How to Host a Monthly Poetry Wine and Chocolate Party


I first will describe the monthly wine and chocolate poetry parties which I often attended while living in Moscow, Idaho 2006 to 2010. Then I will suggest general guidelines for periodically hosting a poetry party.

One of my favorite poets
One of my favorite poets | Source

The Origin of Poetry Nights in Moscow, Idaho

The monthly poetry party in Moscow, Idaho, with its circle of those who either frequently or sometimes attendeded, had already been well established for several years when my wife and I moved there in summer 2006. Moscow is a university town, home of University of Idaho. A few months after our arrival in town, we heard by word of mouth about the monthly gathering that locals called "poetry night," and we asked to be added to the e-mail contact list. After we began attending, we in turn from time to time told someone about 'poetry night' or brought an acquaintance as a first time guest. There was no attempt to limit or control who or how many could come, yet it all worked out. For those not on the e-mail contact list, finding out about 'poetry night' was by word-of-mouth.

Usually 'poetry night' was hosted by a couple who were each active in the community both professionally and in volunteer activities. I'll call them Adam and Zoe. The story they told about the origin of having a monthly wine and chocolate potluck poetry party was that "a few years ago" their grown son while home for a visit suggested the idea to them. I do not know if the notion just popped into his head or if he had experienced such a poetry party elsewhere.

Specifically, he suggested that Adam and Zoe invite some friends and acquaintances over for a Saturday evening and ask each to bring from one to a few poems that they like (or, if they wished, original poems), plus a bottle of wine or anything chocolate to share.

Poetry Nights in Moscow, Idaho Continued

They tried it, and it was such a pleasant success that they made 'poetry night' a monthly happening. Zoe took charge of maintaining an email contact list.

Certain fluctuating Saturday evenings were most convenient for partying for them because of the vicissitudes of their schedules. Zoe would send a group e-mail saying which Saturday evenings in the coming month were possibilities and polling the preferences of those on the list. Then she and Adam would choose on which Saturday evening that month they would host 'poetry night', and she would send an e-mail announcement. A 'poetry night' started at 7PM in the winter and at 7:30PM in the summer.

Sometimes if Zoe and Adam were going on a trip or if they just wanted a break from hosting, Zoe would ask by e-mail if another household in the 'poetry night' circle would host that month.

Zoe has said that in her years of hosting monthly poetry parties, no two of them has had the same people attending and each has had its unique character.

From the YouTube SpokenVerse channel, a reading of "i carry your heart" by e. e. cummings. It's a poem that I've read--not as well--at poetry night in Moscow,

A Typical 'Poetry Night' Hosted by Adam and Zoe

On a Saturday when Zoe had scheduled a poetry party, earlier in the day I would buy a little bag of bulk chocolate candies, or if my wife was free and inclined to come, too, she would choose a bottle of wine for us to buy and bring. Then back home I would go online and find three or four poems I liked and would print them, or I would bookmark a few poems in my copy of the 1950 edition of The Oxford Book of American Poetry.

If going on my own, I would stroll the half-mile to Adam's and Zoe's house, my selection of poems, my chocolate candy, and my water bottle in my backpack. I soon learned to not arrive on time. No one else did, and Zoe would put me to work helping with her last-minute preparations.

The living room couch and an assortment of arm chairs and ottomans would be arranged in a semicircle facing the fireplace, with dining chairs and folding chairs added if and as needed. On a coffee table in the middle of the circle Zoe would pile poetry chapbooks, collections, and anthologies that she and Adam had accumulated through the years.

On a table off to the side she would set napkins, small plates, forks, perhaps a cheese and gourmet crackers plate, wine glasses, and a bottle each of white and red wine, with ample space remaining for the wines and chocolates that guests would bring.

In the winter Zoe would line the outside walkway up to the entrance door with luminarias and turn on the porch light. On warm, fair summer evenings, the poetry party would begin in the back yard, and after dusk we would use flashlights to read by.

