Monday, August 19, 2013

Getting Poetry to the People

(first published in Outlook, 15 August 2013)

My favorite quotation about poetry has long been William Carlos Williams’ “It is difficult to get the news from poems yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.”

A speaker at a conference I recently attended claimed that this quotation was more important now, given our current political and economic climate, than ever before and challenged those in attendance by asking what we were doing to get poetry to the people. I was happy to be able to answer that I am doing quite a bit, and now seems as good a time as any to list those out in case there is someone out there who should be taking advantage of these opportunities but is not.

Since you’re reading this, the most obvious thing I do to get poetry to the people is write this column, “Musings,” about poetry at least twice a month for the local weekly newspaper. I also archive these columns in my blog at, so that people outside the range of the newspaper can read and consider them as well. Of course, I also write and publish my own poetry. My 11th book is due out later this year, and more than 1200 of my poems have appeared one place or another.

I teach poetry and creative writing at Catawba Valley Community College as well as in workshops in the community and around the Southeast. Locally, I have given readings, talks, or workshops at Montessori at Sandy Ford, Mill Creek Middle School, and Challenger High School. I also give at least a dozen readings each year across the state in libraries, schools, and coffee shops.

Speaking of readings, I coordinate the Poetry Hickory reading series which takes place on the second Tuesday of each month at Taste Full Beans Coffeehouse in downtown Hickory. These readings feature two widely published poets and an Open Mic which creates an opportunity for anyone writing poetry to share their work. Before each of these readings I facilitate Writers’ Night Out, which is a monthly gathering of area writers for networking and sharing ideas and opportunities or participating in workshops taught by Poetry Hickory’s featured writers.

Another reading I coordinate is the Art of Poetry at the Hickory Museum of Art. This one takes place quarterly, on the third Saturdays of March, June, September, and December, and consists of area poets writing and sharing poems about the works of art on display at the museum.

I edit an online quarterly journal of poetry and reviews of poetry called Wild Goose Poetry Review. I also serve as Poetry Editor of CVCC’s student arts and literary journal, called Catawba, and I edit an annual anthology of the best poems from Poetry Hickory.

Finally, I serve as the Vice President of the NC Poetry Society and the Chair of the Poetry Day Committee, which brings award-winning poets to CVCC for a day of readings and workshops each spring.

Most of these activities are announced in the local papers or on their own websites, or they can followed through my website at

I have a passion for poetry, and ultimately, I believe Williams’ statement and that of the conference speaker because I also believe as Edwin Honig claimed that people have “become indifferent about their ability to think or feel for themselves. Thus, the poet’s voice is needed now more than ever before – that voice which celebrates the difficult, joyous, imaginative process by which the individual discovers and enacts selfhood.” In short, I believe poetry helps us remember, enact, and deepen our very humanity.

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