KaBooM WritersKaBooM Writers

Welcome to the online presence of KaBooM, a writing group that has sustained the creative lives of a diverse group of women for over a decade. We hope that getting to know us will inspire you, too!Welcome to the online presence of KaBooM, a writing group that has sustained the creative lives of a diverse group of women for over a decade. We hope that getting to know us will inspire you, too!

Welcome to the online presence of KaBooM, a writing group that has sustained the creative lives of a diverse group of women for over a decade. We hope that getting to know us will inspire you, too!


The KaBooM Writers Notebook: Our Blog

Handling Poetry

Poetry anthology illustration

Years ago when I worked for a boss who distributed poems at staff meetings, I started the habit of sticking my favorites into a loose-leaf binder. That binder became my own camera-ready anthology: poems at my fingertips to be shared with classes and recombined into packets for specific teaching purposes.

As life filled, the binder filled, filled to overflowing. When I retired, I crammed it in a box and carried it home to worry about another day.

That other day arrived this winter. Record snowfalls, cold, and ice canceled meetings, closed gyms, and kept me close to home.

Organizing the binder looked like a doable project: order a few poems by author’s last name and recycle extra copies.

Easy.

As I entered Day Three of the project, I was reminded that few tasks of this kind end up being straightforward. I first deviated from the path of start-to-finish when I found myself tallying which poet had written the greatest number of poems I prized. (Mary Oliver, Sharon Olds, Jane Kenyon, and Wislawa Szymborska were the winners.)

Next I made a pencil notation on any poems whose source I could recall, creating a provenance of poetry appreciation.

The individual poems soon came to life for me. Their physical appearances are so dissimilar. Some poems came by way of book release announcement, straight from a local letterpress, printed on high quality paper. Others are photocopies (some few perhaps photocopies of ancient purple dittos). Some poems are printed on paper with festive borders or in seasonal typefaces so hard to read that the giver translated the poem on the flip side in plain old Times New Roman. A very few are handcopied. Even the poems printed on turquoise cardstock have their advantages. Too dark to read, in the binder they are easy to spot.

And of course, I read and reread. I saw that themes converged (themes of joy and loss, reminders to value a closely-named present, seasonal markings), I remembered when I first heard a particular poem read aloud, I appreciated anew poems written by friends and students, amateurs and professionals, and that poem-distributing boss, who taught so many of us to love language on a page with wide margins.

Most importantly, the exercise reminded me that I have written poetry. There, among the I’s, are copies of my work. I remember the genesis of each creation, I relive the struggle to make each poem the best possible, I replay the rare occasions when I took a poem out in public and shared it with an audience. I find images and lines that please me still: a poem about choosing a china pattern written as a toast for my daughter’s wedding, a simile in which I compare another of my efforts to a tomato with blossom-end rot.

Handling words in this way strikes me as a useful prelude to writing (emphasis on “hand”) as opposed to reading, which permits an extra layer of separation from the text.

Nonetheless, I must bring this project to a stop, stop this wonderfully fertile “composting” as one friend calls it and go back to nurturing my own frail seedling words that have languished in the chill of this unseasonable winter.

Or in the words of a villanelle I forgot I wrote back in 1976:

Winter is sometimes fine for talking,

shoring against crack of spring.

Then comes a feeling in the blood for acting.