Gary Stephens’ words chimed through Michigan Institute for Contemporary Artgallery.

“The meeting had a leaden tone,

Mind-numbing from the constant drone.

Time stretched out like an endless loop.

My eyelids lost their will to droop.

I open eyes with starting jerk.

Surprised to find I’m still at work…”

This was a meeting of the Lansing Poetry Club. Stephens of Eaton Rapids was reading his poem “Meeting, The Challenge,” during the event’s open mic.

“It’s an odd situation being a poet,” he said. “If you don’t share it, nobody ever hears it, so you have to have a little bit of ego to get it out to the public, but you don’t want to be an egomaniac about it, either. It’s a line you walk.”

It’s a line that Lansing Poetry Club members have been walking since 1938.

When Ruelaine Stokes wrote her first poem in high school, she had no idea it would develop into a lifelong passion.

“Poetry has tremendously enriched my life,” Stokes, a Lansing resident, said. “I think all of the arts make our lives much richer, and they make it possible for us to transcend the really hard and tough aspects of life.”

Now, Stokes is the president of the Lansing Poetry Club.

“I’ve been writing poetry and coordinating for a really long time in the area, and I was drafted,” she explained. “The club was looking for leadership, and I had come to a few meetings, and I didn’t intend to take a position here, but it’s a wonderful organization.”

Stokes is fairly new to the club. She took on the role of vice president in May and was voted president just this month. The club

meets the third Tuesday of every month at in Old Town at the Michigan Institute for Contemporary Art.

Attendance at the monthly meetings is free and open to the public. Audience members are treated to a poetry reading from a featured guest, followed by an open mic reading.

The featured guest last week was Dan Matson of DeWitt, who gave a reading titled “The Art of Art,” after his book by the same title.

“I’ve taken all the disciplines of art and made poetic statements about them in my book,” said Matson, who has been a member for 20 years. “Reading here gives me an opportunity to share the work I’ve done.”

New members are very welcome. It’s a chance to not only experience great poetry, members say, but to build meaningful relationships.

“We’re all trying to get down on paper our impressions and feelings and sense of place for our poetry, so just being together means a lot to me,” said Leonard Peterson of East Lansing, a member for two decades, “and I’ve always felt that very strongly.”

“I always look forward to coming.”

How to go: The Lansing Poetry Club meets at 5:30 p.m. the third Tuesday of every month at MICA Gallery in Old Town at 1210 Turned Street, Lansing. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/lansingpoetryclub.

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Lansing Poetry Club president Ruelaine Stokes reads her poem “I remember the far-off sky, blue and blazing.”
Anne Erickson/LSJ