WOMPO - What It Is

My next blog will be a report on two get-togethers by members of Wompo, a virtual group of writers I have grown to know and love. The purpose of that blog is  to document the events for the people who were there, but before I go there, here is my personal take on the group.

WOMPO is short for WOMEN'S POETRY LISTSERV, a virtual group that has been around since 1997 and which I joined in 2003, at the invitation of Claire Keyes. For the previous two years, I had been marching, laughing, and crying alongside my sister, whom I accompanied until her death by Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2002. To say she marched bravely does not begin to describe that journey. Meanwhile I was hanging on to my tenured job in Ohio and supposedly looking for a job in the Boston area, where I finally moved without a job to be with my husband Paul. So I had been what my writer friend Ann Harleman, who moved coast to coast, once called being "the erstwhile wife." Only by then, I was just "the wife," which I had never been identified as before. Never mind I had started a creative writing program at the college I had been at 18 years, that I had run a writers workshop in a medium security prison, gave papers, published three books, advised. The local writers wouldn't even let me into the visiting writers prison program. (They finally did, in 2011, as I was leaving. Whatever you have heard of New Englanders being slow to warm, drop the temperature by 32 degrees, and you have it.)

But every morning, I went to my computer, tuned into the Wompo list serve, and there, waiting was a stack of messages from people all over the world (mostly U.S., but individuals in France, New Zealand, and Iran chime in), all discussing women's poetry-- current, historical, their own, famous, infamous. There were little tiffs and people got huffy and left and came back, but for a year or so, they were my sole poetry community.

A few years later, the group put together a book of WOMPO poems, Letters to the World, totally produced by three editors (and a stable of copyeditors and helpers from the group) and published by Red Hen Press. In the course of a book launch at AWP and promoting the book with readings, many of us who had only met virtually got to meet F2F, as we say, and much as I liked the virtual community, I loved the faces, gestures, the very bodies of the people.

Then in 2010 I came "Home Again" to Ohio, but remained grateful and loyal to Wompo and continue to check in there every morning, even though Wompo is not quite as small and intimate as it once was and some of its old-timers whom I love have left.

So this summer, when I was back  in Massachusetts for a month, I thought it would be great to see some of those faces and bodies again, especially since one of them, Zara Raab, from California, was in the state for the season. I incited two meetings of the group, whose doings I record here for me, for them, for any of you interested in Women's Poetry and poets, whom all of these people are.

If you are interested in the group, check out the link I opened with or their archives, which are here and look for them on Facebook, where you can photos of the two events I now will relate, dear reader.

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