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Tips for Would-Be Poets and Lakeshore Library Poetry Jam Participants

Lakeshore Branch Library's Poetry Jam is 1-2:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 27.

BUCHANAN DAM — What do you get when you put poetry and jam together? Well, after you peel apart the pages stuck together with good layer of Smuckers, you get the always-popular Lakeshore Branch Library Poetry Jam.

“You may have heard of Poetry Slams — competitive events where poets performing their work are given numerical scores by judges and a winner is chosen. Our Poetry Jam is sweeter — no cut-throat competition, just appreciation of poets and poems in all their glorious diversity,” according to a library media release about the Saturday, Jan. 27, event. The Jam is 1-2:30 p.m. at the library, 7346 Texas 261 in Buchanan Dam.

Poets and non-poets alike of all ages and backgrounds can participate. Or, you can simply come out and enjoy the poems.

You don’t have to read your own poetry; you can read a selection by a favorite poet if you like.

If you’re interested in participating, but lack a body of work — or even a single poem — you still have time to craft one.

Buchanan Dam poet and writer Marilyn Hickson offers a few tips to get the ink (or keyboard) flowing.

“Write so your message in the poem can be visualized,” she said.

This means moving away from a abstract concept such as anticipation. Instead of “The dog couldn’t wait until his boy got home,” write “The terrier danced and darted from front door to back, looking for a round, freckled face.”

She added that you should have a “hook” at the beginning of your poem and a strong, power finish. The hook is a literary way of grabbing, or hooking, your readers or listeners. This can be done in several ways, but one of the best ways is to raise a question in your reader’s mind, one you have to answer.

A “power finish,” as Hickson stated, is something that leaves a strong impression in the mind of the reader or listener but fits in the poem. In Maya Angelo’s poem, “Shall I Rise,” she ends with the words, “Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave. I rise, I rise, I rise.”

It’s memorable and strong.

Which brings up Hickson’s next piece of advice. To connect with a reader, poetry is more than words on a page.

“Stir up emotional feelings of love, imagination, excitement, anticipation, joy, laughter, remembrance, and more with your words,” she said. “Write from your heart with a message.”

Also, don’t fret over flowery words. If you’re just beginning, stick with simpler descriptions and word choice. And remember: Good writing comes from working and reworking a piece, so just start by putting words on paper. You can always change it later.

“Every poem begins with one line,” Hickson added. “Write it down and work from there.”

The Lakeshore Branch Library Poetry Jam is free and open to the public, but space is limited for those interested in reading a selection. Call (325) 379-1174 to register.

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