Poetry is as timeless as language itself and a local group offers a supportive forum for poets, both novice and accomplished.
Since 1937, Poetry Scribes of Spokane have met to share poems, offer feedback and indulge in their love of verse.
“The first time I walked in I was scared silly,” said Scribes president Kathleen Schrum, who joined four years ago. “I’d never read my work to anyone other than my dog or my husband.”
Schrum said she wrote poems in her head for years before she ever put one on paper. Now, her work is published regularly and she said 90 percent or more of their members have been published, as well.
The Scribes have a rich history in Spokane. Since 1938, the group has been active in the Spokane Lilac Festival. In 1967, the reading of the Lilac Poem became a tradition at the annual Lilac Luncheon.
“Each year our three former Lilac poets choose from our group the next year’s Lilac poet,” member Joyce Wilkens said. “The Lilac poet writes a poem incorporating the current theme of the parade for that year. The Poetry Scribes group attends the Associated Garden Clubs of the Inland Empire’s lilac luncheon/tea at the Davenport Hotel, and the current Lilac poet reads their poem.”
Wilkens is this year’s Lilac poet and read her poem “The Lilac Painter” at the luncheon.
From 1942 to 2000, the group was affiliated with the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, but in 2009 they opened their membership to men.
James Vasquez is glad they did. The former University of Washington professor said he found his true calling when he began writing poetry after retiring in 2002.
He’s since published seven volumes of poetry. “This is where my heart is because it’s beautiful,” he said. “The writing itself is great joy. It’s creating something.”
By contrast, Schrum hasn’t always found the process to be joyful. “Sometime poems write themselves and sometimes it’s like passing a kidney stone,” she said. “It’s angst attached to a pen.”
Whatever the process, Poetry Scribes is open to all. Writers of both free verse and rhymed or metered verse are welcome. The only requirement is the poems are “wholesome” – lewd or profanity-laden verse is not allowed.
“This isn’t like a poetry slam,” said Schrum.
Dues are $20 per year and each year the group publishes “The Turquoise Lanterns,” a collection of poetry written by members.
The group encourages poetry appreciation by sponsoring the annual Amy Woodward Fisher World Day of Poetry contest, and offers cash prizes to the winning entrants.
At this month’s meeting, members shared poetry-related accomplishments and read one or two of their pieces.
Though the poetry prompt had been to write about home, many members found inspiration in the summer wildfires.
Vasquez wrote of the wind that fanned the flames in a poem titled “Oh Wind! Whence Good and Evil Rise,” and member Jolene Feher read “Our Heroes,” an ode to the firefighters that battled the blazes.
Murmurs of appreciation and a smattering of applause followed the readings.
Longtime member Clararose Childs said, “Whether metered or unrhymed, poetry has rhythm and there’s rhythm in our bodies – our heartbeats – our breath. Rhythm is almost healing to the body.”
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.