I believe in writing poetry and sharing poems with poets.
I meet with poets in my community once a month in a meeting room at the Bettendorf, Iowa library. The name of the group is Quint City Poets. Poets who studied creative writing and poetry and poets like me, without an English scholastic background, participate. Published poets, non-published poets, people with bi-polar disorder, teachers, an agronomist, a financial manager, and retirees, Christians, a Unitarian, and a Pagan read without interruption, and give and receive constructive criticism.
Within these two hours, the others and I share life and spirituality. Usually a poet explains the muse of the poem before reading it. Then the poet brings the muse into the room when he or she reads the poem aloud, while sometimes the poet cries. Inside crafted words, I heard a father cry, I felt the hurt of a mother’s suicide and a son’s alcoholism, I laughed slapstick happy, I tasted roasted garlic on fresh baked bread, I smelled the air after a summer rain, and I fell into a “wow” because of metaphors.
I participated in this group for five or six years and developed the foundation for my poetic voice, which helped me learn about myself. I learned the poetic voice could shift directions without digging up the foundation. Same as when life changes, I must stay true and productive, even when I have periods of perceived writer’s block, even when I receive a publisher’s rejection notice, and even when I question what good am I doing amidst my job’s bureaucracy. I learned from my poet friends to throw out words I do not need even if they provoke the senses, and concentrate on the important lines like what I need to do in life. I learned do not hide what I feel and mean in a poem like I learned do not avoid life’s obstacles and misguide others.
There are times when I thought I wrote my best poem and I walked out of the library with my tail between my legs though I still left with the encouragement to come back next month with a new version. The poets do not tell me what to write; they guide me to show the feelings the poem is missing. I learned to write a good poem – I need to write many revisions. A good poem evolves into showing something I have not planned. It teaches me feelings or positions I did not realize I had.
Writing poetry grounds me like gardening barefoot and patting soil around tomato seedlings. My ego likes it when a poem moves people and when a publisher accepts my poem. However, even with the personal benefits I get from writing poetry, I believe I would not attempt to write poetry and I would be more anxious of the uncontrolled happenings life brings if I did not share my poems in the scared space the Quint City Poets created.
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