Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Poetry Circle - a kind of Tuesday Poem

I had a beautiful post already completed but because of problems with technology, across all my devices apparently, it has disappeared.Valiantly I shall begin again, to tell you about a new venture – the Poetry Circle. This was inspired by Molly Peacock's book How to read a Poem and Create a Poetry Circle. I read this years ago and was inspired by Molly Peacock's  way of deciphering a poem. She examines poetry in a writerly, rather than an academic, way which is both useful and inspiriting.

I had talked about creating a masterclass for published poets for a number of years and a colleague  suggested it become a masterclass for reading, rather than writing, poetry. (My original idea had been to both read and write - creating writing exercises from the poems brought to the group.) When I returned from overseas last year I decided it was time to enlarge my professional scope and friendship so I began to begin the Poetry Circle.

In March we met with the work some of the work of Sir Geoffrey Hill – three poems from the elusive and allusive long poetic sequence,  The Orchards of Syon.

Before we had even begun to discuss the actual work, issues of target readership, the debasement of language and the role of the poet came up. This to me pinpointed one of the benefits of a peer discussion - it goes beyond the given material into other areas of interest.

Hill's work is challenging – dense with literary allusions and religious references. I don't think I'm alone in saying I wouldn't have persisted reading this work by myself. But with the hive mind of the group engaged we could decipher much of what was confusing. Each member brings some different knowledge and passion to the group.  One member likened the process to brainstorming but I  hesitate to use that term as it implies a kind of cheerful chaos. While we were certainly cheerful, we weren't all that chaotic. The same poet later declared the afternoon to have been a treasure hunt - a very apt description. Although we didn't follow Peacock's instruction, nonetheless the poems began to reveal their treasures in a most satisfying way.

So, the poetry circle turned out to be everything I had hoped for – a meeting of friends, collegiate discussion, inspiration for future writing and definitely a broadening of my usual reading. Next month it's Anne Carson and I'm already doing my homework! 

Thanks to my friends in the poetry circle for joining and here's to many more meeting.

Now that you've decided you need a poetry circle in your already busy lives, pop over to the Tuesday Poem blog to further whet your appetite for all things poetical. This week's featured poet, chosen by Janice Freegard, is Nola Borrell.


Leah Conte said...

What a wonderful idea, Catty! I'd love to hear further details about how you got that set up - I'm feeling a little out of sorts with my lack of poetry friends out here in NJ, so I'd love to set something up.

Cattyrox said...

Hi Leah - I contacted poets I knew who I thought might be interested - I also asked them if they knew poets who might be interested. I think you do need a group of about 8 - 12 people to take into consideration times when people are away - and you probably need a central admin person, to send reminders, take notes etc. But the number of people would depend on whether you were making it a regular event. I think Peacock has less regular meetings with far fewer people? You could also set something like this up in cyberspace - although personally, I think that requires a little more commitment.