Great poets didn’t just start spouting their first anthology of verses; just like a journalist’s initial stories were crap and a musician didn’t become a virtuoso until he logged some serious practice hours. Budding Missoula poets learn this at the weekly poetry group at the Zootown Arts Community Center.

The poetry group is free and open to all ages and levels on Tuesday nights from 8-9 p.m. at the ZACC, located at 235 N First St. West Poets meet to share, listen and write. For the first 10 minutes attendees have the chance to read anything they’ve found or written that they especially connected with throughout the week. Then all the writers compose a response to a prompt and afterwards they read their work aloud.

“It takes away the seriousness of poetry and it takes away the expectation of writing a masterpiece,” said ZACC manager Linds Sanders. “Once you take away that expectation they usually end up being masterpieces.”

The group has been meeting weekly since October 2011. Sanders said there is a wide age range in the meetings, which contributes to the variety of perspectives and voices.

In an impromptu situation, the poets have to be gracious with each other and each other’s work. Writing a well-constructed poem in 20 minutes is difficult even for the most experienced authors.

“I have taken my drafts from ZACC home, worked on them and have ended up with many poems that I like,” said regular Alicia Gignoux.

Kyla Pellouchoud founded the poetry group over a year ago and she still comes to share and develop her work.

“Coming to the workshop shows an interest in community. The people who come are really open,” Pellouchoud said. “They’re open in what others have to say and open with their own lives.”

riley.pavelich@umconnect.umt.edu