Last month I was invited to read at a poetry event at the Torrington campus of the University of Connecticut. I lived most of my adult life in Torrington, and welcomed the opportunity to see some familiar faces. The event, sponsored by the Litchfield County Writers Project, was billed as Creative Sustenance, an annual fundraiser for the Food Pantry and the Torrington Community Soup Kitchen. There was an open mike session, followed by several hours of readings from invited poets. One of those poets was Cheryl Della Pelle, an old friend from a poetry group I used to belong to. She opened with this tiny poem:
And still we bump into things…
I thought to myself, “Yes, thankfully.” Let me explain.
Yesterday, I was roaming Bellevue Cemetery in Adams, Massachusetts. A man in New Jersey emailed me and asked me to photograph the gravesites of his parents and several other ancestors. I had a rough map that showed the section where they were buried, but I still had to walk past hundreds of gravestones in search of the right ones.
A man who was mowing the grass on a riding mower drove by and shouted, “Hey, Joe. Need some help?” He looked vaguely familiar, but I didn’t remember his name. Though I live an hour from Adams, I have become a familiar figure in the North Berkshire area, having written two books about North Adams.
I told him what I was doing, and he said: “No problem. If you’ve got five minutes, I’ll run up to the office and get a detailed map. That’ll make it easy.” He headed off, and I just smiled. This stuff happens to me all the time. I am always bumping into things.
Like when I bumped into the above-mentioned poetry group. One of my daughters attended UConn Torrington back in 1995 and 1996. She was writing poetry for an English class taught by Davyne Verstandig. I liked my daughter’s poems and tried writing some myself. The first one was Gig at the Amtrak, which was inspired by an article I read about jazz musician Hank Mobley, who died of pneumonia after living his last days as a homeless man at a Philadelphia train station.
My daughter liked the poem and invited me to attend a poetry group meeting that took place once a month. I did, and met Davyne and Cheryl. I read my poem, got lots of compliments, and returned the following month. In between, I made my first visit to North Adams, wrote several poems about the city, and brought them to the next meeting. Everyone liked them, and Davyne told me, “You should write a book about North Adams.”
I’ve been bumping into things ever since. And loving it.