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Sophistication is for the weak

April 12, 2011

“Form is a straitjacket in the way that a straitjacket was a straitjacket for Houdini.” —Paul Muldoon

This past Sunday I had the chance to participate in April’s Books Plus meeting here at MCPL. This month the topic was poetry, led by the awesome and published Dory. I knew Dory was a poet and hadn’t participated in a poetry discussion since college, so was looking forward to this program. I arrived early to help Dory finish setting up and get an idea of what she had planned. This was the first time I’d been to one of these discussions and was surprised at just how much work she’d put into the preparation. She had handouts, quotes, information about the various types of poems, and more. It was to be a full on class!

Patrons started filtering in and getting settled early. Everyone seemed to already know each other, but any newcomers were welcomed openly. We ended up with 20 attendees, not including the three of us from MCPL. We even had three men in attendance, which I guess is a rare thing. The discussion started off with Dory reading a few quotes about poetry and form with people stopping to ask questions along the way. When she finished her presentation, we went around the room and everyone got to read a poem or two, if they brought any with them. I don’t go out of my way to follow poetry so my main experience with it involves the kinds of poets you read in high school or college. The most recent poets I’m familiar with are Seamus Heaney and Paul Muldoon, so it was fun getting to hear poems from some folks I’d never heard of. I’m blanking on his name now, but there was one, a recent poet laureate, whose poem had a great line about the reuse of certain ideas or other poems in one’s own work. It was very amusing and fair use of him.

Though I had planned to read a Yeats poem, I ended up reading Heaney’s “Postscript” because of this line:

“Useless to think you’ll park and capture it
More thoroughly.”

I always did love the futility of it, commenting both on the action in the poem and the act of trying to write the poem. I thought it a better fit for a poetry discussion than “The Second Coming,” as fun as that one is.

After the discussion ended, everyone slowly filtered out, some breaking off into small groups to catch up. I even had a little chat with one of the attendees about this rather impressive journal, which was really more of a scrapbook, that she used to take notes during the discussion. I have become quite well-socialized in my old age. Anyway, there are some really creative people in this town. I already basically knew that, but it’s not everyday that I get this much exposure to this many of them at once. After that, I helped Dory clean up the space.

Something really awesome happened that day, other than learning more about poetry and eating the delicious cake that one patron always brings to these things. Wendy, the other librarian at the discussion, told me that she already thinks of me as a librarian instead of just an intern. It made me feel pretty fantastic, which was needed after being told, yet again, that my writing is unsophisticated (I maintain that sophistication, like context, is for the weak). I mean, I know that they like me here, but it’s always nice to be reminded. Also, as someone who took a heck of a long time to figure out what they wanted to do, these sorts of things help confirm that I did make the right choice. Turns out that my old friends at the Fairfield County District Library who always said I’d be good at this were right.

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