It’s no secret that Utah is a leading city for the arts. We are the hot spot for indie films as every year the Sundance Film Festival takes over Main Street in Park City. We also proudly harbor the teen heartthrob, Zac Efron. From American Idol musicians to writers who made vampires cool, Utah has been able to produce the cream of the crop. This doesn’t exclude Lisa Bickmore, SLCC’s very own English professor, dog lover and award-winning poet.
After celebrating 51 years of supporting Utah’s literary community, the Utah Arts Council teamed up with Utah poet Laureate Katherine in 2009 and launched the Bite-Size Poetry Project. This project was designed so that once a month a ‘bite-sized’ poem, one that can be recited in one minute or less, would be released within an e-mail blast, as well as streamlined as a video for regular Joe’s to experience poetry in tic-tac form. Eighteen of Utah’s honorable poets, including writing-composition and imaginative writing professor Bickmore, were asked to contribute to this pool of poetry and recite their poems on video. Every month, one lucky poet is featured as Poet of the Month and Bickmore and her poem “Dog Aria” were featured as Poet of the Month for May.
“In the poem, the idea is that my dog, who used to go around in the evening barking at everything, was actually singing,” says Bickmore, “The poem plays with that idea, and with lots of musical terms for the way he carried on back in those days.”
Having written the award-winning poem some ten years ago, Bickmore tells us how excited she is to finally have it published and shares that she hopes this poem, among many she writes, “Has a quality of fondness and even love about it, because I really did love that dog.”
“Any poem I write that I’m satisfied with gives me the feeling of having created something, which is probably the prime reason I ever write anything…that urge to create.”
Her influence to create began when she was in high school with a Sunday school teacher who told her she ought to read Gerard Manley Hopkins, a late 19th to early 20th century Jesuit, British poet, who wrote poems about a cavernous but convoluted religious faith. That, and reading Robert Frost in school, was what motivated her to begin writing.
Now, a self-proclaimed lyrical poet, whose main interest lays in the musical qualities of language which make a kind of song in poetry, shares that some of the most rewarding memories of her writing career lay in the impact she had on former students who now have MFA degrees. “I liked thinking that I had played a small role in their lives as writers,” says Bickmore.
Bickmore encourages SLCC students, “If you want to write poetry, my advice is first to read like crazy. Read things that are different than the poetry you’re writing or the poetry that you like. Find other people who write and form a writing group. And whatever else you do, keep writing. One of the best pieces of advice I ever read was the advice the poet John Berryman gave to his student, poet Philip Levine. Berryman said, “When you’re young, write everything that occurs to you. Try to write about things that don’t necessarily seem “poetic.” And don’t be afraid of failing when you write. You have to believe that your life as a poet is larger than any one poem; failing in one poem doesn’t mean you’re a failure as a poet. Out of failed poems often arise the beginnings of a new, more successful poem.”
To receive emails from the Bite-Size Poetry Project or to read “Dog Aria,” visit arts.utah.gov. Apart from “Dog Aria”, Bickmore has published a collection of poems titled Haste. Within this compilation of work, one can be sure to find poems that intertwine around love and faith, of many types and classifications, and the place of the individual speaker in the world.
Bickmore has also had a poem selected for the Academy of American Poets prize at the University of Utah, and has won the Utah Arts Council Original Writing Competition prize for a short series of poems. She also received the Mayor’s Award for the Literary Arts.
To read Bickmore’s poems or check out her collection of Poems, Haste, Bickmore suggests trying Amazon or to Google her name to find a few poems that have been published in literary magazines. Interested in writing your own poetry? Contact Professor Bickmore at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about the Introduction to Writing Poetry class offered at SLCC.