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Milwaukee Poet Explores Musical Landscape In Everyday Occurrences In New Book, 'Choosing A Stone'

Finishing Line Press
Featuring poems from the perspective of a great horned owl to pieces inspired by exhibits at the Milwaukee Public Museum, poet Richard Hedderman's new book Choosing A Stone finds a musical landscape even in everyday objects and occurrences.

Richard Hedderman is a local poet, author and educator at the Milwaukee Public Museum, where he also coordinates the creative writing programming.  

His work has been featured in national and international literary publications, and his latest book of poetry is called Choosing A Stone.

Featuring poems from the perspective of a great horned owl to pieces inspired by exhibits at the Milwaukee Public Museum, Hedderman finds a musical landscape even in everyday objects and occurrences. 

LISTEN: Poem: Streets Of Old Milwaukee — Milwaukee Public Museum

“Simply put, [Choosing A Stone] explores the conjunctions of geography and physical landscape with human cognition, with human consciousness,” Hedderman explains.

Throughout the book, there is no single poetic format used, which he says allowed him to find certain features in shaping how the poem would look.

“I pay a lot of attention to stanza form and a lot of the times, it provides the form, and the shape of a stanza will provide a poem with a musical landscape,” he says. “It tends to dictate to the reader what kind of pace the poem is moving at.”

Hedderman says often readers don’t realize that the shape of the poem is dictating their pacing — and that's by design. He doesn’t want people to start wondering how a poem should be read, and the deliberate structure can help keep the reader's mind on the content.

Richard Hedderman reads his poem, "Choosing A Stone I."

Choosing A Stone is broken up into three sections, which for Hedderman is all about creating asymmetry.

“The symmetry, the balance is not productive for me. I want the reader to be a little off balance, again, that could be something that is largely subconscious, the reader’s not aware but I just think that the asymmetry is infinitely more interesting,” he says.  

His work at the Milwaukee Public Museum has heavily influenced his poetry and says that he will spend time walking through the museum just looking for inspiration.

"It's like poet's heaven because there's all these little nooks and crannies and little pathways ... It’s just endlessly rewarding to kind of prowl the museum’s halls and look for inspiration,” he says.

Hedderman says his poetry is not just for genre enthusiasts and that it's meant to be accessible for everyone, and that it can help anyone open their consciousness — even just a little bit.

“I try to write so there’s, so to speak, no prior experience necessary, so that you can come from any walk of life and be someone who loves poetry or appreciates poetry or doesn’t really care for it but you can find something to read that you can relate to,” he says.

Audrey is a producer, host and reporter for Lake Effect. She is involved with every aspect of the show — from conducting interviews, editing audio, posting web stories and mixing the show together.
From 2020 to 2021, Jack was WUWM's digital intern and then digital producer.