In fall, winter, or spring, if I came early, before long others, alone, as couples, or with a friend or two, from young to elderly and in between, men and women, arrived, most bringing either a bottle of wine or something chocolate. One might bring a complex and delectable baked chocolate creation. Another might bring brownies or double chocolate cookies. Most who brought chocolate brought some variety of chocolate candy. A 'poetry night' was a three-in-one wine sharing, chocolate sharing, and poetry sharing party. Occasionally someone brought something that goes well with wine and chocolate, such as strawberries.

In winter, arriving guests tossed their outerwear on the main floor bedroom bed. A few wine bottles at a time were opened. After half an hour or more of arrivals, greetings, chitchat, and getting settled, everyone would find a seat, and the poetry readings would begin. Latecomers were casually welcomed.

A Typical 'Poetry Night' Continued

There was no order as to who would read first or next. The group would sit in quiet, patient expectation until someone had the nerve and initiative to say that they would like to read a poem. Everyone would give full attention to that person, who, staying seated, would read aloud a poem from a book or printout.

The custom was to not interpret, analyze, critique, deconstruct, or pontificate on the poems but rather to just listen, enjoy, and be moved, amused, bemused, awed, or inspired by them. After someone read a poem, there would be a few spontaneous comments like, "That is so beautiful!" or "He's one of my favorite poets!" Then the group would sit in quiet, patient expectation again until someone else said they were ready to read a poem.

During the years that I attended, attendance at the monthly poetry parties ranged from a handful to over thirty guests. Attendance was usually in the range of fifteen to twenty-five persons.

Hafez or Hafiz might be followed by Maya Angelou, John Keats by Billy Collins, Rumi by Robert Frost, William Shakespeare by Sylvia Plath, Langston Hughes by Robert Burns by Alice Walker by Dylan Thomas by Mary Oliver. A poem from ancient Greece might be followed by a poem in the latest New Yorker. Some poems were heart-wrenching, some silly, some lovely, some sentimental, some deep, some passionate.

Occasionally someone would read an original poem, and it would be listened to and appreciated equally with the famous poems. Some fairly frequent participants seldom read a poem, preferring to just listen, but the atmosphere was so relaxed and low key that even the very shy and self-conscious felt at ease enough to sometimes take a turn reading a favorite poem.

I would count five or six readings between when I took a turn. Some poems that I recall reading were "Divine Image" by William Blake, number 7 from "Song of Myself" by Walt Whitman, "Happiness" by Carl Sandburg, "Lullaby" by W. H. Auden, and "The Brain Is Wider Than the Sky" by Emily Dickinson, to mention a few.

Eventually Adam and Zoe would agree it was time for a bathroom break. For some minutes participants would refill their wine glasses, select more chocolate treats and other nibbles, and stand around conversing. Zoe would make decaf coffee, hot chocolate if winter, and hot water for teas for those who wanted to switch from wine.

Soon the poetry readings would resume. After some time, those who needed to do so would leave early. Later, more and more of the guests would say their good-byes. Finally, getting near to 11PM, we last stragglers would leave.


Would you like to participate in a poetry party?

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Initiating and Facilitating a Poetry Lovers Circle and Hosting Poetry Parties

My wife and I are thinking of starting a similar monthly 'poetry night' salon in Kalamazoo. I will add an addendum eventually to this hub page if that happens. So far it is just a vague notion. We have a small, one-bedroom apartment with a comparatively small living room, so the logistics would be different.

What are the general lessons that my wife and I, and others anywhere who are interested in hosting a monthly poetry party, can take from our Moscow, Idaho experience? These seem to be the questions to pose to oneself:

1. Do you have the time, interest, and intent to make it happen and to keep it happening? If you don't and if no one does, it won't happen. It's a pleasant responsibility, because 'poetry nights' are pleasant evenings. Consider hosting just one poetry party for starters, to get a sense if it is something you can and wish to do again monthly, or however often, or irregularly.

