On June 10th, I took part in an online poetry event called The Poetry Ritual. How I got to be on that virtual stage reading my poetry to eighteen other poets (nineteen, if you include the MC), is a story of searching for a poetic home.

Here’s the short version.

When I first arrived in Western MA, in 2018, one of the things I was looking for was a literary home; a place where I could commune with other writers, share work, critique work, find motivation and grow as an artist.

So I started where any self-respecting artist would start; Google :-). I googled writers groups, poetry groups, etc in the area and found a few.

One was a writing group in Northampton, started by author and writing coach, Susan Stinson. It’s called The Writing Room. Another was Straw Dog Writers Guild. Then I came across the community at Writers in Progress, then the community at the Pioneer Valley Writers Workshop. I also found out about and attended the Write Angles Conference. Another interesting initiative I came across was Valley Society.  Then I found out about a small group of poets that met every month to critique each other’s work. As you may know, I’m big on writing groups, as long as they are organized and productive.

So I tried it out.

One Sunday afternoon, I drove over the bridge to Northampton and that is how I met Michael Favala Goldman. Twice a month, he met with a group of about 8 poets (not necessarily the same poets each time) and they read and critiqued each other’s work.

The thing that makes The Poetry Critique Meet-up, as it is called, work so well, is its structure. A lot of writing groups fall apart because they become more of social gatherings and writers lose interest because they are not seeing any benefits.

With the Poetry Critique Meet-up, there is always structure, always a goal, always a program that the poets know. It’s simple. It’s effective.

For me, The Poetry Ritual was a celebration of how all these poets come together, 8 maximum at a time, read each other’s work and ever so gently shred each poem, looking for what we like and what we think could be better, forming our critiques into even kinder words and sharing them.

That for me is as beautiful a poetry ritual as any. It is one that has helped me find confidence as a poet.

The Poetry Critique Meet-up is run by Straw Dog Writers Guild and hosted by the Northampton Center for the Arts.

Here is the video. There is a lot of good stuff here, if you can.

My bit starts at 22:59. Enjoy.

If you’re a poet and don’t have a group you share your work regularly with, for enjoyment, for artistic company, for growth, I highly recommend it.

P.S. As you may have realized, in the end, I found many literary homes here and am still settling into them, still on a journey of discovery; of meeting new people, finding new spaces, and of sharing as much of what I’m learning as I can.


Photo by Richard Dykes on Unsplash

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