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Vol. LXII, No. 15
 
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
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Public Library Hosts Poetry Journal Launch Party

Ellen Gilbert

The U.S. 1 Poets’ Cooperative, believed to be the nation’s longest-running poetry critique group, celebrated its 35th anniversary and the publication of its journal, U.S. 1 Worksheets, with a launch party on Sunday afternoon at the Princeton Public Library.

This year’s edition of the journal, which is Volume 53, features 94 poems selected from more than 1,000 submitted by poets from New Jersey, and throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Readings

A number of the poets whose work appears in the journal read their poems on Sunday. Some offered contextual comments, like Joseph Longino, who noted that his poem, “Northeast Corridor Line at 25 MPH” had been written just one week before 9/11, and became the first of five poems he wrote about the people from his firm lost in the attack. Helen Gorenstein explained that the line about “unexpected angles of steeples” in her poem “In a Cafe in Rehovot” was inspired by Proust, who used the appearance of steeples — in addition to madeleines — as a memory trigger.

Writer Susan H. Maurer, who had come from New York City for the event, noted that this was the first time a poem of hers was appearing in Worksheets. Her entry, “Calling Bill Kushner” describing a writing collaboration, drew a laugh from the audience with its last line, “It was so intimate I wasn’t sure we should be doing this.” Another New Yorker, Paul Bernstein, read his poem, “A Damned Shame,” which began, “I matriculated in the Seven/Deadly Sins with a double major/in Sloth and Lust.”

History

“U.S. 1 Worksheets” has evolved from a 10-page folded tabloid to a bound, 104-page journal. An all-volunteer staff from the cooperative does the editing, proofreading, layout, and marketing. Paul Cockrell, a California photographer, donated the photo of Boeger Winery on this year’s cover.

The U.S. 1 Poets’ Cooperative began in 1973, when a small group of poets in central New Jersey got together informally to share their poems and their love of poetry. Poets throughout the region attend the group’s weekly meetings in members’ homes to share and critique each others’ work. “There were few viable MFA programs on the study of creative writing — only a handful of clusters, such as Black Mountain College, marrying the vision of creativity to principles of composition,” recalled Elizabeth Socolow, a co-founder of the group. She credits the success of the group, then and now, to “the democratic spirit — being generous as opposed to competitive.”

“Worksheets” managing editor Nancy Scott agreed. “It’s an excellent critique group, consistent. People come into it and stick with it. They learn to triage what they hear there. You don’t take all the suggestions. You go home, hear those voices in your head, try it out. There’s something about reading your own work aloud, and hearing the work of others.”

Other upcoming National Poetry Month programs at the library include Voices Multilingual Poetry Night on Thursday, April 10, at 7 p.m., and an appearance by poet Terry Blackhawk on Saturday, April 26, at 2 p.m. Throughout the month, the library will host the second edition of its poetry podcast blog, http://pplpoetpodcast.wordpress.com.

Spring programs in the regular U.S. Poets’ Invite series will feature Bonnie Minnick and Christine E. Salvatore on Wednesday, April 23 at 7:30 p.m., and Alicia Ostriker and Richard Tayson on Wednesday, May 28 at 7:30 p.m. Since 2004, the cooperative and the library have co-sponsored this monthly series, which features two poets reading for 20 minutes each, followed by an open mic session.

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