Friday, February 3, 2023

all hail csikszentmihalyi

Greetings, Poetry People. Good heavens,it's the first Friday of the month again and the Inklings are working to a challenge--no, the gentlest of invitations--from Catherine Flynn: 

Somewhere, someone recommended the book How to Love the World: Poems of Gratitude and Hope. It includes "reflective pauses" and invitations for "writing and reflection." After the poem "Work," by Sally Bliumis-Dunn, the invitation reads: "Can you remember a time when you felt so consumed with the act of making something that you lost all sense of time and your mind seemed to clear? What allowed you to enter this mindful creative space?"

This state of being, which I hope we have all experienced often, is now called FLOW, and the "father of flow" was the Hungarian-born psychologist who eventually made his home in the US at the University of Chicago. Read more about his very interesting life and work here.

I first became interested in his ideas when I was trying to explain in a public charter school application about how school should be "fun."  Many readers resisted the idea that school should be fun, should offer everyone opportunities to experience that "state of being in which people become so immersed in the joy of their work or activity 'that nothing else seems to matter.'"  Most young children, given the right freedom, easily become little bundles of flow as they draw, build with Lego, dig in the sand or repeat a chasing game over and over, and it's my assertion that that's when the broadly applicable skills of focus and persistence are learned. I quoted Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced Chick-SENT-Me-High) liberally in the charter school application.  It was denied--because apparently school is NOT supposed to be fun and full of flow; it's supposed to teach us how to manage when our need for joy in our work is denied. (Thanks for listening to my TEDTalk; you'll probably get more out of Mike C's famous 2004 one!)

I worked with Catherine's poetic invitation two ways, but having read Linda's response before starting, all my efforts feel pale and flabbily human in comparison to her wiry and intense animal metaphor.  Don't miss it. 


I seek this feeling every day, and if I get there, I have to hope it hasn't made me late or derelict in my duties! You can see the responses of the other Inklings at these linklings:

Catherine @ Reading to the Core

Mary Lee Hahn @ A(nother) Year of Reading
Molly Hogan @ Nix the Comfort Zone
Linda Mitchell @ A Word Edgewise
Margaret Simon @ Reflections on the Teche

Our hostess-with-the-mostess this week is Laura Shovan, and she's highlighting the "other Laura" Purdie Salas's new book FINDING FAMILY.  Paddle on over and find all the members of your poetry family!


Friday, January 27, 2023

gearing up for february stories

Greetings, all. I'll be joining Laura Shovan's February Poetry Project again this year, and the theme this time is STORY.  So here's a little story for you:

Once upon a time at a small liberal arts college in Connecticut, a boy from San Francisco and a girl from Richmond met when they both signed up to be editors of the literary magazine, The Cardinal.  The boy did fiction and the girl did poetry, and they both did each other found themselves in love.  From the university library where he manned the circulation desk for his work-study job, the boy passed the time typing notes to the girl on withdrawn catalog cards. From the psychology library where the girl womanned the circulation desk for her work-study job, the girl passed the time perfecting her artsy poet handwriting in notes to the boy on bad copies of reserve articles.  

Eventually the boy realized he belonged back on the West Coast studying Japanese and writing novels, and there the romance could not but end--but it lived on in the layers and layers of catalog cards, annotated poetry drafts, literary magazines, dorm-door notes, mix-tape track lists, fratority party invitations ("VORTEX: The Party That Really Sucks") and letters from California---

ALL OF WHICH THE GIRL SAVED, because they, like the first books she ever read and the first poems she ever wrote, were some of the layers of paper that built her, word by word, line by line, page by page. To let any of that paper go (whatever it may say about the essential core of the girl, even now) would be to disappear, she feared.


Here's a second version of the story:

Once upon a time a woman, who had moved from her old neighborhood to a new one but continued to read the listserve from the old neighborhood, noticed a post that read, "Hi all- this is a notecard I found on my lawn. Seems to be someone’s special close communication. I will leave it on my front porch bench for the owner to pick up."  The post included a shadowy photo of a library catalog card with a typed note that began "HJM'Dear--How do? I sold 32 Cardinals today. Fun."

With a shock the woman realized it was she in the photo, she in the note. The finder of the note was her close neighbor, 3 doors up. The last days of the move were cold and windy, and during one of them, as she excavated boxes stuffed with paper saved for 55, 40, 35 years and, sobbing, put three-quarters of it into the recycling bin, this one little card--a musty, precious, 2-dimensional snapshot of a moment in 1982--had blown free of the bin and landed in her neighbor's yard. The woman downloaded a copy of the photo and thanked her neighbor, asking her to recycle the card once again.

