chocolate is a verb

colors, flavors, whims and other growing things

“this is just to say”…

Poets on AssignmentAs writing groups go, six years is not a particularly long time; such groups meet for decades. But last night, as we sat down for our “Poets on Assignment” session, Jennifer Bullis pointed out that in that time we had rarely missed a month. And that’s a lot of poems.

Each month, Anita K. Boyle, Jeanne Yeasting, Jennifer Bullis, Jim Bertolino and I write a poem to a common prompt.* Sometimes the prompt is formal — sestina, pantoum — but more often it’s a word, a subject or a quirky combination — yellow; Möbius; maps and diacritical marks. If the prompt percolates in our minds for a month, we have each confessed that much of the writing gets done on the day of our meeting. Still, it’s a poem we might not otherwise have written.

When we meet — in various drinking or dining establishments around Bellingham — we read the poems aloud and discuss both questionable and triumphant aspects of the writing. Our drafts go home for polishing and we rarely see one another’s poems again unless and until they appear in print. Anita, Jennifer and Jim have published books since we started meeting and we have all done readings and published in literary journals.

I suppose that writing groups don’t always work out, but ours has for a variety of reasons. First, and perhaps foremost, is that we are each utterly unique in our vision and language. As I sit down to respond to a prompt (yesterday’s was hermit crab, and yesterday’s found poem just a happy accident), I am certain that all of us will take the same approach. But even if there is some resonance between the poems, they are always entirely, and surprisingly, different from one another.

Our comments also reflect those differences, offering important perspective that helps us clarify not just the poems we have written, but the poems someone else will read. We are honest in our assessments — honest, and kind — our intention always to improve each poem as if it were our own. We are committed to the process, recognizing that the prompts take us in directions we might not have ventured, encourage us to stretch. We trust one another. And that’s a lot.

I am immeasurably grateful to this group of poets, whose work I so admire and whose generosity, honesty, humor and friendship I so value. So this is just to say: thank you.

*Dave Cole remains an honorary member; he started out with us but moved away within the first year.
. . . . .
artwork by Anita K. Boyle

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2 responses to ““this is just to say”…

  1. Jennifer Bullis January 30, 2015 at 9:35 am

    This is just to say: I have savored your words in this post, which I am completely agreeing with. Thank you: they are spot on, so kind and so lovely.

  2. jik January 30, 2015 at 10:39 am

    Thanks, Jennifer.

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