Celebrate Gettysburg September/October 2011 : Page 24

Artisan Images from the mind, words from the heart o Local poets seek creative outlets for their craft On a sultry late June evening, nine members of the Gettysburg Poetry Society are gathered in the USS Eisenhower Room on the third floor of the Gettysburg branch of the Adams County Library System on Baltimore Street in downtown Gettysburg. “Looking up, he saw the sun/Descending like a first-act curtain./ ‘Act Two will be better,’/ Came a thought unbidden as he ambled toward his Ford,” recites member Donald E. Gateley as he concludes his poem, “At the Store, Approaching Birthday Sixty-Four.” After a brief pause, the Gettysburg Poetry Society members fix their eyes downward. The low hum of the air conditioning joins the steady ticking of the wall clock. They join the steady rhythms of pens sliding across half sheets of loose-leaf paper. Occasionally, a pair of eyes will look upward, stare pensively and then drop back to paper and pen. At this monthly critique session, the poetry society’s members are experimenting with a qualitative approach to feedback. “Numbers don’t tell us what we’re doing right or wrong,” says Imogene Hunt of Gettysburg. Praising a poem’s strengths and offering constructive suggestions will give the poet more informational feedback, she believes. “On Don’s poem, for instance, I said the imagery was great,” she says. By the end of the 90-minute session, members have shared their poems and are chatting about their next workshop assignment offered by member Bert Barnett of Dillsburg—write or locate a poem on a controversial topic or time frame in American history. To the casual eye of the observer, the men and women of the Gettysburg Poetry Society don’t exactly fit the stereotype of the recluse poet huddled in a garret, fiddling with words on paper. “When you come here, it’s a sense of family,” says Sandi Polvinale of Fairfield. Area poetry groups like the Gettysburg Poetry Society offer opportunities for the novice poet and the published professional to share their work, offer critiques and appreciate the power of poetry. &#0c;STTSWMXITEKI&#0d;1IQFIVWSJXLI+IXX]WFYVK 4SIXV]7SGMIX]&#1e;&#0c;JVSRXVS[
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Artisan

