Saturday, December 19, 2009

Poetry Night

My church dinner group (used to be called Bible study group, but when the person who actually liked to lead Bible studies moved away, so did studying the Bible, so we try to be honest about it and call ourselves "dinner group") meets for potluck supper one or two Saturday nights a month. I think some of our most memorable get-togethers have had a theme, so I suggested last time that we each bring a poem. My recollection is that they treated the suggestion less than seriously, so I was surprised when two members of the group, the newest two, brought poems. Dave brought a sort of rap he had written about a wilderness camping trip, really impressive for a 40-something white dad. (Really.) And Marj brought a politically corrected version of "A Visit from St. Nicholas" that was funny and scanned beautifully. It drives me crazy when a rhythm-and-rhyme poem is careless about the meter, unless of course it is Ogden Nash, who butchered meter and would make one line ten syllables long and the next forty-five syllables long and got away with it by virtue of wit.

Realizing they had taken me seriously, I ran to the car and pulled out my William Stafford collection and read "The Way It Is", and "Easter". And some other anti-war poem whose title I forget. I get excited about this stuff, but I don't expect anyone else to. And except when I read something in church and people ask me how they can get a copy of it, I can't tell if anyone else gets excited about this particular way of playing with words (Bill Moyers' phrase, I think, not mine). I love reading a few lines or a long trail of lines that make me go, "Mm," and read it again. And I love sharing it. But I'm not sure which of you are going, "Wow, yeah," and which of you are just thinking "Well, yes, isn't that nice, dear?"

I'm giving up my subscription to Rolling Stone this year, and I'd love to replace it with something more edifyng. If I knew someone who would like it, I'd be sorely tempted to take Poetry magazine up on its two-subscriptions-for-the-price-of-one offer.

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