On an unusually delightful, breezy evening this week a group of curious women met on a rooftop to discuss poetry and art. This meeting was only my second time to participate in a poetry group that was formed in Dallas two years ago. Interestingly enough, two years ago I searched for a poetry group to join, but didn’t find one. I wish I had known about this group then, but eventually we found each other and I am grateful.
I’ve known two of the more-recent members of the group for over 25 years. My daughter’s day of birth was chosen because it would fall on one of these women’s birthday. The other woman and I started a monthly book club, over 20 years ago, when the idea of a book club was clever and unusual. This current poetry group consists of seven interesting women who have worked to be a part of the Dallas art scene for most of their adult lives. Many of us “know of” each other but don’t really know each other. It is because of this literary art form that we have been brought together. They would agree that choosing to live a life that includes the interdisciplinary arts gives spice to life. It is art that has flavored their days in a way that nothing else ever could have.
These women are inspiring just to be around. Their knowledge on a range of subjects is impressive. All have found ways to weave art into all that they’ve experienced and learned about over the years. This week we met in the loft of a woman who works in the education department of a local museum. She shares her loft with three cats, one of which lounged across the table we were seated at and seemed to enjoy the rhythm of the spoken words during the evening. There are artists of all kinds represented: interior designers, musicians, sculptors, publicist-journalists, gallery owners and art educators. I want to encourage you to get to know an artist if you don’t know one. Artists are curious about everything!
I’ve never spent much time getting to know poets or poems beyond the classical, school-learned variety. When my friend and I started a literary book group years ago, I felt completely lost walking into a bookstore’s literature section and knowing where to start. I would find myself choosing a book based solely on its cover. However, in time, I was able to choose books based on authors I’d been exposed to. In the book club we were all given the opportunity to discuss sometime controversial subjects with friends who really cared about our opinions, whether they agreed or not.
This is how my new poetry group is turning out to be. Last month we ventured into the beautiful and thought provoking works by Charles Wright. The hostess chose the poet and selected the poems for each member to pre-read and photocopy for the other members. Each member read her poems out loud while the others followed along. Often the poem was spoken several times, in its entirety or in sections. Together we worked to find a pattern and meaning in the carefully selected words flowing across the pages.
This week our hostess selected a variety of different poets, all included in the book, The Convergence of Birds. Each published poet wrote their poem based on the artwork of Joseph Cornell, a 20th century, American artist, best known by his boxes of carefully collected and arranged objects. Because Cornell is a favorite of mine, and is an artist I often feature in my curriculum, I was happy to share a brief bio about him to the group before we started reading and discussing the poems. Jonathan Safran Foer, acclaimed young author of Everything Is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, compiled this book of collected poems. The art of Cornell impacted Foer in a way he couldn’t have predicted when he stumbled upon a poster signed by Cornell in a friend’s studio. This entire account is written about in the early pages of the book, but is summarized on this Amazon page, by scrolling to the bottom. I encourage you to read it. In his own words, Foer writes this to his readers:
When you read these pages, imagine the letter that you would write. How would it begin? Who would be the characters? What images would come to the fore? What feelings? What colors and shapes? And as the imaginative cloud begins to open itself over your head, ask yourself: To whom would you address such a letter? And what would you use as the return address?
During these lazy days of summer, why not try something new? Be brave. Put yourself out there for the world to see. Write a letter, as described above. Spend an afternoon in an art museum or attend an opera for a change. Go listen to music or take dance lessons. Explore. Be adventurous and then tell me about it!