They use rhythm and meter but make no music. They paint a vivid image without a canvas and breathe life into characters without a story. They are the Five Women Poets, a group with a 26-year tradition of writing poetry. \nThe women have monthly meetings at members' houses and an annual public reading. At 8 p.m. Saturday in a small studio in the John Waldron Arts Center, 122 S. Walnut St., they read poems to an audience of about 50. After each of the six poets read their selections, the audience created a riot of applause that far exceeded one's expectations of 100 hands. \nThe popularity of poetry has waned since the days when John Dunne was a household name and T.S. Eliot filled stadiums when he spoke to American students. But the responsive audience on Saturday night goes to prove that Bloomington has a strong poetry community. \n"The Net is a good medium for anyone to showcase their poetry," senior Jaelithe Ward said. "The word is still a very powerful political tool." \nAntonia Matthew, one of the founding members of the group, said when they started in the 1974, people viewed poetry readings as gatherings for English majors. Over the years, that has changed. \n"In the last five or six years, people have started to realize that poetry is about everyday lives. People come and hear poems and say, 'Yeah I felt that way.'" \nWard said she feels that connection to poets about four times per year when she attends local poetry readings. \n"It's like church -- refreshing to the spirit," Ward said. \nOn Roadkill\nMatthew, the first reader of the night and a native of the United Kingdom, read a short story. She captured the audiences' imagination with the antics of a bickering mother and daughter and an eccentric teacher. \nThe listeners followed Stanley -- the teacher -- to the side of a ship sailing on the Mediterranean. \n"A libation to Poseidon!" The character proclaimed, flinging a glass of wine off the side of the ship. \nMatthew continued to read about the silence that fell over the deck, and the audience responded with laughter.\nThe other poets who read after Matthew covered a broad range of topics. Carrie Spadter, a poet from Indianapolis touched on the topic of sisters drifting apart "… The night I swore I heard Santa's sleigh bells and you believed me," she read. \nBreshaun Joyner, a guest poet, included 'Bobby Knight' in the bluesy rhythm of her reading. \n"We discussed Bobby Knight's chickens coming home to roost and crapping all over his banners." \nShe also delved in to her attempt to woo a crush: \n"I'm dying to ask if you want to go for coffee. I'm afraid to ask. I hate coffee." \nAnd Helen May, the other founding member who still reads with the group, included roadkill in her selection. \n"I drive from edge to center -- laughing -- not killing toads." \nFruitful Ambiguities\nThe group formed after two of the current members and three other women wanted to carry on the momentum started in a creative writing class taught by Sandra Gibson at IU. The ladies meet once a month at one of the member's houses and critique each other's work. \nAlthough it's been 26 years since the core group met together, phrases like 'fruitful ambiguities' linger from the first year of meetings. \n"It's a nice way of saying part of the poem doesn't make sense," Matthew said. "But there is still a richness, a possibility for exploring things." \nAlthough members of the group have rotated throughout the years, many of the reasons for joining the group probably remain the same. \nFor Anya Royce, professor of anthropology, writing poetry is a change from her academic writing based on her study of Mexican culture. \n"It frees me, but it's very disciplined as well," she said. "It lets me play with images, colors and sounds." \nRoyce does refer to her travels to Mexico in poems. She described Mexican women who "grab life like they grab a sweet siesta in a hammock." \nSpadter also said the monthly meetings add discipline to her writing -- as well as meaning to her life. \n"When I'm not writing I'm just going through the motions. I just get up, go to work and go to the grocery store," she said. "But writing puts me in touch with what I'm experiencing." \nLast year, the Five Women Poets published a book of poems that is available at Howard's Bookstore, 111 W. Kirkwood Ave. Although the average student would be at a loss to name the current U.S. poet laureate, Matthew would contend that poetry is a thriving art. \n"People are realizing that poetry is like," Matthew said with a pause, "bread and roses. That's from an old suffragette song. We need bread, but we also need poetry"