It was a gray day in July when several members of the staff and I set out for Muskegon. A few glasses of lemonade and couple cookies later, we were strolling through the life of nationally-known poet Judith Minty.
When she and her dog, River, greeted us at the door, I could not stop thinking “What a neat lady…and what a neat house!” She might as well have charged us admission because the inside of the house was a cross between an art gallery, a library, and a shrine dedicated to her favorite poets. Beautiful pieces of art adorned every wall.
Minty read us her poetry out loud — our own personal reading! We gained so much from connecting a face with the poems and were able to see firsthand emotions that were poured into every single word of them.
Next, Minty gave us advice on writing poetry. When asked how she begins to write a poem, she explained that for her it usually begins with a feeling or emotion that drives the poem and motivates her to work on it. Minty likes to get ideas for poems from memories or her dream journal. These eventually are turned into strange and fantastic poems! A trip to the Yellow Dog River (like her yellow dog, River,) may even be in order for some inspiration, mostly for her poems about nature and animals, especially bears.
We learned that other poets, including William Carlos Williams, also inspire Minty. She tends to use line breaks as seen in William’s poetry. William’s said, “A poem should not mean, but be.” I believe Minty’s poetry reflects this. She says her poetry has no real organization, but it has meaning that allows everything to fall into place. Also, Minty sometimes does not realize what she is doing until after it is done. This is common among poets, as elements like consonance, metaphors, and alliteration sound good, but are sometimes not purposely placed.
Minty was able to show us one of her poems in progress, and we were excited about how it would turn out. She claims, “I really know nothing about poetry.” Obviously, she is just being humble. And perhaps she does mean that when one considers all the poems written throughout history and all the techniques and inspiration poured into their creation, there is much that anyone — even a poet of Minty’s stature — can not know. But we believe, by reading her outstanding poems and listening to her knowing voice, that she is very, very wrong.