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Moonshine’s Tribute to a Local Poet

eliotfred3995FD5.jpg~ The following was published in The Floyd Press on August 20, 2009.

The literary flavor of summer’s Floyd County Moonshine is as striking as the bright red wildflowers on its cover and as local as the next door neighbor. The issue spotlights Floyd writers and features the poetry of the late Elliot Dabinsky.

A familiar face around Floyd for many years, Dabinsky was one of the founding members of The Floyd Writer’s Circle, a group that meets regularly to workshop members' writings. He was a contra dance enthusiast, a past photography teacher at Douglass College in New Jersey, and a man of many contradictions who was disabled by pain for much of his adult life.

Some of Dabinsky’s peers were aware that in the years leading up to his death he was working on a collection of new poetry that he viewed as his literary life’s work and that he hoped to submit for publication. After his death in the fall of 2005, two friends and fellow co-founders of the Writer’s Circle, Mara Robbins and Kathleen Ingoldsby, poured through handwritten drafts of his autobiographical free verse with a chapbook in mind.

With the inception of Moonshine, a publication that exists through proceeds from sales and the sponsorship of supporters, Robbins and Ingoldsby saw an opportunity and offered to sponsor an issue. “It seemed like a perfect way to support a local literary initiative and provide a platform for Elliot’s writing,” Ingoldsby, a history archivist, said.

Robbins, a recent Hollins University graduate and Moonshine’s poetry editor, said, “I think Elliot would be pleased with how it turned out, with the inclusion of other Floyd writers and artists, some of his photographs, and references to contra dances because he was so strongly committed to the arts.”

In the issue’s introduction, written by Robbins, she invites readers to “put aside thoughts of Dabinsky’s complicated life and his sometimes turbulent personality and focus on the fierce beauty interwoven within the difficult stories of his deeply personal words,” words that revealed the author’s passions, frustrations, and fears. fcm3.jpg

Dabinsky liked to spend time in cafés and coffee houses. He was a regular at Bollos café in Blacksburg, where he volunteered regularly at the Lyric Theatre. In one poem, set in Bollos, he writes ...Even the everyday schizophrenic, whose tick and jerk, a repetitive compulsive tapping touch, scares some, has a place here. He continues, revealing his fear, not of the schizophrenic but of being like him ... If life is like a stone skipped across a still pond, and the circling rings how close we get to living it, then I’m just one ring closer, looking for a way to reach the stone before it sinks.

“His goal was to convey a story,” Robbins noted about the Dabinsky’s poetic style. The twelve poems chosen for the issue include Love Poem Number One, Lust Poem Number One, A Remembrance of Karma, Ten Years Stuck in the House Whitlow Built, This is the Line for Mercy, It Really is Almost that Simple, and more. Dabinsky read the emotional and detailed poem about losing a girlfriend in a car accident, How Do You Spell Epiphany, to a spellbound crowd at the London Underground Pub for a Poetry Slam a year before his death. Others he read at Spoken Word events at Oddfellas Cantina and the Café del Sol.

Dabinsky’s cut-to-the punch poetry is a good fit for Moonshine, which editor-in-chief Aaron Moore said strives to be honest and to avoid being “touristy or quaint.” Moore’s long term goal for the magazine is to draw readership and contributors nationwide. It’s currently listed in Poet’s Market (a national directory of poetry publications) and he has already received a submission from someone who saw it listed there. “I want to put Floyd on the map as a literary center,” he said, pointing out that Floyd was a good place to start a literary magazine because of its creative people and active arts community.

Writings about Dabinsky by others also appear in the issue, including an interview with Dabinsky that was done by Robbins for a Gender and Woman’s Study class, a series of vignettes that revolve around Scrabble games and poetry readings that Dabinsky participated in, and an essay by Kathleen Ingoldsby based on a conversation between her and Dabinsky at a contra dance weekend.

Other Floyd contributors include Chelsea Adams, Fred First, Jayn Avery, Katherine Chantal, and Haden Polseno-Hensley. Former Floydian, Blueberry farmer and Radford University English teacher Jim Minnick has two poems in the issue.

Things I Want to Remember, Abandoned Houses, The Falls at Big Reed Island, This Place Indian Valley are the titles of some of the poetry and prose that round out the flavor of this issue of Moonshine. A Depression era short story set in Floyd County by retired Radford University Professor Parks Lanier stands out, as does a personal account by Katherine Chantal of the coming together of the Floyd community for a homemade funeral at Zephyr Farm, one of Floyd’s intentional communities.

The Floyd Moonshine is one year old. With four issues published and submissions coming in for number five, an anniversary celebration open to the public is planned on September 13th from 3 – 5 p.m. at The Black Water Loft. Contributors will read their works from the current issue and past issues, and the poetry of Elliot Dabinsky will also be represented at the event. ~ Colleen Redman

Post Notes: Today’s date reminded me that I had forgotten to post the above. I attended the anniversary reading and celebration of Elliot’s work today and recommend that people check out the publication, especially the current issue that features Elliot’s poetry. Copies are available locally at noteBooks, Café del Sol, Chic’s Antiques, Over the Moon, and can be checked out at the Jessie Peterman Library. Email floydshine@gmail.com to order an issue. The above photo of Elliot was taken by Fred First. Our August Spoken Word at Cafe del Sol included readings from Elliot's work, which you can see HERE.


Sounds lovely! Book readings are good for the soul. I keep meaning to try to go to more, but it's so easy to get caught up in work and getting stuck in the office these days..

What a great tribute to a man that sounds like someone I would have loved to meet. xo
PS I haven't been able to read a book in a year now. I miss it!

I only met him once or twice but he was incredible man. I could see it in him and heard tons of things about him while I was there.

Fred takes such great photos. A tribute issue is a heartening idea. The central image of the poem excerpt you chose was strong, past the smaller rings to reach the stone. Evocative.

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