Seniors Share Poetry Of The Famous And Not-so-famous

February 27, 1992|By Donna Weaver | Donna Weaver,Staff writer

It isn't the Dead Poets Society.

No one has to sneak out of a dormitory room and race to a dark, quiet cave to discuss poetry with friends.

These folks meet in public. And it's anything but quiet, as they compete with a cacophony of noise from nearby card-players, eaters and talkers.

But their passion for poetry is just as strong as that of those teen-agers from the movie. They call themselves Poets Corner, this bunch of senior citizens who meet at 1 p.m. every Wednesday atthe Pascal Senior Center in Glen Burnie.

Members gather to read and discuss poetry from famous and not-so-famous poets. Yesterday, some members regaled one another with their own poetry. Others read works they found in magazines and books.

The atmosphere is loose and informal. And that's the way group leader Charles Rothstein wants it.

"I don't force anyone to read anything," says Rothstein, who admitted only that he's past 70. "I just want senior citizens to enjoy it.This is entirely different from the normal activities at the senior center."

Rothstein, a gregarious Millersville resident and retiredArmy colonel, helped create the group four years ago, along with member Jim Hogan and former Pascal dietitian Maureen Aro.

Now, a dedicated group of five to nine people meets to discuss poetry by such famous scribes as Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound andWalt Whitman.

This is new territory for several members, including Rothstein, who never had time for such a dalliance. He quit high school at 15 and enlisted in the infantry. By the time he retired 37 years later, he had risen to the rank of colonel, fought in three wars,married and raised a family and finished high school, college and graduate school.

After taking over the group, his ignorance of poetry didn't last long: He spent hours in local libraries, digging up thelives of famous poets.

Now, the tough Army veteran's eyes' softenwhen he discusses poetry.

"Poetry comes first from the head, thenfrom the heart," he says. "When you express yourself, that's poetry."

He credits the group's longevity to its diversity.

"Every oneof these people is skilled in different ways," he says.

Hilde Hoffman, for example, moved to the United States in 1948 from Munich. She was 16 when U.S. soldiers liberated her town. Neighbors appointed her town spokesman because she could speak English.

Two years ago, the Glen Burnie woman decided to write a book about her experiences, called "Medi." The group and an Anne Arundel Community College coursein children's literature spurred her on.

"I've been writing poetry since 1959," says Hoffman, 63. "But this is my first novel. I'm going to search for a publisher."

Then there's Hogan, a retired salesman who has been writing poetry since his kids were young. He's 85 now, the author of over 200 poems.

"I write for humor more than anything else," says the Severn resident, rustling through a nylon briefcase full of his verses. "But I don't write every day. I write when I have some sort of subject."

Like one of the poems he read yesterday, titled "Our Valentine," about his past sweethearts:

So rememberyou gals when we send cards to you,

They may be clumsy and silly that's true,

But keep this in mind beyond and above,

That no matter how crude, it's a message of love.

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