Connecting With Others Who Had Written in Secret


The Philadephia Inquirer
April 13, 1997

That spring started out like many others before it. I wrote poetry at a frantic pace, churning out at least a few poems per week. I saved them in the hard drive of my computer, a prison from which few managed to escape. When the file got large enough, I would print, bind and shelve its contents. It was a depressing parole. Most of my poems never met anyone on the outside.

This was 1995, my sophomore year at the University of Pennsylvania. Occasionally, I would walk a few ``chosen'' poems down the hall to show Jeanie, a friend of mine. I had discovered that she was a closet poet like me (the only difference was that she kept her poems in a shoebox).

Reading my stuff to her, though awkward at first, was an addictive thrill. Butterflies filled my stomach whenever I took a poem to her room.

I realized then that a door to a wonderful world had opened for me. My poems became more reaching and energetic. The ones I brought down the hall, like shy children, grew up to become more connected, expressive and proud. It was the magic of social contact. This was something I had always wanted for my creative self but was afraid to ask for from those around me.

Toward the end of the semester, Jeanie and I began to talk about starting a group at Penn that would give other student writers a comfortable place to share their creativity. We believed that there were many others like ourselves who enjoyed poetry and wrote their own -- students who would like a way to meet others with the same interest. We wanted the group to be more informal and social than a writing workshop.

Today, the Penn Poets Society gets together twice a month at coffeehouses, diners or members' apartments to relax, read poetry and have a good time.

Students from all over the university, including the engineering, Wharton and nursing schools, have participated. I think it shows that poetry is not just a domain of English majors. It is something we all feel. It is something we all have in common.