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Jennifer Diskin reads poetry at the Schimelfenig Pavilion at Nay Aug Park in July 2007. Photo by Alicia Grega.

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When the world lost Jennifer Diskin in 2011, it lost more than a talented poet. We lost an advocate, a friend and an incredibly necessary voice. Jennifer, at 38 years old, was part of the foundation upon which poetry was built, because poetry doesn’t just need writers, it also needs an audience, a cheerleader and people who believe in it. Jennifer did all of these things, passionately and well, all while struggling with the Hodgkin’s Lymphoma that would eventually silence her, and entirely too soon.
 
After graduating Bishop Hannan, Jennifer went on to study English and graduate cum laude from Marywood University. She also earned her Master of Arts in Creative Writing from Wilkes University, a program in which she thrived and blossomed, and it’s with this in mind that her parents, Edward and Anita, started the Jennifer Diskin ‘M06 Memorial Scholarship. The award helps fund students in the Wilkes University MA/MFA Creative Writing Program. Jennifer had always shown support for her fellow writers, and this award reminds us that she and her family can continue to do so.
 
The Diskins and friends will host a memorial benefit to help fund the scholarship Sunday at Sidel’s Restaurant & Lounge in Scranton. I talked with Jennifer’s father on the phone about Jennifer and the upcoming event.
 
“Mike Puskas, from Retro Rocket and Village Idiots, will be performing music with Mike Chafin and Jaime Novak. Mike is really excited by this event, that it helps poetry and artists, and there will be poetry readings between music sets. Depending on how many people we get, we may set up an open mic.”
 
“Rich, the owner of Sidel’s, decided not to charge an admission fee, to help bring in more people. So we’ll raise money through raffle baskets, 50/50 tickets and general donations. Everyone has been so supportive, especially the Wilkes community. They granted her a posthumous Master of Fine Arts in May of 2012, and held a benefit for the scholarship fund last January, around the time of Jennifer’s birthday.”
 
Jennifer has two previous chapbooks of poetry, Everyday Anemias and Wear White and Grieve, from Naissance Chapbooks. However, Mr. Diskin informed me that there are still 75-80 unpublished poems of Jennifer’s and that they are seeking a publisher at the moment. When the new book is available, another event will be held, with all the proceeds going to the scholarship fund.
 
“We’ve had a lot of help with Jennifer’s work. Poets Carla Reck, Richard Ashton, Constance Denchy, and Dawn Leas have all helped go through Jen’s work and type it up into a manuscript. Her caregiver, Nancy Sullenberger, has been very helpful, also.”
 
The Diskins plan to hold these benefits annually to keep the scholarship funded. “We do this because we’re keeping her name and spirit alive. It benefits poets and writers and their education, and that’s so important. It also keeps us close to Jennifer. It’s what we have left,” Mr. Diskin said.
 
Sidel’s is located at 1202 N. Main Ave., Scranton. The event, this Sunday, Nov. 10, runs from 6 to 10 p.m. For more information, visit the event listing on Facebook at facebook.com/events/590592964321320.

 

Andrea McGuigan is a poet, artist-in-residence, co-host of Prose in Pubs, and general Scrantonian bibliophile.

email book review material, or information about literary events to mcguigan.andrea@gmail.com.