Celebrating 25 Years of ‘Poem for the Day’ with Larry Robinson
By Laura Hagar Rush, Townsy Media, February 26, 2021
Larry Robinson has been providing a poem a day for readers in west county for 25 years.
He started out by sending poems to his extensive email list of friends and fellow poetry fans. When WaccoBB, west county’s long-running bulletin board, set up shop 15 years ago, Robinson began posting a poem a day there. Now that WaccoBB has closed, Robinson is posting his Poem for the Day on Townsy Café, the discussion board for the Townsy Sebastopol app, where it quickly became one of the app’s most popular features.
Though he writes poetry himself, most of the poems he posts are written by other poets.
How does he choose?
“It’s very subjective,” said Robinson, who has lived in west county since 1976. “I spend some time in poetry every morning, and the poem that speaks to me the loudest that day is the one that I send. Sometimes it’s topically related. Like yesterday, hearing of Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s death, it seemed very appropriate to post one of his. Or if there’s something that’s happening in the Zeitgeist that a poem can address, I’ll try to find a poem that speaks to that. I try to find one that helps people to find some perspective and courage and heart in hard times.”
Robinson is a super early riser. He usually wakes up around 3 a.m., meditates, reads poetry (sometimes for a few minutes, sometimes for an hour). Then he has his breakfast and sends out the poem for the day.
“I have stacks and stacks of poetry books around me,” he said. “And more all the time because people are now sending me their chapbooks and their collections. And I have my own online files that I will peruse. And then I have probably a couple hundred committed to memory that are circulating through different parts of my mind, speaking to me, and sometimes that’s what insists on being shared that day.”
Robinson said he sees poetry as a spiritual practice, much like his meditation practice.
He also loves reading poetry aloud.
“My real passion around poetry is restoring the oral tradition,” he said. “Rumi, in one of his poems, says, ‘Start a large and foolish project, like Noah.’ So my large and foolish project, shared by my colleagues in Rumi’s Caravan (a local poetry performance group) is to restore the soul of the world through reviving the oral tradition of poetry.”
“The background to that is my understanding that as we developed the ability to read and write, we gained tremendous power to manipulate the world around us, but we also lost our deep sensual interrelatedness with the world,” he said.
“I certainly don’t want us to give up all the richness of culture that is shared through writing, but I am hoping to restore some of the vitality of the oral tradition and, in sharing that, we can restore some of the wholeness of the world.”
In addition to his involvement in Rumi’s Caravan, he also belongs to a Zoom poetry group made up of poets from all over the world.
“We have two people from the East Coast, two people from Barcelona, one from Paris, one from India, a couple people from Ireland, several people from Sebastopol and one person from Buenos Aires.”
The group reads their own poetry as well as the works of other poets.
Of his own practice of writing poetry, Robinson said, “It’s undisciplined and sporadic. I greatly admire people who have the discipline to write poetry every day. I don’t, though I read it every day. “
“William Stafford, one of my favorite poets, had a practice of writing a poem every day before breakfast. Someone asked him, you know, ‘How do you write so much poetry?’ And he said, ‘Lower your standards.’”
Robinson said he hasn’t been able to do that. “When I set out to write, I try to get it perfect. I know that’s not the best approach to it. Trying to get the language just right before I put it down on paper inhibits my poetry production. So I’m not a prolific writer,” he said. “I’m more of a lover and curator of poetry.”
Like most poets, Robinson never made a living from poetry. He had several careers, but the longest was the 25 years he spent working as a psychotherapist before retiring.
When asked if his work as a psychotherapist informed his poetry, he said it was the other way around.
“I would find myself prescribing a poem to someone in the way that a medical provider might prescribe a drug,” he said. “I see poems — good poems — as medicine to be consumed regularly. Poems you commit to memory — that you make part of yourself — are good medicine, but they’re also teachers and companions and comfort in hard times and perspective.”
If you’re looking for some perspective in these curious times, find it every day on Townsy Café in the “Book, Articles, Podcasts, and Poems” section, where Robinson posts his Poem for the Day at https://www.townsycafe-westcounty.com/t/poem-for-the-day/539