This month's theme will be on evolutionary thinking in human experience--through the poet's eyes--in recognition of Darwin's birthday on February 12th. Several poems have already been chosen for our consideration. They are listed below and participants are encouraged to peruse them ahead of time. (Click on the poem for the link.) Copies will be provided that evening for reading and discussion.
This group reads and discusses selected poetry on a specific theme each month. Often poetry is able to express the complexities, variability and nuances of human experience in ways that other genres cannot. Here at the start of 2016, we are tweaking the format of the group. Poems will be chosen ahead of time and posted below so participants will have the opportunity to read and reflect on them in advance. At each meeting, future themes will be elicited from the group as well as monthly facilitators chosen.
• Out of the Dust, Constance Woodrow
• A Spell for Creation, Kathleen Raine
• Cinder from the Forest, Susan Stewart
• Accidents of Birth, William Meredith
• Kosmos, Walt Whitman
At this darkest time of year we will explore our relationship to night. When is the night welcomed and when is it feared in human experience? How do these shortest days and longest nights of winter affect us? Let’s explore the many views of night—of wonder, of worry, of work, of waking.
Find a poem that speaks to you of night. If you find an appropriate poem, bring 10-12 copies to distribute for shared reading and discussion. Of course, everyone is welcome to come participate in the discussion and appreciation of the poetry—with or without a poem to share.
Veneration of one’s ancestors is practiced in cultures across the globe. Especially in the autumn of the year. In fact, we have just passed Halloween, All Saints Day and the Day of the Dead—all customs familiar to Americans. But what sentiments and reflections come from the literary tradition—and especially the poets—about the role of our ancestors in our lives?
Scour your literary resources to find a poem or two about “ancestors.” If you find an appropriate poem, bring 10-12 copies to distribute for shared reading and discussion. Of course, everyone is welcome to come participate in the discussion and appreciation of the poetry—with or without a poem to share.
Humans have a fascinating and complicated relationship with fellow mammals on the planet. This month we will explore that relationship through poetry. Affection, exploitation, co-dependents are words that just begin to express our connections. What epithets dominate the literary world: “beast of burden,” “king of the jungle” or “man’s best friend?” Find and bring a meaningful poem that cleverly expands your thinking or beautifully captures your sentiment about a fellow creature.
If you find something appropriate, bring your chosen poem to read and contribute to our hopefully wide-ranging discussion on animals. Bring 10-12 copies to distribute for shared reading. Of course, everyone is welcome to come participate in the discussion and appreciation of the poetry—with or without a poem to share.
September 4, 2015: Work
As this Labor Day Week-end commences, the theme for this evening’s poetry discussion will be “work.” What do poets—whether contemporary or from ages past—have to say about work as fulfillment, as drudgery, as survival, as exploitation? As you reflect on the topic, perhaps you will come across a poem that inspires, provokes or enlightens you.
If you find something appropriate, bring your chosen poem to read and contribute to our hopefully wide-ranging exploration of work in the human experience. Bring 10-12 copies to distribute for shared reading.
Everyone is welcome to come participate in the discussion and appreciation of the poetry—with or without a poem to share.
The group will be not be meeting over the summer.
May 1, 2015: Contradiction
Life is full of contradiction. Right? We’ll see what you and the poets have to say on that subject at our next poetry session. Life is complicated, ambiguous and challenging. There’s no straight path to that which we seek or expect in life. Let’s delve into this reality and explore how we experience it. As usual, bring a good poem you find on the topic for a wide-ranging discussion on the human experience of contradiction. Bring 10-12 copies to distribute for shared reading. Or just come to participate in the discussion and appreciation of the poetry.
April 3, 2015: Color
“De Colores!” Can you sing it? Y por eso los grandes a mores de muchos colores me gustan a mi.” Or an English chorus--“All the colors abound for the whole world around and for everyone under the sun.” I love this Mexican folk song! It speaks to the colors of spring, the colors of multiculturalism, the colors of celebration.
