I promote a lot of poetry events on this blog, as well as individual writers. And I’ve touched on the idea of writing groups and community-building, but I haven’t yet, in any substantial way, mentioned Poetry Spoken Here, a mainstay of the York literary community.
One of my first poetry contacts in this area was Carol Clark Williams. We had a nice conversation a year ago (really, has it been a year?) about some of her favorite writers, books, groups and all the things that make York’s poetry scene unique and exciting. I revisited that conversation and realize I now recognize at lot more names and titles.
I thought, now that National Poetry Month has ended — I swear, that’s the last time I’ll type that phrase for 11 months or so — and all its poetry-writing projects are over, there might be some out there who still want some guidance and structure. Maybe you want to finish some promising pieces begun during NaPoMo, or maybe you just miss the sense of community that the month of April impresses upon poets.
Let Carol Clark Williams tell you all about Poetry Spoken Here:
Q. How long has Poetry Spoken Here existed?
A. Poetry Spoken Here is one of the longest-running poetry venues in the York Area. It began with Lynn Fetterolf‘s Live Poets’ Society readings at Borders. At her retirement the poetry group was taken over by various people, including a core group of five co-hosts, until Borders closed. We then moved to YorkArts’ City Arts Studio at 118 W. Philadelphia St., York. We still meet on the first Monday of every month at 7:30 p.m.
Q. Tell us about a typical gathering. How many people usually attend, and what is the range in skill level? What’s the ratio of returning poets versus first-timers? What’s the format of the sessions?
A. The group was originally aimed at performance poetry — featured and open readings. From the seeds of this venue, poetry reading groups sprang up in York on almost every night of the week. The current poet laureate, Carla Christopher, has a Facebook page listing all the poetry events. Tyler Barton offers a calendar of poetic events.
When I took over hosting Poetry Spoken Here again in March, I figured that people who wished to read poetry had many other outlets. My first love is writing, followed by workshopping, so my gathering has officially become a workshop venue. We discuss poems as writing prompts, do several written responses to what we have talked about, and then share the work we have produced.
We average eight to 12 adults, and most of us have achieved some form of recognition, either through poetry contests like the Yorkfest Literary Competition or the National Federation of State Poetry Societies, or through print and online publications. New voices are very, very welcome. Anyone with a sincere interest in writing and poetry should drop in and see how it goes. High school students and college students who want to experiment with poetry can find opportunities for expression, and there are excellent mentors in the group.
Q. Is the focus of the workshops about community-building with local writers, or becoming a better poet, or both? What do you hope people take from a session?
A. There are four functions of language. The fourth function is the poetic function, and its purpose is pleasure. My focus is providing space and time to write. I want my group to have a time-out from the daily routine where members can experiment with language, express ideas and share knowledge. And I want them to have fun doing that, the intense fun that comes from utilizing your talent and stretching your concept of art.
Julia Cameron (“The Artist’s Way”), Kim Addonizio (“Ordinary Genius”) and most other established poets stress the need for aspiring writers to write at least half an hour a day. I offer two hours devoted to writing.
As an additional incentive, there is always coffee, and most times, doughnuts!
The next meeting of Poetry Spoken Here is 7:30 p.m. June 3 at City Arts Studio, 118 W. Philadelphia St., York.
Have you ever, or do you plan to attend Poetry Spoken Here?