Shelley Widhalm

Posts Tagged ‘Writing Poetry’

Comparing Blogging with Poetry Readings

In Blogging, National Poetry Month, Poetry Readings, Writing, Writing Poetry on April 16, 2017 at 11:00 am

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I am reading some of my poems during a previous poetry reading at the Loveland Museum/Gallery.

Listening to and writing poetry doesn’t seem to fit into the fast-paced business world of SEO, key words and tracking analytics.

A poem has rhythm, pacing and structure, while blogs and business writing aim for a certain voice, objective and spin, all to capture attention. A poem exists on the page, the lines and spacing giving it shape, while blogs use optimized headlines, bullet points and short written content to provide the structure.

Another way to put it is a poem is quiet, existing in a book or chapbook or even on a piece of paper. A blog is loud and out there trying to get clicks.

Capturing the Audience

Both capture audiences, but in different ways.

A poem wants readers and to give expression to the internal, to memory and to observation.

A blog wants followers and to increase numbers to build toward marketing a business or attracting advertising to further promote the blog.

Like blogs, poems can become loud when they are given physical voice, such as in a poetry reading or poetry slam.

I’ll be reading two of my poems this week in two separate readings, both a part of National Poetry Month in April. National Poetry Month is 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.

Two Poetry Readings

The first reading is “For Spacious Skies, celebrating early American poetry,” on Thursday, April 20, at the Loveland Museum/Gallery. I will read a poem in the style of Edward Taylor, colonial America’s foremost poet and a minister and physician. I wrote two poems after studying Taylor’s biography, a few of his poems and his approach to writing, including his tone, voice and word usage.

I’m trying to decide which of the two poems to pick for the invited poetry reading, where local poets selected an American colonist and wrote a response, such as in the same style or using similar subjects. One of my poems is more fun in tone and takes place in the kitchen, while the other is serious and reflective.

The second reading I plan to attend is Poudre River Public Library District’s Fifth Annual Battle of the Bards on Friday, April 21. The 10 finalists of the poetry contest will be reading their poems at the Harmony Library, and the first- to third-place winners will be announced. My poem that was selected, “Flower Centers,” compares various emotional states to different types of flowers.

A Final Thought

To further compare poems with blogs, I wanted to add a couple of notes:

Poems have titles on top (sometimes) and lines of text that aren’t necessarily aligned with the right margin.

Blogs have headlines scattered throughout and lots of the previously mentioned bullet points.

I’ve yet to see a poem with a bullet point:

Roses are red

  • Violets are blue.
  • Sugar is sweet …

I hope to see you at the readings.

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.

Proud Poem Owner

In Shelley Widhalm, Writing Poetry on September 26, 2015 at 11:00 pm

My father is hanging out with my cute dog, Zoey.

My father is hanging out with my cute dog, Zoey.

This past weekend, I visited my father and saw the poem I wrote for him and had framed was displayed on a bookshelf on the top shelf.

I’d won third place in the Poudre Library District’s Battle of the Bards poetry contest earlier this summer and for Father’s Day bought a frame to show off a pretty version of the poem with fancy fonts. I gave it to my father a week later when my brother and I visited him in Northeastern Colorado. On our second summer trip, the poem got a special place, and I felt honored.

While we did some stuff around town, I ran into a couple of my father’s friends, and they both said my father was proud I won and that I’d written a poem for him. That, for me, was the real honor, having my father being proud of me.

Here’s the poem:

          Dad’s swing sets

          Shelley Widhalm

Under an oak tree

is where Dad built the swing,

two ropes and a board.

Dad’s hands on our backs,

feet touching the sky,

or seeming to,

matched with giggles

“More, more,”

Dorothy’s red shoes

lighten my feet.

At our next house

when we’re too big for pushing,

he gave us two swings,

cross bars, a rope, a trapeze.

Hours we laugh,

sunshine to our growing.

Dad digs all of it out,

four yellow grassy spots a reminder

of his building, fixing

swings wherever we live

to take us up to the sky

and back again to his hands,

long fingers, calloused,

strong, beautiful

to me.

