His first reaction of shock and surprise overruled the poet’s often more reserved demeanor. A smile of confidence, as wide as his handlebar mustache, quickly followed as the audience applauded. On paper ballots they had voted Cliff Buelter’s poem, “The Old Scrub Pine,” as best of the evening. Read by Susan Etchey, coordinator of Poets Society events, Buelter’s poem described a pine tree being overlooked because more favored trees towered over. As many seasons passed, according to the poem, the pine eventually began to decay “until it was no more.” After its demise, it became clear that the pine “touched every one of you.”
Concluding her reading, Etchey referred to Buelter’s writing style as similar to an essay of personal philosophy. She said Buelter had composed The Old Scrub Pine in seventh grade. He has since written “Music” and “Nightly Adventures,” both of which reveal what touches him most.
Varying types of poetry were read at the fourth meeting of The Unknown Poets Society in Black Diamond. The group of readers and writers meet the third Thursday of each month, with a springtime change to a later time, 5:00-7:00 pm. Recent poets included a member of the writers’ group, Striped Water Poets. From Auburn, the poet introduced herself as Julie. Her poem, “Take a Look Around,” brought nods of sympathy and expressions of sadness from those listening. The poem detailed Julie’s despair and agony as she watched her childhood disappear into a modern era known as progress – memories of horses and pastures transformed into strip malls and high rises. The soul of many audience members was obviously touched. One man mentioned a past population of 4,000 residents in Black Diamond compared to a town expected to become “15 times as large” with the ongoing construction of Ten Trails inside city limits.
Kim McClung, a Kent Meridian English teacher, read her poem, a 14-line untitled sonnet. She said she admires the Shakespearean style of writing and is inspired by his function of language, his juxtaposition of words. Shakespeare notably did not use titles. McClung also made her first attempt at translating a poem in front of an audience. She read the piece speaking Italian and finished with the English translation.
McClung and Patricia Moss, president of Black Diamond Arts Alliance, were both inspired to read their poetry after listening to a teenage writer at a previous Poets Society meeting. Patricia is an artistic painter. She said she wrote “Each Step” after viewing a beautifully conceived painted wall hanging. That format for poetry, called ekphrastic, is defined as a literary description about a visual work of art.
Kenneth Lapham, who is published in Plateau Area Writers Quarterly, packs deep meaning into very few sentences. His presentation, “Ebb and Flow,” was a series of short poems – a genre called subliminal poetry. Its style is reminiscent of writing quick text messages where the reader may not get the intended emotion or the point being made. While it is too quick and short for most listeners to mentally process, this type of poetry is effectively understood and interpreted through reading.
Lessons about poetic philosophy, the sonnet, ekphrastic style, and subliminal were the mainstay of the poetry event. However, The Unknown Poets ended their gathering with a more familiar genre, the ballad. Ballads, like those of John Denver and Pete Seeger, tell a story in simple lyrical poetry that is set to music. Using acoustic guitar that featured hand painted psychedelic art, local singer Steve Israel strummed out accompaniment for his poem, ”Marijuana Cookies.” Hand clapping and laughter closed the March meeting, as did Cliff Buelter’s transformation from reticent to confident winner of the poetry contest.
The general public, poets, and readers are invited to the next meeting of The Unknown Poets Society on Thursday, Apr. 18 at Black Gold Coffee Company. Sign-up begins at 5:00 p.m.; readings start at 5:30; voting is at 7:00.