At age 41, in the middle of a global pandemic, I decided to take my first poetry class. I was a creative writing major in college yet managed to graduate without knowing anything about iambic pentameter. Words like “quatrain” and “tercet” sent me into cold sweats.
After some Googling, I stumbled upon the virtual adult education seminars the Newberry Library launched last summer. I enrolled in An Introduction to Short Forms, and then there we were — a ragtag tribe of writers of varied experience staring at each other, shyly at first, through the vertiginous mosaic of Zoom. Our teacher, the poet Cindy Juyoung Ok, gently challenged us to consider different forms of poetry as vessels of expression. Slowly, we opened up. We wrote about grief and food and love. We wrote about not being able to write. We wrote silly country ballads about the Suez Canal. (OK, that was me.) We wrote about the ghosts of childhood still knocking around.
The whole damn thing was beautiful and invigorating. And though our class has ended, we continue to meet once a month to share our writings and encourage each other. (The classes were so popular that the Newberry plans to keep offering them for the foreseeable future.) Are we friends? I don’t know. We’re still a band of strangers, I think, but less so with each haiku, pantoum, and villanelle. From $120 for four sessions. newberry.org