Shelley Widhalm

Archive for April, 2018|Monthly archive page

Want to Have Fun Writing Poetry? Here’s How.

In Uncategorized on April 24, 2018 at 7:11 pm

I have the honor of being Kat Valdez’s guest blogger this week at Secrets of Best-Selling Authors.

Katherine Valdez

Featured photo taken in Harare, Zimbabwe by Trust “Tru” Katsande @iamtru/Unsplash

Odes, Elegies and Workshops
Guest Post by Shelley Widhalm

Poetry used to be so archaic and foreign to me until I started writing it.

Of course as an English major, I studied #Poetry but also found it to be intimidating, especially as I learned about sonnets, sestinas, villanelles and haikus, each with their specific meters, syllable counts and rhyming schemes. And then I found out about free verse, but that, too, has its rules: get rid of the extra words while providing artistic expression in the open form.

As I practiced free verse, the other forms became easier to incorporate in my daily poem habit—I’ve been writing a poem a day since September 2017. I now like writing haikus—they’re short and all you have to do is count out syllables of 5-7-5 in three lines of poetry.

Odes and…

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Odes, Elegies and Workshops (and making writing poetry fun!)

In National Poetry Month, Poetry Workshops, Writing Poetry on April 15, 2018 at 5:00 pm

PoetryWorkshop2 04-18

Fort Collins poet Lisa Zimmerman hosts a poetry workshop, “Odes, Elegies and Raptures, Oh My!” on April 6 in Loveland, Colo., to help celebrate National Poetry Month.

Poetry used to be so archaic and foreign to me until I started writing it.

Of course as an English major, I studied #Poetry but also found it to be intimidating, especially as I learned about sonnets, sestinas, villanelles and haikus, each with their specific meters, syllable counts and rhyming schemes. And then I found out about free verse, but that, too, has its rules: get rid of the extra words while providing artistic expression in the open form.

As I practiced free verse, the other forms became easier to incorporate in my daily poem habit—I’ve been writing a poem a day since September 2017. I now like writing haikus—they’re short and all you have to do is count out syllables of 5-7-5 in three lines of poetry.

Odes and Elegies

I added two other forms to my likes list thanks to a local poetry workshop, “Odes, Elegies and Raptures, Oh My!” presented earlier this month at the Loveland Museum/Gallery by Fort Collins, Colo., poet Lisa Zimmerman. The workshop was part of a series of readings, workshops and writing events for Loveland, Colo.’s celebration of National Poetry Month that aims to increase awareness and appreciation of poetry in April.

“I love we have a whole month to celebrate poetry,” said Zimmerman, associate professor at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, Colo., and author of six poetry collections, including “The Light at the Edge of Everything.” “Poetry speaks to beauty. … I write poetry because it’s beautiful and terrible.”

Zimmerman said she can feel weighed down by the world and then will notice something that inspires a poem, keeping her in the present time.

“You can’t look in the eyes of horse and be bummed about things,” she said.

Poems about Anything

Zimmerman said she has one rule about poetry, and that is poems can be written about anything. When she teaches a workshop, she likes to give a quick description of the form and then offer poetry prompts to encourage immediate writing.

“When I go to poetry workshop, I want to get a poem out of it. If you’re anything like me, you want a poem,” Zimmerman said.

I got three poems out of the workshop—I only could attend the odes part and missed the “sad” elegies to head off to work.

Zimmerman explained that odes are a tribute to an object or event and can be to anything and everything. They can be a thank you, a poem of praise or an expression after the fact, “an oh, or yeah,” as she stated in a handout about odes with samples of poems.

We read the samples and got to work writing our own odes. I wrote three, an ode to books, to my laptop and to my dachshund (Zoey the princess).

I missed the elegies bit, but asked Zimmerman to send me a write-up about it. She wrote, “Elegies are not always about death—sometimes an elegiac poem is about sadness or longing.”

She said many of us carry around a sadness and have not been able to write about it, perhaps for years. During the workshop, she suggested “we can ‘write around it,’ or, as Emily Dickinson advises, ‘Tell the truth, but tell it slant.’”

I was sad I missed the rest of the session due to work. But then I was happy when I had my breaks to think about all that I had learned, Oh My!

 

Reading Poetry at ‘In Just Spring’

In Giving a Poetry Reading, In Just Spring, Poetry Readings, Reading Poems, Uncategorized on April 8, 2018 at 5:00 pm

PoetryMuseum1 2016

Shelley Widhalm recites poetry at a seasonal reading in 2016 at the Loveland Museum/Gallery.  She will be part of a reading there April 15.

April is my favorite month for three reasons—it’s spring, it’s the month of my birthday and it’s National Poetry Month.

