When the reading started, I was pinned to my seat by the ordinariness of most of the poetry. One after the other, readers introduced themselves by saying something like, "I've been a poet for 12 years" or "Poetry has always been with me." Many had never read in public before, but they all had sheaves—filing cabinets, in one case—of poetry.
The best of the lot was the elderly gentleman who had been reading and rereading his own poetry to himself. At the lectern, he peered over his reading glasses and apologized in advance for any mistakes. He is dyslexic and struggles with every word. Struggles to write it. Struggles to read it. "Words were never my friends," he said, "until I met poetry."
When the dyslexic poet returned to his seat, his wife stood to embrace him. For a few seconds, nothing existed in that room but a silver haired man and woman sharing victory over an old obstacle. Her eyes filled with tears. He brushed them away, touching her face with a tenderness you rarely see in real life. Even after they sat down, they held hands in a firm, I-am-connected-to-you way. He rested his left arm on the back of the seat next to him and revealed the brown buttons on the sleeve of his gray tweed sport coat. The leather was almost worn away on one button.
None of these people will ever be published. Few of them will make even one dollar from their writing. They write for the joy of it. They read because they can. They listen because they understand what it means to have an audience.
They have met poetry and made words their friends.