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Carpe diem: The live poets’ society, Poetry Revisited

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By Fran Salone-Pelletier, Religion Columnist

Having read the announcement in the Beacon and knowing the facilitator of the group made me curious and eager to attend. Its name, Poetry Revisited, is a bit of an affirmation of poetry, as well as another look at the individual writing presented by the participants.
However, my intrigue leads me to offer another description. In my mind’s eye, I see a gathering of folks who have embraced the concept of carpe diem. They are seizing the day as live poets willing to put their life experiences into poetic words.
Rhymed or not, haiku or lyric, long or short, the works produced tackle and tickle the spirit.
Attendance varies as holidays are spent with family and friends, but return is nearly always guaranteed. Men and women, young and old, all are eager to share their view of life, their experiences of joy and sorrow.
Some come to listen, or so they say, until they nearly burst with the desire to show and tell. It’s a grandmother’s handcrafted book made with a legacy in mind, a gift (an heirloom) speaking in the shortened verse of haiku to grandchildren whose drawings command attention.
A treasured comment about a long-held interest in the idea of time—time past, time held, time shaken with surprises—captured one woman. She read, and then asked, “What do you think? I need a critique.”
The response was heartfelt, as heads bobbed up and down, nodding in recognition of the thoughts she offered. Wordlessly, the attentive audience was itself a commentary that shouted agreement. She was on target, no matter her concern that hers was a solitary viewpoint.
I watched and listened in awe as person after person presented a poem du jour. If any suffered from wavering self-confidence, it was obvious the group supplied sufficient encouragement and assurance to ease the way.
Upon the presentation of poetry that reflected days of youthful exuberance, one participant offered an added feature. “Would you like to hear the song I wrote about that day?”
Without hesitation, she burst into song! Smiles grew from tentative stirrings at the corners of our mouths into wholehearted enjoyment. We knew we had been given and had received a gift, the present of one women’s spirit warmed with giving and warming our hearts.
I wondered if I would have been as courageous and caring. Would I have been so concerned about my presentation that I’d opt out of sharing lest it lack perfection? It gives me pause.
Rounding the circle, each member in turn offered the gifts of the heart, words filled with universal meaning while emerging from the depth of each individual life. There were religious poems, ones that brought tears to the eyes and laughter to the soul. There were poems about animals and others praising the wonders of creation.
On this particular day, there was a sole male voice in the crowd. Undaunted, he read the longest poem of all. The room grew ever more quiet as we listened to the uniqueness of his contribution. It presented an alternate view of Eden, a novel description of the creation stories we had all heard.
Drawn into the difference, I was captivated by a perspective I’d never have called my own, a standpoint that commanded contemplation.
As the circle drew closer to its beginning, and end, a tiny voice said, “I have something but it’s not completed. Words are scratched out giving way to replacements. I am not satisfied with my work and I probably won’t be able to read it with all the markings in the way.”
With some persuasion, she took her work in hand, presenting us with a verbal picture that defied denial. Perfection became unnecessary, except in the eye of the composer. There was a clarity and sharpness that brought us into her world in ways she may never have imagined.
Each presentation, unique in its creativity, allowed us to gasp with delight. Time stood still, frozen with wonderment. I gazed about the group, some of whom I knew from other circles, noting the giftedness of each member.
Carpe diem. The day was seized with exuberance. It was also grasped with a definite sense of gratitude. The overall attitude was one of thankfulness that we were able to gather with a common purpose: sharing our creativity and imagination. The gathering evoked a certain degree of responsibility. We agreed that we’d likely offer ourselves all kinds of excuses not to write without the monthly incentive to produce.
No less important was the common desire to encourage growth, to accept each individual’s effort with equal admiration.
I recalled the words of a dear friend who had taught writing on both the high school and college levels. He never “bled” all over a student’s paper. Instead, his unwavering comments educed continuing progress. He always stated, “I read your work and I took it seriously.” His philosophy was that each creation was the best effort. It might change with time and experience, but it was what it was at the outset.
Hard upon that remembrance were the words I received from one of my graduate school professors who asked me if I had ever faced a blank page with no ideas coming to mind. He told me when that experience became my own, I would know for the first time God loved me more for my efforts than for my successes. That thought was an impelling and empowering force from that moment forward.
God surely loves the live poets who seize each day, each opportunity to invite the power of creativity to infuse their lives. In turn, the divine emboldenment and inspiration gives birth to the potent force of compassionately attentive, creative listening. God spoke and life happened. These poets speak with similar vitality.
Perhaps, some of you would like to pop into the monthly meeting at Arbor Landing. Young or old, male or female, all are welcome. Once visited and having seized the day, you’ll be hooked on Poetry Revisited. Watch the Beacon listing for information or contact facilitator Katherine Moore at 754-3587.

Fran Salone-Pelletier has a master’s degree in theology and is the author of Awakening to God: The Sunday Readings in Our Lives [a trilogy of Scriptural meditations], lead chaplain at Brunswick Novant Medical Center, religious educator, retreat leader, lecturer and grandmother of four. She can be reached at grammistfran@gmail.com.