No Foolin' - this was the perfect way to usher in National Poetry Month at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden.
4th Sunday Claremont Poets.
I wasn't sure what to expect: A pathway lined with beautiful rose bushes leading to a proper English garden, a wafting fragrance of Bergamot tea to celebrate the first day of National Poetry Month? A tea garden of lavender, rose hips, and chamomile... where my pastel pink top could tease the other flowers? A large white gazebo where my white gauze wing sleeved top and long flowing pastel skirt could twirl in words? And there I was dreaming too much - doing too little, reciting Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Swing" over and over to myself.
The pathway to the reading was lined with indigenous plants, a variety of cacti and succulents with small, big-bellied lizards swiftly waddling around - doing those lizard push-ups (I'm sure there is some scientific explanation - but I just like to imagine that they are buffing up). I also like to imagine that - and I don't know why - squirrels are kids playing baseball... rabbits always seem to be wondering what they were doing... they pause - look about like they are trying to remember what it is they were supposed to be doing - take a couple of hops and stop again... And none of this is even part of the poetry reading yet.
Needless to say, with all of these mind journeys - I was late and got lost several times. At this event, sharing poetry in nature seemed to allow the words to seep in a little bit more, they seem more organic. The absences of the distracting hum of lights and background white noise was refreshing and the breeze and movement of nature kept the energy flowing even when everyone sat quiet and still.
Though not quite transcendental - it was definitely a refreshing reconnection to the profound peace and joy that poetry and nature nurtures within us.
An added bonus: I enjoyed the day and experience so much I bought a one year membership so that I can go on nature walks and write at leisure.
Could it rain any harder?
Rain is great weather for writing poetry but not so great for people to get in their cars and drive to hear poetry. Yet, the first 2017 Fourth Sunday Claremont Poetry reading was well-attended. If you aren't familiar with Claremont, it is one of those perfect college towns, streets lined with well-rooted trees, guardians of wisdom and stability; a natural welcome that assures safety. The buildings are classic, sturdy-grey stone-solid, not too ornate, but enough to ensure there is art and creativity afoot. It is not a hustle bustle campus but a pleasant stroll to and from class, quiet enough to construct new universes of thought and being. In other words, the perfect place for a poetry reading.
My older son, Marcus was visiting with me which was perfect because I forgot that I was supposed to have someone to introduce me. All poetry venues have some unique quality, it could be setting, the personality of the host, a ritual, regular readers. The Claremont Fourth Sunday has the reader bring their own, not introduction, but person to introduce them... Usually the poet has no idea what their guest introducer will say, so it is as much a treat to the reader as the audience. Who better to introduce you than your own son - and thankfully he was willing. That was the highlight as well as the pensive and empathetic facial expression that created an immediate bond. It was wonderful to see some of my students and their parents and talk with them during intermission.
I had the pleasure of reading with Karen Greenbaum, who is witty and vibrant, her poetry is a tour through literature, love, landscapes interior and exterior. Her husband introduced her and between his touching introduction and her poetry I felt as though I had been invited into their world and was able to glimpse the soul of their union... I know that sounds mushy - but it's true. I seldom - I don't remember the last time I used the word soul in anything I have written - but there it is.
The perfect way to start a new year.
Welcome to my observations on the craft of writing, venues and writing community experiences.