Shelley Widhalm

Archive for April, 2016|Monthly archive page

Poetry forms and inspiration

In Inspiration for Poetry, National Poetry Month, Poetry, Writing Poetry on April 24, 2016 at 11:00 am

Poetry is an art and a discipline that ranges from whatever goes to the very specifics of form and use of language.

It can take many shapes from free verse that is open in structure to a fixed form that follows specific rules to the semi-fixed form of prose poems. The fixed forms include sonnets, sestinas, villanelles or haikus that have specific meters, syllable counts and rhyming schemes. Prose poems combine poetry and prose through a block of text written in poetic language.

Poems, no matter their structure, are about feeling, emotion, stories and moments. They have tempo, rhythm, color, sound and movement as they capture an experience, thought, idea or observation.

This capturing is done in language of beauty, awe and difference. To make that capture different than that of writing prose, poems employ various poetic devices that add musicality to the words.

Some of those devices include alliteration, the repetition of initial consonant sounds; consonance, the repetition of internal consonant sounds; and assonance, the repetition of vowel sounds. There also is onomatopoeia, or words that imitate the sounds they stand for, such as hiss, buzz or squawk, and slant rhyme, the similar sound of two words that are nearly identical.

Free verse poetry doesn’t have a specific meter or syllable count or a consistent rhythm and sound. This form is open but still engages one or more of the poetic devices.

Poems typically fall into two categories, lyrical or narrative. A lyrical poem is a snapshot or a fixed moment of time; it is a poem of a single image, thought or emotion. A narrative poem tells a story and has a plot with beginning, middle and end.

Poetry, no matter its form, shape or the devices it uses, becomes art as it uses language to create something of beauty, and its craft through the employment of those devices to make that beauty.

Poetry, in essence, is art, craft and a bit of magic that comes from inspiration, word play and discovery.

 

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A (theatrical) poetry reading

In National Poetry Month, Poetry, Poetry Readings on April 17, 2016 at 11:00 am

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I just love poetry readings—not only the sharing of my own work but hearing the work of others.

It’s exhilarating to find out how other poets approach the same subject or format and see how they perform their words.

During the first ever Poetic Geography: Mapping Loveland poetry event April 14, I read one of my poems, “Cranky Town.” Nineteen poets read one poem during the hour-long event at the Loveland Museum/Gallery in Loveland, Colorado.

Poets submitted their poems, which three judges selected for the reading and a booklet, about Loveland’s buildings, streets, art and places to visit to help create a poetic geography of Loveland.

That night, I realized I love being on stage—something I suspected before—and acting out poetry. The written, literary art, for me, became a sort of theater.

The poem is about a 20-something woman writing home to her mama about her change in direction. She went from drinking too much in the big city to doing espresso hopping, working at the library and walking quarter-mile laps around the city lagoon.

My poem basically was a letter and a story. As I read, I saw poetry isn’t just the words but can be embodied with gesture, pacing and tone, so that the words have stage presence. Act it, be it, tell it.

Afterward, a few people asked me if I had theater experience.

Not at all. I grew up incredibly shy and didn’t know I liked to give life to my words. I thought I just liked writing them.

But as I do more and more readings, I’m realizing that a poem isn’t just for the page. It can be a dialog between the poet and the audience, a way of expressing what’s internal into a conversation. It can be turned from one form of art into another through performance.

The performances we all gave returned back to the page. Some of the poems that didn’t get selected and one or two poems from the poets who read that night became part of a poetry booklet called Poetic Geography. Both of my poems “Cranky Town” and “Snow Cougar” are included in the booklet.

So, it was poetry on the page, poetry on stage and back, full circle, representing a neat kind of celebration of National Poetry Month in April.

(Note: the photo is posed after the event, because the lighting was poor.)

Mapping a poetry reading (April 14)

In Giving a Poetry Reading, National Poetry Month, Poetry, Poetry Readings on April 10, 2016 at 11:00 am

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I am reading from some of my writing in a public venue.

Before I read my poetry, I have to do some preparation work to make sure I make the best use of my mic time.

I will be reading one of my poems, “Cranky Town,” on April 14 during the Poetic Geography: Mapping Loveland poetry event at the Loveland Museum/Gallery in Loveland, Colorado.

Poets submitted their poems, which three judges selected for a final reading and booklet, about Loveland’s buildings, streets, art and places to visit to help create a poetic geography of Loveland. The idea is to make connections to place through poetry.

The reading will be 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Loveland Museum/Gallery, 503 N. Lincoln Ave.

Both “Cranky Town” and “Snow Cougar” will be included in the booklet, which I’ll be excited to give to my parents and brother (I have a large fan club!).

The reading and booklet together help honor National Poetry Month, an annual celebration of poetry started by the Academy of American Poets in 1996 as a literary celebration of poetry and its place in society.

Anytime I give a reading, I think of my reading as a performance, remembering to look at the audience to make eye contact and making sure I don’t read too fast or in a monotone.

To give a good reading, here are some other things I’ve learned poets need to do:

  • Mark up the poem to indicate where to change voice or emphasize certain lines or ideas.
  • Enunciate all of the words in the poem, so none of the images and ideas get lost.
  • Put the poem in a large font and make the last two lines even larger to remember to not let the poem drop at the end.
  • Rehearse the poem several times, reading the work out loud and timing it to keep a good pace.
  • Remember to look up and memorize a few lines, so it is easier to connect with the audience.
  • Put emotion into the reading voice and spoken words. Make sure gesture when appropriate to add some drama to the reading.

Lastly, publicize the reading via social media, flyers and emailing friends.

Poetry inspirations (plus some writing discipline)

In National Poetry Month, Writing, Writing Discipline, Writing Inspiration on April 3, 2016 at 11:00 am

Writing poetry is like getting a little gift in the mail, a sending of words from something felt, seen, observed or known.

At least that’s what it seems like—the raw version of a poem that comes from fast writing. And then it’s time to revise, look for word echoes and get rid of the clichés and the simple descriptions.

That’s where the crafting comes in, or the hard work of writing.

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

To wait for a poem can be unreliable, as if expecting inspiration or the right feeling or right circumstances in order to start writing. To make a poem happen, here are a few tricks to turn discipline into that inspiration, such as:

  • Using the senses—seeing, hearing, smelling, touching and tasting—to capture thoughts, ideas, feelings and observations.
  • Playing around with words and descriptions, or simply putting words on the page and rearranging them.
  • Avoiding using clichés, generalities and vague concepts, like love, hope and war.
  • Avoiding overusing trite words, such as tears and hearts, opting for comparisons and concrete language instead.
  • To get to the concrete, describing the specifics, such as how the colors of a particular flower look in the changing light of day or how love is like the foam on a latte, light on top but deeper underneath in the cup.

Once the poem is written, read it several times to cut excess words to get to its core. Think about what the poem is really saying and look for ideas that can be further explored. Think of the intent of the poem and what it is you want to express. This may expand the poem out after the former cutting.

And then give the poem a title, or maybe make the first line the launch into your words.