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Foundlings enters next phase with new book of art, poetry

Aidan Ryan is trying to answer a question about bad hockey and good poetry.

"Right now, if you go to a Sabres game, you'll get like 15,000 people in the crowd," the young poet said about attendance at the game the dismal performance of Buffalo's NHL team. "They're paying to go watch the Sabres to perform at that level. Why can't we get these people interested in poetry?"

His answer, along with his fellow editors of Foundlings magazine and small press based in Buffalo, has been to launch a series of small and unorthodox literary events and partnerships aimed at broadening the appeal of poetry beyond elite circles of academics and aspiring bards.

The latest in that series is the launch party for a book of art and poetry that emerged from Foundlings' first residency project in collaboration with Hotel Henry. The event starts at 6 p.m. March 16 in Hotel Henry, and features a reading from the newly released chapbook "My Radar Data Knows Its Thing," a collaboration between poet Lytton Smith and designer Steve Fitzmaurice. The event also features readings from Buffalo poets Noah Falck and Janet McNally.

"We have all these people in our lives that we want to appreciate this, but they're not likely to wander into Talking Leaves, go to the poetry section, see the spine of our books and pick it up," Ryan said. "It's just not going to happen."

This frustration about a lack of pathways to poetry for the uninitiated led Ryan and his co-editors, Max Crinnin, Darren Canham and S. James Coffed, to devise new ways of connecting poetry to audiences. One of the first was a four-city literary tour tied to the 2016 presidential debates.

The idea for a poetry and art residency came to Ryan during a family vacation to Arizona, he said. During that trip, Ryan met a family friend who said she plans to live out her final days in a hotel at the edge of the Grand Canyon.

"Rockets went off in my head and I thought, 'Oh my God, I've got to get a writer's residency at the Grand Canyon," Ryan said. "From my hotel bed I just started blasting off emails to the other Foundlings folks, feeling them out and thinking about folks I might want to partner with."

Ryan's canyon-sized ambitions for the residency eventually shrunk to a more manageable size when the Hotel Henry agreed to sponsor a weekend-long residency that would pair a poet and artist on a creative project.

There were some snags with the first attempt -- travel issues prevented Fitzmaurice from attending -- but the result is a handsomely designed book of art and poetry. It is one of the first in a planned series of chapbooks and compilations from Foundlings, which began as a literary magazine in 2015 and has slowly evolved into a small press.

"We're a new magazine, a small magazine, a magazine that exists in a state of genteel poverty," a description of the Foundlings organization on its website reads.

With this book launch, a planned second residency and another book on the way in a partnership with The Public, the fledgling Foundlings is off to a good start.

"We knew from the beginning that doing this was going to be demanding and constantly challenge us in new ways," Ryan said. "We've never really known what we were getting into at any stage. I like growing in that way."

Preview

The launch party for "My Radar Data Knows Its Thing" starts at 6 p.m. March 16 in Hotel Henry, 444 Forest Ave. Visit foundlingsmagazine.com or the Facebook event page for more info.

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