Spring Street Poets celebrate poetry month

ADDISON COUNTY — A group of well-published poets will rattle off a series of fresh poems at the New Haven Community Library this Thursday at 7 p.m. in celebration of national poetry month.
The Spring Street Poets, who perform in public only three to four times a year, is comprised of seven Addison County writers: Janet Fancher and Mary Pratt of New Haven, and Middlebury residents Jennifer Bates, Abigail Carroll, Karin Gottshall, Ray Hudson and group founder David Weinstock.
Named after Bristol’s Spring Street — where the group met in its early days — the Spring Street Poets formed in the autumn of 1996 so that a company of well-established poets could critique, edit and gather input about their respective works. Among this selective, closed group’s original members, only Weinstock remains.
“It’s a group of really good editors and poem sticklers … they tend to be spot on … I get very good advice from the others,” said Weinstock.
And it’s a group that has seen its share of published work. Gottshall, who teaches poetry writing as a Middlebury College visiting lecturer in literature, recently published a book called “Flood Letters.” Bates has published the volume of poems “The First Night Out of Eden.” Hudson’s most recent book is “Moments Rightly Placed: An Aleutian Memoir.” And that’s just a small sampling of the group’s published output.
Spring Street isn’t the only place where local writers of poetry can find encouragement. Weinstock also helped start the Otter Creek Poets in 1997, which is an open-to-the-public group that meets every Thursday at Middlebury’s Ilsley Public Library from 1 to 3 p.m.
The Otter Creek Poets is a more informal gathering that anybody can attend, which Weinstock admits is mainly comprised of senior citizens due to its time window. Weinstock acts as the creative writing teacher of this group, steering discussion while offering his suggestions.
As the teacher of this group, Weinstock said his “goal is to allow members to improve by practicing their craft over a period of years, without giving up.”
The Otter Creek Poets have published several books of their mixed assignments and exercises.
The Spring Street Poets, who have never published a cumulative work, take a more formal and pointed angle to their meetings.
“Each member is a skillful editor and articulate poem-fixer, and our critiques are focused, efficient and business-like,” Weinstock said.
Meeting twice a month at Carol’s Hungry Mind Café, the Spring Street Poets take their time together very seriously, Weinstock told the Independent.
“When I receive comments in Spring Street meetings, I nearly always make the recommended changes without further debate,” he said.
Their formal, diligent style of meeting leads members of the Spring Street Poets to understand each other very well on a poetic level, but less so on other levels.
“Oddly enough, despite many years of working closely together, we tend not to socialize,” Weinstock said. “As one member famously said, ‘We know nothing about each other, except for our deepest darkest, personal secrets!’”
It might seem unusual for people discussing their inner thoughts and feelings not to discuss social matters, but for the Spring Street Poets, their time together is focused solely on poetry.
Why write poetry? Each writer has his or her own reasons.
“It’s definitely not the money,” Weinstock said at a meeting of the Spring Street Poets last week.
“Or the fame,” chimed Hudson. “I guess I write poetry in part because … I can do things without necessarily knowing that I’m doing things … if that makes sense.”
“I write poetry for its musicality,” said Carroll.
“It’s fun to make things!” exclaimed Bates.
“I have no idea why I write poetry or if I am even a poet,” said Fancher. “I just started writing short stories and they kept getting shorter.”
“I think, on a personal level, I just write poetry because it helps me to understand what I’m thinking,” said Pratt. “If I put it down on paper, it helps me to see what’s going on in my brain. But, it’s also kind of a neat way to put things together. It’s a place where what’s going on out there can intersect with what’s going on in me. It’s just fun!”
As for the poets’ plan going into their April 14 show, they don’t have one — at all. Not one of these poets knows what the next will read; the whole show is entirely impromptu. So, interested community members will just have to show up and see what happens.
But the poets promise that the experience of hearing the poems read aloud will be different than enjoying the works in print form while snuggled into one’s favorite armchair.
“Sound always matters. It’s like music. You wouldn’t be satisfied if it was just notes on a page,” said Weinstock. “It’s meant to be read aloud.”
Reporter Andrew Stein is at [email protected].  

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