Russell Buker Holds Poetry Workshop at Calais Bookshop

By Lura Jackson

Russell Buker (center) describes the variations of meaning in poetry to participants of the poetry workshop at the Calais Bookshop on Saturday. (Photo by Lura Jackson).

On Saturday 26th, prolific local poet and beloved retired teacher Russell Buker held a poetry workshop at the Calais Bookshop. Attendees were led through lively group discussions and poem analyses while taking a few moments to self-examine their own identities as writers.

 The workshop began with an open discussion on the opportunities for poetry (both organized and spontaneous) in the modern world, including being a writer-in-residence, writing zines (self-published, free-of-charge journals) or blogs, and hosting events (such as Soup and Poetry Night). “We need to get people to share poetry more,” Buker says. “The problem is that most writers are kind of withdrawn.” He continued with further suggestions such as incorporating poetry readings and workshops in jails and schools.

Buker proceeded to guide the participants through a brief analysis of their own relationships with writing and poetry. “Why do you write?” He asked the group, waiting expectantly for each individual to finish writing their responses in a routine familiar to any of his many former pupils in the area. As the responses were read, a feeling of kinship began to grow amongst the group, inspired by the increasingly apparent shared appreciation of the written word.

Following a few more questions, Buker read from the earlier works of well-known poets, leading the group through an examination of style and meaning. “We all have our own backgrounds, and everybody’s personal background gives a different meaning to each poem.” He then shared some of his own poems, written a few days prior in his characteristic style that is simultaneously rich and simplistic.

For his part, Buker writes from “a voice within that will not be stilled.” His retirement from teaching English at Shead prompted the writing of five books of poetry over three years. With a dozen books now available and two more in the works, his inner voice clearly remains active—and with his demonstrated ongoing commitment to the local literary community, his outer one continues to be as well.