Most definitely color affects our moods and attitudes. Let’s hear from other poets about color—our theme for this month. Bring a poem that speaks to you about color in our lives—with 10-12 copies to distribute—for our shared reading. Or just come to participate in the discussion with others.
March 6, 2015: Words and Language
Words matter. Poets use them carefully and creatively. Language is powerful. To motivate, educate, communicate, pontificate, articulate, castigate. Language socializes us--connecting us to some and separating us from others. Language socializes us. We change words and words change us.
This month our theme is words and language. Here’s your chance to share a poem with that clever turn of phrase or playful use of words. Or to showcase a poet who distills the power of language through creative verse. For those who find a good poem to share, bring 10-12 copies to distribute for ease of reading. Or just come to participate in the discussion.
February 6, 2015: Determiniation
Once a month we gather to explore an aspect of our humanity through poetry. “Determination” is our theme this month. Whether facing the goals we’ve set for ourselves in the coming year or just trying to get through a difficult situation or time in our lives, from whence comes the determination to persist against the odds? What inspiration, encouragement or wisdom do poets provide? If you find an appropriate poem to share, bring enough copies for the group—or just come to participate in the discussion.
January 2, 2015: Healing
Our topic for this month's poetry session is "healing." What wisdom can we find among the worlds' poets for healing as we begin a new year and seek a new start? For ourselves, or within our divided society and world. Participants are invited to bring a meaningful poem on the topic, if desired, along with some copies to distribute for ease of reading. Or just come to join in the discussion with others.
December 5, 2014: Night
At this darkest time of year, our poetry group has chosen to contemplate “night.” How has nighttime shaped human experience? And during winter, how do we cope with such long nights and periods of darkness? I expect that many poetry lovers may already have a favorite poem about night, or will enjoy looking for one that suits their mood this time of year. If you do bring a poem—or two, be sure to make 10-12 copies to share with the group. Or just come to participate in the discussion with others.
November 7, 2014: Autumn
Known to some as the sublime season, "autumn" will be the focus of our poetry group this month. It is a season of mixed emotions: a time of exhilarating beauty, grateful harvest and/or remembered loss. Find a poet who expresses your feelings about the season or describes the vicissitudes of autumn with poignant clarity. Join us for an engaging exchange of ideas about this favorite season for so many.
If you find an autumn poem or two to share, bring along some copies to distribute for ease of reading (8-10 should do). Or just come to participate in the discussion with others.
October 3, 2014: East African Voices
Please note that this month's poetry group will go on a "field trip" to the Loft Literary Center. We will attend the free performance--Poetry Out Loud: East African Voices. The event will feature Minnesota State Poetry Out Loud champion Faiza Abubakar and special guest Keith Ellison who will read from his book. Several other poets will perform as well. For further details, go to the Loft event webpage.
The program begins at 7pm in the Performance Hall on second floor, but we will meet in the lobby of Open Book/Loft Literary Center at 6:45pm and find seats together. After the event, for those interested, we will re-convene at a near-by coffee shop or bar to discuss the program.
September 5, 2014: Belief
Our topic for group this month is “belief.” Interpret the word how you wish, but for such a loaded concept, here are some helpful definitions for your consideration. Belief represents confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof; trust or confidence in someone or something; a core value that guides one’s daily life. Beliefs are subjective in that they represent what an individual thinks. They may or may not be based on facts. Just like poetry.
So look for a poem that expresses a “belief”—or explores the concept in some way—and bring it along to read and discuss. (Be sure to bring copies to distribute). Or, just come to listen and respond to what others have found.
BTW--There is an intriguing organization called “This I Believe” in which people have written and broadcast essays to share with others. You’ll find some wonderful stuff on their website. The initiative is based on a popular 1950s radio series of the same name hosted by Edward R. Murrow.
August 1, 2014: Gardens
Here during the height of summer, let’s contemplate gardens and the avocation of gardening. Just as humans design the natural environment for beauty and purpose, so too do we structure words creatively in the art of poetry. And go on to be inspired by both—often in combination.
