I had the unexpected good fortune to find a new friend on an early morning plane ride up to Boston several weeks ago. Carmen, an artist, is just the type of person I’m drawn to – creative, smart, generous, and friendly at 6:30 a.m.
Somewhere over the middle of the country she invited me to come to her poetry group, saying I would enjoy the creative people in it.
I didn’t tell her that I was somewhat frightened of “real” poetry because so often reading poetry had made me feel dumb. During the residencies of my MFA program, for example, whenever it was the night when poets read their work, I would struggle to comprehend the words some of those poets read in what I came to refer to as the “dreaded poetry voice,” long on slow dramatic pauses and short on inflection and accessible meaning. At least to me.
Still, I’d always wanted to be one of those writers who were inspired and moved by meaty, weighty poets. So I didn’t tell Carmen that my favorite poet was Shel Silverstein and that I could recite his poem “Sick” in its entirety.
“A poetry group sounds great,” I said, taking a sip of coffee and trying to exude literary sophistication. “When’s the next meeting?”
So far I’ve been to two poetry meetings. Carmen was right. The group is full of smart, creative, interesting people that I enjoy. One person is responsible for picking the poet each meeting and presenting biographical information. The rest of the group picks a poem they want to read and makes copies for the rest of the group. Each person reads the poem they chose and the group discusses it. Having this discussion time is key. Hearing everyone else’s thoughts about a poem makes it more accessible and meaningful. Some of these women have an extraordinary gift for literary analysis.
I’ve added two poets to my mental literary library: Lydia Davis (who I like because her poems are more like stories) and Rebecca Seiferle. And I must say that I’ve enjoyed their poetry. It’s possible I’m getting smarter. I did learn two new words at last night’s meeting thanks to Seiferle’s work:
1. Larder – A room or place where food is kept.
2. Dicotyledon – Any member of the flowering plants that has a pair of leaves in the embryo of the seed.
I’m starting to change my mind about poetry. All thanks to Carmen from that American flight to Boston.
Julie Richie is a mother and writer who was inspired to write by the book Beat the Turtle Drum by Constance C. Greene when she was eleven years old.