Poetic license

By Evelyn C. McDonald
Arts & Culture Reporter
June 22, 2018 10:00 a.m.

Nola Perez

I’ve heard people say, “No one does poetry anymore.” Tell that to the nine or ten people and three observers who showed up for Nola Perez’ Poetry Canteen at Story & Song last week. The canteen has been going on for nearly three and a half years. Nola and Marilyn Wesley were the prime movers in getting the group started. Initially there were a few poets and the group met in the community room of the downtown library.

The group moved to Story & Song early this year. The number of poets has increased slowly. There have also been more observers such as Ron Kurtz. Though not a poet, Ron brings his favorite poems to read. People were encouraged to bring their own work or poems of others that they loved.

One interesting thing about the group is that for the most part we write in different styles. Last week one poet had done a poem in the style of rap. Another writes poems that she considers song lyrics. One poet is addicted to rhymes and some of them are hilarious. I call him our own Ogden Nash. Some are poets of nature; others are poets of contemporary events; still others are poets of thoughts and ideas.

Another interesting aspect of the group is the impact and exchange of themes. One poet will write about an event or a feeling. The poem will inspire another poet to take the idea and work with it. There is a back and forth of ideas, concepts, and styles that help each of us sharpen our skills.

The most important aspect of the group is that it is not a critiquing group. Group members take turns reading what they have written. We listen and comment on what we like about another poet’s work. We do not criticize and that leaves us free to try out new images and ways of expression.

Is poetry dead? When I went to school, we had to memorize poems. I can still recite them. I usually refrain from doing so in public. I find that poems combine rhythm, imagery, and thoughts in a highly condensed form. There is more to a poem than the words on the page. There are the underlying themes and images that you take away with you when you read it.

The space upstairs at Story & Song is ample. There is room for more people whether poets or people who want to hear poetry. Come and check us out. The group meets every month on the second Tuesday from 5 to 6 pm.

Evelyn McDonald moved to Fernandina Beach from the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C. in 2006. Evelyn is vice-chair on the Amelia Center for Lifelong Learning and is on the Dean’s Council for the Carpenter Library at the UNF. Ms. McDonald has MS in Technology Management from the University of Maryland’s University College and a BA in Spanish from the University of Michigan.