For nine years, friends have met for coffee and conversation

A meeting of poetic minds

December 22, 2006|By JONI GUHNE | JONI GUHNE,Special to The Sun

It's the third Monday of the month and the after-dinner crowd at Barnes & Noble Booksellers in Annapolis Harbour Center is browsing the stacks.

But in the little caf? three steps above the busy main floor, the books and magazines go unnoticed by the people rearranging a few of the green tables and chairs.

They are preparing for an evening of coffee, spirited conversation and a hefty dose of criticism. They are the Poets of the Green Tables.

Once a month, for nine years, they have assembled to hear what their fellow poets have to say about their poems du jour.

"I don't think any of us thought that we would still be together after nine years," said Shirley Brewer, 59, a speech therapist at St. Elizabeth School in Baltimore and an adjunct professor of writing at the University of Baltimore. "A lot of marriages and friendships don't last that long."

To celebrate the group's longevity, it has published its first book, an anthology titled Green Tables -- The First Nine Years, which is available at www.lulu.com.

Each member contributed two poEms, and Judy Bender, a retired child development specialist with the Anne Arundel County health department, illustrated the book with pen-and-ink sketches.

Pasadena resident Bonnie Schupp, a photographer who had taken classes in technology and design in route to becoming a doctor of communications from the University of Baltimore, tackled the perplexities of publishing online. The poets would avoid many "help fees," said Schupp, 62, "if I did all the work myself. So I did."

Schupp, who is married to Baltimore Sun night metro editor David Ettlin, spent about 18 months planning and designing the book.

Green Tables members met in 1996 at a poetry class taught by Donald Richardson at Anne Arundel Community College. "We really bonded as a group," said Brewer, 59. "We didn't want to end the class, so I suggested we continue to meet monthly" after the class was over, "and we made it happen."

Three original members -- Brewer, Doris Dunker of Severna Park and Elizabeth McWethy of Annapolis -- remain in the group.

"We offer positive suggestions and are a caring and intelligent community," Schupp said. With this support, she added, everyone has become a better poet.

Neal Schlosburg is a poetic sophomore whose day job is supervising production control for Payroll Network in Kensington. "Without this wonderful group of writers and, now, friends, I would never have become the writer that I am, or the person for that matter," said Schlosburg, 57.

He said poetry has helped him connect with what makes him tick. Two of his own lines reflect his feelings: "The tiredness of the day never ends until the tiredness of the night begins," and "Yikes, I'm an octopus caught in a fan," which is illustrated in the anthology.

While he favors the work of e.e. cummings and Henry David Thoreau, Dunker is an 80-year-old tap dancer who writes in the manner of her muse, Ogden Nash. Readers may sense a little of Robert Frost in the work of McWethy.

While attending a private high school for girls in Washington, D.C., McWethy, 87, had an English teacher named Lesley Frost. Her father, Robert Frost, often visited the school and talked with the students.

"I was taken with his poems about country things," McWethy said. "I grew up in the country and recognized things we did in (Frost's poem) `Swinging on Birches.'"

When McWethy's husband, retired Navy Capt. Robert McWethy, was stationed in Norfolk, Va., in the 1970s, she began to write seriously, winning several annual competitions sponsored by the Virginia Poetry Society.

At one of the Green Tables meetings, visiting poet Mary Oliver was presenting an evening of readings. McWethy was surprised to recognize one of the poems as hers.

"It was about a cat watching birds outside in February," she said. "I had the image of the bird looking like a blue yo-yo."

A collection of her works, "Private I/Eye -- Pictures from My Color Wheel" was published in 2001. Her contributions to the anthology are "Lena" and "Sketch."

The book also includes two poems from a founding member, Sandy Klein, who died in a car crash on Ritchie Highway on Thanksgiving night two years ago. The anthology is dedicated to her.

Schupp recently received a message from lulu.com that the group has earned $6.06 in royalties.

"There is a charge if we eventually want to be included in the database that bookstores use," said Schupp. "Maybe we'll put that money toward this. Or maybe we'll buy a large box of popcorn and celebrate."

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