(See Zoey the Cute Dachshund’s blog at zoeyspaw.wordpress.com)

Poem Inspiration

In Poets' Booth, Writing Poetry, Writing Processes on May 10, 2015 at 11:00 am

Typically, I write poems on scraps of paper or on my laptop—but when I tried typing a poem on a typewriter, I felt halted and also inspired by the process.

I attended a People’s Market earlier this month in downtown Loveland, an artisan fair of white tents and booths around the Foote Lagoon, a geese-filled pond with the city’s civic center as the backdrop.

One of the booths featured the Poets’ Stop with an open mic and games to spark poem creation. The games included a set of word tiles that can be arranged into a few words or one word to give a starting place to write, blank paper to leave or take a poem, and paper in the typewriter to manually type up the verses.

“You should write a poem,” one of the poets, who I know from poetry open mics, said to me as I was gathering material for a news photograph (i.e. for my day job). I figured I could sneak in a poem while on the clock, so I sat down at a foldout table in front of one of the two typewriters there.

My fingers felt stiff and awkward on the keys, unable to glide from letter to letter, because I had to press down each one. I had to think about the letters of the words I wrote, when normally there is little connection. I’m not conscious of the keyboard or placement of the letters, something that’s become automatic from practice.

This disconnection slowed my thinking and creation process as I thought about each line and each letter in the lines and what I wanted to type next.

As I typed, I had to move the bar to move the type to the next line, pulling me, for a few seconds, out of the poem and into the sounds of the geese and rumble of conversation. I entered and re-entered the poem, as if I was going over multiple speed bumps, chopping up the flow.

After I wrote the poem, the poet asked me if I would read it, and I did, finding it difficult to see the faded letters from not pressing hard enough on the keys. She said she liked it for showing how typing it made me reflective on the process of writing a poem.

Here is what I wrote:

I am unmoored by the

s tiff fore ign type writer

my thought s slowed by the mistakes of ke ys

that require pushing

hard like the book bind perfection in

grammar my fingers become insecure in the one hand

movement of this falling apart peom

the tool new but old in story

as I miss letters, slow paces,

no poem here. no. stop.

back to my comfort I returnn.

back to my comfort I returnn.

Poem: Dad’s Swing Sets

In Poetic Inspirations, Writing, Writing Poetry on May 3, 2015 at 5:00 am

Entering poetry contests is a risk, but I was glad I took it when I entered the “Battle of the Bards” poetry contest hosted by the Poudre River Library District in a neighboring city.

My poem, “Dad’s Swing Sets,” which I wrote in 2013, was a finalist in the adult category. The finalists in all the categories, based on age, read their poems at a poetry reading, Friday, April 24, at the Front Range Community College library.

The finalists’ poems will be printed in the 2015 Battle of the Bards poetry chapbook and a free library district e-book.

Here’s the poem:

     Dad’s Swing Sets

      Shelley Widhalm

Under an oak tree

is where Dad built the swing,

two ropes and a board.

Dad’s hands on our backs,

feet touching the sky,

or seeming to,

matched with giggles

“More, more,”

Dorothy’s red shoes

lighten my feet.

 

At our next house

when we’re too big for pushing,

he gave us two swings,

cross bars, a rope, a trapeze.

Hours we laugh,

sunshine to our growing.

 

Dad digs all of it out,

four yellow grassy spots a reminder

of his building, fixing

swings wherever we live

to take us up to the sky

and back again to his hands,

long fingers, calloused,

strong, beautiful

to me.

The form and inspiration of poetry

In Inspiration for Poetry, Poetic Forms, Poetry, Writing Poetry on April 12, 2015 at 11:00 am

Writing poetry is a matter of art and inspiration.

April is National Poetry Month, an annual celebration of poetry started by the Academy of American Poets in 1996.

The art of poetry can take many shapes from free verse to fixed form, such as sonnets, sestinas, villanelles or haikus that have specific meters, syllable counts and rhyming schemes. Or it can combine poetry and prose through a prose poem that is a block of text filling part of a page with poetic language.

Poems, no matter their structure, are about feeling, emotion, stories and moments. They have tempo, rhythm, color, sound and movement as they move across or down the page.

With or without structure, poems can employ various poetic devices to add musicality to the words, such as alliteration, the repetition of initial consonant sounds; consonance, the repetition of internal consonant sounds; and assonance, the repetition of vowel sounds.

