Finding a Voice

(l-r): Scholarship Chair Barbara Lassiter, PT-Paul Sampson, Satch Sampson, and Scholarship Recipient Hannah Denham

In honor of National Poetry Month, the focus of the April Pensters’ meeting was an obvious one; the awarding of the PT Paul-Sampson/Satch Sampson Poetry Scholarship also made it cause for celebration. After a months-long application and selection process, Scholarship Chair Barbara Lassiter presented the certificate to Miss Hannah Denham of Daphne High School.  Denham, who began writing poetry around age thirteen “to find her own voice,” shared a few pieces of her work for those in attendance.

Guest speaker Carol Case

Guest speaker Carol Case also found her voice through poetry. As the fifth child of ten, it was easy to feel like “just one of the bunch” until an experience reciting poems at the dinner table earned the attention of the entire family. In an engaging presentation, Carol offered insight into the genre.

Buttons on a shirt, bursting to contain a torso filled the overhead screen. Case noted some often view form poetry as equally tight and constricting. However, other styles are not without their critics. Free verse can be seen as similar to a pair of overly loose pants, like those on a weight loss commercial.

“The structure of poetry made me see how carefully we need to consider our words,” Case noted. In longer prose, the author can have more leeway but in poetry, each word has to be chosen with care. The same can be said of life.

Rhyme and meter are not the only examples of this careful architecture. Free verse may be just as meticulously crafted, as in “The Lost Generation” by Johnathan Reed. The poem gives one perspective when read normally, and an opposing view when read in reverse.

A Toolbox, a Flashlight, and a Friend
In discussing the art, craft, and critique of poetry Case noted: “You don’t have to use all the tools, but you need to know what they are.” Though one may choose to break a rule, it is important to first understand the function of the rule. Poets also need friends to critique shining a metaphorical flashlight on the project.

“Never turn down an opportunity. You’re going to find more ideas the more experiences you have,” Case advised. Both daily chores and dinner invitations can set the stage for inspiration. “The Lanyard” by Billy Collins utilizes a common summer camp craft project to offer a humorous look at the relationship between mothers and children.

Other brainstorming suggestions:

  • Find a random line in a book
  • Look up writing prompts online
  • Look through travel brochures
  • Go for a walk with your camera
  • Read the news
  • Surf the internet or facebook
  • People watch

Submitted by: Jessica Trippe
Photos by: Cleveland Brown