The ducks at the local lagoon are one of my favorite subjects for poetry, no matter the season.
By SHelley Widhalm
Poems about autumn and work go together with the autumnal equinox and Labor Day falling in the same month.
The Community Poets will host a poetry reading, “Good Work!—A Post-Labor Day Celebration,” on Sept. 23 at the Loveland Museum in Loveland, Colo., and I’ve been invited to be one of the 10 readers. The Community Poets, a group of local poets and organizations that organizes poetry readings and workshops in Loveland, gives seasonal readings, but this one will have a twist by bringing in that thing we all have to do.
“Work has so many meanings,” said Lorrie Wolfe, a member of the Community Poets president of the Northern Colorado Chapter of the Columbine Poets of Colorado. “It’s how we build our lives, spend our days and fulfill our dreams. We will reflect on the shortening days, the autumnal equinox and heading back to school.”
The Poetry Reading
To prepare for the reading, I scoured through my poems over the last year—I started the Poem-A-Day Challenge on Sept, 1, 2017, that encourages the writing of a poem a day—and found dozens of poems about work, making it hard to select two or three.
My topics include working at a grocery store, doing dishes, taking out the trash and getting pink slips, but nothing about writing articles for newspapers—my main career, maybe because I’d be writing about writing. I also found several poems about fall, which is helpful for the reading’s secondary theme of autumn. Among my fall poems were a few about ducks at a nearby lagoon but observed all year round, probably because I run by there every day as part of my daily run.
The benefit of daily poetry is generating enough poems about topics for a variety of readings and to have enough for a book or two. In my own work, I saw half a dozen common themes for chapbooks, just within a year.
For those who want to try a poem, there are no hard rules except for the forms, because free verse allows for a looser structure. Poems, at the most basic level, have rhythm and pacing without excess words, such as “and,” “the,” adverbs and filler descriptions. They are shaped by lines, spaces and word breaks.
To begin writing poetry, and this may sound repetitive, just write. To wait for inspiration to cull a poem is unreliable.
Do not expect all poems to be good—I have plenty of bad and OK poems in my daily collection, but each one has a line or two or even a rhythm that makes me think, “Oh, I have something here.”
To write a poem, here a few tricks I use.
- Use the senses—seeing, hearing, smelling, touching and tasting—to capture 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 or war.
- Avoid overusing trite words, such as hearts and tears, opting for comparisons and concrete language instead.
- Be specific in descriptions.
Once the poem is written, give it a title that fits but also is intriguing and draws in the reader. And then read it out loud, possibly before an audience.
That’s the aim of the Community Poets, to give poets voice. The group includes the Northern Colorado Chapter of the Columbine Poets of Colorado; the Friends of the Loveland Public Library; The Writing Lab; the DazBogian Poets; and several community sponsors.
The poetry readings are held every season, and the workshops are held twice a year in April and August.