Other devices that add music to language include 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. The form is open but still engages one or more of these 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.

To write a poem, here are some things to think about.

  • Think of the intent of the poem and what it is you want to express.
  • Use the senses—seeing, hearing, smelling, touching and tasting—to capture your thoughts, ideas, feelings and observations.
  • Play around with words and descriptions, or simply put words on the page and rearrange them.
  • Avoid using clichés, generalities and vague concepts, like love, hope and war. Avoid overusing trite words, such as tears and heart, opting for comparisons and concrete language instead.
  • To get to the concrete, describe the specifics, such as how a sunflower lowers its seed-filled head to show change from day to night.

Once the poem is written, reread it to cut excess words to get to the heart of the poem. Explore what your poem is really saying and look for ideas that can be further explored. Your subconscious may have made connections your conscious mind doesn’t readily see. This can happen as you surrender to the writing and the beauty that comes out of the unfolding of words.

Writing poetry (tips and advice)

In Poetry, Shelley Widhalm, Writing, Writing Processes on October 26, 2014 at 11:00 am

Unlike writing novels, writing poetry is a little freer in structure, especially if it’s outside of form.

A novel requires a beginning, middle and end, tension and conflict, a climax and the structural elements of setting, plot and characters.

Poetry is about feeling, emotion, stories and moments. The shape poems take range from free verse to a fixed form, such as a sonnet, sestina, villanelle or haiku, with a specific meter, rhyming scheme and syllable count. Poems also can bridge poetry and prose by taking the shape of a prose poem that is poetic, while looking like prose as a block of text filling part of a page.

Free verse poetry is the most open form of poetic writing that doesn’t use a specific meter or syllable count or employ a consistent rhythm and sound. The form is open while engaging any of a variety of poetic devices to add musicality to the words.

These devices can include alliteration, or the repetition of initial consonant sounds; consonance, the repetition of internal consonant sounds; assonance, the repetition of vowel sounds; and rhyme and slant rhyme, rhyming between two words that are identical or nearly identical.

The musicality can come from the tempo of the words, or the feel they create as they are spoken or read, as well as how they are put side by side and down the page.

Poems can tell a story and have a plot with the novel’s beginning, middle and end but in a smaller space. Or they can capture a single moment, image, thought or emotion. They communicate through sounds, which appeal to feeling the same way music does as the words become the music.

Writing poetry is an individual art, but to prompt the process, there are several ways to enter a poetic state of mind. Try to:

• Use the senses – those of seeing, hearing, smelling, touching and tasting – when making observations.
• Play around with words and descriptions, or simply put words on the page and rearrange them.
• Avoid using clichés, especially about well-loved topics, like love.
• Choose a title for your poem, then write from that point. Or choose a topic, an experience or a feeling you want to write about and compare it with something concrete like a pigeon on a window ledge to express risk-taking.

Lastly, think about the intent of the poem and the feelings to be expressed and say it in a fresh way. Trust your subconscious, which makes connections your conscious mind might not readily make. And surrender to your writing.

See how Zoey the Cute Dachshund writes canine poetry at her blog at zoeyspaw.wordpress.com.

Poem Finding

In 52: A Writer's Life, Poetry, Shelley Widhalm, Writing on June 16, 2013 at 11:30 am

I love the idea of a poem finding the poet rather than the poet, through the process of writing, creating a poem.

One poet describes this process of poem finding as literally chasing it down in its whole-poem shape. The poems she meets as she works outside rumble through the fields coming toward her. She has to run toward paper to capture each one, or the poem will go onto the next person. If she gets to the poem barely in time, it comes out backwards.

I write poetry using poetry exercises, an image that excites me or that magic I can’t understand. I experience a poem feeling that causes me to drop what I’m doing and grab something to write with and something to write on, whether it’s paper, a napkin or a paper towel.

The poem that arrives, giving me this poem feeling, usually is rough and just the start of something that needs revision, but it’s as if it came from elsewhere or from within my subconscious, arising suddenly. If I don’t listen to the poem feeling’s voice calling to me, I lose the poem.

