Thursday, October 4, 2012

Poetry Night at the Williams

We still had children in high school and foreign exchange students living with us when my husband decided he didn't know enough about poetry.  He delcared Sunday evenings to be poetry night at the Williams home.  (Really? Who is the writer in this family?)

No one was allowed to dinner without a poem.  Sunday evenings found the kids grumbling.  "Do we have to bring a poem tonight?"

"Yes!  And tell us something about the poet too."

There was a mad rush just before dinner as everyone flipped through books or raced to the computer to find a poem.  My daughter often found it easier to just write her own.  It usually had forced rhyme and was about a family member.  There were lots of laughs and debate about whether this counted as poetry.

We had a student with us from Uzbekistan who read Pushkin in Russian.  Our student from Chile read Neruda.  We were treated to readings in Norwegian and German.  Tranlations mandatory.

And then a funny thing happened.  Word got out about poetry night and our children's freinds wanted to be invited for Sunday night dinner.

My husband and I would look at each other and groan.  "Geeze.  It's Sunday.  We need to find"  The tables had a good way.

The tradition lasted for several years with the support of our kids.  The ones who still lived at home reminded those who had moved out but would be with us for Sunday dinner that they needed to bring something to read.  Family friends who were invited for dinner on Sunday always asked, "Should I bring a poem?"  Or they just brought one.

Sometimes Sunday night poetry happened on other evenings too with more and more people and we made it pot luck.

The tradition was difficult to maintain after Steve and I moved alone to Chinle two years ago but as we made new friends I threatened that we would have a poetry night.  Some even began to ask when we would have that Poetry Soiree.   But life gets in the way and it took over a year...finally I got up the courage.   Fearing no one would show up I sent out the email.  You must bring a poem or other reading.  I suggested we would accept music in the second round of reading to make the idea more palatable.

People responded.  Some would not be in town.  Others would come.  Do I really have to read?  I hedged ...bring a poem is the rule.  Let someone else read it.

And so they came bringing computer printouts and books...and yes guitars.  One person read a letter from his uncle...EB White.  Who knew?  Surrendipitously another friend had recently been to New Orleans where a street poet had written a poem for her.  She read that.  Another read her son's prize winning poems from high school.

Some read their own works.  One young man confessed to spending two weeks to trace down a poem he had heard years ago but had forgotten the title and author.  He found it and read...a love poem.

Quiet babies came.  Some came late, some left early.  And yes we had some music too.

Bashful?  Indeed.  But no one asked to have someone else read the poem they had brought.

Poetry on Sunday has not become a tradition in Chinle yet.  But for several days after that evening  people who had been came up to me and remarked that they had enjoyed the evening.

Interestingly each one commented on how much they learned about the reader from the poetry they shared.  Things they never knew or would have guessed about theri friends and neighbors.  An unexpected pleasure.

Go ahead you know you want to do it.  Organize a poetry night at your home and see what surprises

1 comment:

TheCremerFamily said...

I love this and am going to do it....when my kids are a little older! but i really love this. wish i was there to share in it.