Joyce Phillips reads a poem she wrote to Dave Morris at the poetry group that meets at Downtown Books the second Thursday of every month. Participants in the group are encouraged to read poetry they have written for critique.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Joyce Phillips reads a poem she wrote to Dave Morris at the poetry group that meets at Downtown Books the second Thursday of every month. Participants in the group are encouraged to read poetry they have written for critique.

Poetry written to be heard

Local club offers support and feedback to writers

If you go

What: Poetry group meeting

When: 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., second Thursday of every month

Where: Downtown Books, 543 Yampa Ave.

— Sitting at a table in Downtown Books, Joyce Phillips reads her poem aloud.

Dave Morris is listening.

As she reads, he follows along with a copy of the poem in his hand.

Occasionally, he looks at her over the top of his reading glasses.

When she finishes, he pauses.

"I like it," he says, smiling.

Morris said poetry is as much presentation as it is writing.

"Poetry's meant to be read out loud," said Morris, who also is a local writer. "We always read poetry out loud - even if only in our heads."

At 4 p.m. on the second Thursday of every month, Morris and other core members of a long-time poetry group gather at the bookstore to read their work to each other. Here, they expose their verse to additional eyes and ears that can detect the strengths and weaknesses of their poems.

"You can't write in a vacuum," Morris said. "You need feedback."

Yet, the kind of criticism the group offers is "gentle criticism," he added, with equal parts suggested improvement and affirmation.

Sometimes another set of eyes and ears makes all the difference.

Other poets "can see what you're doing in the poem, and they can tell you if it works or not," he said.

"It helps to have different eyes look at" a poem, Phillips said.

Phillips, who also is working on her second novel, has been writing poetry since age 16.

"It's taken a long time to get some good ones," she said.

Her poems often deal with nature and are inspired by poets such as Robert Frost and Walt Whitman. She usually writes in free verse, and she seldom rhymes.

Although the poets in the group have different writing styles and different sets of themes, they have worked together long enough to accept each other's perspectives.

"Everyone here is different," Phillips said.

The group has been meeting for more than a decade and has outlasted both a change of venue and the passing of time.

Morris doesn't know exactly when the group started meeting - he only knows that a group of local poets began meeting regularly at a bookshop on Sixth Street and Rose Street approximately 15 years ago.

Al Romano, bookstore owner and poet, began inviting other writers to meet at his bookstore and share their poetry.

One day - he doesn't remember when - Morris got the invitation. Eventually, he became part of the group.

When Romano moved out of Craig, the poets found themselves without a meeting place.

Enter Carol Jacobson, co-owner of Downtown Books.

Jacobson allowed the group to meet in her store.

Although the group had tried meeting at other places, bookstores proved to be the most convivial location for sharing work.

"You're around a lot of people who like books, you're around a lot of books - it's atmosphere, I say," Morris said.

Jacobson, who eventually became a member of the poetry group, said the members bring age, experience and an eye for revision to their monthly meeting.

"We enjoy (the group) because we enjoy the company," Jacobson said.

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