As you work in your own garden or enjoy those created by others, delve into the poetry of gardens and share what you find at our upcoming session. If you bring a poem to share, make 10-12 copies for distribution. Or, if you don’t find anything that suits you, just come to participate in the discussion with others.
June and July -- no meeting
May 2, 2014: Spring
I certainly hope the weather is absolutely delightful by the time we gather for our next poetry session. But with “spring” as our theme this month, whatever the conditions are outside, inside we will at the very least experience the season vicariously through the power of the spoken word. Poetry does more than describe the world; it can delight, challenge and even transform us. If you have a favorite spring poem, bring it to share along with 10-12 copies for the group. Or just come to participate in the discussion with others.
April 4, 2014: Money
Money has been an essential medium of exchange for modern life to evolve. But in a market economy it has taken on a life of its own. Once again, for a literary evening of philosophical reflection and moral reasoning, our group will look to the poets for insight and perspective—on money. How does it affect our lives? No doubt, we will touch on the good, the bad and the ugly.
So if you find a poem on the topic of money, bring it along to share (make about 10 copies for the group). But with or without poetry in hand, all are welcome to come participate in another engaging discussion.
March 7, 2014: Respect
Nothing says “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” quite like Aretha Franklin’s version of that great R&B anthem by Otis Redding back in 1967. Some of us can still remember those days. For inspiration, check out that classic hit, then spend some time searching your favorite poets for their take on the theme of “respect.” If you find a poem on the topic for our next literary discussion, make about a dozen copies and bring it along to share.
Each session, we explore a facet of human experience through sharing poetry and expounding on our own ideas in the process. This month’s topic is respect. Do join us, with or without poetry in hand to participate in the discussion.
February 7, 2014: Necessity
Our poetry theme this month is “necessity.” A curious prompt indeed for exploring human experience, but it is sure to elicit some interesting finds. Approach the theme as you wish in selecting a poem to share with the group. Consider that which is necessary in your life—or anyone’s—for that matter. How contrived are the parameters of necessity? When is it useful to use this construct as a lens for understanding life?
Attendees are invited to bring a poem to share, if desired, along with some copies to distribute for ease of reading. Find a poem (or write a poem) on the designated topic, or just come to participate in the discussion with others.
January 3, 2014: Beginnings
It’s a new year, and if nothing else, we need to update our calendars. But does your life still seem “same-old, same-old” with the turn of the new year? What are beginnings supposed to feel or look like? Can we induce them by fiat of turning the page to a contrived yearly starting point? Or do beginnings only truly come by way of change of circumstance? As always, let’s search out the poets for varied perspectives on beginnings and ruminate together on the possibilities, the value and meaning of a fresh start.
At this monthly poetry discussion group, participants are invited to bring a favorite poem on the designated topic, if desired, along with some copies to distribute for ease of reading. Or just come to participate in the discussion with others.
December 6, 2013: Chance
Any chance you’ll be at poetry group this month? That depends, of course, on a lot of different factors, doesn’t it? Some of them within your control and others beyond your control. Such is the nature of our lives.
So what do the poets say about chance? About luck, fate, determinism or randomness? Join us for an evening of thoughtful discussion exploring the many nuances of chance in the human experience. If you find a good poem or two on this theme of “chance,” please bring 8-10 copies to share. All are welcome to come and participate with or without a poem in hand.
November 1, 2013: Memory
This time of year conjures up memories of loved ones gone and ancestors long past. Since ancient times people have participated in rituals festive--or somber--to remember those who have gone before us. Think All Hallows Eve and Day of the Dead. At this month’s poetry session, we will explore the theme of memory—whether it be of people we have known—or past events and/or scenes--that have a hold on our minds. As usual, we will look to poets who can capture that sentiment of memory in our lives as the basis for our discussion.
Those who find a good poem or two on the theme of “memory,” please bring 8-10 copies to share. All are welcome to come and participate in a rich discussion of “memory” with or without a poem in hand. Roya and Mike will be facilitating this month’s poetry soiree.