Like Expresso to Coffee
Calaveras Enterprise Column 03/02/04

By Antoinette May Herndon

"Like Espresso to Coffee"

Today's column starts with a Truth or Dare game. Let's be honest, really honest. Don't you think poetry is a little wimpy? Admit it, now. If you will, I will.

Up until recently, I'd have said "yes." Oh, I know that sounds terribly insensitive, which these days is almost as socially appalling as being politically incorrect. But what can I say? We're talking truth here.

Oh, I have a few favorites. Omar Khayyam, for instance. (Oh, threats of hell and hopes of paradise. One thing is certain, the rest is lies. A flower once blown forever dies.) That was pretty heady stuff in high school. And I'm still loyal. I like a little Kipling, too, maybe some Poe. You get the point, obviously I haven't read much poetry lately.

But now I have a friend who writes it. His name is Kevin Arnold and he's coming up to read a little of his work Monday evening at the Hotel Leger. Kevin says that poetry is to other forms of writing what espresso is to coffee.

Nothing wimpy about that and it gets better. What about: "poetry is a one night stand--for some, a quickie in a closet, a short story is an affair, and a novel a marriage."

Kevin's been doing his one night stand thing for nearly thirty years. It's resulted in some 250 poems, more than 50 of them published, and a book, "Nineteen Poems Around a Divorce."

"Poetry has been a wonderful surprise in my prosaic life," he believes. "In the old days at Squaw Valley, the poets met the same week as the fiction writers. I was there for fiction, but would go the poetry craft sessions in the afternoon. When Robert Hass said, 'Nothing happens until a poet writes about it,' I got very curious and applied to go as a poet. I got turned down the first time but went to Galway Kinnell's poetry weeks the second year, and seven of the next 11 years. What a wonderful growth experience as a writer."

It's impossible to write poetry and not grow emotionally, Kevin says. "I recommend sharing it. Get your work out in the open. Join a poetry group. After awhile, send it out to the world."

He takes his own advice, too. He's on the steering committee of the prestigious Waverly Writers in Palo Alto and is president of the Poetry Center in San Jose.

The latter group is currently involved in renting the former home of Edwin Markham as a meeting place. Maybe you haven't heard of Edwin Markham. I hadn't. That's because fame is so fleeting and all.
Turns out that one hundred years ago the poet Markham was as popular as a rock star. Women throwing themselves at him, tearing the buttons off his clothes--that sort of thing.

Now that hasn't happened to Kevin yet, nor to two of the other poets who'll be reading their work Monday night-Robert Leer of San Andreas and Ed Cline of Mokelumne Hill-but one can always hope. And keep writing and sharing with others.

As my husband, Charles, says about the new Mokelumne Hill Poets Center:

We rhyme,
We mime
We get there on time

See anybody can do it . . . maybe. Come and find out. Hope to see you and hear your poems 7:30, Monday night at the Hotel Leger.