Wednesday, February 24, 2010


My writing group met last night: we've been going at it, in various incarnations, since 1991, although of the eight poets currently attending, only two of us are original members. In '91, with a three-and-five-year-old at home, I was desperate for the company of other poets. I put out a call for poets in a small local monthly newsletter called Poetry Exchange, and soon received a handful of responses from other poets interested in a twice-monthly critique group. We met at a local library, until a clearly mentally-unwell man, who claimed to be a poet, drove us from the public venue (where we were not allowed to exclude him).

As with any group that meets for an extended period of time, life's experiences have not passed us by. In the past 19 years, we've sustained death, divorce, illness, births (of the grandchildren variety), home purchases & sales, business successes & failures, publications of every kind and travel to various far-flung corners of the planet. Professions/occupations of members have included: physician, nurse, photographer, glass artist, grant-writer, professor, baker, Buddhist-nun-in-training, poet-in-the-schools and secretary. In 1994 we launched a small nonprofit publishing company: Floating Bridge Press, which thrives -- and in the black -- with its well-respected collection of chapbooks and anthologies. (Only one of the founding board members still plays an active role in this all-volunteer organization.)

Since fleeing the public library, we've been meeting monthly in members' homes. We're a dynamic and rousing group: the wine flows freely (or, as in the case of last night, vodka-tonics with the addition of a mysterious Italian liqueur), as does the wit. Snacks run the gamut from popcorn to pickled peppers to plum pie. Poets (hopefully, myself included, though I'm speaking here of others) possess a capacity for tenderness and perception that I rarely experience elsewhere. In this group, we strive to practice a modicum of restraint when evaluating each others' poems -- honesty without personal attack.

(I recall a University of Washington writing class I took taught by a visiting poet, who would mercilessly slice-and-dice poems/poets while standing on her pedestal in front of the class. Needless to say, I left that class with no respect for the instructor. She was an example of How Not To Conduct Oneself. The following year, a poem/poet she had eviscerated was the recipient of one of the university's prestigious undergraduate awards. Ha!

By contrast, in a workshop taught by Richard Hugo, he lovingly and with the utmost respect addressed the self-loathing expressed by a young poet in one of her poems: it was an incredibly moving experience.)

Last night's subject included:
-a jigsaw puzzle
-childhood perceptions
-Hanford fallout

The vocabulary included, among others, the following words:
-zig, zag

This language, these poets, sustain me, have sustained me, will continue to sustain me.

From time to time I entertain the fantasy of entertaining the group at the Ireland house. Possible? Yes. Likely? Probably not.


  1. T. Clear - our lives run parallel! The world is a village...

    I met with my writing group last night, too, and came home afterwards (as I do every time we meet - Wednesday evenings, fortnightly) feeling full to the brim. Spilling over, even. What a privilege, a joy, a productive pleasure these groups are. So integral to our lives, our creativity, our well-being. It was just wonderful to read your entry... I am going to direct all the members of 'my' group to your story. You have spoken on behalf of all of us - thank you!

    Last night's subjects included -

    a red kite
    a gap
    a teenage girl who finds herself in Weirdsville
    a hostess named Rosalie (or Margaret, as it turned out - for some reason, I heard 'Rosalie.')
    a trampoline
    Dog Island
    a novel title asking to be re-titled
    an orange garden
    a flame-coloured pteropod

    (We could offer each other's lists to our respective groups and see what further writing they inspire?)

    It was especially good to discover more of your writing history through today's post.

    Warm wishes to you

  2. incandescence

    they feel good in the mouth those words.

    you lucky girl, all that AND plum pie!

    wv fundun

  3. Claire -- how delightful! I simply love this online universe, how it pushes the boundries of our lives, opens them to new people. And yes, I always return absolutely brimming over with new poetic enthusiasm.

    Warm wishes to you too!

    handandspirit: I must be honest and say that the plum pie was not last night; I was simply listing the range of delicacies we've had the good fortune to share over the years. (And I couldn't resist the alliteration of all those "p's".)

    I am a lucky girl!

  4. Your account is so full of life, brimful!