LEAVING GPS: As some of you already know, I resigned as vice-president of the Georgia Poetry Society earlier this week. This means an end to the open mic and reading series I've hosted for the last two years at the Barnes & Noble at Georgia Tech the first Friday of each month. The final open mic will be Friday, Aug. 5 at 7:30 p.m. with Dustin Brookshire featuring. I plan to make an announcement about my new open mic and reading series that will launch in the fall. I will be partnering with the Georgia Writers Association on this new venture and poets writing in all forms (or non-forms) will be welcome.

The last three years with GPS have been a mixed bag. It became increasingly obvious that my politics and my opinions were not appreciated by some of the membership. I turned down the presidency last year, not wishing to rock the boat with my "radical" ideas of modernizing the society. Since it was apparent that I would ascend to the top spot in 2006, I had made no secret that I wanted to change the name of the organization and extricate us from the National Federation of Poetry Societies. The word "society" is quaint, antiquated and, to me, sounds like the bastion of old, rich, white people. I've been unhappy with our continuation in the NFPS for sometime because it is so out of step with the evolution of poetry in this country. Many state poetry organizations have left the national federation over the last few years, finally waking up and smelling the coffee. When I mentioned these ideas again after our meeting on Saturday, I was politely asked to "reconsider my position" with GPS. So I did.

I have no ill-will toward GPS. The membership is mostly an older group of people (a recent survey said the average age of our members was 65), many who write in form, and are set in their ways. They don't like change and the changes (or attempts) that were made over the last few years were met with criticism. The open mic I hosted was never embraced. As a matter of fact, only a handful of the 100 or so members ever attended in the last two years. The protest in absentia was disappointing. The open mic was created for the members to share their work. Luckily, the open mic was embraced by a diversity of local poets and I am proud to have featured such nationally known poets at Maureen Seaton, Cecilia Woloch, Ann Fisher-Wirth, Tania Rochelle, Stephen Bluestone, Jessica Care-Moore, Cherryl Floyd-Miller, Sholeh Wolpe and many others.

Before I ever joined GPS, I was warned by a number of former members that the society would do nothing to further my knowledge or appreciation of poetry. I am of two minds now. I met a number of great poets and friends during my three years in GPS, people I admire and respect. On the other hand, I also dealt with some of the most backwards, closed-minded, bigoted, doddering old farts you could imagine. The membership was polarized by the changes former president Rosemary Mauldin and I instituted, but we truly believed those changes were necessary to move the organization forward. My presence in the society was met with a mixture of welcome or hostility. My "upstart" ideas and my poetry in general was too brash, too "dirty," too political for many. The very idea of diversity was pooh-poohed as being a politically correct term with no real merit.

I also acted as webmaster, but you will see that site is now closed. I was asked to give this up as well and a new site has been created. The motto on this new site declares that GPS is "Poetry for the 21st Century." All evidence to the contrary, but I wish the organization the best and I hope they can live up to this bold statement.

Comments

BLUE said…
it's all about the journey, my friend. a change in your footsteps always means your time in the current "spot" is done. you've given all you can give; you've taken all you can take. perhaps this move gives you the open to a "bigger world" that can accommodate your lovely ideas. i see this as a celebration, really. light! ~BLUE
Anonymous said…
That's about as diplomatic as I've ever hard you. ;)

GAV
Anonymous said…
Ooops...heard. I'm blushing.

GAV
nolapoet said…
Something for everybody, dear. I think you have plenty of other outlets... and as much as poets may disagree on politics, there's a place for poets of all levels/interests... even "old farts" or the infamous "trinominate blue-haired lady laureates."

I don't know all the intrigue behind the story, but I know you'll channel your energies positively.
Larry Hand said…
Collin, Collin, Collin. As one of the old farts, I have found you both fascinating and frustrating. Years ago I read one of your columns in the Georgia Writers newsletter and said to someone, "Now that guy's a zealot." My meaning at the time was that zealots tend to slash and burn, but, in fairness, zealots also construct. While I hope I am not backwards, I do support the notion of GPS remaining within the NFSPS. And, as a novice poet, I still can't get a handle on free-verse. Yet, I also think there has to be room for the Collin Kelleys of the poetry world within GPS, and open mics are here to stay, even though I'm one of those not quite ready to stand before groups on a regular basis; just because someone doesn't show up, that doesn't mean that individual is against you. I once said that you remind me of my son, who is about your age. A once-struggling actor, he had a "take no prisoners" policy on politics and practically everything else, but he has recently settled into the corporate world as a human resources director, where he has mellowed some, but not too much. However, you also remind me in some ways of myself when I was in my 30's, a time when I was often at odds with the "old farts" of writing organizations set up to improve communications within the corporate world. I once nominated a woman (who had been the association's secretary for years)to become the first female president of the Cooperative Editorial Association. It wasn't that the other men on the board were against the idea, they just hadn't thought of it. ("But we've always had men as presidents," someone said, more puzzled than objecting.) The woman was elected, and the organization changed forever. I could also mention how I put my life on the line more than once when racism was still rampant because an older generation didn't want to change, but that's another story. Main thing I wanted to say is that you're enthusiasm and creativity are going to be missed, if not your dogged (sometimes confrontational) determination. I, along with others, wish you the best. And, someday, when you, too, are an old fart, try to remember, as you strive to maintain your own creations and contributions against youthful stalwarts who want to change them, you were once young and aggressive too. Live long and prosper, young poet.
Collin said…
Larry, thanks for those those comments. As I move into old fartdom, I plan to continue be aggressive and opinionated. There's no need for complacency. :)

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