Lynn Horton is a freelance writer and editor who in another lifetime taught English and Creative Writing at McIntosh High School and later worked in the Starr’s Mill High School Media Center.

Knowing December would be exceptionally busy and fraught with tons of tasks requiring extra time—gift wrapping, baking, parties, Eating—my Book Club II decided instead of adding a big, fat novel to our lists of things to do, we would select favorite poems to share at our January meeting. Turns out, it was one of the best literary experiences I have enjoyed in a very, very long time. Here was an opportunity to revisit scores of poets and poems as I searched anthologies and poetry volumes for the single poem I would eventually select.
How long has it been since you sat with family or friends where an entire evening was spent reading and discussing poetry? Not since you needed help explicating and parsing a Shakespearean sonnet, probably! And I doubt that you felt the excitement and absolute joy my friends and I agreed we experienced during our Poetry Evening last Monday night.
Our hostess Aimee furnished fruit, chocolates, and wine, the perfect accompaniments, and so we nibbled chocolate squares, bit into gorgeous, plump juicy strawberries, and sipped excellent wine as we shared everything from early 17th century George Herbert’s “Love (III)” to contemporary author and educator Maya Angilou’s “Phenomenal Woman.”
Lauren had found a love poem, “Earth Trembles Waiting” by Blanche Wagstaff, in an old book where it had been bookmarked years ago either by her grandmother or her Papaw. Not only the poem but the relationship of her grandparents was closely examined with great interest. Seems the same things made the earth “tremble” in 1912 that still does today! I mean, really who thinks of their grands as tender lovers. Sweet. So sweet.
I followed that with what I hope was a rousing reading of Angelou’s anthem for not only the African- American woman but for all women everywhere;
“It’s the fire in my eye / And the flash of my teeth / The swing in my waist / And the joy in my feet.”
Everyone agreed! Maya Angelou. Phenomenal Woman!
Poet George Herbert was “enormously popular, deeply and broadly influential, and arguably the most skillful and important British devotional lyricist of this or any other time.” The poem Aimee selected may have been from a later period and during the time he was married, after his years as part of the Anglican priesthood. “Love I, Love II”, and “Love III” (her choice) had more secular qualities as Herbert described a temporal longing and passion.
Next, Laura read a deep and haunting free verse poem that encouraged much sober and solemn discussion. Monica Berlin’s “It’s True There Are Places I’d Rather Be” hit a chord in all of us. Each of us relived a time in our lives when we were in a particularly bad, sad, dark or uncomfortable place and when we would truly “rather be anywhere but here.”
Jane finished the evening’s readings on a perfect note; she shared the classic Robert Frost “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” I am sure the crisp winter’s night added to our enjoyment as some of us mouthed the familiar refrain, “…and miles to go before I sleep, miles to go before I sleep.”
It was altogether a splendid time, and I was grateful to be part of this group of intelligent, sensitive, and funny ladies. It is a pleasure to be part of two book clubs, to share books, conversation and companionship with so many different women, most much younger than I. It’s delightful to be around this generation, to hear their millennial ideas on marriage, parenting, and larger issues that are important to all of us today. Perhaps we should put both groups together for a big Poetry Comes Alive evening. Sounds exciting. I’ll let you know; perhaps we will sell tickets. It was that good!
Something else that was absolutely “that good” this week was the program at the History Museum in Senoia. Our guests were Neal Peeples and Casey Wallace from the Southern Crescent Storytellers who entertained and educated a full house with Muskogee/Creek Indian tales. Casey shared “How the Possum Lost His Hairy Tail” and had everyone laughing. Her persona was Mary Musgrove, a real princess of Senoia who, purportedly, acted as a peacemaker among settlers, natives, and government during the 1800’s. Neal came dressed in the “flop” hat, leather fringed jacket and soft boots, with the authentic shirt and britches of an early frontiersman. He told popular trickster tales, both involving the wily Rabbit and some unwitting and unlucky characters. “How Man Got Fire” was an excellent example of a legend handed down for centuries by many Native American tribes explaining the mystery of fire. Neal explained how Joel Chandler Harris based many Brer Rabbit tales on this trickster rabbit of the Muskogee/Creek, Cherokee, Choctaw, Seminole, and other native tribes of this and neighboring areas. An excellent program. Hope they will visit to share more tales.
Fast forward a few days, yet harken back to my reading of Ms. Angelou’s poem. Saturday night Bill and I joined our daughter Leslie Hodges and other family to watch a group of twelve beautiful young women vie for scholarships and titles at the annual Miss Starr’s Mill Pageant. None was more poised, more confident in her stride, none more amazing in her pure, clear vocal selection from the Broadway show and film Funny Girl, and none more gorgeous in the fabulous teal lace gown with its small train swishing along behind her tall, elegant figure than Miss Erin Michelle Rogers.
“It’s in the arch of my back / The sun of my smile / . . . / The grace of my style.
I’m a woman / Phenomenally. / Phenomenal woman. That’s me.”
And that was Erin, owning the stage, our granddaughter, our precious little girl, who became a woman right before our eyes!