Michael Vyskocil

Images from the mind, words from the heart<br /> <br /> Local poets seek creative outlets for their craft<br /> <br /> On a sultry late June evening, nine members of the Gettysburg Poetry Society are gathered in the USS Eisenhower Room on the third floor of the Gettysburg branch of the Adams County Library System on Baltimore Street in downtown Gettysburg.“Looking up, he saw the sun/Descending like a first-act curtain./ ‘Act Two will be better,’/ Came a thought unbidden as he ambled toward his Ford,” recites member Donald E. Gateley as he concludes his poem, “At the Store, Approaching Birthday Sixty-Four.” <br /> <br /> After a brief pause, the Gettysburg Poetry Society members fix their eyes downward. The low hum of the air conditioning joins the steady ticking of the wall clock. They join the steady rhythms of pens sliding across half sheets of loose-leaf paper. Occasionally, a pair of eyes will look upward, stare pensively and then drop back to paper and pen.<br /> <br /> At this monthly critique session, the poetry society’s members are experimenting with a qualitative approach to feedback. “Numbers don’t tell us what we’re doing right or wrong,” says Imogene Hunt of Gettysburg. Praising a poem’s strengths and offering constructive suggestions will give the poet more informational feedback, she believes.“On Don’s poem, for instance, I said the imagery was great,” she says.<br /> <br /> By the end of the 90-minute session, members have shared their poems and are chatting about their next workshop assignment offered by member Bert Barnett of Dillsburg—write or locate a poem on a controversial topic or time frame in American history.<br /> <br /> To the casual eye of the observer, the men and women of the Gettysburg Poetry Society don’t exactly fit the stereotype of the recluse poet huddled in a garret, fiddling with words on paper. “When you come here, it’s a sense of family,” says Sandi Polvinale of Fairfield. Area poetry groups like the Gettysburg Poetry Society offer opportunities for the novice poet and the published professional to share their work, offer critiques and appreciate the power of poetry.<br /> <br /> Poetry revival <br /> <br /> Poetry’s popularity in America has experienced peaks and troughs over the centuries. “Back in Walt Whitman’s day, poets were like prophets,” says Maggie Abbott Fowler, Gettysburg Poetry Society member and designer for Couturier Costumes in Gettysburg.<br /> <br /> The nation’s oldest poetry group, The Poetry Society of America, recently marked the centennial of its founding in 1910.Today, there are more than 1,000 members of the group nationwide, according to Elsbeth Pancrazi, membership and development coordinator for the Poetry Society of America.<br /> <br /> Perhaps it is the enduring legacy of the art form, the support from patrons of the arts or the prevalence of online social networks that has influenced the establishment and growth of local poetry groups within the last two decades.<br /> <br /> In September 2008, Linda Clark organized the Gettysburg Poetry Society.Today, the group’s membership totals 20. Critique sessions soon expanded into public presentations, such as the “Reading Between the Lines” poetry event for the Gettysburg Festival. Recently, the group sponsored a “Remembrance” poetry contest open to adults and youth in Adams County, according to Clark.<br /> <br /> Like Gettysburg, Hanover also supports a vibrant poetry group—the Hanover Poets, which formed in 1997. The 1996 opening of The Reader’s Café, a bookstore and coffee shop in downtown Hanover, offered the group a cozy meeting space where ideas and words could flow freely.<br /> <br /> In addition to Gettysburg and Hanover, poetry groups have put down roots in cities such as Carlisle, Harrisburg, Lancaster and York. Often, members of these groups will present their work at events outside their home territory, creating a cross-cultural network of poets.<br /> <br /> “What I love about poetry groups is that it’s the most eclectic group of people,” says Kate Brady, a Hanover native and current Poet Laureate of Hanover. “They’re an accepting group of people. We’re lucky in Hanover and Gettysburg to have such talented members in these groups.” <br /> <br /> The rise of a Poet Laureate <br /> <br /> Although she can count approximately 500 poems to her name, Brady wasn’t always penning couplets, sonnets and works of free verse. Athletics captured her time and attention in high school, but while attending James Madison University, Brady began experiencing repeated bouts of migraines and fatigue that negatively affected her performance on the field. She was ultimately diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome in 2004. But health concerns couldn’t stop Brady’s exuberance that embodied her approach to life. She channeled her physical energy into intellectual pursuits, turning to the arts to ease her pain.<br /> <br /> “I think poetry chose me,” she says.<br /> <br /> After graduating from James Madison, Brady enrolled at Columbia College in Chicago, Illinois, where she obtained a Master of Fine Arts in poetry. She’s spent the past several years teaching writing and conducting poetry workshops for adults and children in Chicago; Savannah, Georgia; Gettysburg and Hanover. In 2010, Brady was selected to a two-year term as Poet Laureate of Hanover. In this role, she seeks to educate and inspire others to discover poetry as an art form.<br /> <br /> Brady says creating a poem isn’t always a clear-cut process. “I never know where the poem is going to go,” she admits. “But I love that process…being led to all these interesting places. There’s a certain feeling about capturing a moment in words.” <br /> <br /> There are many misconceptions about poetry; Brady says there are two she encounters most frequently. “When I’m teaching in school, I run into this notion that people think that all poems have to rhyme,” she says. “The other one is that poetry is hard to understand. I think good poems are not meant to be abstract.” <br /> <br /> Brady’s work has been published in poetry journals such as the Columbia Poetry Review, the Fledgling Rag and Tonguas, the literary magazine produced by the University of Puerto Rico in San Juan. She is currently seeking a publisher for her first poetry book manuscript entitled Grit.<br /> <br /> A passion for poetry <br /> <br /> Inspired by nature and Native American history and culture, Imogene Hunt could be described as a poetic dream catcher.The 63-year-old Gettysburg poet has Been capturing moments in time through words since she was 9 years old. Some of her favorite styles of poetry include haiku, free verse and children’s poetry, she says.<br /> <br /> Hunt feels her senior high school English teachers, Theodore Zuwadski and Kumar Kalinghal, gave her the roots to grow her poetic pursuits by encouraging her to submit poems to publications such as The Atlantic Monthly. She also credits D. H. Melhem and children’s writing mentor Barbara Shook Hazen—two instructors she encountered at The International Women’s Writing Guild summer conferences at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York— for further developing her work.<br /> <br /> Hunt believes that poetry is meant to be appreciated. “I think people think poetry is hard and boring,” she says. “But there’s just such good poetry out there. I’d encourage people to go to poetry readings.<br /> <br /> They might hear something they like.” While Hunt has obtained recognition for her writing through the Gettysburg Poetry Society and the Pennsylvania Poetry Society, there have been times in her life when poetry has been a source of happiness, healing and hope. Hunt wrote “A Birthday Poem for Robin” in 1995 for the birthday celebration of her close friend and fellow poet Robin Ann Brown. One year later, in 1996, Brown died after a prolonged battle with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) at age 40.Brown’s son asked Hunt to read one of her poems, a poem called “Heart Prints,” at Robin’s memorial service.<br /> <br /> Julia Cunningham, a writer of children’s and young adult works of literature, once said, “If you are troubled or sad or lonely, pick up your pencil and tell the page about how you feel. Poems are made from what life gives us, good or bad.” As long as there are life experiences to tell, poetry groups like the Gettysburg Poetry Society and the Hanover Poets will continue to provide avenues for poetry artisans to learn from and to share these experiences with others.

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