Poetry Club November 2019

What a fun and wonderful meeting for our one year anniversary…well, actually a little over a year, but we forgot to count. Inspired by Cindy’s recitation of a poem by Ina Coolbrith (more below) to expand our horizons to include a field trip to Berkeley to visit the Poetry Walk, we felt the need to come up with a name for our group….which is actually a solon. Many good suggestions and we are all giving it a think. You will hear what we decide next month.

Okay, Cindy and Ina Coolbrith. Without reading the title Cindy recited the poem, asking us to guess the city. It was clear to us who grew up in the bay area, “San Francisco!” Cindy presented a wonderful history of this amazing poet…Ina was the FIRST poet Laureate, not of just California, but of the whole United States. Quite a well known figure in the Bay Area Ina had links (and relationships) with the many budding poets of the bay.

Linda had an experience this week that left her shaken and in browsing through a new book on poetry came across a poem that seemed to reflect the emotions she was experiencing. “Museum” by Wistawa Szymborska, a Polish poet born in 1923, offers a look at what lives on when we are gone. Szymborska won a Nobel Prize for literature in 1996. We were all touched by this poem, which used the objects and those people who used those objects to contrast vividly our temporary hold on this earth.

Leslie presented several poems on houses and homes, inspired by the recent power shut offs in California. Yes, when we don’t have something, we appreciate it! “Lines Written From Home” by Anne Bronte (the less famous of the sisters) took us from the external description of a home to the internal, with the subtle realization that the poem was not about the structure at all. “My House” by Colin Wessels was a short poem with a bit of humor, but the theme remains, it’s not really the structure that makes it home. “A Home Song” by Henry Van Dyke continued the theme. Leslie finished up with “They Went Home” by Mya Angelou, a touching poem about loss and emotions.

At a recent retreat Robin attended there was a writing exercise presented by a member of the Amherst Writers and Artists. She presented the poem Robin memorized, Patience of Ordinary Things by Pat Schneider, the founder of this “method” of writing.  The story goes that this was the result of a writing prompt to look around the room you are in and be inspired.

Tece recited “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae, in honor of the upcoming Veteran’s Day. Our group contains some war history knowledge, and the poem led to a discussion about the emotions connected with different wars. Tece discovered that the early interpretations of this poem were said to be promoting patriotism…more soldiers to fight in the place of those fallen, but surprisingly later interpretations felt that the replacement was indicative of the hopelessness of men dying for things.

Kathy recited “Here” by Grace Paley. This poem painted a picture in all our minds immediately…not only of our grandparents, but of ourselves as grandparents. Once again we were reminded of how poems take something simple and bring it to life with a few choice words.

Susan finished up the meeting with another of her long, previously memorized poems! There is no end to the number of poems she has in her storehouse. Ulysses by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. So much in this type of poem, a tale, rather than a single idea. The language can be intense and confusing (but Susan explains words we might not be familiar with). The poem is a work of art, with the use of language and punctuation to make the listener feel a certain way. Such as the final line: “To strive, to see, to find, and not to yield” expressing the old age and inaccessibility with the placement of the sluggish commas.