On Saturday, in celebration of National Poetry Month, I participated in Poetry on Demand at the Shirlington Library.
Two other poets and I sat at a table and library patrons came up to us, gave us either some information about themselves or about a topic they wanted to see in poetry and then they walked away, giving us a few minute to write a poem about said topic. No pressure of anything…
Over the course of two hours I wrote seven poems – that is a damn good number for such a short period of time! Of course, not all of those poems are ones I’ll use in future publications or anything of the like. But it got me writing and it got people excited about poetry. It aso forced me to write in a way I never have before and about topics I’ve never broached. For example, one little boy came up and told me he wanted a poem but that the subject was a secret. He then leaned over and whispered in my ear, “Can you write me a poem about a skateboard? Being ridden by a man with a mustache?” Well that’s a subject I usually wouldn’t write about but, sure, I’ll write that poem! It definitely wasn’t one of my finer poems but the kid loved and his dad was very appreciative.
Another woman came up and said, “Grandchildren… I want a poem about grandchildren… My three granddaughters specifically.” Well this was a subject I know nothing about but still I put pencil to paper and started writing. When I handed her the poem a few minutes later she looked up after reading it and said, “This is perfect. You captured it perfectly. How did you do that?…” I just smiled in response.
One of my favorite poems from the event came at the request of a little boy who was probably 3 or 4 (I’ve very bad with guessing kid’s ages – they’re all just little kids to me). His dad accompanied him and he told me his name was Gus and he wanted a poem about clocks. “Clocks?” I asked.
His dad nodded. “Gus loves clocks and watches. He has 12 watches at home.”
I laughed, “Got it, clocks…” I started writing – here’s what I came up with:
Gus’ Heart is a Clock
He loved time –
the gears moving inside
in hypnotic rhythm,
Nothing made him happier
than a watch strapped
to each wrist,
a clock in every room
and on every mantle.
He knew the precise time
he was born
and the precise time
he woke each day.
He knew the precise time
of everything in fact.
He wanted to visit the Atomic Clock
and Big Ben,
he wanted to crawl inside
and sit amongst the gears,
to fall asleep to their steady beat,
to have his heart beat
in time with the
of a giant clock.
Both Gus and his dad were grinning ear to ear after reading the poem. This, in turn, made me smile.
My friend Jen also stopped by, having seen me post about Poetry on Demand on Facebook (yay, social media working the way it’s supposed to!!). I asked her what she wanted a poem about and she confessed her guilty pleasure was libraries. With that as inspiration she walked away and let me write.
- for Jen
She pulls the heavy door and steps inside,
takes in the smell of printed words.
She wanders the rows,
fingers trailing the spines of books,
warming up to each word,
content with the commitment
each book requires.
She settles into a corner,
books stacked on each side,
towers to protect the virtue she doesn’t claim.
The euphoric feeling builds as
she turns each page,
she relishes the luxury
of each papercut
knowing the pleasure of the words
beneath her fingertips.
By the end of the day I’d written seven poems, Geoff had written six, and Dorothy had written seven – all in all, a damn good day for poetry!