Autumn Leaf Cafe - an anthology of ideas and adventures

E-mail Poetry
between Bill Venners and Steve Engle

I met Steve Engle while working as a software contractor at a small company in Silicon Valley. While working together, Steve and I discovered that we have a common interest in writing and art. We worked together long enough, and got on well enough, that we stayed in touch after both of us had moved on to work elsewhere, often by e-mail.

One day in early 1996 Steve invited me to go drawing with him. He told me about a figure drawing group that met every Thursday evening in Palo Alto. You show up shortly before seven with your drawing materials, place two dollars into a cigar box, and find a place at one of the tables that encircle the model's platform. At seven the model sheds his or her robe and poses nude for the artists. The model remains in the same pose for two hours, with breaks every 20 minutes. With the model naked before you, you draw, paint, or in some manner express yourself artistically until nine, when the group disperses.

One Thursday evening I accompanied Steve to the figure drawing group. After the drawing session we went out to a bar for beer and cider. (He drank a beer. I drank a cider.) It was good to draw and fun to sit in the bar for a while and talk. It was a guy's night out.

As we wanted to be somewhat consistent about drawing, and since we had a good time, we decided to make it a pseudo-regular event. Every Thursday, one of us would e-mail the other inquiring whether he was available to draw. If so, we would make arrangements for getting there. Because I by that time had given my car to charity and was trying to get around on bicycles and public transit, Steve would usually drop by my house and pick me up on his way to Palo Alto.

Eventually, these figure drawing e-mails that Steve and I exchanged on Thursdays turned into poetry. Just for fun, I one day submitted my query to Steve in the form of a poem. Steve, having literary ambitions himself, replied in the form of a poem. This started an avalanche of poetry, which although generally bad, was dotted occasionally with something halfway decent. I have a selected a few of the more entertaining examples of this e-mail poetry for this web site.

As an example of a query, here is an excerpt from one e-mail Steve sent to me before we began waxing poetic:

Do we scrawl to the light of the moon? I've purchased small pigments compressed into long blocks, I hope to drag them across flattened wood in the presence of nude women.

Now, this brings me to the subject of the sex of the model, which appears often as a motif in the poems I have selected for this site. Steve and I attended these drawing sessions for purely artistic reasons, of course, but being the kind of guys we are, we couldn't help but harbor a small hope that the model would be an attractive female. As Steve once put it in one of his e-mail poems:

for tis harder on the eye
to sketch and watch the masculine form

Or as I less eloquently put it in one of my e-mails:

I hate doodling the doodads of dudes.

Each night we went we rolled the dice. We didn't know until we got there whether the model would be male or female, young or old, short or tall, skinny or fat, comely or homely. And it really didn't matter, because we were there to draw. We pulled out our charcoal or pastels, set up our paper, and drew whomever happened to be posing before us.

Here are links to three pages of poetry:

Last Updated: Monday, September 2, 2002
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