13 October 2013

Poetry Month in Slow Time



Poetry Month in Slow Time
by Kathryn “Kitty” Jospé


Time: trading eight jazz time, practice time, cool-snap time of snow-in-spring, handwritten time, non-electronic time makes me wonder about my easy computer-typed, Google-researched drafts, re-drafts, and filing.

Ever since I left home at age 17, I’ve hand-written letters to my mother. She lives in a locked ward now, and never did know about computers. She’s 88, the age of many of the older poets in my area, who also don’t have computers. 

This fall, I was editor for our local anthology, which meant phone and mail contact with these older poets. And so they sent me letters. But imagine opening the mailbox to find not only typed and handwritten poems, but letters, and envelopes so fat they needed extra postage.

Imagine one lady who has no way to see her handwritten words “ready for print.” It’s so easy for me to type up her poems, send them back to her by mail, and phone a few days later to make sure I didn’t make any mistakes. It’s turned into a little routine, and instead of exchanging pleasantries, she sends poems which hint at what tugs at her heart. When I call, we don’t “talk business” but reach for sentences that wrap around our need for poetry. The poems aren’t going anywhere. That’s not the point of poems. Poems are living when they are spoken, heard by the living.

Another lady sent me so many letters, I felt as disheartened as I do looking at the 658 messages in my email inbox that demand my attention. Something is so wrong here— a human being reaches out, shares something that means something special and personal and I can’t find time to answer as I spend time trying to empty my inbox. So I call. And she writes. And I call. And she writes. Finally, yesterday I called her, to say I really wanted to write her a letter—but I didn’t know where to start. “Well, why don’t you write about the poetry conference you went to in January,” she replied. What a gift. I made the time to write up what I had been meaning to write up, but now had a reason. Another human being was waiting to see how
I would do it. I can’t wait to see what she responds to my notes. 

Sure, we can write, have our words in print—but what counts is the sharing. My mother acknowledges appreciation for my letters in one sentence in her tiny script. She signs with a whacky smile if it’s a good day. Her letters break into her days, a few sentences started, picked up the next day, about whether there was a smoke break, about her heart, her lungs, about her roommate, about anything but what she might once have written about. I don’t tell her about these other ladies.

We all just keep writing.



Kathryn “Kitty” Jospé is a retired French teacher (MA French, NYU, 1984) who completed her MFA in Poetry at Pacific University, 2009.  The teacher in her cannot rest, so she leads a weekly poetry appreciation session and gives tours as art museum docent. Kitty is involved with multiple collaborations in dance, music, art and word.

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