Sunday, March 22, 2009

Our last writers group

Seven of us met at Le Coffee Salon in storefront USA Hatboro, PA, to share our works and socialize. We had the best meeting ever! Sadly, after having a three-year-run, Yin and Otis decided to close their doors as there's not enough business. They gave it a gallant try & offered art classes every Tuesday nite as well as ample opportunities for performers to test out their songs before going on to the Fillmore East or wherever it is people perform today. I live in the past.

Linda read an outstanding poem she created the nite before. It was based on her favorite part of The Chronicles of Narnia. In critiquing it, we said it had a biblical flow to it. She was very pleased with her poem and had already mailed it to a friend.

Nurse Barb read unfinished fragments of a poem she wrote while riding the train downtown. She loves the buildings rushing by and is esp. struck by the beauty of the decaying old buildings along Broad Street.

Israeli-born Hannoch (it took me six months to correctly pronounce his name, accent on the second syllable) wrote about two Israeli wars thru the eyes of a child. Her innocence, juxtaposed against the cruelties of the bloody war, made for a thoughtful poignant reading experience. Residents of northern Israel have "safe rooms" into which they retreat during bombings. Hannoch, a retired professor from Temple, is a full-time poet and activist. His brother still lives in Israel. He said he went thru a period when Holocaust poems, hundreds of them, popped out of his head, using him as a conduit. "You know how it is," he told us. "You can't choose what you're gonna write about. They just come."

Chris, the birdwatcher, came in and ordered his usual turkey panini- and I cleaned off the banana slices on his plate. He gives great enthusiastic feedback and is a real fan of Linda's poems.

I usually sit facing the huge front windows, part of me thinks I'm a hypertrophic house plant seeking the light, and I announced: "Oh, there's Mary trying to cross the street." Barb and Linda went out to help her, she carries one of those white canes, then guided her inside to our table. She ordered some of Yin's delicious dumplings. Later she read a poem Twilight which was extremely well-received by all of us, the true story of a friend of hers who is dying of cancer. It was actually an appropriate poem to bring to this, our last writing group.

Barb noticed that a young man was listening to us with interest. Sure, we all said, invite him over. That's how Mike joined our group and will hopefully follow us to our new location. He works as a counselor at Lakeside alternative schools for kids with psychiatric illnesses. We now have three people in our group who help people with mental illnesses.

Can't remember how but we began a terrific discussion about God. Most of us shared our religious preferences, two of us being Jewish agnostic-atheists-sometime deists; a Catholic; a wavering Christian who can't figure out what God wants from her; a fundamentalist Christian and a liberal Christian. One of us kept quiet.

"God directs my course of life," said Mike. I was envious but said nothing. Earlier I asked him why he switched from agnostic to Christian. He gave an amazing answer. If there were no god, he said, life would be hopeless and depressing. (I think that's the philosophy of Nietzsche, that life IS hopeless and depressing and God is dead.)

BTW, I'm not asking God to help me to remember our discussion yesterday. I'm too busy thinking for myself. He's watching me type b/c as we know, if he exists, he is everywhere including in my bright light-filled dining room where I'm sipping my favorite beverage - hot water - in cobalt-blue mug from Disney World, a gift from Scott's parents who just got home from the Phillies' spring training camp in Clearwater. In their retirement years, they travel and are kind to their grandson.

Mike read some passages from his favorite version of the Bible. It was all marked up - highlighted with yellow and turquoise markers. That man loves his bible. His favorite book is Isaiah. He believes it heralds the coming of Christ. Here's his favorite bible passage.

We discussed the existence of evil. "God loves to deepen his power in overcoming evil," said Mike. He lets evil prevail but then gives man the means to conquer it. It's true that life would be too easy without conflict even the conflict within our own minds such as "How shall I proceed with the short story I'm working on. I can't think of an ending."