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Dead Poets relish poetry, plays, philosophy

February 23, 1998|By CLYDE FORD

by Ric Dugan / staff photographer

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Dead poetsDead Poets relish poetry, plays, philosophy

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The bodies of Dead Poets cover the floor and the top of bookshelves at the Charles Town Library, but they are very much among the living.

Dead Poets is the name of a group of Jefferson County teenagers who gather on Monday evenings to read poetry and plays, discuss works of literature and philosophy.

They show each other their artwork and bounce ideas off each other.

They try to keep their minds as limber and as flexible as their bodies.

"It's kind of a creative, hang-out time," said Mike Whitaker, 18, of Shepherdstown, W.Va.

"This is the only place where you can go and hang out with creative people all the time," Whitaker said.

"We influence each other and definitely grow together as we mature and look at things from different philosophical perspectives," said Joe Elliott, 18, of Shepherdstown, who likes to write Japanese haiku.

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The group started two years ago, the brainchild of Barbara Tinker, the children-young adult librarian whose daughter was one of the founding members.

Whitaker, now a student at Shepherd College in Shepherdstown, said he likes to draw and write poetry.

Being able to meet with young adults with artistic interests has helped each of them grow artistically, he said.

"In high school, it's all cliques. Here it doesn't matter who you are, we'll talk to you. You can look like you were dragged out of the gutter, it doesn't matter. We'll become your friends," Whitaker said.

Elliott said he started going to the meetings after a friend told him about the club.

He said he likes the "freedom of the environment."

Unlike other teenage groups, the Dead Poets encourage differences, rather than trying to make all conform to the same ideas.

"It kind of attracts a different type of person," Elliott said. "It definitely encourages individuality. That's why it's very unique."

Usually there are about five to 15 people in attendance when the group meets at the library from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Mondays. There have been as many as 28 at a meeting, Elliott said.

"It's a really good club to get into," said Joe Lance, 19, of Ranson, W.Va., who likes to read the poetry of Edgar Allen Poe.

Tinker said the attendance at the meetings grows when the original members return home from college breaks.

She has escorted Dead Poets on different trips to museums and to see plays in Washington, D.C.

"It's really healing," Elliott said. "Everyone is in so much conflict as a teenager in high school. Dead Poets is a place where those decisions are put into perspective."

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