On Saturday I attended a retirement party -- not your usual end-of-a-long-career celebration - but a retirement party for the Irradiated Poets. For those who don't know, this group held poetry gatherings out at the old Trojan Nuclear plant before that relic was sent into retirement via demolition. With Trojan as the focal point, and with poetry as a way to unite, the group created an unusual form of its own energy.
The "retirement" party was a way to connect with folks, say, "what's up for you these days" and talk about old times. What I didn't see was any retirement going on. The group took a bit to warm up - after all, this wasn't a meeting at Trojan, but at a local pub -- and after a short while of socializing and eating, poets began to read their stuff. We took turns reading old and new poems, laughing, giving raucous rounds of applause and genuinely celebrating some sort of retirement.
For me, the best part was in the recognition that most poets never retire from poetry. Somehow, the words, the lines and the opportunity to bring them alive by reading aloud removes any thoughts of retirement. Bravo for groups like the Irradiated Poets who bring folks together for the sake of poetry. Cheers for group leaders who know when it's time to end an era, and thank god for poets who keep writing long after everyone else retires!