ST. GEORGE – At the start of a new year, many people ponder over resolutions and new opportunities to stretch them out of their comfort zone. Becoming a better writer and a more prolific poet is a unique and challenging resolution for 2017 and Dixie Poets can help. They even foster award-winning talent.
There is a saying that goes “you are never too old to set another goal, or to dream a new dream.” It is a quote that many members of Dixie Poets have espoused.
While the group caters to poets and budding poets of all ages, some prominent members didn’t start writing and sharing their poetry until much later in life.
About Dixie Poets
Dixie Poets is a chapter of the Utah State Poetry Society, a statewide poetry organization that was established in the 1950s, Dixie Poets president Lin Floyd said.
Chapters are located throughout the state from St. George all the way to Brigham City. Dixie Poets has been a chapter in St. George for about 20 years.
Dixie Poets meet twice a month on the first and third Tuesday from 2-4 p.m. at the Senior Citizens Center located at 245 N. 200 West in St. George.
During their meetings the group of writers are privy to writing instruction and poetry critiques. Members who want their poetry critiqued are asked to bring eight-12 copies of their original work to share with the group.
“We pass it around and then we gently critique and give suggestions for improving (their poems),” Floyd said.
New members are welcome. To become a member visit the Utah State Poetry Society webpage, fill out the forms and send in your membership dues. Yearly dues are $30; $25 for the state organization and $5 for the local chapter.
“It’s just kind of a fun group,” Floyd said, “and we are always pulling new people.”
Dixie Poets also works with the Washington County School District, sponsoring youth poetry contests to encourage the younger generation to write.
In March, the group will join with other chapters of Utah State Poetry Society, Zion Natural History Association and the Zion Canyon Field Institute in hosting “Poetry in the Park.”
The event will feature a guided nature walk in Zion National Park and a full day of poetry workshops.
Dixie Poets member Marleen Bussma grew up on a farm in North Dakota, she said.
“Horses and cows were part of my daily life,” Bussma said.
So, Bussma said, that the first time she heard someone recite cowboy poetry she felt like she was at home.
“They were talking to me,” Bussma said. “I knew where they were coming from.”
See Bussma recite a selection from her poetry book “Is She Country?”
That moment sparked in Bussma the desire to start writing her own cowboy poetry, she said.
Bussma started out writing stories of her childhood and her young life in rural North Dakota.
Over the years, Bussma worked hard to hone her craft, learning many poetic techniques found on CowboyPoetry.com and taking her writing to a higher level.
Today, Bussma is an award-winning cowboy poet.
Bussma’s most recent book of poetry, “Is She Country?,” which tells true stories from the Old West, recently won two prestigious awards; the Will Rogers Medallion Award which is given for excellence in western media and literature and the 2016 Cowboy Poetry Book of the Year from the Western Music Association.
“I was fortunate,” Bussma said.
Why write poetry?
Both Floyd and Bussma came to poetry later in their lives.
Floyd is a former elementary school librarian and modern dance professor at Brigham Young University. As Floyd got older she said it got more difficult for her to dance. Finding poetry was a way for her to let her creativity out.
“Poetry can be therapy,” Floyd said. “When you start writing poetry your feelings come out. Even if you’re writing about horses you may find you’re also writing about your mother and your background and your history and your feelings about life.”
Floyd said she sees poetry as a wonderful way of expression that everybody can do.
Though Bussma is a seasoned poet now, she said she didn’t start writing until about 10 years ago. Sometimes she laments the fact that she didn’t start when she was 20, but she said she is glad that she is able to contribute to keeping the art of cowboy poetry alive.
At night cowboys didn’t have much to do so they sat around the campfire and told stories. They discovered that if their stories rhymes they were easier to remember and that’s how cowboy poetry started. Today, cowboy poetry is one way to keep those old poems alive … it’s a way to hang on to your history as well.
For anyone considering joining the group in 2017, Floyd said that Dixie Poets is an encouraging group, adding the camaraderie they have is very inclusive.
“I think a lot of people are poets but they don’t know it because they don’t have the courage within to try,” Floyd said. “So that’s what our group does is we try to gently encourage each other.”
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