Some of you will know that every week at one of our store locations (Sparks, if you are interested) we have a group run that I am in charge of. And every week for this particular group run I put a different poem out on the table. I call this weekly rotating selection of poetry, “Verse of the Week.” You may not know, however, how this started.
When I was first put in charge of these store runs I knew that having a community gathering for runners was important and valuable- not just to the store, but to the running community at large. I knew I could choose to treat it as such or I could just check the box and hold the run. I’m not really a “just check the box” kind of fellow so I asked myself, “what do communities need?” I knew they needed to gather (we all need each other), I knew they needed to be listened to (everyone needs to be heard), and I knew that they needed poetry.
Everyone needs poetry. It’s something I’ve always been convinced of. I think one of the reasons is that we all have things that we cannot express “directly” as it were in plain words. Things inside need to come out sometimes and while running can help us immensely with our emotions we need to know that we are not alone. Poetry can be a vehicle for that work. It gives us glimpses into many different voices.
So every week I look at the calendar. Every week I think about what runners have told me. Every week I consider the news. I think about what people need to say. I think about what people need to hear. I think about what events need to be remembered. Then, I pick a poem, print it out, and put it on the table by the sign up sheet and all the suggested running route maps. This is the, “Verse of the Week.”
I rarely announce it to my beloved group of runners. I do not think I have ever read it out loud (well, perhaps to one or two curious children who were still learning to read). I go out of my way to find poems written by women, minorities, professional runners, and even sometimes poems written by children. The poems are often about running, but certainly not always. They are little expressions about us as humans and they can, if you listen, tell us more about how we are alike than how we are different.
I know that many of us do not spend much time with poetry. I know that it can seem unfamiliar and strange. I also know it can be deep and beautiful- just like running. I know that the movement of running is a sort of poetic expression when we do not have words. But I know we need words. I also know that I love my weekly group of runners and I want to do the things for them that others did for me (and some things that maybe no one ever thought to do at all). So as long as I can I will always say hello, lend my ear, brew the coffee, and put out poetry. I trust that it will have its effect. And while we cannot meet every week right now, I will be so happy when we can. And you better believe that I have been thinking about what to put out on that day for the Verse of the Week.