Writers say that sometimes words are sought out, like shells on the beach, while other times the tide seems to bring them in. That may be especially true for poets.
“I write poems when I’m sitting in parking lots in my car,” Megan Buchanan said. “As poets, our job is noticing things and responding to what’s around us.”
April is National Poetry Month, and all over the world, bookstores and libraries are offering readings. Buchanan, of Guilford, is one of three Vermont poets, along with Dede Cummings of Brattleboro and James Crews of Shaftsbury, presenting “An Evening of Poetry” at Phoenix Books Rutland at 6:30 p.m. April 20.
“Sometimes I’ll dictate entire poems when I’m walking,” said Cummings, a writer and publisher at Green Writers Press, which she founded three years ago, and has many Vermont writers on its roster, including Buchanan.
Cummings’ book was a long time coming. A poetry major who wakes up early to walk every morning, she good-naturedly refers to herself as a late-in-life poet, and believes in the old writers’ wisdom, “Write what you know.” She’ll read from first book, “To Look Out From.”
“It takes a leap of faith to really put yourself out there,” Cummings said. “A year ago I had no clue that I would even have a book.” Buchanan, 44, has been writing poems since she was a teenager.
“I was one of those kids that checked out 10 books at the library every week,” she said.
A performer and teacher, Buchanan’s poems have appeared in multiple magazines and journals. Her full-length poetry collection, “Clothesline Religion,” covers wild open roads, backyard gardens, Irish pubs, and screen porches.
“Poetry is part of how I process my life,” Buchanan said. “I write in pencil, and never first drafts on the computer. In my book it says some of these poems hurt coming out, some of them I caught on the breeze. So different types of poems come in different ways.”
This is her first book.
“It’s something I always wanted to do and never really was sure how it would happen,” Buchanan said.
Crews’ first collection of poetry is called “The Book of What Stays.” He holds a Ph.D., teaches a low-residency MFA program at Eastern Oregon University, and lives on an organic farm.
When Crews’ thirdgrade teacher required the class to memorize poems every week, he chose to write his own, which introduced him to the pleasures of writing, and sharing, poetry.
“I sit down and write longhand until they feel right,” Crews said.
So what is it that makes a poem work?
“Surprises in the language,” Buchanan said. “That’s what I love about poetry. It’s dense, no extra words, just a tight little packet of language.”
For Crews it’s instinct, “but a poem works when it (is) accessible to someone else.”
“I’ve unlocked some part of myself so that others can enter with me,” he said. “A universal idea that everyone is feeling or has felt at some point.”
“I learned to forget the self-conscious voice and really write from the heart,” Cummings said.
They’ll each read three poems from their books, and it promises to be an inspiring night.
“The three of us are really different,” Buchanan said. “Our writing is super different so it’s not going to be three voices singing the same song.”
PHOENIX BOOKS RUTLAND
Phoenix Books Rutland presents “An Evening of Poetry,” with Megan Buchanan, Dede Cummings and James Crews, at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 20, at the bookstore, 2 Center St., in Rutland. The featured books will be available for purchase. For more information, call 802- 855-8078, or go online to www.phoenixbooks.biz.