Last week I hijacked a White Bear Lake-based women’s book club for an erasure poetry workshop. The group of ladies, most in their fifties, have met monthly for over 15 years, rotating between one another’s homes and on occasion gathering at a restaurant. Past books discussed include The Kite Runner, The Girl on the Train, and a biography of Eleanor Roosevelt. Next month, they will discuss a YA sci-fi fantasy novel set in Duluth.
Our host served a tasty dinner of pasta with pesto and artichoke hearts. After our plates were cleared, I set out supplies–a stack of pages torn from old books, bottles of Whiteout, and a package of Sharpies–and we tucked into the making of poetry.
We worked for about an hour, The Beatles playing on the stereo. When coffee and dessert appeared on the table, we women synchronously looked up and capped our pens. Between bites of Bailey’s chocolate mousse we took turns sharing our poems with the group. A member of the book club who had over dinner downplayed her creativity gave a warning once again before picking up her page. Of course, she went on to read a striking poem, one that lifted the listener as though by UFO beam into the realm of celestial beings, gently returning her to planet earth at the poem’s end. Another woman had made a celebration of decadence—“eat … in prodigious quantities / ten entrees / four or five thick stalks / … it’s worth it!” prompting more than one of us to raise a dessert spoon in salute.
Thanks to ladies of the book club for the delightful company and inspiring words on a chilly winter night.
The hours following the Christmas morning gift exchange are often spent in a collective stupor, family members cast across the living room in a sea of glittering holiday flotsam. All are weak and wasted but the odd nine year old, who breaks from the wreck of wrapping paper like a flying fish to demonstrate the usability of a plastic trophy before flinging herself back in (“Who put the nickel in you?” my grandmother has been known to ask such a child).
This year, after emptying stockings, exchanging gifts, and eating cake for breakfast (coffee cake, that is), I summoned those family members who were up for it into the kitchen of my aunt and uncle’s house in Jacksonville, Florida. Here, still in our PJs, we made some erasure poems.
Participants ranged from 9 to 81 years old. We had one pediatrician, a refugee case worker, a camp councilor, a reporter, a yoga teacher, a brewery representative, two retired schoolteachers, and two current elementary school representatives, one with a penchant for funny hats.
After making our poems, we went around the table and took turns reading them to the group. Many of us were proud of the gasps and chuckles and sighs of recognition our poetry elicited.
Then it was 11:30 am on December 25. Christmas was over. Some of us went out on a sailboat, and some of us took naps.
Last week I brought my erasures supplies over to the home of my friend Kit Leffler, a visual artist and printmaker. While I unraveled my outerwear (winter coat, hat, mittens, scarf, second scarf, sweater, second sweater), Kit poured two glasses of wine, one of which she promptly knocked across the kitchen table. We mopped it up, laughing, and cleared off the table. After squabbling over the music for a few minutes–I, arguing for a song with any melody whatsoever, and Kit, defending the non-harmonic– we found an album we could agree on and got to work.
As Kit added gold halos to her painting, I sat across from her and made an erasure poem – inspired by her painting. An unbeknownst collaboration unfolded in the kitchen, atop a freshly mopped-up pool of wine.
Kit’s painting in progress
Rebecca’s erasure poem: “The body is formed from a yellow pigment found in yams”
Thanks to Kit for the cozy workspace and the inspiration! Next time I take care of the music.