Running the Meter
by Sarah Godfrey
Washington City Paper
April 26, 2002
"Read that one again!" commands Cicely
Angleton of fellow poet John
Elsberg. She wants an encore of his two-line witticism
about relationships: "his love was like rice in a wooden vessel/she
was the angry sea." After Elsberg explains the reference--to antiquated
wooden cargo shis that ripped in half if the rice held within became
wet and expanded--Angelton, along with the rest of the audience, laughs
Elsberg's "No Bounds" is one of more than
50 poems recited during this Satruday-afternoon marathon reading at
the Arlington Central Library. The showcase includes 17 local poets
reading from their published works, as well as a special posthumous
reading of the work of poet Jay Bradford Fowler Jr.,
who died in 1999. Most preface their poems with anecdotes and discoveries:
Angleton talks about turning 80 before she presents "Salami Sandwich,"
a poem about the death of a spouse; Michael Davis reads
two separate odes to kitchen appliances, written while teaching poetry
to elementary school students during a sabbatical from his job at the
Bureau of National Affairs. "I kept telling them that they could
write about anything," Davis tells the crowd,"and I thought
that these poems would prove my point."
The event is being held in celebration of National Poetry
Month and the opening of the Archive of Arlington Poets, a permanent
addition to the library's local-history collection. The archive is the
brainchild of Kim
Roberts, director of literary affairs for Arlington County's
Cultural Affairs Division, which sponsored the showcase. "The best
way to promote works by authors is to make sure they stay in circultion,"
says Roberts, 40. "We wanted a permanent home for books--those
that are from small presses, out-of-print, or impossible to find--and
[to] make them accessible to those interested."
Roberts began trying to gain exposure for Arlington's
many poets when she started working for the county six years ago. A
longtime Washington-area resident and a published poet herself, Roberts
was impressed by the number of writers she discovered as she began working
on the archive.
"This area has a huge, huge number of writers,
and Arlington County is blessed to have a large number," she says.
"Most newspapers and associations have journalists working here,
and al ot of those journalists do other types of writing. A lot of lawyers,
also, are writers. It's not only true of poetry--but is especially true
The archive features single-author books by the 18 poets,
including Roberts, and two anthologies. Roberts hopes that over time
the collection will continue to grow, as more works from both current
authors and up-and-coming poets are added. "For the archive to
have meaning over time, we have to keep up with it, updating it every
other year," she says. "We're hoping this is just the tip
of the iceberg."
Copyright (c) The Washington City Paper, 2002.