Thursday evening was a beautiful one to spend on the patio at the King’s English bookshop in Salt Lake City. Air conditioners hummed in the background and children could be heard playing even though it was a school night. A sizable crowd gathered to hear Lisa Bickmore read from her latest poetry collection, Ephemerist. The release of Ephemerist came soon after the release of her second collection, flicker, which she considers a surprise and a gift.
Lisa Bickmore is Professor of English at Salt Lake Community College, where she is also one of the founders of its Publication Center. Her poems have been published in numerous publications, including Quarterly West, Tar River Poetry, Sugarhouse Review, Glass, The Moth, Terrain, and Southword. She was awarded the Ballymaloe International Poetry Prize for 2015, and the 2014 Antivenom Prize for her second book, flicker.
Before launching into several selections from both Ephemerist and flicker, Ms. Bickmore took a moment to explain the importance of art in everyone’s life. She feels life is diminished when people have no way of expressing themselves through art.
Ms. Bickmore’s poetry is at times somber or humorous, but always deeply personal. She tackles the difficult issues like aging, grief, and homeless youth with sensitivity and from an accessible perspective. Several poems revolved around the change in perspective she had while traveling overseas and the space in between or disconnect she felt between her daily life and the one she’d stepped into.
The reading lasted about thirty minutes, with Ms. Bickmore choosing to skip a few poems she’d selected for the evening just because they didn’t suit her mood at the moment. Afterward, she retired to the Mystery Room to sign books and answer questions.
Lisa Bickmore’s poetry is very grounded, tightly tied to place, whether she is talking about her home or another country. Take a two hour field trip to someplace nearby, like a hotel lobby, museum, laundromat, or diner. In your notebook, record your impressions. Try to capture the atmosphere – the people, the mood. Use all of your senses. Then, write a poem that ties this ordinary scene to a larger theme.