Nils Peterson: How to Read a Poem Out Loud

It is one thing to enjoy reading poetry by well known poets and write your own poems. But it’s a whole different experience reciting and reading poetry out loud to an audience. Come September 18, 2016, on a Sunday morning at History San José, Nils Peterson will show you How to Read a Poem Out Loud at our San José Poetry Festival 2016: Breaking Borders. His presentation will be held at the Firehouse, from
9:00 a.m. – 9:50 a.m.

Nils Peterson, Professor Emeritus from San José State University, was the first Poet Laureate of Santa Clara County,  from 2009-2011.  He is also one of the original founders of Poetry Center San José.  He has melded his poetry with works of art and music, and offered many workshops throughout his career as a poet. He has published poetry, science fiction, and articles as varying as golf and Shakespeare. He was nominated for a 2005 Pushcart Prize. His books include Here is no Ordinary Rejoicing, The Comedy of Desires, Driving a Herd of Moose to Durango; For This Day, Revenge of Socks, and A Walk to the Center of Things.    


As the first Poet Laureate of Santa Clara County, Peterson’s first project was putting out a call to all the county residents to send him a 17-syllable line about the county. Out of a  outpour of lines from the county, Peterson selected his most favorite lines and created a 100-line poem, calling it A Family Album, Santa Clara County, 2009. Thereafter, his next project for the community was Writing Thirty Poems For Thirty days, and select three prize winners. And another original project for the community was to create Haiku-ish poems.  Peterson has also been a participant and contributor to the multi-laureate collaborations Local Habitations and Good Talk.


Driving back from a night at the shore
between hills green with new rye grass. Home,
I see in my neighbor’s yard the year’s first
iris bud. The purple of that almost-here
flower, makes me remember that Frederick
wanted a winter poem by tonight for The Crow.

Well, here it is, a day late, finished up
in a coffee shop, Super Bowl Sunday,
temperature in the fifties, air moist,
low gray clouds moving in a slow scud.
There’s skiing three hours drive away.
I won’t go, yet I have “a mind of winter.”

Well again. It isn’t finished. I type
a week later. Now jonquils and daffodils,
and when I walk my dog, I see heron—like
white clouds—nesting in a still barren tree.
Yet my winter mind dozes in its burrow
refusing to come out of long sleep.

Three or four years later, still not finished,
and you now sleep the longest sleep. Frederick,
this year I missed the gravity of your smile in the dining hall
where we once leaned on coffee and waited for sunrise.
So fierce you were against injustice, at such a cost.
You would not dance, but there was such a longing in you.


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