Artist Spotlight- Ray McNiece

A Haiku Master
From two-thousand eleven
Behold Ray McNiece

April is National Poetry Month, and what better way to recognize the month than with a Haiku and to feature the amazing self-described Slovenian/Hillbilly Irish Collinwood native, Ray McNiece.

As his most recent book “Love Song to Cleveland” implies, he is a proud Clevelander. But he is more than that. Ray is fully immersed in every aspect of the written word, as poet, musician, teacher, and performer- and survivor of the 2011 Haiku Death Match.

His love for writing began when he was young, writing his first poem about a fish while sitting at the knee of an Appalachian root woman, his Grandma Zelma. She was instrumental in Ray’s love of poetry, as she had dozens of psalms and proverbs memorized and would recite them often.

Ray is not shy about being in the spotlight. Following the lead of his mother, father, and sisters, he went into acting after he moved to Boston. Becoming an actor has worked out well for Ray since not only did he just finish performing in ‘Barbecue’ at Cleveland Public Theater he also did a solo show there a few years back. Ray performed original poetry on Sports Time OHIO that won him not one, but two Telly Awards!

Currently, Ray is preparing for the April 8th Haiku Death Match at the Dobama Theater, having spent the past three weeks writing a Haiku book , as one might to prepare for such competition.  Oral presentations of his Haiku’s come naturally to Ray, as he has been found leading Haiku Hikes for the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Holden Arboretum.

According to Ray, books of poetry don’t exactly fly off the bookstore shelves, so in order to make a living as a poet he teaches poetry and theater. Right now he’s Writer in Residence at Ruffing Montessori in Cleveland Heights directing 10 minute plays created by 4th-6th graders that will be presented during a festival they’re putting on. Ray is beginning a residency with Parma Schools and is an adjunct professor at John Carrol University.

Ray’s hard work and dedication to his craft can be contributed to his working class roots. As the first male in either side of his family to go to college, he writes from that perspective about the struggles and joys and dark humor of people struggling to get by.

You can support Ray and the Fillmore Presidential Library by coming out to his poetry music jam beginning Sunday, April 30 at 6:30 p.m. featuring Lee Chilcote, director of Literary Cleveland. The event will be reoccurring on the last Sunday of the month. He’ll also be fronting his band Tongue in Groove on May 6th.