BROOKSVILLE — It's Friday night and the gang's all … reading poetry?
It may have been 43 degrees outside, but it was warm inside Room B-104 on the Pasco-Hernando Community College North Campus, where more than 100 staffers, students, faculty and members of the community came to share their work, listen to others and maybe even earn a bit of extra credit at this fall's biannual poetry symposium.
PHCC professor emeritus Richard Downing and professor of language arts Kay McKamy coordinated the event, which has been running at the North Campus for 10 years.
More than 30 participants signed up to read, ranging from soft-spoken first-timers to published writers sharing their work with an appreciative audience.
Downing, who served as the evening's master of ceremonies, opened by reminding everyone that John Steinbeck received a "C" in writing but won the Nobel Prize in literature. Everyone has a different idea about what constitutes good writing, he said.
The symposium is an opportunity for students from PHCC's fall composition classes to share their work outside of the classroom.
"We have a good turnout," McKamy said. "Each semester, we come out with some budding poets."
Before heading to the lectern, student Colby Waters studied her poem carefully. Her older brother had composed it, and it matched the life stage of many students in the room.
"I'm on the phone with my future, finding out all that will be. I'm on the phone with possibility, discussing who I used to be … ," she read.
Veteran poet Al Svoboda pulled two poems — Tattoos and Skin and Mailbox Adventures — out of a Batman folder where he'd kept them for safekeeping. He had written them the week before and was trying them with a group for the first time.
"Before I die I'll cover myself in tattoos, eye in the back of my head, garden of roses on my feet … ," Svoboda read with a grin. "When I die, a taxidermist will cure my skin and make a set of tattoo cards. Family and friends will have a souvenir."
With something for everyone, the two-hour event was a celebration of poetry, voice and passion. Readers shared images of love and war, of dolphins and heartbreak. Some dedicated their work to loved ones. Some laughed as they read; others fought back tears.
In the audience, a woman in a long-sleeve purple shirt listened for inspiration. She carefully jotted notes into a spiral-bound notebook before returning it to her canvas bag.
Bringing along a blanket and a small stash of toys, 3-year-old James Smith attended the event with his mother, Claudia Caceres.
He practiced dropping a small plastic pig and enjoyed the soft thump it made when it landed on the floor.
When each poet was done, James clapped with the audience.
Shary Lyssy Marshall can be reached at email@example.com.