The Live Poets’ Society – Part 1

The Live Poets’ Society is a group of poets who are either researchers or staff members at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California. (First two photographs were taken from The Huntington website). library-headerIt was 1991 when I first applied for a readership at the library in order to explore their treasury of Early American literature, which is extensive. The rare book collections offered a banquet of Puritan diaries, journals, conversion narratives, and sermons. My dissertation about the American Puritans would take me a couple of years to write, and after that was finished there was plenty of other research to be done in that and other areas of literature. For a person who likes reading, studying, and writing, The Huntington Library is a version of Paradise.research-headerSometime in 1991, I discovered some poets and was invited to join their group. They had been meeting for a few years, and their habit was to get together once a month for lunch and a poetry reading. Each person read a poem out loud, and the others commented upon it. I had been in a number of writing classes in college, where every comma was questioned, every word evaluated. Not so with the Live Poets. We were enthusiastic about the poems, though they differed widely in terms of style and approach. We had rhymers and free-versers, didactic sensibilities, and freethinkers. We came out with our first chapbook in 2000, California Lyrics. In that one, we were celebrating the California Sesquicentennial, so all of the poems were about some aspect of the Golden State. Midge Sherwood, one of the original members of the group and an historian of California, wrote this tribute:

California: A Sesquicentennial SaluteCALyrics

Here’s to California!
She has stood the test of time;
Her legacy is gold abundance
In wealth and healthy clime;
Her path brought freedom West,
Her frontier leaps in Space,
All hail to California —
Port of the human race!

The second chapbook, Huntington Lyrics, was published in 2002. At the Huntington nearly every day, we had plenty of material to use. Each morning as I drove through the gates, my mood would distinctly improve, so I contributed a poem about that experience:

The EntranceHLyrics
It separates sadness
hidden in the mountains
from essential beauty and form,
places of perplexity
from patterned harmony,
and so the dilemma from its remedy.
Threshold of determined blooming,
gateway to the perpetuation of enlivened
air; this world is categorized
for sun, for green, and for perception.
Find hope, all who enter here.
Dimness is abandoned,
and born, the realization of light.

The third chapbook, Garden Lyrics, gave us the chance to write some poems for our “Centennial Salute to William Hertrich,” the man who designed the Botanical Gardens. Christopher Adde, a staff member at the library, wrote one of his typically pleasant and celebratory poems:

In the GardenGLyrics
The people come as one assumes
To view the plants and vivid blooms
But there are those who much like me
Take joy in butterfly and bee
And birds that tend their latest brood
While Mantid poise in search of food

What wondrous sights this garden brings
Wildlife that scurries, chirps and sings
Lizards lazing in the sun
Turtles playing having fun
Squirrels dashing all day long
Amid the cheerful human throng.

The poets are still meeting; members come and go. I heard rumors of a new chapbook, but I have not confirmed them. Some of the group’s luminaries have departed this earth for the final Paradise. I think of them tonight and hear their voices, the individual cadences of each one reading a sublime and essential poem.

8 thoughts on “The Live Poets’ Society – Part 1

  1. I remember when you started at the Huntington. It always sounded like such a paradise to me! But I didn’t actually visit until a couple of years ago with the family. The library was closed for construction. I wasn’t able to see it, but we all enjoyed the gardens so much. I even blogged about it :). I’m happy you have this retreat, Carla.

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    1. Haven’t been there in a while, Luanne, and I miss it some days. The drive got too difficult (sometimes during traffic it could be a 90 minute drive!), so I stopped going a few years ago. Several of my friends in the group (all women in their eighties) have passed away now. :/ I will read your post about the gardens! They are impressive and wonderful.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What wonderful poems 🙂 I must post on my blog sometime the picture I did of puritans that’s in my old school history book from when I was 8. Maybe the text that goes with it to, so you can see a child’s-eye view of these intrepid pioneers. I know they fascinated me when learning about them. Of course, in those days history lessons took a different slant, re how the Native American Indians/First Nation Americans were portrayed.

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  3. I love the line, “Find hope all who enter here.” Dante never had it so good. A freeing of the spirit place that reflects in The Live Poet’s Society creative works. David gave us a beautiful picture of the Chinese gardens there. It’s displayed in our front door entry. I had the privilege of attending one of your readings with them. It was wonderful.

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