To celebrate the celebration of poetry, the Community Poets in Loveland, Colo., will present In Just Spring with a poetry reading, music and storytelling at the Loveland Museum/Gallery on April 15. National Poetry Month was organized in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets to increase awareness and appreciation of poetry during the month of April.

The Community Poets chose the name for the reading to reflect E.E. Cummings’ poem [in Just-] about mud, puddles and the springtime. The reading is part of the seasonal equinox and solstice readings the group hosts four times a year. The group organizes the readings and other poetry-related activities, including visits from poets and poetry workshops, to get the local community interested and engaged in the poetic discipline.

The Poetry Reading

The reading, which will be 1-3 p.m., will feature 45 minutes of an open mike, where the public will be invited to read one poem, followed by the regular reading with 10 invited readers.

The Community Poets invited me to be one of the readers who will recite two springtime-themed, lighthearted poems. I’ll be reading a poem about sparrows and the second about The Squirrel Man who feeds the squirrels near the lagoon where I like to run and walk my dog. The two poems come from my Poem-a-Day Challenge.

Since September 2017, I’ve written a poem a day—not literally, because I have to do lots of fill-in-the-blanks and catch-ups, but it equals out to a daily dose of poetry. From this challenge, I have learned a few things about daily writing that makes it fun and not feel like a chore.

Writing Poems

To find a poem (especially daily), here are a few things you can do:

  • Pay attention to the one thing from the day that strikes you—an interesting happening or something you notice. Describe it to yourself and say you’ll write it later.
  • Write the poem even if you don’t feel like it, not worrying about quality.
  • Write haikus of 5, 7, 5 syllables. The more you do them, the easier they are to do, and you can do them quickly and still get in your poem for the day.
  • Write a crappy first poem and maybe a second and then let the good poems show up.
  • Don’t wait for inspiration or the right circumstances to right the poem, just write it.
  • Use the senses (seeing, hearing, smelling, touching and tasting) to describe an observation or experience. Thinking about them will allow you to access better descriptions.
  • Play around with words and descriptions, or simply put words on the page and rearrange them.
  • Be specific in your descriptions, avoiding clichés and general terms, instead favoring concrete terms, such as red-twig dogwood over tree. Here’s a line from one of my poems about dogwoods: “Red-twig dogwood/ crayon marks across/ gray winter light.”

One Last Thing

Lastly, have fun with the writing. Writing poetry makes you a better writer in other genres, such as fiction, blogs and articles, because it makes you think about description and language while also getting across what you want to say about the topic.

Blogging Blunders (and how to get motivated)

In Blogging, Blogging Advice, Blogging Tips, Writing, Writing Advice on April 1, 2018 at 5:00 pm

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Blogging on a regular basis takes motivation (and discipline).

I fell off the blogging bandwagon last month, skipping my blog for three weeks and feeling guilty about it.

I wrote a blog about this experience but lost it through some stupid copy-and-paste move. I’d written about how I’d failed to blog and also was excited about spring, but got too busy to actually write my blog. I said I thought about my blog late at night but was too tired to pop out of bed to write.

Finding time to blog in the busyness of everything, especially with that lost hour with the transition out of winter, can be difficult. I wrote something about finding the motivation to blog and the steps to go about it.

I wrote how motivation’s opposite is frustration, the result of encountering obstacles to a goal or project—like losing your work. It can be a feeling of being stuck, of not getting anywhere no matter what you try to do. Motivation, on the other hand, is the desire to do something and the drive to carry out a goal. It is what causes you to act.

Finding Motivation

Here are some other thing to do to keep up the motivation to blog, write or do something you feel like you should (or want to) do.

  • Remember your original goal or what you want to accomplish.
  • Set aside time each day or week, even five minutes at a time, to help you reach the goal.
  • Keep track of the steps you take and time you put in toward the goal.
  • Realize that setbacks will happen (I wanted to cry when I accidentally deleted what I wrote, but instead I rewrote my blog, even if it might not be the greatest piece of writing).
  • Take credit for each accomplishment toward the goal.
  • Don’t allow for excuses, at least most of the time.
  • Forgive yourself if you get sidetracked or frustrated.
  • No matter what, retain the commitment.

What Exactly is Motivation?

I looked it up and found that motivation, which can be intrinsic or extrinsic, has three components, that of:

  • Activation, or the decision to initiate a behavior.
  • Persistence, the continued effort toward a goal even though obstacles may exist.
  • Intensity, or the degree of concentration.

The key is to remember the goals and the eventual rewards and that, even with setbacks, things can get crossed off of that to-do list. And maybe you’ll get a like or two or a comment, like the old days of putting things on the fridge.