2. Is there a location in which to meet? All it takes is a room (or suitable outdoor space in fair warm weather), some seating, and enough light to read by. Ambiance helps. A cozy living room is probably a more pleasant setting than, say, a meeting room in a public library or in a restaurant. But make the best use that your imagination can of the space available.

3. How many participants is optimum? My offhand guess is that ten to twenty participants is optimum. I've enjoyed poetry parties with much fewer and with much more guests.

4. Whom to invite? Whoever you think might be interested among your friends and acquaintances from church, work, your neighborhood, clubs, and so on, on a person to person basis. It does not seem to me the sort of event or group for which to post a public invitation. Assure those whom you invite that they may personally bring or invite additional guests. Start an e-mail group contact list, or perhaps start a Google+ circle. Request an RSVP.

5. For a poetry party, should the host(s) provide poetry in addition to asking guests to bring some favorite poems to share? Yes, because some will forget to bring a poem or poems, or will procrastinate till too late. If you don't have a personal library of poetry books, just use the public library. Some anthologies to consider checking out: The Oxford Book of American Poetry; The Oxford Book of English Verse; American Poetry Since 1950; Contemporary American Poetry; Good Poems, edited by Garrison Keillor; Contemporary World Poetry, and New British Poetry. And check out books by your favorite poets and any additional good poetry anthologies that you discover while browsing library shelves.

6. Is it necessary for the main refreshments to be wines and chocolates? No. Do what seems best in your situation, and if you feel adventurous, experiment. Wine has been associated with poetry since ancient times, and chocolate is known for its pleasure triggering properties, but human imagination and creativity can and have come up with interesting alternatives. For instance, at Oprah Winfrey's version of a poetry party, she serves rum and gumbo.

A poetry party can also be for women only, for men only, for children only, for whole families, for those who do not drink alcohol for health or religious reasons, and for those who do not eat sweets. Fit the refreshments to suit the guests. A woman in Moscow ID on a strict diet for health reasons hosted a 'poetry night' to which guests could bring wine or chocolate as usual but at which she prepared and served organic vegan dishes.

7. Is it even necessary to ask guests to bring anything? Moscow, Idaho is one of those towns where people keep finding new excuses to have a potluck. While there I went to interfaith potluck picnics, to an annual city-wide CommUNITY Walk that included a potluck in a city park, and to innumerable church potlucks. A potluck party fits readily into that culture. Having guests bring something to share results in more abundance and more variety than those of us who are far from wealthy could afford to provide out of pocket. And it helps build a sense of neighborliness and of active participation. If you are blessed with the wherewithal, by all means provide an abundance of wines and chocolates--or whatever your choices of refreshments--for your poetry party guests.

8. Would it not be even more fun and interesting to ask guests to each bring an original poem? If you search the Internet on the topic poetry party, you will find that that is a popular type of poetry party. An advantage of mixing original poems and well-known published poems at a poetry party is that the event goes on even if none of the guests has written an original poem lately. If most of the participants at least dabble in writing poems, then make sharing original poems primary and sharing favorite poems by masters of the craft secondary. If, as in the Moscow, Idaho poetry lovers circle, most of the participants very rarely if ever write poetry themselves, then make sharing favorite poems the primary focus, with hearing an original poem an occasional surprise treat.

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Comments 39 comments

Vinaya Ghimire profile image

Vinaya Ghimire 4 years ago from Nepal

Even though I compose poetry and attended poetry reading sessions, I have never recited my poems in public. Your experience is truly wonderful.

I don't think wine and chocolate poetry party happens in my place, maybe I will be the first one to organize this kind of event in my country.