Without the wind, she wouldn't have remembered.
Without the neighbor, she wouldn't have known.
Without letting go, she wouldn't have learned that even without that piece of paper--all those pieces of paper in her possession--she is still her self.

This is a cascade poem of the kind being written this week by the ever-inclusive Poetry Sisters.

Grateful to Jan at Bookseedstudio for hosting us today with the overflowing (how could she help it, having that name?) Sharon Lovejoy alongside. Wishing everyone safe and peaceful last days of January.

Friday, January 20, 2023

consulting the oracle: Cybils 2022


Greetings, poetry lovers!  I'm finally getting around to trumpeting the great work of the Cybils Awards community, which I am once again a part of this year.  Many, many readers of kidlit make their nominations in many categories each year, and then two rounds of "official" readers make their selections, narrowing the number of contenders for a coveted Cybils Award down to ONE.

Ten books have been selected with care by the Round 1 Panelists, who were:

Anne Bennett
My Head Is Full of Books 
Twitter: @headfullofbooks

Matt Esenwine
Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme
Twitter: @MattForrestVW
Instagram: @MattForrestVW

Sheri Howard
Lobit Education Village Library
Instagram: @jinxyrad

Tricia Stohr-Hunt
The Miss Rumphius Effect 
Twitter: @missrumphius
Instagram: @tricia_stohr_hunt

Sylvia Vardell
Poetry for Children 
Twitter: @SylviaVardell
Instagram: @sylviavardell

We owe them great gratitude for doing the heavy lift of reading EVERYTHING and narrowing it down to just 10 finalists. Here are the books the  Round 2 Judges will choose from.  Everyone, I believe, is delighted that we are no longer trying to effectively compare apples and oranges; this year for the first time we will be selecting one novel-in-verse and one collection to honor.

Christy Mihaly
Twitter: @CMwriter4kids
Instagram: @christymihaly

Rosemary Marotta
Rosemary’s Reading Circle
Twitter: @RosemaryMarotta
Instagram: @RosemaryMarotta

Charlotte Taylor
Charlotte’s Library 
Twitter @charlottelib

Bridget Wilson
What Is Bridget Reading? 
Twitter: @bridgetrwilson
Instagram: @bridgetwilson4765

Winners will be announced on Valentine's Day--πŸ’œ❤️️full of book love❤️️πŸ’œ-- and I am loving the opportunity/necessity to start each day--YES, FIRST, before everything else--with reading!

Thanks to Marcie at her blog for hosting us today, where she is reminding me that this should be the season of waiting, resting and pausing.
I'm working on it...

Friday, January 13, 2023

two truths & a fib--more than a game!

 Greeting, Poetry Fridayers!  We have so many very organized, very inspired people in our community, and I've had the good fortune and the pleasure of participating in many of their anthology projects over the years.  The latest is Bridget Magee's TWO TRUTHS AND A FIB POETRY ANTHOLOGY: A Poetic Introduction to 30 Subjects with a Twist.

I'm joined in this volume by many of you who are reading, and isn't it fun to see the wide range of subjects we addressed in our sets of 3 poems?  And of course, the Fib poem form was created by a former frequent Poetry Friday friend, Greg Pincus (hey, Greg, we miss you!).

The poets in the book have addressed quite a few animals, from opossums to owl (with quite a lot of minibeasts included), places from flower gardens to libraries, and people from Vermeer to Greta Thunberg, mine.


I'll admit that as a diehard truth-teller myself I struggled a bit with writing a fib about a real true person, but in my Fib about Greta I enjoyed quoting the naysayers who tried to convince us that one youthful, extraordinary voice could wield no power. And of course Greta herself has said that if she were not a person with Asperger's Syndrome, she "would have been stuck in this social game everyone else seems so infatuated with,” instead of telling hard truths about how much wealthy nations will need to give up to significantly cut carbon emissions.  (Read the really interesting article linked above on neurodiversity and social activism.)

To read the other TRUE poem about Greta, plus groups of 3 poems about bubbles (Margaret Simon),  snakes (Molly Hogan), and kindergarten (Carol Varsalona) and many more, you'll have to get your hands on a copy of this cool anthology. And you'll learn fun facts (and fibs) about all the poets along the way!

Thank you, Bridget, for gathering us together in this way!  Our host on this Friday the 13th is Susan Thomsen of Chicken Spaghetti, and we thank her for gathering us in the other way!

Friday, January 6, 2023

collaborating for #change


Greetings, Poetry folk!  I do hope we've all had the winter holiday time we needed most, and if anything got in the way (cough cough Covid) I hope we were able to take something unexpected and positive from it.

It's the first Friday of the month, and the INKLINGS are writing to a challenge set by me.  As you may know I was playing with ideas of #change from the end of October through the middle of December, and then I was a walking talking bundle of #change--but I'm not done with my little art project, and now this challenge can become part of it.



