Riverfront Park is one of the most beautiful public areas in the whole Chippewa Valley. Despite the fact that it’s located near the heart of downtown Chippewa Falls, the sounds of traffic are hardly noticeable and it’s a tranquil area suitable for quiet, reflective moments.
Recently, a local group of poets organized a reading at the western pavilion. The reading attracted an appreciative audience of listeners who found a moment of community reflecting on the words and observations of area writers.
Modern society has been accelerated to a rate that sometimes our immediate surroundings are perceived only through a blur of motion. It turns out, a poetry reading is a wonderful opportunity to find relief from the stresses of your daily life.
After an introduction from Jessi Peterson, the first to speak was Jannie E. Roberts. The first poet has the unenviable task of leading the crowd into a world of semi-meditation in which the nuance and inflection of words becomes the primary focus.
Roberts stood before the backdrop of the Chippewa River and read from several of her collections including As If Labyrinth: Pandemic Inspired Poems. Roberts is a skilled dramatic reader and did an excellent job highlighting certain poignant phrasing in her work. Her comments on the simple joys of such things as riding a bicycle on the Old Abe trail were both pleasant and relatable.
Next up came Jackie McManus who read from Related to Loon: a first year teacher in Tuluksak. The collection contains reflections on her time teaching in a small Alaskan town. I got the impression that the story is like what Northern Exposure might have been had Joel Fleischman been from Wisconsin instead of New York.
Jessi Peterson took the stage and, among other selections, offered a poem on the phenomenon known as irruption which deals with the migration patterns of snowy owls. Normally owls do not come this far south for the winter, but every few years residents of Chippewa Falls have the potential to look out their window and see a snowy owl.
Residents of Wisconsin know that there’s always an inherent magic to seeing wildlife, particularly animals that aren’t commonly found here. The irruption phenomenon of snowy owls is a perfect example of the kind of delight that can be gained from exploring the words of local poets.
The final speaker was Katie Vagnino, a former professor of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. She took her cue from the other authors selections and offered poems that fell in line with the organic themes that were being discussed. She offered nature and pandemic poems, and also provided a few nice choices that made comments on relationships.
The limitations on social gatherings that were put in place in response to the pandemic resulted in a year in which books were released without much of a promotional push. The greatest asset a writer has in promoting a book is leveraging his or her ability to get out and engage with the public.
Poets in the Park was a wonderful opportunity to engage with area writers, enjoy the scenic beauty of Riverfront Park, and engage in the kind of positive reflection that powerful words can inspire. Stay tuned for information on more events scheduled by the strong literary community of Chippewa Falls.
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