Shelley Widhalm

Poetry Readings (live)

In Poetry, Poetry Readings, Writing Poetry on April 26, 2015 at 11:00 am

Fitting with National Poetry Month, I’ve had poetry on the brain.

National Poetry Month, started by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, is held in April as a literary celebration of poetry and its place in society.

To help celebrate the month locally and at a personal level, I participated in the Lo-Co Poetry Slam on Saturday, April 18, an open mic the third Saturday of the month at the LoCo Artisan Coffee House in downtown Loveland, Colo., where poets can slam or read their poetry.

The coffee house was packed, and six people volunteered to slam their memorized work or read it off printouts, in notebooks or on their smartphones. I was the fourth reader, and we each read three poems.

I’d prepared a little in advance, so was embarrassed when I started reading my first poem, “Old man in a coffee shop,” which I wrote in December 2014 when I saw a homeless guy, drunk with his head dipped, sitting in a chair at the same coffee shop, and I imagined his back story. I had trouble reading the first stanza, because I was getting teary-eyed, and then I had to stop for a few seconds and catch my breath. I said I felt for the homeless, got the tears back in and stuttered through the second stanza.

I said I wouldn’t cry when I read the second poem, “Wrecked,” about a dystopian society. Nor did I cry when I read “Dad’s Swing Sets,” about how my dad built several swing sets for my brother and I and how his hands felt pushing our backs as our feet touched air.

Before I read, I said I didn’t know how to do slam poetry, but a poet who calls himself Booger and leads a poetry slam in Fort Collins, said what I read was slam, because it expressed real, raw emotion. He and a couple of the other poets who I talked to after the slam said they liked how I was willing to show that emotion—the emotion couldn’t help but be expressed because it spilled over, causing my heart to shake at my own words.

I again read “Dad’s Swing Sets,” during the “Battle of the Bards” poetry reading and contest Friday, April 24, at the Poudre River Library District. My poem, a finalist in the adult category and the other winning poems, will be printed in the 2015 Battle of the Bards poetry chapbook and a free library district e-book.

During the reading, which was in the Front Range Community Library, I got nervous when it was my turn, because it was a larger audience than I was used to. I suddenly became teary-eyed when I read the poem, stopping in the third stanza to catch my breath before I could continue reading.

Afterward, a few people told me they liked how I captured the story of my dad building swing sets for my brother and me in a few words and showed love for my father.

I won third place, a great honor. There were 140 entries for the adult and young adult categories, which encourages me to enter more of my poetry in contests and readings.

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