I asked the group to "Write a poem which weighs the pros and cons of #change. Here are some poems for inspiration: 

For extra fun, use any form, but consider starting in one form and gradually transitioning in the course of the poem to a quite different form." 


This was perhaps overchallenging for the time of year, so in our meeting on Sunday we changed gears and decided to do something Live and Unscripted. Mary Lee reminded us of the Poetry Sisters' Exquisite Corpse experiment and we did the same, passing one line at a time through the Zoom chat until we had six lines. They looked like this:


And then we gave ourselves permission to use the lines as raw material, which is #change and transformation in itself. I will be so fascinated to see what 5 other ways come of this more-than-a-parlor-game! Here's mine, heavily influenced by a poem you may also have been grabbed by at Poem-a-Day back in July, "Do not trust the eraser" by Rosamund S. King. 




Before I link you to the other INKLINGS and to our host today, let me mention something that I've been noodling on for a couple of years know how a musical artist makes a song, and then not too long after or even simultaneously other versions and remixes of the song, "featuring" this or that other artist, start to appear? (Not to mention all kinds of musical parody pieces; thank you Randy Rainbow.) Also, of course, jazz.


I've been wondering how that process could work for poetry. I do see more and more collaborations happening, co-authoring, and I know that we all sometimes write "after" another poem or poet--but what if that approach became normal and common as it is in popular music? What if we wrote expecting that someone would read our poem and call us up to say "Hey, I have a great idea for remixing that 3rd stanza," or if we wrote a poem like mine above and then texted over to Rosamund and said, "Thanks for your influence; would you like to get together and jam, make this into something alive?" And by this stage I'm wondering if the real problem is not "can it work?" but "can a tradition of precious artistic ownership give way to a practice of generous artistic collaborative process?" I'd love to know anyone's thoughts on this, or if this is totally happening somewhere that I'm just not plugged into.


Happy New Year and thanks to CatherINKLING Flynn, who is rounding us up at Reading to the Core, and here's where you can see the rest of the takes on our 6 changeable lines! 


Mary Lee Hahn @ A(nother) Year of Reading
Molly Hogan @ Nix the Comfort Zone
Linda Mitchell @ A Word Edgewise
Margaret Simon @ Reflections on the Teche


Friday, December 30, 2022

resurfacing; boxes

Greetings, Poetry Friday friends.  I'm on Day 5 of a COVID infection that I had hoped magically to escape forever, and although I have felt pretty crappy, honestly what feels worst is no longer being able to say, "Unbelievably I've never had it!"  Guess what, guys: I'm not special.😝 But today my head feels more normal, anyway.

I'm also on Day 10 in the new house and thus surrounded by boxes we didn't get to unpacking before illness struck.  As Mary Lee demonstrates so richly in her post, "Box is such a rich topic."  Indeed the Inklings addressed it back in 2019, and that post harks back to previous boxy posts--yet that does not stop me from going around again, because RICH.

So let's see if I can wake up my poetry heart again, which has been on hiatus, and take on the Carroll square form too.


How Much Is Too Much?

We fit it all into boxes,
fit more boxes than we need.
It boxes us in ever, more
all than in wisdom we'd allow,
into--we ever-- we'd never not!
Boxes, need more! Allow, not refuse!

old house: the moment at which my best intentions gave way
Oh my heavens, what a mess that poem is--a mess that perfectly captures the efforts I made to be organized and circumspect about reducing our STUFF down to neatly packed and labeled boxes of Not Too Much!  It started out great, but as the days passed and our Decision and Discernment muscles fatigued, it became harder to leave things behind...and now I'm surrounded by stuff that never should have come, and which I'll be unpacking directly from moving boxes into giveaway boxes. *sighhhhh*  

I do like how the poem's lines grow longer as resolve weakens, as it becomes harder to determine what's essential, what's sensible. And huzzah for the power of punctuation, right?

Thanks to the #PoetryPals/Poetry Sisters for sharing their December challenge, and thanks to Patricia for hosting us this last Poetry Friday of the year at her blog.  I agree about the blessings, and wish you all the brightest of New Year beginnings!

Friday, December 16, 2022

the three Rs


It's Climate Friday here at my juicy little universe, and at my house we are deep in the throes of packing to move into a very different set of spaces. The moving van comes on December 20! 

The process is challenging: this is not a matter of picking up what we have and setting it down again 🎡 as it was ; instead, each room, each function, each priority of our new (mostly) empty-nested and self-employed lives must be rethought and reimagined.  And each of these tangles must be solved with a recommitment to The Whole Point: to land more lightly on the planet.

