Valentine Love Poems Reading at Waverley Writers
(Journal Entry: Friday, February 2, 1990)

By Peter Y. Chou

Three weeks ago, Bob Evans phoned to inform me that I've been selected along with five other local poets to do a Round Robin Love Poems Reading at Waverley Writers. He says, "Don't bring poems on I love my dog or I love my books." I ask him about Dante's love for Beatrice, and Bob tells me, "That's sublimated love." I reply, "The Divine Comedy is the greatest love poem in the world." Bob reminds me, "For this reading, we want flesh and blood!"

On Sunday, January 21, we met at Auriel Yost's house in Los Altos. For four hours, we shared our love poems and arranged a program of 40 poems to be read within 45 minutes. To save time, we didn't introduce each poem with anectodal stories, so that one poem would flow into another. We mixed themes on sex, color tones, father, and grief. I made up some flyers using postcards of Cupid & Psyche and posted them in local libraries and Foothill College.

Kevin Arnold, Vassar Smith, Melinda Jean, Muriel Karr, Auriel Yost, and I are sitted in the front of the room at the Friend's Meeting House, 957 Colorado, Palo Alto. A crowd of some 60 people have come, the largest we've had for a poetry reading here. Bob Evans introduces us, and Kevin starts off with a "Dedication" poem to his wives, loves, and near-loves. Vassar's "Threnody" is a touching grief poem about the death of his son Chris. Melinda sounds as if she's about to cry when reading "Bitter Life", in memory of her brother who died in November. Muriel's "Loving You in Mid-Air" is so lyrical and romantic. Auriel's "Playtime" with Teddy Bear and Raggedy Ann is pure psychodrama. I read "Last Bus, First Love" written in desperation just twelve days ago. Now the whole house is roaring with laughter and loud applause. Terry Adams would say later in Dick Maxwell's poetry workshop, "Peter's bus poem was the closest to a standing ovation poem I've seen that's read at Waverley Writers." I thank the bus driver for the poetic punch line, and honor my first love for getting it finally written:


Time dilates hours of love into seconds
and evening kisses soar away like swans.
After countless delayed goodbyes, I rush
breathless down Commonwealth Ave to catch
the midnight trolley at Cleveland Circle,
the last ride from Brighton to Cambridge.
No carriage turning to pumpkin this time
as I leap on board just as the door closes.

The busdriver stares at me and asks:
"What if you had missed this bus?"
I tell him what she had told me:
"If you should miss the last bus,
come back here and sleep overnight."
The bus comes to a halting stop.
He opens the door and says to me:
"Tell her you've missed the bus."

My favorite poem of tonight's reading is "Sword in the Well" which Stacy Smith recited from memory. It's his first time here, and he has that samurai spirit look in him. Afterwards, Vassar Smith asks Stacy for a copy of his poem, saying "Your poem has an iambic pentameter beat that trails off at the end. I could help you fix it up." Stacy says, "I've never written this poem down on paper. It came to me in a dream, and I don't want to mess around with it." Later some of the poets go to an Italian restaurant in Mountain View— Frankie Johnnie & Luigi Too.

I find myself sitting next to Stacy, and we chat. After telling him about my career change from biochemistry to poetry, I ask Stacy to tell me about himself. He says, "Not yet, I want to hear more about your protein research. I can't believe that you've quit your career nine years ago, and talk about it as though you're still active in it." I tell him, "I've devoted ten years of my life to elucidating protein structures and its amino acid sequences as nature's language of life. When Joseph Campbell told Bill Moyers that 'poetry is a language to be penetrated' in order to express the ineffable transcendental experience, I felt that I've not left my field at all. I'm still deciphering the mysteries of life, but am doing it through poetry instead of proteins."

Stacy, then confides in me, "Peter, last week, Bank of America honored me at a black tie dinner as the third best salesman in the Bay Area. I quit my job as a high school teacher ten years ago so I could make more money in the financial world. My boss and co-workers admire me for my work, and you know what?— as they were toasting me with applauses, wishing me bigger successes in the future, I felt empty inside. Sure, outwardly I'm financially successful, but spiritually, I'm a failure inside. I console Stacy, "The sword poem you recited at Waverley Writers impressed me more than any other poems read tonight. It could have only come from someone who has spiritual awareness. Keep it up and follow your bliss." I tell Stacy that his poem reminds me of Master Uyeshiba, the founder of Aikido, and will send him the story. Stacy says he'll write down his sword poem and mail it to me. On Valentine's Day, February 14th, Stacy Smith sends me a letter with his poem handwritten down for the first time. He tells me, that our talk after Waverley Writers inspired him to change his life. He resigned from his Bank of America finance job the following Monday, and decided to begin a new career as a youth counselor and to follow his bliss.

I've selected this story among many from my experience at Waverley Writers. This group of dedicated poets have helped me grow as a writer and poet. I thank foremost Dick Maxwell, whose Thursday Poetry Workshops at Foothill College (1987-1995) put my poetry drafts in the alchemical furnace turning them from lead to gold. I'm grateful to the poets in Dick's class who helped in crafting my poems so they sparkled at the Waverley readings and for publication in Fresh Hot Bread: Kathy Abelson, Terry Adams, Len Anderson, Valerie Berry, Janel Burnett, Mary-Marcia Casoly, Elizabeth Biller Chapman, Gail Clark, Denise Garlow, Muriel Karr, Jacklyn Marderosian, Peter Robinson, Eve Sutton, and Auriel Yost.

Waverley Writers: Reincarnation Story

I thank Mary-Marcia Casoly who sent me an email, snail mail, and a phone
message asking me to contribute to Waverley Writer's 25th Anniversary book:
"We'd like you to write up something perhaps with an enlightened, spiritual
or philosophical angle on poetry and your experience with Waverley."
Luckily, I found my old journal notes and contributed this story.

Some poems read at Waverley Writers are posted on my web site:

| Top of Page | Peter's Poems | Poetry Gallery | Poems Index |
| CPITS | Poetry Resources | Poetry News | A-Z Portals | Home |

© Peter Y. Chou,
P.O. Box 390707, Mountain View, CA 94039
email: (6-4-2005)