Charlene’s mother, Anne Kobrinsky, from Winnipeg, Manitoba, met her father, Arthur Cohen, from Waterville, Maine, in Washington D.C. during World War II. They had an epistolary courtship while her father served in the South Pacific, then married in Winnipeg after the war. Charlene was born in Washington, D.C. lived as a baby in Buffalo, but grew up in South Euclid on the east side of Cleveland, Ohio. She was part of the grand engendering after World War II.
Charlene made mischief with her slightly older sister and the other free range kids who lived in almost every house on the block. Yet the city was mostly segregated, the culture reticent, and some adults had numbers tattooed on their arms, so she came of age feeling urgent about social justice. Her third grade teacher, Betty Acker, is responsible for Charlene’s birth as a poet.
Charlene left home to attend the Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio where she double-majored in English. She met her husband Patrick during an anti-war demonstration on campus. They married, raised two daughters, Madeleine and Sonya, a son Daniel, and shared Pat’s son Eric with his mom. They also opened their home to a series of dogs: an elkhound-keeshond mix named Bruno, a collie-shepherd mix named Sasha, and currently an Australian shepherd named Harpo, as well as with a series of cats: a tabby Ribby, a ginger Kizzy, and a mustachioed brown and white Rhonda.
After a silence of more than a decade while raising kids, Charlene found herself suddenly buying reams of paper. She started writing again as well as attending readings of visiting poets at various colleges and universities, reading her own poems at open mics and featured readings, making pilgrimages to festivals like the James Wright and Ohio University literary festivals, and reading poetry, widely and sometimes deeply. In this way, she studied with masters, unbeknownst to them.
Charlene has received Columbus and Ohio Arts Council grants in poetry, won prizes from The Poetry Society of America, has a humble presence on The Academy American Poets website, and has published two chapbooks and three full length collections of poetry with one forthcoming. She has a manuscript of poems, On the Outskirts of Vertigo, seeking a publisher. She has been workshopping poems with The House of Toast Poets for over twenty years and feel enormous gratitude to those five other poets for guiding her to enhance the clarity while retaining the mystery of many of her poems.
Charlene taught in adult education programs, at a Catholic high school, and for over thirty years at Columbus College of Art and Design. She is now an Emeritus Professor of English.
Since 2014, Charlene has been a co-coordinator of Hospital Poets, affiliated with the Ohio State University Medicine and the Arts and Humanities in Medicine, curating poetry readings on the sprawling OSU medical campus and at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. She shares Hospital Poets’ philosophy that poetry can comfort, sustain, inspire, enlighten, and restore communities of hospital personnel who do their difficult and necessary work.