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The Power of Poetry: The Outtakes

1. On my way to Hollins University to meet Mara and her friends so that I could follow them to the Power of Poetry Symposium in Lexington, I had a full tank of gas and a choice to make. I could either focus on the road construction on Interstate 81 that would make me an hour late for the meet-up, or on the spread of new green grass and the rolling blue ridge countryside, dotted with splashes of purple redbuds in bloom.
2. Mara, who was presenting both a critical paper and poetry at the symposium, was hosted in a downtown Lexington inn with a suite that was large enough to accommodate her and her entourage (which I was the official blogger of). The inn, which smelled like the memory of my grandmother’s two story Brockton, Massachusetts, home, was older than the Civil War and one of the few places in the area that had survived it.
3. The first event of the symposium was an evening reading by Pulitzer Prize winning poet Claudia Emerson and Bruce Weigl, who is best known for his Vietnam War poetry. Both poets are professors of English who contradict the academic stereotype. I don’t think the symposium organizers could have chosen two poets with more down to earth accessibility and integrity as these two.
4. One of the highlights of the two day seminar was when Weigl denounced the Iraq war while at the podium, saying, “I hate this war,” and calling the Bush Administration deceitful. It was an especially courageous announcement considering that the event was being held at the Virginia Military Institute. Most everyone in our group had a crush on Weigl that evening.
5. Claudia Emerson (pictured left) reminds me of my friend Alex, who passed away in December of 2006. They both were Post Office letter carriers from similar rural areas of Virginia. Claudia talks like Alex did and she looks like Alex (who also wrote poetry), except for the fact that Alex had big hair and Claudia does not. “I saw your interview with Jeffery Brown on the PBS News Hour,” I told her at the break. “Oh, I was so nervous,” she answered.
6. Later, at a downtown bar, there were exotic pink drinks, popcorn, and women’s talk. Pictured here are Mara and some of her Hollins entourage, Noren and Kara.
7. Mara and the entire entourage (which included two other Hollins students, not pictured at the bar, who were also presenting at the symposium) adjourned to the inn suite, where laptops and notebooks were strewn. An impromptu round robin poetry reading, done in pajama party fashion, ensued. Readings and discussions went on well into the night, which led someone to say the next day, “The power of poetry is that it keeps you up late at night.”
8. You might expect to see poets in beards, beads, or berets, but not in full dress military attire. Some of the poets reading during the day were cadets. During a question and answer segment one cadet revealed that he wrote much of his poetry in his head while marching on the drill field.
9. At the keynote address that was given by Claudia and followed a luncheon for participants, I became enthralled with the glasses of sweet tea and water on the dining room tables, cast in afternoon light, and took a series of photos of them. I also took notes of Claudia’s inspiring address and am currently trying to read my own handwriting.

Post notes: These Outtakes will be followed by a more formal article about the event in which I reveal that Mara was one of three students representing nine schools who received awards for their work.


That sounds like a wonderful time. So, nice that "Weigl denounced the Iraq war while at the podium, saying, “I hate this war,” and calling the Bush Administration deceitful. He would have won my heart over!!

thanks for taking us along on your adventure. sounds like a fabulous time.

I like the mental image of the cadet thinking up poetry on the drill field.....lovely rhythmic thing, drill :-)

Michele sent me here to collect carrot cupcakes for everyone....[looks around]


Isn't it great when you come from something like that so inspired? You were lucky to have those 2 high profile speakers.

long-time reader, first-time poster emerging to claim Bruce Weigl as one of my favorite Ohio treasures. I now live in his hometown & had the pleasure of hearing him read from his latest chapbook at our library's open house, where I'm employed. He knew that the open house was part of our publicity efforts to get a tax levy passed and volunteered his time to read for us. He really is that down-to-earth. And I love his writing....

Great to hear from you, Cheri. Look for more upcoming posts about the readings. We're still pretty pumped up over Mara's win and at having met and interacted with such honorable poets as Weigl and Emerson.

Now I have a crush on Weigl, too!

sounds like big fun- How did Mara do??

What an inspiring event for a poet. I was not surprised to hear about the cadet who wrote poetry in his head. I'm an Air Force Vet, and formulated many plots during long formations.

Sounds like a wonderful time. I hope your friend did well - sounds like she might have. Bravo.

Mara won for her paper and her poetry reading was outstanding! I'm still processing my notes and all the inspiring stimulation that came via Bruce and Claudia ... more soon.

sounds like a wonderful time.... i loved all the pictures and descriptions.

Congratulations to your friend Mara. What an honor! I enjoyed your account very much. I love that your entourage had the impromptu poetry reading in your inn suite. How refreshing that you were all so inspired!

How did I miss that Mara was a student at Hollins? I didn't know that. These pics were great~

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