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

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 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’s celebration of National Poetry Month that aims to increase awareness and appreciation of poetry.

“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 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.

Zimmerman wrote back, “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!

Shelley Widhalm is founder of Shell’s Ink Services, a writing and editing service based in Loveland, Colo. She has more than 15 years experience in communications and holds a master of arts degree in English from Colorado State University. Reach her atShellsInkServices.com or swidhalm@shellsinkservices.com.

The Light at the Edge of Everything by Lisa Zimmerman
Photo by John Zimmerman

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