Loud Dreaming

Eau Clairian Betsy Wheeler has been working the verses

Amanda Boehm

Betsy Wheeler, an Eau Claire native and poet, manages a summer writing institute in Massachusetts.
Betsy Wheeler, an Eau Claire native and poet, manages a summer
writing institute in Massachusetts.

For those of us who make frequent use of the back burner, it might be hard to imagine working on the same project for a prolonged period of time, say, a number of years. There’s something to be said for people who have the diligence required to work on a project for an extended period of time and have the perseverance to complete it. Betsy Wheeler is one of these people with a talent for writing poetry.  Wheeler, an Eau Claire native, is the managing director for the Juniper Summer Writing Institute at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and she has a stunning, recently published collection of poems under her belt.        

Loud Dreaming in a Quiet Room was officially published in February 2012, with the book release party in April. Wheeler spent between four and five years writing poems for Loud Dreaming in a Quiet Room, which started out as the thesis she completed for her Master of Fine Arts degree in poetry from The Ohio State University. In the two years following the completion of her thesis when she held the Stadler Fellowship at Bucknell University, she continued adding to the collection, swapping out older poems for the newer ones that felt more lasting. To produce a body of writing with the continuous voice that she desired, Wheeler whittled the poems down to the select few that created good conversation and a hint of banter when accompanied by the others.

“When you read voraciously, it soon becomes part of your own speech pattern, your own way of moving about, understanding, and relating to the world.” – Betsy Wheeler, on reading poetry for inspiration

Wheeler started writing poetry when she was an undergraduate at UW-La Crosse. She took a literary publishing class and creative writing classes that introduced her to poets and poetry she had never heard of before, such as Rainer Maria Rilke, Larry Levis, and Elizabeth Bishop. Amazed by what poets were doing with language, she couldn’t stop reading poetry.

“When you read voraciously, it soon becomes part of your own speech pattern, your own way of moving about, understanding, and relating to the world,” Wheeler says. It wasn’t long before she was writing her own poems, expressing ideas and feelings through images, rhythm, and sound. Language, conversation, music, and movement are just a few sources of Wheeler’s inspiration. She is interested in the human condition, the unknowable and misunderstood, and mysteries.

Start Here, a poem first published by Small Anchor Press in 2007 as a limited-edition chapbook, makes its second published appearance at the end of Loud Dreaming in a Quiet Room. Only 100 beautiful copies of Start Here exist, all hand-stitched with letter-pressed and foiled covers. While the scarcity of this chapbook makes Start Here more alluring, Wheeler wanted to give the poem the airtime it undeniably deserves. Ending Loud Dreaming in a Quiet Room with the directive to “start here” makes Wheeler feel there is the possibility and promise of more projects to come.

For more about Betsy Wheeler and her writing, visit louddreaming.com.

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