P.E.I. poet laureate leads “Open Mic” at library
SUMMERSIDE – The P.E.I. poet laureate, Diane Hicks Morrow, believes that anyone can write a poem, about any topic, and she has chosen Poetry Month to promote that message.
© Michael Nesbitt / Journal Pioneer
Western Authors' Group member Tom Mahoney listens to P.E.I. poet laureate Diane Hicks Morrow discuss the strengths of his expression, during a Poetry Month "Open Mic" session at the Rotary regional library.
Though she began her three-year term as poet laureate in 2013, Hicks Morrow is not relying on her accolades to define her duties. In fact, she is using the opportunity to expand her reach, much as she is encouraging others to do.
“I’ve always written free verse, and it’s only since becoming poet laureate that I thought I should investigate the world of form poetry. I’m essentially a beginner in that,” she admitted.
Nonetheless, she has drawn on her experience and combined it with her new interest to create a Seniors’ College course to teach form poetry and give students the opportunity to prove that anyone can write a poem.
She has also partnered with the library system in the province to hold writing and poetry “Open Mic” seminars during April, Poetry Month, to encourage Islanders in those genres of expression.
Last Saturday, she accepted the Rotary regional library invitation to address the Western Authors’ Group, as well as several members of the public, to explore writing in all its facets.
Hicks Morrow opened the seminar with a quarter-hour-long mini-reading, “to put everybody at ease”. She also read some unpolished new poems, experiments in different forms that she doesn’t usually write.
The demonstration of going outside one’s comfort zone was an important one, because expressing one’s self can be an intimidating experience. Many people fear critique.
“I don’t like word ‘critique’ because it sounds nasty; better to say responding to a piece of writing,” she suggests.
The poet laureate encourages writers to take control of evaluation by identifying what they are expecting for feedback, and urges responses that focus what was strong or memorable as the means to provide positive feedback.
Many writers also want to know if their writing is confusing, or whether the audience is engaged by it. Some writers prefer to simply assess body language such as distracted fidgeting, or incidental acknowledgement such as a gasp or a laugh at an expected moment, she advised.
The key is heightened language: no wasted words and a lot of images. Diane Hicks Morrow - P.E.I. poet laureate promoting expression during Poetry Month
Hicks Morrow also cautioned against seeking feedback on fresh items, suggesting that works should be edited and polished somewhat. She also encouraged writers to read their work aloud, to themselves, to help determine if it is ready.
The Rotary regional library experience exposed poetry, song and prose for an encouraging perspective on the available breadth of expression.
In respect of the overall theme, Hicks Morrow did encourage her audience to poetic expression, revealing definitions of poetry given by various famous writers. She, herself, defined poetry in terms of whether the creator turns the line or whether the computer (automated function of a word processor) turns the line, but admitted that line is becoming blurred with the prevalence of prose poems.
“The key is heightened language: no wasted words and a lot of images,” she generalized.
Hicks Morrow will continue her library tour with “Anyone can write a poem”, a workshop at the Confederation Centre library in Charlottetown, on Thursday, April 16, at 6:45 p.m.
On April 24, she will moderate another “Open Mic” session, at the Tyne Valley library at 7:00 p.m.
On Saturday, April 26, she will present “Playing with Poetry Forms”, in conjunction with the Island Writers’ Guild, from 1-4 p.m. at U.P.E.I.
The poet laureate will also continue to host a monthly “Open Mic” at the Havilland Club in Charlottetown.
The next meeting of the Western Authors’ Group will be at the Rotary regional library on May 17.