Last Tuesday, October 11th, at 7 pm, the Robert Frost Poetry Foundation hosted a Zoom reading by the winner and ten runners-up of the annual 2022 Robert Frost Poetry Contest. The winners came from as near as New York and as far away as New Zealand.
I was extremely fortunate to have my sonnet, “Summer Thunderstorms,” chosen as the first runner up. This is a real honor.
These readings lit me up!
Every single one of the poems was exquisite but what was personally wonderful for me was Helena Minton, who I have not seen since high school, was on that call. This high school, the Cambridge School of Weston, was a remarkable place because it respected the arts as a part of life rather than a collateral activity.
Helena and I were both on the board of the literary magazine of the Cambridge School of Weston. Also on that board was Susanna Kaysen, who wrote “Girl Interrupted,” which became a movie starring Winona Ryder. Helena has also become a well respected writer. The Boston Globe recently gave her rave reviews for her new and selected poems entitled Paris Paint Box, which I have read and highly recommend. I cannot name every member of that high school board, but they each were accomplished writers even in high school.
As I remember, we met once a week in the basement of one of the school buildings, and our faculty advisor was Mr. Pastorini, who took this stuff seriously.
The quality of the work that we received for publication was consistently very high and we learned from each other as we shared our perspectives about the submissions by our schoolmates.
I raise this because, again and again, I realize that the seeds and roots of my efforts now, fifty years later, to create a second career as a playwright and poet were planted and nurtured at that school and in that basement.
A month ago, the little library near where I live offered me a chance to teach a class in poetry. I am going to teach it in the same way as I was taught. We will learn from each other in a nurturing environment.
I have also been invited to start an open mic at a newly created independently owned cultural center in Monkton, The Manor Mill. I will try to support it much the way Mr. Pastorini ran that school magazine. We will learn from each other in a nurturing environment.
Finally, I had lunch yesterday with Allen Reese, who is a well respected poet, professor and previous publisher, to learn how to put together a small press to support the class and the open mic readings.
The real heroes, however, are Angelo Otterbein, the entrepreneur who created the Manor Mill only a year ago. It is growing into its future as a home for all the arts — from the visual arts and crafts, music in all forms, and writing. Similarly, Cynthia Weber at the Hereford Library opened a room and planted chairs in a circle for my class, with several recommended poetry books on a table nearby.
What little I can do I owe to these new and old friends who have nurtured me and given me the unbridled courage to be a little different and to create.
Do unto others, especially when others have done right by you.
As with the generations long since dead
The fire and brimstone of the status quo
Wakes him up from the safety of his bed
And lightning frames him in the window
And photographs him in its afterglow.
Tonight he feels his present and its past
As the summer storm also comes and goes.
Conclusions are foolish in a world so vast.
For at the edges of his world and heart
Far past the farthest boundary of his grasp
Where ideas cause worlds to come apart
He lives in this place that will not last.
He loves his life more than he can explain
And leaves the window open to hear the rain.
I hope you will consider joining all those who taught me that the arts are at the heart of life. You can find An Accidental Diary on Amazon and, after you have enjoyed it, please spread the word. Give it away. The arts are not just a collateral activity.