Section: Arts

‘House of Toast’ poets discuss finding their identities

‘House of Toast’ poets discuss finding their identities

by Erica Rabito

For many across the United States and the globe, writing poetry is merely a fun hobby. For some, however, the hobby transforms into a lifelong passion. On Sunday, Nov. 1, Ohio poets Fred Andrle, Charlene Fix and Jerry Roscoe gathered at the Kenyon Bookstore to discuss the process of transitioning from writing poetry casually to being considered a full-fledged poet, and what it means to be a poet.

Moderated by Gambier-based XOXOX Press publisher Jerry Kelly ’96, Andrle, Fix and Roscoe each read selections from their works and discussed with the small but attentive crowd how they came to be involved in the world of poetry. For Fix, the passion for writing began at an extremely young age.

“I started writing poems when I was eight and that’s because I had a third-grade teacher who had us write poems, and she and I discovered that I could meter use and rhyme,” Fix said. “I think I’ve been writing poems ever since. I took a long break when I had children — I didn’t write a poem for 10 years, but I was thinking about it a lot, and then I suddenly started buying reams and reams of paper, and then I started writing again.”

Roscoe, however, began writing significantly later in life, while working two other jobs.

“I wrote my first poem when I was 23, and in a way that was a help because I thought, ‘Boy, I’m getting into this so late, I can write whatever I want,’” Roscoe said. “I’m not competing with these kids who have been doing this for 15 years.’ Letting reality speak for itself — that’s when I knew I was a writer.”

Regardless of when these poets first began writing, they are now all members of the “House of Toast,” a group of Ohio-based poets founded in 1995 as a way for writers to share their work with a group and receive feedback and criticism in a safe and encouraging environment. At the panel Andrle described the activities and dynamic of the group, and how it has continued to promote his writing and the writing of its other members.

“We’ve been meeting once a month for 19 years to critique each other’s poems,” Andrle said. “What we do is meet, and then we discuss the poem and offer suggestions for how the poem may be improved. We give advice in a very generous and friendly manner, I think, and we’ve established a certain level of trust in each other over the years.”

With the help of their fellow House of Toast members, all three poets have published multiple books of their poems, and in doing so have found a way to share their art and their passion with the world. According to Andrle, however, the “poet”  label doesn’t matter. “We write because we love to write,” he said.


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