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Poets are Present: Capitol Hill Writing Group

Poets are Present is a poetry residency in conjunction with David Ives’s adaptation of The Metromaniacs. As part of this unique theatre/poetry exchange, the Shakespeare Theatre Company is proud to host more than 30 D.C.-area poets in the theatre’s lobby. Throughout the run, we will share with you the poems that this residency inspired our guests to write. Visit our Poets are Present page to see a list of upcoming poets.

The Capitoal Hill Writing Group was founded 40 years ago by a gathering of poets meeting weekly with an eye to improving poems members were writing. Capitol Hill Poetry Group

CHWG has one original member and eleven relative newcomers who write in a wide variety of styles. We write about everything life has to offer, rejecting Wallace Stevens’ advice to Robert Frost as they traveled together to Florida one year: “The trouble with your poetry,” Stevens remarked, “is that you have subjects.” Frost didn’t listen, and neither do we.


Blind Cento on Law vs. Poetry
by the Capitol Hill Poetry Group

I thought of the law,
but found that I was dreaming
everlasting things
that couldn’t be. How hard
is that for the imagining?
No harder than the cold,
the fire escape,
the basil frozen in its pot,
frozen and unflowered.
Oh, the pity and the shame!
It is the law—do not the poem blame.

Post-Valentine from a Metromaniac

After the play, I walked to Gallery Place,
crazy for the metro, as was the case.

The metro, yclept the infamous Line of Red,
crept on one side only. The driver said,

“Tonight the metro’s on a single track.
Ahead in front looks a lot like back.”

“Impossible,” I thought, and I must say,
I was afraid another train would come our way,

hit us head-on requiring a nurse, or worse,
but then I reminded myself of “beauty in verse.”

No phosphorescent will-o’-the-wisp could light
the darkness of a metro tunnel’s night,

the way a poem can brighten any hour.
A poem is a nut in a squirrel’s bower.

It’s a berry for a turtle, whose face
stretches out from under carapace.

The Red Line moved darkly through the stops.
No train collided with us, thank the gods.

The verse I wrote was only in my head,
but saved me from bouts of further dread.


Verse shines brighter than any winter sun,
be you poet, or just playing one.

–Anne Harding Woodworth
Author’s Note: This poem is filled with words collected from members of the matinee audience of Metromaniacs, February 14, 2015.
Valentine’s Day 2015 at the Lansburgh—

Clouds of laughter bloom in the lobby
and in my own cloud, laughing words—
as if the Bard’s love of rhyming verse
could find its way transformed onto this stage—
or possibly to us poets sitting in the lobby.
Wait, listen to those lines from inside the theater:
the zing and click of a well spoken rhyme
or of a short-changed fellow well marked
with language—the sort that lawyers lavish,
writers wrangle with, and orators opine—
occupants all, like us, of our sometimes
silly, often scintillating, City of Words.

–Patricia Gray
February 14, 2015

Getting Hooked in High School

What did you do to me, Mr. Berry, with your lisp, oblivious
to the heckling boys who thought you funny and reading
Shakespeare even funnier? Your quick translations
into sports lingo got them to read Julius Caesar.
“’Et Tu?’ they shouted in the halls, “’Et Tu,’ Vicky Ann?”
You told us, Caesar’s dying phrase meant more than
“You, too?” It’s as if he were saying, “Even you, Brutus,
my son.” That’s when water welled in the eyes
of the football captain, who rolled a pencil off his desk,
even as he bent to pick it up.
And then, in college, “Et tu,” Dr. Brown? How you
hooked me, as we went through the plays, poring over
the lovely language till it rang clear. Dr. Brown,
are you still alive? (That summer, a carload of us drove
to Stratford, Ontario to see “Anthony and Cleopatra.”)
And today at work, when the Shakespeare Theatre sends an email,
I call immediately for tickets. Age cannot wither her, nor custom
stale her infinite variety. Even at 20, I guessed that my sweet shape
and jouncy hair could fade. I wanted, the impossible of course: to stay
appealing, to be someone’s love late in life, someone’s constant queen.

–Patricia Gray
February 14, 2015

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