Advice for community leaders on starting a poetry writing group in their neighbourhoods.
<ul><li><p> 1 </p><p>Tips for Starting a Poetry Writing Group </p><p>By </p><p>Dina Ripsman Eylon </p><p>Robin Williams as John Keating, the English professor in the film Dead Poets Society, </p><p>attempted to instill in his students a love for poetry. He stated: We don't read and write </p><p>poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human </p><p>race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, </p><p>engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, </p><p>romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. (Dead Poets Society, written by Tom </p><p>Schulman and directed by Peter Weir, 1989.) </p><p>If truth be told, we read and write poetry because we have an intrinsic passion for words </p><p>and their broad spectrum of meanings. Writing poetry is usually a creative process that is </p><p>carried out in solitude. Yet, I believe that most poets yearn for some feedback, preferably </p><p>in the form of constructive criticism. A childhood friend told me once that he stopped </p><p>writing poetry because he doesnt have an audience anymore. Perhaps, he was right. </p><p>Reading poetry to an audience could be in itself a powerful motivation to keep writing. </p><p>This being said, how do you find an audience for your poetry and how do you maintain </p><p>these meetings and readings on a regular basis? </p><p>This short article provides some tips on how to establish and sustain a poetry-writing </p><p>group. The following is a step-by-step guide, based on my personal experience as the </p><p>founder of the Vaughan Poets Circle. </p><p>Several years ago, I attended a creative writing class in my neighborhood. For years, Ive </p><p>been writing poetry but except for some advice from close friends and family members, </p><p>Ive never had a serious critique of my poems. Attending the creative writing class was a </p><p>winning endeavor. The critique my poems received from the instructor and my fellow </p><p>writers made my writing riper, stronger, and significantly more succinct. Only a handful </p></li><li><p> 2 </p><p>of poets attended the class. In time, I noticed that time spent in class was primarily on </p><p>analyzing prose pieces. This realization led me to initiate the Vaughan Poets Circle. </p><p>Here is a plan you can adopt to establish your own local poetry writing group: </p><p> Find a rent-free venue in which to conduct regular meetings (weekly/bi-</p><p>weekly/monthly). I live next to a public library. I emailed the Head Librarian of </p><p>my city, introduced myself, and related my plan to found a poetry-writing group. </p><p>I asked for a free room on a Saturday (I knew that most of the library programs </p><p>are offered during weekdays. Therefore, the likelihood of getting a free room on </p><p>the weekend was higher.) The Head Librarian was delighted to offer me the </p><p>opportunity to organize the program pro bono. The library was even willing to </p><p>supply complimentary refreshments. </p><p> Name the group. Since my citys public library sponsored the program, the </p><p>groups name had to include the citys name. </p><p> Create a core group. Once your rent-free venue is set-up, call a few friends or </p><p>acquaintances, tell them about the new group, and invite them to attend the first </p><p>meeting. In my case, four of my fellow students from the creative writing class </p><p>were thrilled to join the new group and have since been attending and </p><p>participating in the monthly meetings. </p><p> Publicize and promote the meetings in free outlets. In todays cyber-culture, </p><p>your local poets may belong to various web groups. Hence, advertising the </p><p>meetings in national and international websites and forums could bring local </p><p>poets to your meetings. Announce the meetings, at least in the beginning as the </p><p>group is forming, on Craigs List, poetry @ about.com, MeetUp.com, [places for </p><p>writers], Outsider Writers and allpoetry.com. Winning Writers, a well-organized </p><p>web resource for poets, offers an extensive list of poetry forums. Alternatively, </p><p>send announcements to your local newspapers. They usually publish community </p></li><li><p> 3 </p><p>events for free. In my experience, the library printed bookmarks, flyers, and </p><p>posters to advertise the new program. My friends and I posted the flyers in other </p><p>libraries, community centers, coffee shops, and local bookstores. </p><p> Create an agenda for the meetings. Here is where your imagination can go </p><p>wild. Create guidelines for submissions start with 1-2 poems for each member </p><p>and change the guidelines according to attendance. Structure your time allotment </p><p>so that the group starts and finishes on time. The Vaughan Poets Circle began </p><p>meeting monthly for two hours. At first, the time span seemed a bit lengthy. As a </p><p>result, I contacted local published poets and invited them to read from their </p><p>collections and conduct a question & answer period. As a form of compensation, </p><p>they could sell their books to the members. The readings became quite inspiring </p><p>to the budding poets in the group. The meetings are structured in informal and </p><p>fluid fashion. The atmosphere is relaxed, non-competitive, and supportive. </p><p>Members share their doubts and achievements and so far, the group published a </p><p>collective chapbook Waging Change: Vaughan Poets Engage in Politics (2007) </p><p>and a bound anthology Earth to Moon (2009), both were successfully launched </p><p>in the community. </p><p>The Vaughan Poets Circle has been holding meetings regularly for the last nine years. Its </p><p>members have since published chapbooks and book-length collections, as well as </p><p>contributed to national and international publications. </p></li></ul>