On the third Thursday of every month, 20 or so folks gather from 7:30-9:30 to declaim poetry (that thar is fancy talk for read aloud) at Coffee Grounds on Wabash. Oh and look! The third Thursday of September happens to be tonight, I guess that means I need to get my set together ... hmm. Yup, I'm a regular at these. Unlike a lot of open mike nights, the Third Thursday Poetry @ the Grounds have a fair stable of regulars who show up and read most months, although there are usually newcomers, and folk that are just there to listen and have no intention of reading. There isn't any element of competition, you just read a few poems when you are called. A good rule of thumb is 3 poems or around 5 minutes. It is quite normal to read poems from someone else, rather than reading your own poems Plath, Bukowski, Neruda, Rumi, Bassho, Mayakovsky, we get a range.
But many people do read their own poems, or like I do, a mix of their own and others. One of the things I especially love about this particular group is the breadth of age range, 8-81. Most other ongoing poetry events I've been involved with typically get people in a narrow range, say college students, or seniors. We get the gamut, teens, ISU folk, Rose Hulman students, 20 somethings that aren't college folk, 30 somethings, 40 somethings, 50 somethings, 60 somethings, even older folk. We've even had pre-teens although that's only happened a few times. No age or institution dominates, or even style. We get raw poems just written where the emotion is still oozing, crusting into scabs on the surfaces of meaning, and we get polished poems, edited into little twinkling multifaceted gems, and we get old poems lifted out of the archives and dusted off to see if they might show new layers of meaning after all these years. We get rank amateurs and seasoned artists. It really is a kind of world in miniature, or at least a cross-section of literary folk looking for an outlet in a world that sometimes seems to only half-heartedly care. If that's you too, then come on down, and listen, or read some of your favorite poems to us.
The Third Thursday Poets have been involved in several other activities in the last two years. We've done street poetry for Art festivals. We've made poetry buttons. Zann and Sarah were the organizers of "SubTerreanean" the Terre Haute poetry (and more) chapbook that was published last spring. In "SubTerreanean" they describe the group as the Third Thursday Poetry Asylum. It is clear that using literature as a healing device is a major theme in the poetry and thinking of both Zann and Sarah, but the group never feels like a self-help or encounter group either. You can easily go from a poem that is clearly about a young man struggling to come to terms with their homosexuality, to a light hearted poem about cats, to an old man's poem about the dusty road leading to the farm he grew up on, to a hip-hopster who almost sings the latest thing they wrote. Local poetry is always so human, sharing little slices of who we are, what we are struggling with, what we care about, with just enough artistic elaboration to make it feel more like Art than Facebook.