Local club chapter works for a more poetic Batesville

By Emily Van Zandt Originally Published December 16, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated December 14, 2012 at 12:16 p.m.
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— Marla Bennett knows that the idea of writing poetry can be intimidating.

“Few of us possess that ability to write something so beautiful, but we can imitate the masters and spread our little baby writing wings,” Bennett said. “Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you’re not going to sit down with a piece of paper and suddenly write a Shakespearean sonnet.”

Bennett and a group of fellow poetry lovers hope to wash away some of the intimidation surrounding the medium. Established just three months ago, the River Poets of Batesville is the new Batesville chapter of the Poets Roundtable of Arkansas, which was established in the 1930s.

The group currently has seven members, including Bennett, the club’s president. The club meets from 7-9 p.m. the first Monday of each month in the library conference room at the University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville. Each time it meets, the club does a workshop of poems members have written, and members agree on an assignment for the next time they meet.

For club secretary Kitty Smith, those assignments are what keep her creativity flowing.

“An assignment is the best way to write because it gives you a deadline,” Smith said. “I certainly believe in the muse, in something that visits you and gives you inspiration and ideas.”

Though Smith’s background in nursing may not seem to lend itself to literature or poetry, she’s not intimidated when she reads her work to the group.

“It’s my thought; it’s my art form,” Smith said. “It’s totally personal and belongs to me. It’s my form of expression, but I’m open to critique from my peers because it shows me a different way.”

Bennett’s love for poetry comes with the territory of her job as an English professor at UACCB.

“I remember back when I was going to Lyon College; my favorite thing to do in the world was poetry interpretation,” Bennett said. “I am in awe of people who write it well and appreciate it so much. … Poets make the world such a beautiful place.”

The club is still young but has plans to add more activities soon. Smith hopes the club will offer a poetry competition at the local schools soon. Developing a love of poetry in younger generations is something Smith believes in strongly.

“One of our granddaughters came to the writers group, and she wrote a poem that won one of our little awards, and it tickled her to death,” Smith said. “It’s so good for these kids. All it takes is exposing the kids to just a little bit of the idea. … They have such vivid imaginations.”

Adults who were never exposed to poetry in high school or college can also benefit from starting to read more, Bennett said. Reading poetry can provide a respite from a busy schedule, she said, and finding new places around town to write can provide relaxation.

When Bennett was first approached to join the club, she was excited about the possibilities of exposing her community to something new.

“I think that fine art, whether it’s painting or sculpture or poetry … we need that in our society so much,” Bennett said. “We need it in Batesville, and I’m so excited to be even a small part of that.”

Staff writer Emily Van Zandt can be reached at (501) 399-3688 or evanzandt@arkansasonline.com.

Associate Features Editor Emily Van Zandt can be reached at .

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