Going green through words

Hugh McGee was eco-friendly long before it was trendy.

An avid nature lover who often hiked in the mountains in Gunnison, Colo., McGee was walking along the campus of the city's Western State College when he noticed some garbage littering the ground. Annoyed, McGee picked it up and threw it in the trash.

The next day, McGee noticed more trash on the campus and picked that up, as well. The routine continued and after a while, McGee began toting a garbage bag on his walks. He also decided to contact the editor of the Gunnison newspaper about slipping in reminders such as "Have you picked up your piece of trash today?"

The well-received reminders turned into poems, often encouraging people to help beautify their city, and the poems turned into "Trash, Etc," a collection of poetry that the Colorado paper still publishes.

"It's a small attempt at going green," McGee said.

After relocating to Sequim in 2002 with his wife, Jane, McGee wanted to continue to bring poetry - both his and other people's - to the community. He began a poetry group at the Sequim Senior Activity Center where the area's poets come to hear each other's poems and discuss their meaning.

"What I think I enjoy the most is the discussion after the reading," McGee said. "We don't critique ... if we critique it then suddenly we become T.S. Eliot."

McGee said a handful of people attend the monthly meetings, adding that he uses them as a way to improve his own writing. McGee also sends his poetry to a group of about 20 people who don't attend the meetings, including his children, his siblings and his former colleagues.

"I tell them if you particularly like one of them, let me know," said the former high school choral instructor.

Due to his familiarity with working with students, as well as his belief that poetry is a good way for introverted adolescents to express themselves, McGee created a poetry contest for Sequim Middle School students three years ago. Working with the Kiwanis Club, McGee arranged for children to turn in their favorite poems to their English teachers, who in turn choose the 10 they enjoy the most and turn them into the poetry group. The group chooses first-, second- and third-place winners who get recognized, and a small monetary prize, at a May Kiwanis Club meeting.

"Poetry is a universal language," McGee said of his attempts at bringing more poetry to Sequim. "Students, seniors, everyone can enjoy it and understand it."

McGee's poetry group meets at 7 p.m. on the third Monday of each month at the Sequim Senior Activity Center, 921 E. Hammond St.

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