“Quaker Meeting, The Sixties” is a poem by Robin Becker about her time as a student at Abington Friends School. In the piece Becker remembers listening to Quaker conscientious objectors in class; attending Meeting for Worship; and performing community service. Even with the Vietnam War raging, she recalls feeling safe at the school
Abington Friends School was founded in 1697 and is the oldest primary and secondary school operating continuously in the same location and with the same management in the United States. It is under the care of the Abington (PYM) Meeting. The curriculum emphasizes the arts and the humanities. Becker first became interested in poetry there.
Robin Becker (b. 1951) is a poet and teacher. She ranges widely in her poetry but reflects especially on her Russian-Jewish background, lesbianism and childhood; on art; and on the legacy of the 1960’s. The poems often tell a story. Her books of verse include Personal Effects, Backtalk, Giacometti’s Dog, All-American Girl, Tiger Heron and The Black Bear Inside Me. Among other magazines, Becker has been published in the American Poetry Review, the New Yorker and the Kenyon Review. Her honors include a Lambda Literary Award, the Penn State Laureateship and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. She has taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Penn State University, the latter at which she is a Professor of English and Women’s Studies. She is not a Friend.
“Quaker Meeting, The Sixties” is a moving piece. It contains the best description in poetry of Friends spoken ministry I have ever read:
On Wednesdays, in Meeting for Worship,/when someone rose to speak,/all the energy in the room/flew inside her mouth, empowering her to tell/what she had seen on her brief/encounter with the divine: sometimes, a parable,/a riddle, a kindness.
A link to the poem itself: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/50812/quaker-meeting-the-sixties.
(Above is a contemporary Meeting for Worship at Abington Friends School).