Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Hickory Poet How-To, Part I

(first published in Outlook)

So, you want to be a poet in Hickory, NC? Many have tried; many have failed; and a perhaps surprisingly large number have done pretty well. A word to the wise, however; it’s not easy. There is not what could be called a lot of interest in poetry in Hickory (or anywhere else these days for that matter). There is even less opportunity for financial remuneration. So, whatever you do, don’t give up your day job to become a poet.

If, despite these unfortunate facts, you are still interested, then here are some tips on how to get started and keep going.

1. READ. Whether you’re in Hickory or Paris, this is the most important element of developing one’s prowess with language. Read everything, of course, but in particular read good contemporary poetry. Anthologies like Contemporary American Poetry and Garrison Keillor’s Good Poems are a good place to start. You can find the poets you identify with there and then seek out their books to read further. There are also over 1000 regularly published poetry journals in America, many of which are available for free online. Nearby examples include Wild Goose Poetry Review (, Dead Mule (, and Main Street Rag (

2. WRITE. Seems intuitive, but I know many would-be writers who get so caught up in the “busy-ness” of being a writer, that they never get much writing done. Aside from one’s job and family, the only thing a writer should be doing more than writing is reading. There are two possible keys to this process. First, one can schedule his or her writing for the same time every day, just like exercising or bathing, and stick to it. If family and work make that difficult to manage then one can purchase a nice journal and carry with them everywhere and write during whatever free time presents itself.

3. Read “Musings” (this column). The column comes out every other week and is also available online at if you miss the paper. It will include details on upcoming poetry events in the area, profiles of poets giving readings in the area, sample poems, and the occasional exploration of various poetry topics and issues (like this one).

4. Attend Poetry Hickory and Writers’ Night Out. On the second Tuesday of each month, two well-published writers and three Open Mic readers are featured at Taste Full Beans Coffeehouse in downtown Hickory. The featured writers read for about 20 minutes each, and the Open Mic readers for about 10 each. The featured writers usually have copies of their recent books to sell and sign as well. The readings start at 6:30 and are free. They are preceded by Writers’ Night Out, sponsored by the NC Writers’ Network and also free, which begins at 5:00. These are networking sessions attended by anywhere from 10 to 20 area writers, including several “newbies” as well as 3 journal editors, 2 creative writing instructors, and 4 writers who have published at least 5 books each.

5. Take a class. Both CVCC and Lenoir Rhyne offer creative writing classes every semester. If you already have your degree, you can sign up to audit the class as a way of honing your skills and increasing your motivation to write.

Okay, that’s a start. Come back in two weeks, and we’ll continue with the list.

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