Corrections or additions?

This article by Pat Summers was prepared for the April 10, 2002

edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Keeping Cool for Poetry Month

The situation just oozes with poetic justice: At the

height of national poetry month, the "Cool Women" poets are

back, in person and in print. In both mediums, they continue to

demonstrate

that the only thing better than one right-on poet is seven of them

— so let’s hear it for the "Cool Women," who will

introduce

their new poetry anthology at Barnes & Noble in April.

About five years ago, the seven poets — most of them published

far more widely than the Princeton-Rocky Hill neighborhoods they share

in common — began meeting once a month to critique one another’s

work. The sessions were congenial as well as helpful, and the poets

continued the practice.

Then to mark Valentine’s day, 2000, Princeton’s Micawber Books invited

them to read their work. The story goes that these "women of a

certain age" decided they needed a group name to dispel any notion

that they wrote a "Roses are red" variety of poetry. They

settled on "Cool Women," and read some revelatory poetry of

varying temperatures, including hot — to great acclaim.

Their packed debut (U.S. 1, February 9, 2000) created, in effect,

a performance and critique collective. And the agenda for the monthly

critique sessions grew to include discussion of performance venues

and talk about the books.

Before long, "Cool Women, Volume One" (c. 2001) came along.

Now nearly sold out, the book contains 60-some poems, in three

categories,

by the seven poets. "Accessible" can be a

damning-with-faint-praise

critical term, but where poetry’s concerned, it can only be good news,

causing skeptics and outright poetry-haters to re-think their

antipathy,

and maybe even move into the pro-poem camp.

These women live life, and write about it. The light they shine on

their own experiences illuminates our own. Love, marriage, illness;

families, landscapes, nature; and occasional literary or art allusions

— it’s all there. Unrhymed verse is the rule; raggedy lines and

irregular verses are common. And eminently readable.

More writing and critiquing, and more public readings followed the

first book, and now it’s almost time for "Cool Women, Volume

Two."

On Tuesday, April 16, the second book will be launched at Barnes &

Noble, MarketFair. Needing no poetic license, Eloise Bruce, Carolyn

Foote Edelmann, Lois Marie Harrod, Betty Lies, Joyce Grenberg Lott,

Judy Michaels, and Penelope Scambly Schott plan a

"read-around,"

taking turns reading from their work.

In the last year, Schott and her husband, Eric Sweetman, formerly

a physicist with Lucent Technologies, became casualties of the area’s

job cutbacks and moved to Oregon. Penelope now commutes to the

Princeton

area for group performances and critique sessions. (Now that’s

cool.)

Eloise Bruce, one-seventh of the "Cool Women" and the poet

who handles such matters as bar codes, was asked recently if she ever

expected Volume Two. "Yes! Now when you order the ISBN numbers,

you have to buy 10 of them," she explains. So even before the

first volume appeared, she had told her fellow poets to get set for

nine more.

A "Cool Women" anthology starts with everyone submitting 10

or so poems. Then volunteers select and sequence the work to be

included,

or re-type for uniformity, or proof, or publicize the volume. Cover

designs are the work of Gary Lott, husband of a cool woman. (His first

cover featured a waterfall over a high, rocky cliff; the second cover

is more abstract, in warmer tones of orange and yellow. Whether that

design presages the work inside remains to be seen.)

So next week it will be Volume Two, or as one of Bruce’s poems puts

it:

The key in the door shines.

Come in. The poem is just here. Come inside.

Since the group’s first anthology, member Judy Michaels

has published her own, "The Forest of Wild Hands," while

Eloise

Bruce has contracted for one, "My People," due out from

Cavenkerry

Press in Fall, 2003.

Married to a poet, Southern-born Bruce, who lives in Lawrenceville,

began in the theater, only switching to poetry about a decade ago.

Her professional experience and master’s degrees in English and

directing

have all fed into her current writing, where her background in

Shakespeare

shows — although her language is contemporary, his music is in

her ears, she says.

Bruce is the first writer in her family. Although she often starts

with autobiography, she fictionalizes it to make a poem work;

"poetic

truth" results. "My mother always said, `I want you to write

our family story,’ and god, she’d turn over in her grave to see what

I did. She may have thought of a big history novel, but that’s not

what I’m about," she says.

Many of her days are taken up, happily, involved with writing programs

in New Jersey public schools. She is a member of the artist team for

ACES (Arts Create Excellence in Education), affiliated with the New

Jersey Writers Project, and on the roster of Young Audiences of New

Jersey. Are kids resistant, Bruce is asked. "I find a way in.

If a kid says `No’ to me, I say, `What about, what about, what about.

. .’"

A board member of the Trenton Museum Society that governs Ellarslie,

the Trenton City Museum, Bruce developed and directs the docent

program

there. In 1998, she was awarded a fellowship in poetry by the State

Council on the Arts. For about five years, Bruce was also

self-employed

as a caterer, only recently letting her license lapse.

I will dish up a broth delicate

as the memory of wind

in this past summer’s grass, bread

toothsome as the joy of a blue moon.

Judging by Eloise Bruce, today’s cool woman is a multi-tasker

as well as a poet. See and hear — and maybe read — for

yourself

at Barnes & Noble on Tuesday, April 16.

— Pat Summers

Cool Women, Barnes & Noble, MarketFair,

609-897-9250.

"Cool Women" poetry group returns with a new anthology of

poems. Members are Eloise Bruce, Carolyn Foote Edelmann, Lois Marie

Harrod, Betty Lies, Judith Michaels, and Penelope Schott. Free.

Tuesday,

April 16, 7 p.m.


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