Staff Meetings, Poetry, and Why We Do What We Do

Karen Shoemaker

Friday, September 25, 2020

Our Larksong staff meetings, even the long ones requiring close attention to long and detailed legal documents, are as close to what they could be to a dream I might have had about how staff meetings should go – if I’d ever dreamed about staff meetings at all. We’re reasonably organized: we set an agenda for each meeting, but we write it in pencil because, well, Life. We know we need to roll with whatever it throws our way. We understand the importance of living integrated lives. Needs of Larksong, of family, of our creative dreams and plans, all deserve attention when the attention is needed, not just when we “have” time for it.

This morning’s meeting, for example, was to be dedicated entirely to reviewing the documents needed for completing our application for non-profit status, but first Linda had a poem revision in want of attention, one that she had been working on since the workshop with Grace Bauer last weekend (the beauty of Grace’s teaching is the time-release quality of it. The lessons just keep on giving). So, we added time for poetry to our agenda. That seems not only reasonable for an organization dedicated to the literary arts, but necessary to it. Plus it was down-right fun to play with poetry for a while!

As we were wrapping up our “pop-up” poetry workshop, one of us commented that we really know how to curate a staff meeting, and the other one said, “I love that word, ‘curate’.” Well that sent us down the ever-inviting rabbit hole of etymology. We had to track down the origin of the word. Turns out it comes from the Latin word cura, meaning “care.” On its way to English, via Old French, it took on the meaning of “looking after” and eventually led to the English word “cure.” In the odd way of language development, the word also gave birth to both “curious” and our word of the day, “curate.”

The modern definition of the noun “curate” includes “one responsible for the care of souls.” The verb means “to act as a curator for” – to select, organize, and look after the items, performers, or performances in an arts event or program.

It struck us that that’s not too far off from what we do here at Larksong – we select and organize and make things happen for writers. That the word we were drawn to encompasses the idea of caring for souls, not just offering classes and reading, gives you an idea of how seriously we take our work, even when we get distracted by poetry or other stories.

Though we didn’t plan it, that diversion was the perfect entryway into the task actually on our agenda for the day: reviewing 40-plus pages of by-laws and other legal documents. The meaning of every word became even more important, though not necessarily as entertaining. We knew we were in for a long slog when we turned our attention to the task, but having that word “curate” in our pockets as we set off on that journey of precise and belabored reading seemed to make the trip easier. It was a reminder of why we’re doing what we do and who we’re doing it for – we belong to a community of literary minded people, writers who love words as much as we do, and our mission is to care for – to curate – this small acre of that community – the one we named Larksong and are loving into being, one productive, meandering staff meeting at a time.


Larksong is committed to supporting both the writers who come to us for instruction and the writers who come to us to teach. We keep our class fees low, offer free programming, and pay our instructors. Please consider supporting our mission by making a tax-deductible donation.