Poetry and Drums to the Rescue!

Photo by Tim Van Schmidt; A Poetry Pod in the foothills 2020
Tim Van Schmidt

Yeah, I guess it’s a little weird, a group of mature men meeting in the foothills to hike and read poetry. That’s right — poetry, that old fashioned art that has never really gone away.

You could say that our group of guys, who have been occasionally meeting in the great outdoors to shed some virus anxiety, are a Poetry Pod. But it didn’t start there.

We began by meeting and playing drums together — in big, outdoor circles. That’s a very effective way to deal with tension, to bang on a drum instead of anything else. And when others are also banging on a drum, it gets to be pretty powerful.

But we do not live by drum beats alone and that’s where poetry comes in. Rather than discuss over and over again the conflicting Covid-19 “facts” being spewed by the media and our elected officials, we wanted some words that provided some verbal beauty and inspiration that were worth thinking about.

Poetry has been following me around most of my life. I wrote my first poem, titled “The Beast,” in the throes of a massive crush on the girl next door — guess who was “the beast” and who was “the beauty.”

At Arizona State University, I enrolled in my first poetry workshop and there I got my first taste of “professional” poetry. A move to Santa Barbara underscored that and I began publishing my work in little magazines throughout the country. I was also an English major so I had the stuff coming out of my ears.

But when I left college, I also seemed to leave behind the environment that fostered poetry. Real life — marriage, baby, house and dog — put poetry in the background.

That is, until I met some experimental musicians in Fort Collins who didn’t mind putting sounds to original poetry. We formed a group called “TVS and two fingers” and for 17 years we toured, playing festivals, schools and some pretty outrageous venues.

During that time we ran into a Denver poet who was spearheading a movement called “poetry therapy” — using the expression of words to work out feelings and problems. This poet used poetry therapy to reach young people and she enlisted our group to join her in bringing poetry to kids in need. The most intense of these experiences was working with the kids of Columbine High School a few weeks after that tragic event.

But now, this is a crisis like no other and I find myself returning to poetry therapy — this time, not for others, but for me and my friends. The first time I read a poem out loud at one of our drum circles, it lit a fire that the other guys caught and now reading poetry has become a regular feature of our meetings.

And it works. Poetry can be a powerful tool to find meaning in these times — even though it might be a little weird.

Tim Van Schmidt is a writer and photographer based in Fort Collins, Colorado. Hear his full interviews with international musicians on Youtube: “Time Capsules by Tim Van Schmidt.”


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