From reading to writing - a review of our first poetry sharing session

I was surprised to learn from posting about these sessions to Instagram and LinkedIn that actual, normal people are out here writing all this excellent poetry on the sly. 

These sessions have so far centred on us getting together to read and reflect on other peoples’ poems. From T.S. Eliot to Ralph Waldo Emerson, a rotating group of regulars and first timers have spent more than sixteen weekend afternoons with the big dogs of the literary world.

But last Sunday, seven of us had our first poetry sharing session, fuelled entirely by participant submissions. Simone, who had come along to two sessions prior, pitched the idea. My response was hell yes. 

Simone kicked us off with an incredible poem called Mythology: a rebirth story that she wrote one night at 2am that was literally about her birth, and figuratively about the rebirth of her identity as she understands more about herself and how her mind works (including what it’s like to learn you're Autistic/ADHD as an adult). The poem was also about the process of her reclaiming a sense of herself separate to how family members have understood her - historically as “the difficult one”. 

Harry* came through with two awesome poems, one called The Granny all about the joys of the AFL grand final day written in the style of a traditional Australian bush ballad, and another called Sand, an ode to the oft-forgotten grain that forms the backbone of our beloved Australian beaches. His poetic craftsmanship game was on point. Not only is Harry a delightful human, something I liked about how he has been approaching poetry writing recently is that he deliberately starts with a random topic, and then goes really deep on it. 

He noted that while it’s relatively easy to write introspective poems or poems about love and relationships, it’s a fun challenge to set your sights on concepts that occupy less of your usual mind space but are still important nonetheless. His approach sounded like a poetic exercise in mindfulness - sometimes, the words, thoughts and emotions come to you, other times, you get to steer the ship towards topics of your choosing. Ergo footy and sand.

Meanwhile, Ed shared two poems. The first Farm was inspired by his grandparents’ farm, written while in the city, the second called Canvas was about love. Ed is one of the most articulate people I know, and his ability to express complex emotions and processes in words is par excellence. One of my favourite things hearing Ed’s poems in this setting was having spoken to him in conversation about different topics - for instance, his connection to his family and the farm, relationships, and work - and then hearing those same ideas reflected through the very different medium of poetry. Also, imagery game on point. Shoutout to the stanza: “Love is the canvas itself/Ready to be painted and stretched / With whatever scene you’re ready for / A single magnum opus / Or a storyboard, a triptych / Of the most important scenes / in a long life, well lived.”

Lawrence - who brought his beautiful mum - shared three poems. The first was in response to a friend who had had a miscarriage, and was his atttempt to find words of comfort that didn’t feel empty and hollow. The stanza “Some days/You'll lose love/That never was” bears a mention. The other two were about different dimensions of relationships - the first the possibility of infinity brought about by the intensity of sexual and  romantic intimacy, the other about the social roles we fulfil in relationships and our potential for resentment and misunderstanding when those roles no longer fit the full scope of who we are. 

To round us off, Harrison shared The Harlequin and Reckless Charity. His poems are raw, rich in imagery, and strong on intertextual references. The first poem called bullshit on the corporate dark arts of preparing pointless slide decks (“frenzied charts frolic across slides hastily built for a pithy minute on display”), and the second was inspired by his dad around the lines between giving generously and thinking of others and over-giving to the point of fatigue and even martyrdom.  the themes of this poem led to a good discussion about the line between pleasing versus serving (brought to my attention by Earnd founder Josh Vernon, who shared with me a really good podcast about this distinction by business coach Steve Chandler), and the line between generosity that energises the giver and receiver, and people-pleasing that drains the giver and can even alienate the receiver when unasked for.

I was buzzing after this session. The range. The depth. The self-awareness. The humour. The perspectives. Going in I had some concerns about how to make the act of sharing and being heard over Zoom as comfortable as possible, but everyone stepped up to the plate like veteran poetry sharing adults and came through with powerful words both in their own verse and thoughtful responses to others. 

The session even inspired me to have a crack at my own poetry writing, which means I’ll have something to read aloud next time! :D

*FYI, anyone mentioned by name in this piece has given me explicit consent to do so. I would not mention anyone or share a traceable anecdote without getting permission first, as the sanctity of these sessions is very important. The name ‘Harry’ is a pseudonym.