B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 4 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA Author

Thanks for commenting, Vinaya. Please say, in a comment or a hub, how your poetry party turns out, if you decide to organize one. Maybe you will opt to try your own variation. Going by a Wikipedia article on Nepalese cuisine, how about a raksi and tongba poetry party with regional sweets and snack foods? As for reciting your poems in public, would you consider making a video hub of you reciting some of your poems? Or have you already done that?

kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 4 years ago from the Ether

Ohhh, I would LOVE to do this! Except, I don't think my hubby is much into poetry...oh well. Loved your ideas here, though. Keep 'em coming. :)

Trish 4 years ago

Poetry night in Moscow is at our house this month. Wish you two could be here! We'll dedicate a poem to you and keep you in our thoughts!

alocsin profile image

alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

What a great tradition to keep a neglected branch of literature alive. I don't know that it would be good for me to host one. All the chocolates would have gone into my mouth by the time anyone arrived. Voting this Up and Useful.

B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 4 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA Author

Thanks for commenting, kittythedreamer. I enjoyed it when all I had to do was show up with a few poems and some chocolate. I don't know yet what being host is like. My wife did not attend as often as me because she is hard of hearing. There were couples that sometimes came together and sometimes just one or the other came, depending if one had to work overtime, or had another event, or they couldn't find a sitter, etc. And I've heard of other ways besides poetry to pass the time at a party -- charades; parlor games like Dictionary; creating new mixed drinks; an "iron chef" competition; star gazing; jamming with musical instruments, and many more.

B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 4 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA Author

Thanks lots, Trish. Please mention my HubPages url

We wish we could be there, too.

B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 4 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA Author

Thanks alocsin. Luckily for you and everyone coming to your poetry party, it's a potluck. Just when you had all your chocolates eaten, guests would arrive bearing more chocolates. And having to be polite and not be chomping and guzzling while a beautiful poem is being read keeps everyone's eating and drinking moderate.

Sonya L Morley profile image

Sonya L Morley 4 years ago from Edinburgh

This is such a lovely idea and something I would like to try. I especially like that you gathered to enjoy and be moved by the poetry rather than to analyze it. Beautifully written, great hub, voted up.

B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 4 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA Author

Thanks Sonya

Movie Master profile image

Movie Master 4 years ago from United Kingdom

What a wonderful idea, it reminds me of the 'speakeasy nights' at the Emerald Wells cafe, the series is written by mckbirdbks.

I would love to attend one.

Thank you for this enjoyable read and voted up.

B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 4 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA Author

Thanks Movie Master. I'll have a look at the series by mcbirdbks.

CMHypno profile image

CMHypno 4 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

I like the idea of any evening that revolves around chocolate and wine. Your poetry evenings sound thoroughly enjoyable, so thank you for sharing them with us

B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 4 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA Author

Thanks CMHypno

Ciel Clark profile image

Ciel Clark 4 years ago from USA

B. Leekley, these evenings sound great. I wrote poetry years ago, but have never tried reading aloud with friends. I will see if anyone is interested! Thanks for the idea, and also for sharing the reading of "i carry your heart with me" --one of my favorite poets. Voted up and awesome.

akeejaho profile image

akeejaho 4 years ago from Somewhere in this beautiful world!

This really does sound like fun. I had the opportunity to do some readings of my poetry in a coffee shop among peers, but this sounds so much better. Thanks for the article

B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 4 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA Author

Thanks for commenting, Ciel. It will be your choice whether to ask guests to bring original poems or favorite poems from the whole history of poetry or either. Afterword, please add a comment here to say how your party was.

B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 4 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA Author

Thank you, akeejaho, for commenting. Why not do both?

Cyndi10 profile image

Cyndi10 4 years ago from Georgia

A poetry party looks like a lot of fun. I love wine and chocolate, so why not include poetry too. I also like an excuse to have people over. It may not be something I would have on a regular basis, it would be a great get together with a poetry twist. Voted up and sharing. (Thanks for sharing Mynde's work, by the way.)

B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 4 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA Author

Thanks Cyndi10. I hope you and your guests enjoy your wine and chocolate poetry party or parties if you give the theme a try.

Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 4 years ago from The English Midlands

Hello B. Leekley :)

That sounds like such a lovely idea. I feel all warm and fuzzy, just reading your hub. :)

I'll see if there is anything like it going on in my vicinity. I know that there is a writers' circle, but that's not quite the same thing.


B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 4 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA Author

Thanks, Trish_M. I'm glad you like this hub. If there is nothing similar in your vicinity, perhaps you could initiate a tradition. Maybe your poetry party could have an English spin. Like, you could serve hard cider, grog, "cup" (punch), or mead. As for chocolate, says the best chocolate candy bars are made in England.

When I was living in Moscow, Idaho and going to the poetry nights, I was also in a critique writers' circle, and I am in one now in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I highly recommend joining one, for peer constructive criticism and encouragement.

Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 4 years ago from The English Midlands

Hello :)

Yes, I am proud of Cadbury's chocolate. I don't live too far from the factory and when I go over there, the smell is amazing!

Start my own poetry group? ~ Mmmm. I'd have to find some like-minded souls.

I used to belong to a writers group. Maybe I'll join one again.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

Well my friend, I don't think I'm capable of writing poetry and I'm an alcoholic, but I would go to any chocolate party held in the Northern Hemisphere, so one out of three ain't bad. :) Great hub!

B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 4 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA Author

Billybuc, at the kind of chocolate and wine potluck poetry party I described in my hub and that I used to attend when I lived in Idaho, it's unusual for anyone to bring an original poem. People bring their favorite poems to read aloud, whether famous or little known. On the day each month that I was going to go to "poetry night", I would google "famous poems", or something like that, browse a bit, and print-out a few poems that I liked.

Anyway, thinking you're not capable of writing poetry is like thinking you're not capable of playing a piano. Press one key, then another, then another, .... Voila! If you enjoy the process, better will come with time and application. For starters, perhaps consider trying doggerel verse. That's the kind of poetry I like to write, about once every several years. See:

You can't do much worse than:

My love is like a red, red rose --

She stayed in the sun too long;

Her peeling, crimson countenance

Would frighten away King Kong.

Seattle is famous for its coffee, so how about a coffee and chocolate potluck hubs-reading party? HubPages has poetry and also stories, satire, humor, philosophy, memoir, and more.

Angela Brummer profile image

Angela Brummer 4 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

I would love to do this! GREAT HUB!

B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 4 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA Author

Thanks Angela. Hope you give it a try. Please comment again if and when you do -- or hub about your experience.

Rolly A Chabot profile image

Rolly A Chabot 4 years ago from Alberta Canada

What a great idea for people to come together with three common interests. food, the written word and fellowship with like minded people.

Rolly in Canada

B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 4 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA Author

I'm glad you like the idea, Rolly A. I speculate that you might include some Alberta whiskey with the wine and that the poems read at your poetry parties would include a lot of cowboy poems.

seditor 4 years ago

I am new to the area - Moved to Lewiston a few months ago and work in Moscow. I been desperate to connect to a group like you mentioned! I've been hoping to find book group - but poetry is far more eloquent. Pretty please .... invite me! I must perk my ears to hear this word of mouth.

B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 4 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA Author

Seditor, I have been living in Kalamazoo, Michigan for the past year, and before that I lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico for nearly a year, so I am not up to date about happenings in Moscow, Idaho. I don't even know whether the monthly poetry nights are still happening. If I get around to it, I'll see what I can find out and let you know.

Here are some tips for meeting people in Moscow:

1) Attend events at Book People of Moscow, the book store on Main Street. They have author readings.

2) Attend events at Moscow Food Co-op, such as their outdoor live music and their parking lot farmers' market.

3) Attend the Saturday mornings Friendship Square (downtown on Main Street) farmers' market. Besides the produce vendors, there are craft vendors and prepared foods vendors plus people tabling to promote their causes, from saving souls to ending wars to saving the environment and more, and there is live music.

