Shelley Widhalm

Posts Tagged ‘Reading Poetry’

Poetry readings and vacations

In Giving a Poetry Reading, Poetry Readings, Writing, Writing Poetry on December 18, 2016 at 11:00 am

PoeticGeography6 2016Reading poetry aloud is like taking a mini-vacation.

I read two of my winter-themed poems Thursday during “On a Snowy Evening,” a seasonal poetry reading at the Loveland Museum/Gallery in Loveland, Colo. The 1 ½-hour event featured poetry, storytelling and song during an open mic and a reading with nine artists presenting their work.

Their work focused on the winter solstice and the cold, ice and snow—liking or waiting for it—and getting Christmas cards and presents. Two of the poems on the solstice called it the darkest and the longest night of the year. Two more poems focused on a meditation on December and a meditation on winter. And one of the poems called the season “winter dessert.”

There also was a story about a local townsman’s dream of creating a one-horse opened sleigh and a story about getting the wrong Christmas present that ended up causing envy among schoolmates.

The poems, stories and songs were beautiful, descriptive and imaginative, giving delight to the feel of winter. They expressed so many different perspectives on winter I felt the season could be as wonderful and dashing as the holiday pop songs present it.

I read two of my poems, both about my not liking winter (though the snow is pretty, and getting and sending Christmas cards is joyful). The poems are “Fall Back, Winter” and “Just tell me about the wind.”

Before I read, I took off my scarf, saying, “This is not a performance,” and got a laugh. As I read my poems—we each got five minutes—I got a vacation-like escape onto the stage, where I focused on the audience and the words I’d written. It was a form of acting, or outward showing of the words, after they’d been written through internal reflection and observation.

Going on vacation is an escape from regular routines, gives a time to reflect on those routines and, hopefully, offers a time to experience beauty and difference. It’s a time to observe landscapes, people, environments and buildings and to think of ways to describe them, even if those descriptions aren’t written down.

I concluded my “On a snowy evening,” feeling like I traveled to a winter place, where I could write home saying, “I’m having the time of my life,” “Wish you were here” and “Greetings from far away,” just because I could see winter in a new light.

It’s not my longest, darkest day or season, but something that I can enjoy now that I found new words to describe it. That’s what vacations do, add stamps to a passport, experiences to put in a journal or photo album and new ways of seeing the world.

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.

Comparing poetry to eating cake

In Giving a Poetry Reading, Reading Poetry, Writing, Writing Poetry on October 30, 2016 at 11:00 am

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I celebrated my birthday in April with cake and a solitary candle.

Getting published and getting to read what you publish is the reward at the end of the long road of hard work.

But the work, too, is worth it, especially writing poetry that captures the moment. Without the poem, the moment gets lost into memory, amorphous in shape. Words give that moment grounding.

Reading a poem aloud allows the poem to have reality in time, so that it becomes a living, breathing thing. It becomes the what and where and how of a poet’s inspiration.

On Wednesday, Nov. 2, I’ll read three of my poems selected for Sunrise Summits: A Poetry Anthology, during the launch party in Fort Collins.

Poets and their family and friends are invited to the event, where there will be cake (and appetizers).

I think cake is a perfect way to celebrate poetry. It’s sweet, an extra to a meal. It has so many varieties from lemon to poppy seed to chocolate to birthday cake with the colorful sprinkles.

A quote selected for the celebration fits perfectly: “I collect words—they are sweets in the mouth of sound,” writes Sally Gardener in “Maggot Moon.”

Poems are like cake, the frosting adding an extra layer both to the taste and packaging. They are the dessert to writing, a necessity for pleasure and experience beyond just the main meal. Without the flair of metaphor and simile, comparisons, descriptions and analogies, poetry is simply the prose or the dinner of writing. Instead, it’s the dessert, the thrill and the fun of crafting words into meaningful expression in beautiful, variant form.

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.

 

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.)

Spring and poetry (or springing into poetry)

In Poetry, Poetry Readings, Reading Poetry, Writing on March 13, 2016 at 11:00 am

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Writing poetry is a solitary act of inspiration or discipline or both, while reading poetry aloud is a matter of acting and stage presence.

Reading poetry is about the poet’s image and voice and is an expression of the self externally.

I will be reading my poetry in an invited poetry reading 1-3 p.m. Sunday, March 20, the first day of spring at the Loveland Museum/Gallery in Loveland, Colorado. The reading is called, “Come Rain, Come Shine”—A spring equinox celebration in poetry and music.

I will be reading half a dozen poems focused on spring and will have five minutes, along with the other poets, who also will be focusing their expression on the season and the equinox. The reading is about spring but also a springboard into National Poetry Month in April.

I find it interesting how the process of writing is internal. It’s word play and memory and reflection. It’s a drawing inward.

Alternatively, staging poetry is going outward.

I wonder if you can have one without the other.

If poems are kept to the writer, are they a form of personal journaling? When does a poem become a poem? When it’s written or read? It has the shape of poem in written form, but it becomes a conversation and a message when it’s read aloud.

That’s why I like going to poetry readings with the freedom to give voice to what, up to that point, had been internal. Poets who share their poetry in a reading or slam are engaging in communication, expressing emotion and getting feedback for what they’ve written.

Poetry becomes a necessary language that communicates what cannot be said in other forms, compiling emotion and experience and observation into a few words. It uses form to give a message.

It is a way to add beauty to a moment, or to a large experience.

It expresses, tells, gives, takes and lives.

The words. Magic.

Defeating Shyness

In Modeling, Shelley Widhalm, Shyness on September 18, 2011 at 7:00 am

Modeling, reading my poetry on stage and blogging about being shy all have helped me overcome my shyness.

I think.

I have learned that one way to conquer shyness is to set aside fear and dive into the situation. I don’t like approaching a large group of people where I don’t know anyone.  But if I break up that group into smaller groups or individuals, especially those who I find interesting, then I can say “hello” and ask a question or two.

People really do like to talk about themselves.
If they brush you off, it’s probably more about them, than about you.

Another situation I found to be difficult is giving speeches.

In my college speech class, I memorized my speeches and thought I had to follow my note cards to the letter. If I looked an audience member in the eye, my fear instinct took over. What if I messed up and looked like an idiot?

But I now can read my poetry to an audience, because I, for one, am not being graded. And if those in the audience don’t like what I wrote, that’s okay. It doesn’t mean that I’m rejected.

Rejected – that’s how I used to feel.

I was told throughout my life that I was beautiful (on the exterior), but I felt like an ugly duckling. I didn’t go for modeling when I was a teen, because I didn’t know that you could learn how to do something and then do it. Now, that I’m checking off one of goals, I figure that it really doesn’t matter if I get turned down for modeling jobs, I just want to do it for the experience.

I went online to research about shyness, as if I’m not already an expert on the subject. One blogger wrote that she is an inwardly directed person and prefers to process the world internally before speaking up. Another blogger stated that shyness doesn’t benefit anyone.

I get that.

I read that those who are shy are afraid of rejection, humiliation and being ignored. They are oversensitive and insecure.

And that those who are inclined toward shyness are often the most thoughtful.

I still have the fear of getting rejected, but I expect it to happen here and there. I don’t mind being humiliated because it happens. And as far as being ignored, I think I experience that a lot. I say things that bounce along unheard.

But who cares?

The sensitivity I likely won’t shed because without it I wouldn’t gather words and images and life to fling into heart-rearing sentences, as if I could get rid of insecurity with careful observation.