When East Valley Poets members talk about poetry, they often wax poetic.
“The purpose is to get our creative juices flowing,” said Eva Willis, a 22-year Ahwatukee resident. “I’ve learned a lot and find the group supportive and congenial.”
“A different member hosts each meeting, picking the topic of the presentation wide-ranging from a type of poetry like haiku, narrative, a particular poet’s work,” Willis added. “The same host also chooses a prompt for the meeting, and members can write a poem to that prompt and read it.”
Willis, who often melds her poetry with her oil paintings, is also a member of Ironwood Library’s Parchment & Prose writing group.
“I self-published ‘With All My Heart’ in 2013,” said Willis, who also had three poems selected for inclusion in the Parchment & Prose group’s recent book, ‘Ironwood Alchemy,” celebrating the branch’s 25th anniversary.
An EVP member since 2011, Willis said the group – whose slogan is “No pressure, just poetry” – fill its 90-minute meetings with a variety of creative inspirations.
She said members participate in an open reading – either reciting one of their own or reading a favorite poem.
“I think poetry captures moments of experience or emotions in a very condensed way,” said Rhonda Brown of Mesa. “It helps us find common ground in our human experience.”
Brown, who joined the East Valley Poets in early 2000s, is one of a dozen regular members among the group, which fluctuates in size during snowbird months.
Meeting the third Saturday of each month at Pyle Center’s glass-lined conference room in Tempe, the multi-generational gathering – a branch of the Arizona State Poetry Society – is dedicated to developing members’ skills in writing and reading all forms of poetry.
“Most of our members have been published,” said Jim Platt. “Some of our poets have been published in national publications.
Platt, a Tempe resident who heads the group, said he “dabbled in poetry in high school and college” but is himself a writer of business articles and the author of a biography on John R. Murdoch, who served as a Democrat congressman from the Arizona in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1937-1953.
“I enjoy working with words,” admitted Platt, describing his poetry as “a way to vent, but constructively.”
“For many, it’s a great release,” he added. “A lot of things I write have to do with everything from politics to social problems.”
For Gilbert resident David Nicoll, penning poems since high school was a sideline to his career as a senior project manager.
The England-born Nicoll and R.N./grief counselor Sandy Heinisch collaborated on a book, “Lights for Dark Places,” by contributing the poetry for a tome that provides hope and comfort for survivors of loss. A CD with his poems accompanies the book.
William “Bill” Guthrie is the host at the group’s Sept. 16 meeting and will discuss “September Sings of Summer.”
Guthrie, a Mesa resident who has been with EVP for nine years, has been writing poetry since junior high.
“I was a closet poet,” he laughed. “I wrote poetry but I didn’t tell anybody about it. After high school, I wrote little poems to my wife, and I was coerced a couple times to have my poetry published, but I’m really reticent to do that.”
Guthrie retains his Texas twang and colorful colloquialisms, but his face goes serious when discussing his craft.
“Poetry is the art of feeling. Some people who can’t speak their emotions find writing poetry a means of release,” said Guthrie.
“I got interested in poetry when my English teacher introduced me to Shakespeare,” he recalled. “After writing some really, really bad sonnets, I realized I’d never be a Bill Shakespeare, but I could be a good Bill Guthrie.”
His favorite current poetry form is haibun, a blending of haiku and prose. His works appear on his Facebook page.
Ages of the group vary – until this fall, a high school student attended before heading off to college.
The eldest, Helen Spencer Schlie, is 94 and no longer able to attend. To keep her involved, members open a phone line during the readings.
There is no prescribed poetry form required – blues poems, ballads, haiku or prose are welcome.
“For me, how a poem sounds is important to me. I don’t do particularly well at rhyming, but using alliterations seems to come naturally for me,” said Rhonda Brown.
“The thing I love most about this group is I get to hear other people’s work, read my work and talk about it. It’s those discussions I like the most,” she added.
Her husband, Bill, once merely chauffeured her to the monthly EVP meetings, but now attends and contributes poetry.
For David Nicoll, poetry often springs from his soul ready-made.
“To me, it comes naturally,” he said. “A lot of poems I write are spontaneous. Some come fully-fledged while others you have to work a little harder.”
Poetry is part of Arizona’s fabric of life – Alberto Alvaro Rios, an ASU Regent’s Professor of English and newly named as the Piper Center director, is the state’s inaugural poet laureate.
Rosemarie Dombroski, a senior lecturer at ASU Downtown Phoenix Campus, was named the inaugural poet laureate of the City of Phoenix just last year. And Marshall Trimble, Arizona’s official state historian since 1997, has often incorporated poetry into his lectures and appearances.