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I’ve always been a little shy about confessing my love of poetry.

Over 40 years ago, my love of poetry got into a head-on collision with my decision to be a successful lawyer. This collision was the final confirmation I needed to reenforce my belief that I should probably keep my mouth shut about poetry.

This year, however — in fact, this spring — I have outgrown this conclusion once I appreciated the humor in my mistake and that I wasn’t the center of the universe, which is probably why it took over 40 years.

On Saturday, June 1, in less than a week, we will be celebrating “Poetry Day” at Manor Mill in Monkton, Maryland. Manor Mill is a beautifully reborn pre-revolutionary gristmill on a little tributary off the Gunpowder River. There, Angelo Otterbein, its new owner, has created a center for the creative arts in the middle of the verdant horse country of northern Baltimore County.

For the last year and a half, on the first Monday of every month, Mel Eden and I have run a poetry open mic at the Mill. We start at 6:30 pm with a reading by one or two well established mid-Atlantic poets. Then, after a brief break, we turn to the open mic sign-up sheet, with each poet sharing one poem each, providing a wide variety of work. Then, if possible, we do a second round so each poet has an opportunity to read twice.

This group has grown into an ever increasing source of inspiration and community for both established and upcoming poets from all walks of life. From the beginning, we also set up a poetry class at the nearby Hereford Library for new poets to perfect their chops before they elect to perform. This class has been led by Michael Fallon, a celebrated retired professor of poetry who has taught and published for over 35 years.

Poetry Day on June 1st was created by Mel to celebrate this new artistic community as well as the art and creation of poetry. Mel is also largely responsible for a beautiful professionally published bound book of Manor Mill open mic poems and poets that is scheduled to be available early this September.

Back to my head-on collision, though, which years ago separated my two passions and broke my fragile poet’s heart.

All through law school on Saturday nights I didn’t go out drinking with my friends. Instead, I would cook a Cornish game hen, drink whiskey and listen to one of my extensive collection of recordings of Shakespeare plays.

I kept this eccentric behavior to myself for the most part, except in my second year, I met a Baltimore Sun reporter, Carleton Jones, at our local Maryland Institute of the Arts art student bar, which featured big display panels on the walls where artists were offered a chance to display their work.

Carleton was in his early 70s, I would guess, and it turned out one night we both confessed our love of poetry. Without my knowledge he went to the owner and I was offered a chance to post my poems on the large panels in the bar, normally reserved for art and thereafter Carlton wrote a glowing review in the Sun.

I almost came out of the closet and admitted to myself that I was a poet until an all-important second job interview at a large law firm broke my heart and I went underground again.

In hindsight I was foolish and easily injured but it is funny, so here goes:

At this interview, four lawyers and a senior partner went over my resume and asked me questions until the senior partner took control. I took this as a good sign, particularly when he pointed out that at the end of my resume under “Other Interests” I had included “poetry.“

He asked me, “What is the difference between poetic writing and statutory writing?” I took this as a great final line of inquiry!

“Okay,” I said. “If you want to write a statute to prohibit throwing up on the street you would say, ‘No throwing up on the street’ and then define ‘throwing up.’ But if you were Shakespeare you would say, ‘speaking with a full flowing stomach.’”

I could not have been more excited to be so erudite on a subject I felt I knew quite well, so of course I couldn’t leave it alone.

“If you wanted to forbid fornication,” I continued. “You would write a statute prohibiting fornication and then define fornication, but if you were Shakespeare, you would say, “Making the beast with two backs.’”

I was a little surprised when the senior partner announced that the interview was now over and they would be in touch.

As I went down the elevator I was very proud of myself, but as I walked home the doubt came on slowly. By the time I reached my neighborhood bar, I went in and had a double scotch.

A couple of days later, I got a letter, and jumped to the conclusion that they thought I might not fit in. They wished me well on my future career as a lawyer.

To this day, I remain a proud (now retired) lawyer but I’m now proud to call myself a poet, too.

Thanks to Manor Mill, I have been around poets nonstop for the last year and a half and I have been welcomed. I have made wonderful, lifelong friends and have come to believe that perhaps Mel and I have encouraged future poets to find their voice and sing. These poets are remarkable people. They step out of the grind and observe it for others. They are fun to be with.

I hope you can join us for Poetry Day on Saturday and see for yourself. There’s a full schedule of events at