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>Are You Lonely – Write Your Feelings In Poetry – You May Become A Poet Laureat


LDS professor wins poetry 

contest with ‘Night at the Movies’


Michael Tatum.
A lonely night at the movies may not 
be so bad after all—especially if you 
get national recognition for writing 
about it.

Brigham Young University-Idaho 

professor Michael Tatum was named 
Idaho Senior Poet Laureate for a 
collection of 20 poems, the featured
 title being “Tuesday Night at the 
Movies.” The poem is written in the 
voice of a solo individual observing 
many couples enjoying themselves 
at a movie theatre. Though simple 
in scope, the poem touches on how
 loneliness can take many forms and
 helps readers feel sympathy for the subject’s situation.

A professor of sociology at BYU-Idaho, 63-year-old Tatum submitted 20 

poems in the national Senior Poet Laureate Poetry Competition and was 
selected as Idaho’s winner. In a university press release, Tatum said his 
inspiration came when he lived in Micronesia alone for a month and a half. 
“I was president of the college system there, and my family was already 
back in the states,” Tatum said. “I would go to the movies once or twice 
a week. I was alone, and I guess I was lonely.”

Tatum was “humbled by the honor and not expecting an award,” and he 

“uses daily poetry entries much like a journal.”

Tatum wrote poetry on and off in high school, but started writing regularly 

when he met his wife. “She has been my inspiration, beyond belief.”

Tatum’s poems cover subjects from romance to shoveling snow. A 

teacher of 30 years, with some of that time spent in Micronesia as 
the president of that nation’s college and university system, Tatum 
draws his poetry from experiences in his life, such as teaching, travel 
and even sacrament meetings. The professor counted 1500 to 1600 
completed poems in his works, with another 400 to 500 still in progres“
It’s been fun,” Tatum said. “It brings back memories on things I 
otherwise would have forgotten.”
Tatum’s recent success is a new feeling for him. Throughout the 
years, he has had about six poems published and placed in 
anthologies through The Writer’s Almanac newsletter and 
the accompanying “A Prairie Home Companion” weekend 
radio show. 

His rise to the spotlight came when he saw an ad in the 

local paper about the Senior Poet Laureate submissions. 

“I didn’t think it was a competition. Now there are 

newspapers calling me and Barnes and Noble has 
asked me to do a reading in their Idaho Falls store.” 

Tatum plans to retire in a few years and said he’ll continue 

writing. He has plans for publishing a collection of his works 
and is even beginning a novel in his spare time. 

Sponsored by the non-profit organization Amy Kitchener’s 

Angels Without Wings Foundation, The Senior Poets Laureate 
Poetry Competition is an annual poetry competition for U.S. 
citizens 50 years of age or older. 


Walking home from the movies 
On a rainy Tuesday night 
Thinking about the movie 
A romantic comedy 
And how I sat on the back row 
All alone 
Watching people 
Mostly the couples 
As they watched the movie 
Shared popcorn 
Held hands and laughed together 
And how all alone 
On the back row 
I laughed with them 
Until I cried

© LDS LIVING 2011.
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