4) Watch the bulletin boards around town -- at the Friendship Square bus stop; on the side of the One World Cafe building; inside Sisters coffeehouse, and so on -- for events and groups that interest you.

5) Search the Web for sites that give info on events in Moscow and vicinity, including on campus.

6) Listen to Radio Free Moscow at

Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina

What a wonderful hub-of course the title captured my attention, haha.

I love poetry and have attended poetry reading during my spiritual retreats. I recited my poetry for the first time about three months ago at our gathering. It was a celebration of life and its many pleasures, including food, companionship, music and poetry.

You have a marvelous reading voice, deep and smooth-entrancing. What a sweet, sweet poem you read. I am familiar with e.e. cummings works, but not this particular poem. It brought thoughts of my late husband to my mind, thank you.

Well written and engaging information you've shared-very thorough. I've often visualized doing something similar with musicians and just having a jam session. I actually had not considered a poetry reading party and really like this idea. Thanks for sharing. Rated up/awesome/useful and interesting. Please keep us posted on the results of your party. :)

B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 4 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA Author

Thanks, Denise. I must make a disclaimer. The voice reading the Cummings poem is not mine. That's an embedded link to a YouTube video. It's from the SpokenVerse YouTube channel. I'll look at your hubs to see if you've included any of your poetry, as text or as videos. About jam sessions, another set of friends in Moscow would do that. When there was an excuse to celebrate, invitations would get emailed by the host that time, and an assortment of mostly young adults would bring their children, some potluck foot, some wine or beer, and their instruments to a big house, Eventually a jam session would get started. One woman brought a saxophone. Another brought an electric bass guitar. A couple of men brought guitars. Sometimes there was an electric keyboard. Percussion instruments, like bongo drums and rattles, were passed around. It was lots of fun. How about a "playroom party" -- put a pile of poetry books in one corner, a pile of musical instructments in another corner, a pile of games in another corner, and so on, and invite some creative people and see what happens.

Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina

Hahaha. Well, thank you for your honest admission here, B. I appreciate the clarification. What a great idea for a 'playroom party'. I'll have to keep that in mind. I'm getting more and more interested in doing something like this. :)

Yes, I have several hubs that either are all poetry or have original poems included. Thanks for checking them out.

B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 4 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA Author

Denise, I just took a look and found hubs on car repair, cooking, psychology, butterflies, and other topics, but no poetry. I'll search again another day.

Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina

Oh, gosh...I'm sorry and thank you for being so diligent. I will send you a list of hub titles that you can take a peek at to make it easier for you. I appreciate your interest. :)

B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 4 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA Author

Thanks, Denise. And consider organizing your hub links on your profile page by favorite topic. I've noticed that many hubbers with many hubs have done this, and/or have provided an index to their hubs. See:

Missolive has a tutorial on how she does it, and I've seen other hubs on how-to techniques for listing one's hubs grouped into broad topics.


Giselle Maine 4 years ago

This is such a novel idea! I like to host events and this is a fantastic idea. However since I and my friends are not really into poetry I might have to make a slight change and call it 'recommend a book' night where the overall idea is the same but people get to stand up and talk briefly about a book they have read and why they liked it. I can supply decorative cards and pens for people to make their own 'reading list' by jotting down the titles and authors that especially interested them. Anyhow, I love your idea about a literary evening with wine and chocolate - it sounds great and very original, and I'm always looking for new ideas for hosting.

B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 4 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA Author

Hi Giselle. I'm glad you're inspired and enthused. Experiment. Please comment after you've hosted a recommend a book party or two to say how it was.

Maybe reading a short passage aloud, whether poetry, fiction, drama, or nonfiction, could be an option while recommending a book.

Maybe it could be a "Recommend a Book or a Wine" party.

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    Brian Leekley (B. Leekley)365 Followers
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    Brian is retired from careers in librarianship and book selling and his avocations are writing, studying and social justice volunteering.

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