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). It 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.Sometime 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 Salute
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:
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 Garden
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.