Georgia Poetry Society reaches out to students

In a world captivated by visual distraction, to find a retreat where the written word holds sway seems an alluring discovery.

I made such a “find” recently when I came upon the website for the Georgia Poetry Society. I had been helping some teenagers with college application essays and realized even the brightest students sometimes had difficulty putting their thoughts into words. I hoped exposing them to good poetry might inspire their essays. My computer search yielded some helpful sources, but to find a local one right here in my own north Fulton area was exciting!

The Georgia Poetry Society (GPS) was founded more than 30 years go by the late poets and friends, Edward Davin Vickers and Charles J. Bruehler. These days the society has close to 200 members from across the state, including some from other parts of the U.S. According to GPS president Sandy Hokanson, the Society holds quarterly meetings focusing on poetry workshops, readings and guest speakers. Additional poetry conferences and festivals are also held around the state, bringing poets and poetry lovers together to critique and improve each other’s work.

“Being involved in workshops is essential to becoming a good poet,” Hokanson, a Johns Creek resident and award-winning poet, explained to me. “Most poetry is really raw at the beginning, so poets need honest feedback to improve their poetry.”

I am personally no poet, but after spending some lonely formative years meditating in the Connecticut woods, I developed a fondness for American poets Emily Dickinson, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Robert Frost. The revolutionary potential of poetry exposed itself as I studied world history. Simple rhymes helped me calm my children when I was a young mother, and more complex poems have given new meaning to my middle years.

+In addition to publishing an anthology, GPS sends out newsletters detailing activities and interesting events in various Georgia towns, colleges and libraries. They hold numerous contests throughout the year, with a major emphasis on youth work. “The main thing we do for students is to reach out to the schools by offering free poetry readings and workshops,” explained Hokanson. In fact, by contacting Paul Samuels, Chair of the Poetry in Schools Project at GPS, teachers can schedule a GPS poet to visit the school (his contact information is on the web site at

Hokanson invites new members at any time, and urges interested parties to view the new GPS website for more information. “Our Macon meeting at Mercer College features Georgia poet laureate Judson Mitcham and Alabama poet laureate Sue Walker,” she said, “and the panel discussion revolves around the question ‘Is poetry dead, and if so, what can we do about it?”

Clearly, the Georgia Poetry Society gives those with a passion for poetry a special home, where the ability to create original, captivating and compelling verse has value, and where poetry can be celebrated and preserved.