I believe that poems are of the moment. If you wait two seconds, the poem will come out slightly different because your thoughts have moved slightly forward in time and space, the air has slightly changed, the sunset has shifted or disappeared and the moment is just that, a moment, here, then gone.

It’s like photography, where the professional photo takes rapid fire photos of the same image, but with each frame, the lighting, position of the body and the expression change.

This magical type of poetry that arrives with the message, I’m a poem, is like Michelangelo’s carving out the preexisting shape to free it from stone.

I am the lucky recipient of these few poems that find me.

And in the process, I have found a lightning blast of excitement, passion and energy in that zap that turns a moment into a word dance.

Cluttered Inspiration

In 52 Writing Topics, Poetry, Shelley Widhalm, Writing on April 14, 2013 at 11:00 am

I’ve let things and clutter get in the way of poetic inspiration and writing discipline.

Two things I let slip: my third revision of my novel, “The Fire Painter,” and my goal to write a poem a day for National Poetry Month.

I wanted to set aside my novel for two weeks after the second revision, which I finished in mid-March, and do another revision before attending a local conference at the end of April.

And I wanted to be a poetic genius able to write sparkly, beautiful poems at my own bidding.

But I guess I don’t work that way, especially when I have clutter in my head and in my life.

When I write poetry, I get this feeling – usually caused by music, a memory or an observation – and have to grab a napkin, receipt or newspaper scrap and start writing. The poem unravels out of something within me, almost uncontrolled except for the words playing off one another and some central idea I begin to grasp as I write.

This method of writing poetry is in direct opposition to how I approach physical stuff.

I have to have everything in my environment, organized, clean and in categories. (I hope I don’t have OCD, but I am admittedly a neat freak).

My neat freak-ness got disrupted.

A family member is moving and some of my stuff is mixed in with hers, plus she has given me boxes and bags of things she thought I might like or could use. I reorganized my pre-existing things to fit and make room for these new things, plus spring cleaned through my own belongings, getting rid of what I no longer wanted or needed.

The result was three boxes of books for trade-in and four boxes of stuff to donate. The cleaning out and getting rid of stuff, while bringing in new stuff, took up my free time and energy, leaving nothing for writing. I needed space, time and inner quiet to write, while time was all I needed for editing.

As I sorted, I got so focused on objects and the stories associated with some of them that I became too close to process those feelings. I didn’t have room for anything else, as if the clutter of my personal life cluttered my mind, leaving no room for anything but thinking about physical things.

I simply let things cause a form of writer’s block.

Going Poetic: National Poetry Month

In 52: A Writer's Life, Poetry, Shelley Widhalm, Writing on April 7, 2013 at 11:00 am

The idea of writing a poem a day is a bit daunting.

First, where does the inspiration come from, especially if you write poems as they come, even when the writing space is awkward on napkins or receipt tape? Do you have to try poetry exercises to get the spark started? Or do you just sit down and write whatever spills out?

Second, where do you find those special sparkly moments to condense into a few magical words if you’ve got work, chores and life? Or do those things feed into experience that in turn gives you ideas, thoughts and emotions to smooth like peanut butter into cadence and meter?

It’s National Poetry Month, when poetry is celebrated and poets undertake the challenge to write a poem a day during the month of April.

To write poetry, I listen to music or observe something around me, such as the way a budding tree (I can’t identify the type outside the coffee shop window) zigzags its branches across the street, a skeletal umbrella against the fading blue night.

When I’m listening to music, I filter out some of the words for a starting point, or I match the rhythm of what I hear into the feel of language as I write. The words rumble through my chest, causing my heart to speed up as if I were running, when all I’m doing is chasing beautiful language.

Sometimes what I write is nonsense, though I try to find a line or an idea to play with later.

I don’t pick a form to follow, unless I’m writing from an exercise or trying out the directions for writing sonnets, haikus and sestinas and the like. I might write in blank verse, a type of unrhymed poetry written in regular meter, which is the stress on syllables. Or I might write in free verse that does not contain a consistent meter pattern or rhyme.

These various forms I will try during my poem-a-day challenge, as if sorting through a pile of clothes in the dressing room.

As I do this, I will take five to 15 minutes from my busy, pushy life to notice what I haven’t before, searching out inspiration, hope and poetry love.