Fourteen months ago I struggled to maintain a newspaper column relying on submissions from readers to make it work. The idea behind The Poets Quill was to showcase the talents of poets from Southeast Nebraska and Northeast Kansas. When it started I met with the usual fears of not wanting to be the first one. But over time, a community began to grow and continues to grow.
The poems have touched on a wide array of thoughts and expressions. From seasonal verses for Christmas, Easter, and July 4th, to deeper subjects like cancer, depression, divorce and suicidal thoughts. And while the poetry has touched on a wide array of subjects, the poets themselves come from all walks of life.
A retired school teacher, a couple of prisoners, teenagers, veterans, a bar owner, college students, a young housewife and single moms – they’ve all come with a common trait – to read poetry and to share their talents with an audience of close to 10,000 readers.
For me, it has been a dream come true . As more and more poets join this community our strength will continue to grow and readers will be able to relate to each and every one of them.
Every week I showcase anywhere from two to four poems. Every column I write a little bit about what I consider to be the “poem of the week.” And my personal thoughts on that poem. If the poet sends me a note about the poem, I may also include that.
I didn’t realize until just recently that The Poets Quill had become more then a poetry column. In its own way it has become a self-help column. Not by my design, but rather by the people submitting the poems. The readers have shared their views with me saying, I know exactly what he was talking about.
In the course of these fourteen months, 26 poets have submitted close to 200 poems and I have published over 110 of those poems. Just recently though, I’m beginning to notice how these poets are becoming part of my everyday conversations.
An example would be my Veteran’s Day column. I showcased three poems, written by one poet. The poet is a Vietnam Veteran named Jim Higgins, who has graced my column many times. His early poetry dealt with his addictions and his life as a veteran. But over the course of a year, the readers of The Poets Quill began to see a very spiritual man, who loves baseball and family.
With every poem Jim has sent me he has also enclosed a personal letter. He has truly let me enter his personal life. I do share parts of his letters with my readers and shortly after my column hit the newspaper I received a telephone call from a Vietnam vet. We talked for about ten minutes and he was wondering about Jim Higgins. He said he was a regular reader of my column and especially enjoyed the poetry of Higgins. He went on to say that he could relate to some of his poetry, but while Jim has come to an acceptance of his life, he was still filled with anger and rage.
After we finished our conversation I began thinking about my next column and a poem I recently acquired from a recently divorced woman. She has a found a gift from her divorce, which helps her deal with depression and anger – poetry. I can see this type of “therapy” in Jim Higgins’ poetry. I most certainly can see it in my poetry. And now I’m beginning to see that this therapy is also helping others.
Yes, we are becoming a true community. I say “we” because while I may write the column, it takes contributions of poets from all walks of life to make it work. And it takes an audience who understands what is being said and looks forward to the next edition of The Poets Quill. This is what I envisioned when I proposed this column to our newspaper over a year ago. But watching it happen, watching it grow, into its own living entity, has become a dream come true .
©2006 Dave Harm