no-food, no-job job, no-house times that are a changin' '' recited Ben Rader from his Industrial Guitars, inspired by troubles at LTV Steel.

     Cait Collins relived a run-in in her gynecologist's office, taking turns as the snide male nurse and a wizened patient full of pride and sass. When the room breaks into laughter, she passes out small plastic bags filled with dirt from the grave of street poet, novelist and screenwriter Charles Bukowski.

     White-haired Lakeland Community College English instructor Alynn Mahle writes vivid erotica. At the table, she urged colleagues to send birthday cards to a dying friend.

     Townsend intends to host Friday poetry readings until she closes the store in the fall.

     After each session, artists will continue to sign the ceiling of the upstairs reading room. The panels are already spoken for -- they'll be donated to the archives library at Kent State University.

     Impetus magazine and Implosion Press will be on the Internet.

     ``This was the quintessential life-changing event, so I'm not sure what's next,'' Townsend said. ``I'm the kind of person that has to do something. I'll probably print more books, because I like to feel the words in my hand. For a while, though, I think I'd like to attend everyone else's events.''

     Kymberli Hagelberg can be reached at 330-478-6000 (Ext. 14) or 1-800-478-5445 or

Table of Contents


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• all content of The Last Alleyway Reading is copyright of their respective authors •
unauthorized use is prohibited.

The Last Alleyway Reading © Cheryl Townsend/Cat's Impetuous Books and Stuff/Kent, Ohio / 2001
hold logo courtesy Haze Mc Elhenny / Urban Decay