Fear of Poetry

By Claudia Monpere

June 22, 2020

Fear of Poetry

My beloved friend dying of cancer said she’d been afraid of poetry for too long. I suggested a poetry party. A university lecturer, Susan was inspirational whether she was talking Jane Austen or freshman composition. I thought she was brilliant, but she worried she was smart in a narrow way, that poetry was beyond her. She felt guilty that she avoided teaching it in her Victorian literature course.

Six of us gathered at Susan’s house for the poetry party. Each of us had searched hard for a meaningful poem. We helped Susan into the kitchen where she watched us make her favorite cocktail: a Pimm’s. We sliced cucumbers, oranges, limes, and strawberries so sweet we licked the juice from our fingers. I crushed mint and Susan inhaled its fragrance. Hugging, we toasted her. She pronounced the drink perfect. We ate our potluck dishes, laughing and weeping about brain tumors. And drinking, oh yes, drinking. Then we read the poems. Susan chose one by Kay Ryan. I wish I could remember which one. I wish I could remember what I read, what the others read. What I do remember: how intensely we witnessed each other reading, listening as carefully as a mother hears her child’s first words—smiles at certain lines, tears at a stanza electric with loss, eyes flashing delight at a metaphor. Each woman’s voice as she read—Susan’s voice as she read—was citrus and star, lifting into the night.


Claudia Monpere’s poetry and prose appear in New Ohio Review, SmokeLong Quarterly, The Massachusetts Review, The Cincinnati Review, and elsewhere. She teaches writing at Santa Clara University. 


Photo by Sara Cerveraon courtesy of Unsplash

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