Hilary Tham, Guest Editor

Introduction to the Fall 2002 Issue
(Volume 3, Number 4)

Three things impressed me about America when I came here 30 years ago as an immigrant: the roads that rolled over the horizon, promising new places to be discovered, the bridges that connected separate shores, and the spirit of giving to community. We are lucky that the Washington metropolitan area has a wealth of excellent poets. Among them, I am aware of the presence of poets who are movers and givers to the community, who do the vital work of infrastructure--lead us to the new and undiscovered, connect poets with other poets and audience, and keep the flame of poetry brightly burning against the dark of inertia and indifference. This is the quality I focused on in my selection of poets for this issue of Beltway. This activist presence and ardent generosity mark the five poets featured here.

I met Dean Blehert when I was a newcomer to the Washington poetry scene--at an open reading at the Writer's Center. Those days, my knees knocked, my voice squeaked and butterflies were permanent residents in my stomach. Dean liked my work, critiqued it in a gentle but very knowledgeable way and invited me to coffee. At that moment, I knew I was going to like being a poet in Washington! If I had to pack for shipwreck and a desert island, I'd take the Bible, Norton's Anthology of English Literature, and Dean Blehert's magnum opus, Please Lord, Make Me a Famous Poet Or At Least Less Fat. Please Lord... is a satiric, witty review of English poetry and the modern poetic consciousness, enlivened by Dean's sparkling parodies of our sacred cows. Dean is still a presence at open poetry readings, still interested in new work and newcomers and welcoming them into the community. He also runs an open poetry workshop (the first Monday of every month) at the Reston Barnes & Noble Bookstore.

Like me, Miles David Moore benefited from meeting and being welcomed by Dean as a newcomer to Washington. Since then, Miles has established himself as a poet and today hosts the Iota Poetry reading series at Iota Bar & Restaurant in Arlington. The series, now in its eighth year, has a generous time allotment for open readers after the featured readers, and has created a strong community of regulars. It is a place where poets meet and connect, new talent is discovered, and community happens.

I met Reuben Jackson when we were brought together by the Word Works to teach a poetry workshop with Chris Bursk in 1989 at the DC homeless shelter, the Center for Creative Non-Violence. Reuben has contributed much time and energy to local poetry projects in the community such as the Miller Cabin Series.

For 25 years, in continuous operation, two poetry presses have been vital presences in Washington: the Word Works, Inc., and Washington Writers Publishing House. Karren L. Alenier, longtime President of the Word Works, is the spirit that guides the quality poetry press and its many activities which include the Miller Cabin Series in Rock Creek Park and the year-round Cafe Muse Series in Strathmore Hall in Rockville.

Elisavietta Ritchie has been President and is a continuing presence in Washington Writers Publishing House, a co-operative press which recently expanded their annual poetry competition to include a fiction award. In addition, Lisa holds salons and workshops and even has her own press to publish the work of upcoming poets whose work she believes in.

These are not the only poets who have helped shape the poetry landscape in our area. But they are poets who have presence in the landscape from my perspective, poets whom I admire and whose work I want to share with the readers of Beltway. The poems I've selected from these poets are all poems of epiphany, that embody in language moments of discovery and that, hopefully, connect the reader with the rest of the community.


To read more by this author:
Hilary Tham
Hilary Tham: The Whitman Issue

Hilary Tham: DC Places Issue