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Buffalo author is transforming Penn Dixie into a poetry drive-in

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Sat, Jul 25th 2020 07:00 am

On Friday, Aug. 7, Buffalo author Rachelle Toarmino will host the Western New York region’s first-ever poetry drive-in to celebrate the release of her debut book of poems, “That Ex.” Guests will gather in the large parking lot of the Penn Dixie Fossil Park and Nature Preserve at 4050 North Street in Blasdell. From the front of the lot, Toarmino will read from her collection, amplified by the park’s PA and broadcast over local FM radio, so guests can tune in from the safety of their cars. After the performance, guests can purchase books and participate in a drive-thru signing.

The event is free and open to the public, though advance registration is required to comply with Erie County’s requirements for contact tracing. More information is available on the Facebook event page.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted arts programming across all disciplines, the Penn Dixie operators reached out to artists and arts organizations in the region offering the use of their grounds for alternative programming and events that would require additional space to comply with health and safety guidelines. Along with arts organizations, literary publishers and authors have struggled to adapt promotion and launch events for books scheduled to be published throughout 2020. Toarmino’s “That Ex” launch will be the first-ever poetry drive-in event in Western New York – and the first performance of poetry in a fossil park.

“That Ex,” a collection of poems hailed as "The Glass Essay" for the Tinder generation, explores the beginnings and ends of relationships and the tropes, stereotypes and experiences of being an "ex." The book has received high praise from blurb writers and reviewers and has garnered a significant following online, but the pandemic put a halt on a planned launch and scheduled tour stops in New York City, Toronto, Chicago, Los Angeles, Baltimore, Philadelphia and elsewhere.

"The pandemic has been a real obstacle and I wish I could have brought these poems to more live audiences, but I’m so grateful to Penn Dixie and psyched to launch the book at a drive-in, where guests can stay safe and feel comfortable," Toarmino said. "And the venue is perfect. Where better than a dinosaur graveyard to read poems about exes?"

Toarmino is a writer, editor and educator from Niagara Falls. She is the founding editor in chief of Peach Mag. She lives in Buffalo, where she works on the staff of Arts Services Initiative and as a teaching artist at Just Buffalo Literary Center. She will be an MFA candidate in poetry at UMass Amherst in the fall. “That Ex” is her first full-length collection.

The Hamburg Natural History Society promotes the hands-on study of natural sciences, including geology, astronomy and ecology through the operation of the Penn Dixie Fossil Park & Nature Reserve, a tourist attraction for individuals of all ages and backgrounds.

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