Poetry Celebration to feature local award-winning poet, writing workshop and student showcase

Community invited to participate April 12 in National Poetry Month event
Abbey Goers | April 6, 2021

Local award-winning poet and author Karen Loeb believes in the importance of poetry and that it is all around us, appearing in every culture across the world.

“It’s the heartbeat of human beings, the rhythm of our lives,” she said.

Loeb is the featured poet in University of Wisconsin-Stout's Poetry Celebration, commemorating National Poetry Month. The Literature Committee, collaborating with the English and philosophy department and the Involvement Center, is hosting the celebration from 7 to 9 p.m. on Monday, April 12.

Award-winning poet and author Karen Loeb.
Award-winning poet and author Karen Loeb. / Karen Loeb

The two-part hybrid event will open with a virtual reading by Loeb, a retired creative writing professor from UW-Eau Claire and Eau Claire's Writer in Residence from 2018 to 2020. Her reading will be followed by an in-person poetry workshop conducted by UW-Stout creative writing associate professor Daniel Ruefman and a student poetry showcase in the Memorial Student Center.

All are invited to join virtually in Teams for Loeb’s reading at 7 p.m. The in-person workshop, however, is limited to UW-Stout community members, who may register to attend.

Students can submit their poetry to be selected for the showcase by Friday, April 9, at noon, and may email questions to Ruefman at ruefmand@uwstout.edu or the Involvement Center at involvement@uwstout.edu.

'Poetry is All Around Us'

Loeb has been writing poems since high school. An award-winning writer, her recent short stories and poems have been published online by Gyroscope Review, Halfway Down the Stairs, New Ohio Review and Volume One.

Loeb is inspired by casual, real life experiences — things people say, places she visits or memories she carries. “I’m always on the lookout for poems. I tend to write about things close to home. If it strikes me, I make a mental note of it,” she said.


A pastel of Karen Loeb and her daughter, painted by her daughter.
A pastel of Karen Loeb and her daughter, painted by her daughter. / Karen Loeb

Her presentation, "Poetry is All Around Us," will follow this theme, beginning with a poem about adopting her daughter from China. She’ll also share pieces she wrote for the 2020 Poetry Postcard Fest out of Seattle, in which writers were challenged to write postcard-size poems about the pandemic.

“The pandemic has deeply affected me, as it has everyone, and it has influenced my writing in startling and sometimes humorous ways. I found myself connecting memories from long ago with virus-related happenings, and I followed an urge to use my own illustrations on the front of the cards,” Loeb said.

Her postcard poetry and illustrations include pieces inspired by a red silk kimono, a cat and a sweater, like in “Pandemic Unraveling.”

For almost 10 years now, Loeb has challenged herself to write a poem every day. Writing poems has made her more alert to everything, even when cut off from people because of the pandemic. “I’m always looking and listening, greedy for details of people, sounds, interactions of any kind,” she said.

Loeb encourages people interested in writing to read widely, to explore different genres and to keep a journal of images, memories and lists of words. “And when you write, give the image, the specific detail – not just a flower, but a chrysanthemum or an iris; not just a shoe, but a pair of beat-up hiking boots that creak when you walk,” she said.

Poetry workshop and student showcase


Photo of Dr. Daniel L. Ruefman
Daniel Ruefman / UW-Stout

Ruefman's workshop will have three focused activities:

  • Finding ideas for poetry that emerge from everyday life
  • A crash course in free verse and the mechanics of contemporary poetry
  • Fun with form and playing with rhyme and meter.

"Many of the activities that I will share are personal strategies that helped me in my own journey as a writer," Ruefman said. "It is my hope that everyone will leave the workshop with at least a start to a poem that is uniquely theirs."

Attendees are asked to bring a laptop or a notebook. The student showcase will be entwined throughout the workshop, as Ruefman discusses the poetic elements they employ.

The celebration is part of the Involvement Center's Monday Meet Ups, a series of events that bring the UW-Stout community together. Selected poetry will be displayed outside the center at the following Monday Meet Up at 7 p.m. on Monday, April 26, with the authors' permission.


Kaylee Harris, HRTM senior and Involvement Center event lead.
Kaylee Harris, HRTM senior and Involvement Center event lead. / UW-Stout

Student Kaylee Harris, Involvement Center event lead, approached the Literature Committee to collaborate on the event as part of the center's series. The Involvement Center has had a push to expand its efforts and increase the number of events offered this year, going from about 13 events to more than 50 per semester, said Harris.

“We’re partnering with other campus departments to collide ideas and work together to balance great events for various interest groups,” she said. “I appreciate this collaboration, and I am looking forward to the Poetry Celebration.”

Harris, of Montgomery, Ill., coordinated MSC room reservations, catering, event technology crew and the Teams meeting. She is also reviewing submitted student poetry with Ruefman. She graduates Saturday, May 8 in hotel, restaurant and tourism management.

Lopa Basu, professor of English and philosophy and co-chair of the Literature Committee, was happy to collaborate and acknowledged the immense amount of work Harris has done in preparation for the event. The Poetry Celebration is the Literature Committee's last event of the academic year.

UW-Stout offers a minor in English literature and writing.

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