In a land long, long ago and not so far away, I sat in an English class at Southwest Missouri State College (now Missouri State University) and listened to the professor offer forth two definitions. The first was for prose. “Prose,” he said, “is written with words in the best order.” He then went on to explain that Poetry consisted of “the best words in the best order.” And I, like countless others, have sought those best words in the best order ever since.
There are enough of us searching for the perfect words that we have organized (sort of) into groups and host poetry readings. There is also a branch of these groups that host what are called poetry slams. The slams tend to be more into the performance art of poetry rather than simply a reading of a poem to an audience. There is certainly plenty of (non-pandemic) room for both.
In addition, our local colleges and universities will occasionally schedule poetry readings. The participants tend to be students, many of whom are working on creative writing degrees. These readings are open generally to the public, but can be a bit difficult to find out about.
As with many groups and organizations, the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc with poetry readings all around Springfield. One poetry aficionado who hosted three different series of readings (one weekly, one bi-weekly, and one monthly) has been forced to cancel them all until at least spring of 2021. Other poetry readings, including a regular monthly downtown “slam” have been canceled because they were unable to socially distance during the pandemic.
Pagination, a local bookstore, used to regularly schedule poetry readings, but had to cancel the in-person events and go to Zoom to hold virtual readings. According to an employee, they try to focus on poets who have some connection to Springfield—they either live here, are from here, or went to school here.
According to Kevin Henderson, the Chair at Drury University’s English Department, the department has postponed their readings until at least March or April of this next year. One recent private poetry reading that I attended took place in an old warehouse. It was by invitation only and It only had five people attending. We were all sitting at least ten feet apart from each other. We do what we have to do to share our poetry..
“The best words in the best order.” As long as there are Springfieldians who enjoy words, there will be attempts at poetry writing and there will be places to showcase that poetry.