★ On pace with Blue Hippo Poetry Club’s Sam Lafaye

Being a real fan of something can make life a much richer experience. You study it and learn its intricacies. It’s an opening to new worlds. Then when you get together with other like-minded folks, things really start to happen. The energy is infectious. We learn from each other in a common bond. Understanding leaps.

There’s a local dinner group for fans of poetry and for those who want to try to go deeper. The club has a fun name, and Sam Lafaye, the organizing force behind the effort, fills us on how it works.

BOOK CITY ★ Roanoke: What’s Blue Hippo?
Sam Lafaye: Blue Hippo Poetry Club is a potluck gathering of new and old friends who share a passion for poetry old or new. Occasionally we’ll have someone who has written a poem.

BCR: How’d the name come about?
SL: One of our members read an original poem that described a blue hippo lying on the beach, their skin changing to a blue tint. I thought that was a cool scene, and hence we called it the Blue Hippo Poetry Club.

BCR: How does the club work?
SL: We had a potluck dinner, and asked everyone to bring a favorite poem. Everyone responded how cool the idea was, and said that they wanted more gatherings. It’s been going for over 3 years.  We use to do i, every month, but now we hold one every three months to match the changing seasons.

BCR: Who’s in the club?
SL: We have over 35 members, but not all appear at once. We have eight to ten members show up, while others miss due to conflicts in their schedules.  All of members are from different parts of the country and have professions such as nurses, teachers, retirees, veterans, and federal employees, etc.

BCR: Where do you meet?
SL: Most of our gatherings are in members’ homes. We always have a potluck theme such as vegan, Italian, Mexican, pizza, or wings, etc.  We ask old members to begin to read their poems, and allow new members to get comfortable with the setting. 

BCR: What first got you interested in poetry?
SL: Angela Charlton recommended a book How to Read a Poem:  And Fall in Love With Poetry by Edward Hirsch (DoubleTake Books, 1999). It changed my perspective on understanding poetry. No other teacher gave me this insight when I was in high school or college.  The book lit my imagination.  

BCR: Do you have a favorite poet?
SL: Billy Collins is my go to guy. He’s funny and there’s a way he looks at life that shows it is okay it’s all going to work out.  But I don’t want to lean on one poet. I like to discover new poets. I encourage members in the group to explore different poets as well.

BCR: How do you spend your time outside of reading poetry?
SL: I enjoy history, biography, historical novels, science fiction, visiting museums, running, biking, yoga, cooking, and traveling.  

BCR: You’re a runner—a marathon runner, in fact. How does poetry interact with your physical practice?
SL: Poetry lifted me from being lazy…maybe I just needed a kick in the butt.  I used lines from poetry to help push myself beyond my limit. In every race, I remind myself that I have taken the road less traveled, and look where I am, and inspire other runners to push a little further no matter how tired they are.  

BCR: How about others that need that inspiration? Do you have room for more participants?
SL: We always have openings, we don’t have a limit, and we welcome everyone.  The more diverse the better, and we especially welcome those who are not afraid to challenge themselves.  

BCR: That’s great. Thanks, Sam, for your work building this community.

Challenge yourself to meet new people and go deeper with poetry with the Blue Hippo Poetry Club. Use the form below to be put on the invitation list.

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