Poetry StartUp

Sarah Ehrich is a former Match Corps. She has gone on to become a poet, and a writing instructor, and also runs a creative writing program for Boston teenagers. Recently Sarah interviewed the poet Gail Mazur, for Ploughshares. It's a story about a beginning. I like those stories. This beginning was that of a poetry series.

Mazur, a young mom at the time, recalls:

One day, Robert Lowell came in and I was breathless. Gordon, who was crotchety, said, “Cal”—that was Lowell’s nickname—“Cal, this is Gail Mazur, she’s a poet too.” And I thought, I never in a million years would have said I’m a poet. I thought, you know, there’s got to be a long apprenticeship before you can say that, and you’ve got to be past even that. I don’t remember the conversation. All I remember is that Gordon was tongue-tied around Lowell, and when he left, Gordon said, “Poor Cal, I can never think of a thing to say to him.” [Laughter.]

After Elsa brought me there, I went to the Grolier every day. I was just addicted to it really. My kids were in day camp and I would go there. At four o’clock I would fall into a bar with some other regulars, and at five o’clock I’d be home making supper. Because I had gotten married when I was an undergraduate, it was almost like a second childhood. Something like the way I would have imagined living if I hadn’t gotten married. For those few hours every day. And I thought I was on my way to becoming a street person because I hung out all the time. But in fact, I was a Jewish mother. And a Jewish daughter. [Laughter.]

My children were born twenty months apart, so they were very close, and I was very involved with them. Life was pretty engaging. But I think that running the series, I couldn’t have predicted that it was going to put me at such ease in the poetry world. You know, if the Grolier was going to close, I really wanted there to be something in its place, because I had found where I really wanted to be.....

I went to the director of the Cambridge Center for Adult Education, Alida O’Loughlin, who also met with this group at the Unitarian Church every Thursday, and I said, “Can I have a space for poetry?” I don’t know what I was thinking of, a poetry room or something. Alida said, “Well I can give you the Blacksmith House one night a week. On Monday nights.” And I said OK. And I thought, I’ll do this for a couple of weeks.

And so it began. Blacksmith House, pictured above, is a building you probably recognize if you're familiar with Harvard Square. (The building has its own secrets).

Mazur's experience reminds me of Match alum Dana Ruff, one of our first students. He often hosts poetry readings and other performances. Whereas Mazur would put flyers up on streetlights in Harvard Square, I find out about Dana's events on Facebook.