Shelley Widhalm

Archive for the ‘Reading Poems’ Category

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.

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The “cake” of reading poetry aloud

In Giving a Poetry Reading, Poetry, Poetry Readings, Reading Poems on November 6, 2016 at 11:00 am

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I’m being dramatic as I talk about my poetry in “Sunrise Summits: A Poetry Anthology” during a reading, Wednesday, Nov. 2, in Fort Collins.

I felt the greatest honor when I had the opportunity to read three of my poems to an audience of about 50 people last week.

The poems, along with two to three poems from 25 other poets who are members of Northern Colorado Writers, were selected for Sunrise Summits: A Poetry Anthology, edited by member Dean Miller. Miller helped organize a launch party Wednesday in Fort Collins, where poets could invite their families and friends to attend.

My brother and his fiancé and a couple of my friends came as my guests, and my friend, Sarah, took photos of me reading.

When I got up to the mike, I was a little too quiet, so a member of the audience told me to use my diaphragm, and I said I didn’t know where it was, throwing in some humor and getting a small laugh. I tried to take deep breaths and raise the volume of my voice, but I was nervous. I tried to read slowly, pronouncing each word and putting emphasis on the last line, but I think I read too quickly.

I read a twitter poem, a form I think I might have made up, but, as I told everyone there, wasn’t sure. It was 140 characters or less, or 22 words. Next, I read a haiku about Nebraska, where I came from, and asked everyone not to hold it against me. That poem was 13 words, following the 5, 7, 5 syllable format.

Finally, I read a free verse poem comparing writing on a notebook page to the wings of hummingbirds.

I might have been at the mike for three or four minutes, but it felt like 15 minutes. My heart beat too fast, and I forgot to make eye contact. I tried to look up at the audience here and there, but I went back to the words, focusing on pronouncing everything correctly. I think I got that part right.

After the reading, where about 13 poets read, there was cake (and appetizers). I ate the frosting off of two pieces of cake (I can’t eat gluten) and felt like I had my cake and the frosting, too, because reading your poetry to an audience is that special extra after having written something in a few sweet words. I got a sugar high and a poetry high, too.

Giving a poetry reading (comfortably)

In Giving a Poetry Reading, Poetry, Poetry Readings, Reading Poems on July 3, 2016 at 11:00 am

PoetryMuseum 2015Reading poetry aloud creates a different experience than reading it on the page.

The poet should read the poem slowly to emphasize each word and to give it space and time, so the listeners can take in the sounds and meanings.

Reading a poem too quickly causes those nuances to be lost, as well as what the poem says. It just becomes a string of words.

That’s what I learned to prepare for my participation in a public poetry reading.
I read three of my poems about summer a few days after the solstice during Poetry at the Museum: Summer Solstice Poetry, A Midsummer Night’s Dream on Sunday, June 26, at the Loveland Museum/Gallery. The two-hour event featured poetry, music and storytelling, all around the theme of summer.

Three local poets organize seasonal readings around the change of the seasons for summer, fall, winter and spring. They invited half a dozen poets and artists to present their works about summer and Shakespeare’s play, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.:

I scoured my poetry for seasonal poems, finding only two, and wrote a new one to get to my three. Though I love summer, I realized I had few poems about summer, but had many about spring and fall and even a few about the starkness of winter.

When I read the poems, I wasn’t shaking and nervous, but felt comfortable. I’d practiced at the mike and read my poems several times out loud, getting to the point of memorizing a few lines.

Here are a few more tips for reading poetry in front of audience:

  • Put the poems in an extra large font.
  • Move your finger along the page as you read.
  • Look up at individual members of the audience.
  • Don’t overdramatize or try to be cute.
  • Emphasize the last one to two lines.

And lastly, practice because that’s what provides that comfort factor. It’s doing what you did before, but with a few more people in the room.

 

Poetry Slams vs. Reading Poetry

In Poetry, Reading Poems, Writing Poetry on May 31, 2015 at 11:00 am

I’ve been to both poetry slams and poetry readings, and I haven’t quite figured out slam poetry: what it is and even how to write it.

To figure it out, I researched slams by starting with the Meetup page for the LoCo Poetry Slam that meets the third Saturday of the month at the LoCo Artisan Coffee House in downtown Loveland. The slam isn’t a pure slam but is an open mic where poets can slam memorized poems or read their work.

“If you use poetry as an escape, as an idea-bouncer, as a coping mechanism, whatever, please come out and join us sometime,” the writeup states.

Slams, a poetry movement that began in the 1990s, revitalized an interest in poetry as performance through spoken word poems. They are a way to bounce around ideas, start conversations and reflect on personal lives, the poet’s soul and social injustices.

Slam poems can express raw emotion and large ideas and often are presented rapid-fire in a vocal delivery style comparable to rap music.

The performances are done in a competition format, judged on a numeric scale by the audience or a selection of audience members chosen by the MC or host. The poems are scored to determine a winner, usually through multiple elimination rounds. The performances typically are limited to three minutes—the LoCo Poetry Slam limits poets to three poems of any length.

Slam poets are judged on how they perform and the content, voice and style of their poetry. Their delivery can use theatric devices, dance and movement as they recite, or they can rely solely on the words.

The audience chooses who advances to the next level and to the final round.

I participated in an official slam a few months ago and didn’t make it out of the first round. I read my poem, trying to act it out, but I didn’t know what I was doing. I’m more familiar with reading my poetry, letting the words and the emotion I put into them tell story through the rhythms I evoke in my way of using language. Slam will be a way to learn how to perform those words.