Poetry and Popcorn event gives first-time poets a chance to shine

NOTA and Chippewa Valley Writers Guild collaborate to host community event

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Photo by Elizabeth Gosling

Poetry and Popcorn saw a crowd of approximately 40 people Friday night at the Volume One Gallery. Poets from many different walks of life shared work and celebrated the art of the word.

Reciting poetry could be considered scary to some who have never written or done public speaking before, but one event put together by two writing organizations worked to combat that fear last weekend.

“The power of words are so strong, and it really gives students a chance to fine tune their wording, express ideas they might not feel comfortable doing in other forms,” said Paul Reid, an introduction to creative writing professor at Chippewa Valley Technical College. “People aren’t always good painters or artists or other things, but everyone can come up with some good words.”

The Chippewa Valley Writers Guild and None of the Above (NOTA) came together last weekend to celebrate National Poetry Month. At the Volume One Gallery, guests shared poems, either original or another poet’s work, and ate popcorn.

National Poetry Month, Reid said, should help people feel more relaxed sharing their poetry because there is a wider community doing the same thing during April. Although Reid isn’t directly a participant in the writers guild, he helped coordinate the event with the organization.

The evening welcomed community members and students from both UW-Eau Claire and CVTC. B.J. Hollars, local writer and associate professor of English at UW-Eau Claire, said the event was meant to lower people’s anxiety about poetry.

“We were just looking for a way to lower the bar,” Hollars said. “I think a lot of folks think that poetry has to be this big scary thing, and we realize popcorn’s a great way to fix that problem.”

Hollars was the emcee for the event, announcing the readers and reading a few poems as well.

He said the objective for the event was to come together to celebrate the power of poetry and support young writers who may not have read publicly before.

As part of his course at CVTC, Reid said he requires his students to read at a poetry event as a part of his class.

One of Reid’s students, Dan Cummings, said poetry has the power to paint a picture with words. Poets can construct meaning without following proper grammatical rules, which makes it unique.

Cummings, a sophomore sociology student, read an untitled poem at the poetry reading and said he hopes to continue writing poetry after the class is over.

“It’s a certain form of expression; it has its own unique effect on people,” Cummings said, “just like looking at photography, reading a novel, it can evoke certain images and emotions within a person that other forms of expression can’t.”

The Chippewa Valley Writers Guild and NOTA have previously collaborated for several events, including Joy to the Word, a holiday-inspired open poetry reading last December.

Hollars said the guild’s aim is to create, educate and celebrate. Every month, the organization holds a craft talk, welcoming an accomplished writer to share advice and give workshops to teach aspiring writers.

Next week, Amanda Zieba, an author and teacher, will have a short story workshop; anyone is welcome to attend. The event will take place from 7-10 p.m. Wednesday, May 3 at the Volume One Gallery.

The guild’s next craft talk will welcome three writers from the local newspaper The Leader-Telegram: Julian Emerson, Dan Lyksett and Eric Lindquist. They will address interviewing skills, writing nonfiction and forming professional relationships. This event will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 11, also in the Volume One Gallery.

More information about the writers guild can be found on their Facebook page, website, Twitter or Instagram.