Some of that is accomplished by the simple location of the new place: with deep pleasure the other evening, I left our leafy neighborhood street on foot, crossed into the blinking, gritty urban downtown, arrived at the Sherwin Williams paint store to pick up sample quarts, and was back at home within 30 minutes. On foot! Along the way I could have had many haircuts or manicures, eaten many Ethiopian or Caribbean meals, visited art galleries or makerspaces, and caught a fleet of buses to anywhere, including a Greyhound.

The three Rs used to be Readin', wRitin' and aRithmetic--always a kind of misconception of learning, a kind of fib. Currently you'll hear in schools and all over the place that  we should Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle, which remains true but perhaps doesn't go far enough. I know that not everyone has the luxury of upping and wholesale moving to reach their climate rescue goals, but what if we made a habit of thinking bigger?  What if the Three Rs were Rethink, Reimagine, Recommit?

Every small way of life is an opportunity to recommit to the goal, to rethink and reimagine what we use and how.  I suffered a paroxysm of guilt the other day when I began to excavate my fabric stash, which has continued to accumulate since 2007 (because I LOVED those pajamas that skirt those pants even if I couldn't wear them anymore), which is the last time I did any actual quilting. Then this past week, preparing an eco-holiday lesson for Sunday school, I (re)discovered the concept of  furoshiki.

Reimagining the uses of my beloved fabrics has allowed me to let go of just about all the accumulated paper gift wrapping materials stored in another part of the house (no more tape, no more ribbon!), and to know that with a pair of pinking shears I can repurpose my fabrics and use them again and again--and they are STILL available for quilting if I get around to that again.
Again: small things reimagined as we pack and plan for our smaller space--with breaks for World Cup soccer matches, of course!  Here's an article to help us practice Rethinking, Reimagining and Recommitting about a much BIGGER THING: the entire World Cup.
And now, because this is a poetry blog, a poem from Ada LimΓ³n, about hoping, allowing, helping the world to come back... but "you know it's not the same as it was."


Easy light storms in through the window, soft
            edges of the world, smudged by mist, a squirrel’s 

            nest rigged high in the maple. I’ve got a bone 
to pick with whomever is in charge. All year, 

I’ve said, You know what’s funny? and then,
            Nothing, nothing is funny. Which makes me laugh

            in an oblivion-is-coming sort of way. A friend
writes the word lover in a note and I am strangely

excited for the word lover to come back. Come back
            lover, come back to the five and dime. I could 

            squeal with the idea of blissful release, oh lover,
what a word, what a world, this gray waiting. In me,

a need to nestle deep into the safe-keeping of sky.
            I am too used to nostalgia now, a sweet escape

            of age. Centuries of pleasure before us and after
us, still right now, a softness like the worn fabric of a nightshirt

and what I do not say is, I trust the world to come back.
            Return like a word, long forgotten and maligned 

            for all its gross tenderness, a joke told in a sun beam,
the world walking in, ready to be ravaged, open for business.

Karen at her Shocking Clever Blog is our host today.  May you all enjoy a December of merry and bright, bringing all your Rs to bear with pleasure!

Thursday, December 1, 2022

whatever you want to know

Greetings on this first day of December!  The Inklings are kicking the month off with a challenge from Molly, who was "enchanted with Amy Ludwig Vanderwater’s recent Poetry Friday post: “Answer an Unasked Question.” She invited readers to Think of something someone might wonder, real or pretend…and then write a poem answering this question. I’m passing along her invitation, one which I think has broad possibilities. Here’s the link so you can read her mentor poem, “Answer”."

 As always, Amy's poem was for a child audience, and I'll get there too...but on the first pass I've ended up with something half-as*ed and half-answered, for adults:


 But Amy's poem really is--it is her gift--charming and immediate and real, everything opposite the slippery speechification of us adults, and so I will go on and use it as a mentor poem.  Thanks, Amy, and thanks, Molly!





I know you didn't ask directly, but here's where you can see the other Inklings' answers...

Mary Lee Hahn @ A(nother) Year of Reading
Molly Hogan @ Nix the Comfort Zone
Linda Mitchell @ A Word Edgewise
Margaret Simon @ Reflections on the Teche

Our host today is none other than Inkling Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core.  Do check in with her  for her unasked question poem, and with all our poetry pals, each one guaranteed to brighten your darkening, shortening days if not to answer all your questions!

Friday, November 25, 2022

catalog of unabashed change

Greetings to all those thankful for poetry.  I know--and I hope you know--that Ross Gay's phenomenal collection is actually called  CATALOG OF UNABASHED GRATITUDE, but today he's going to help me express gratitude for all kinds of change, even the hard ones.


catalog of unabashed change

Friends, bear with me today,

for I am making an experiment

from simple things which are not

the dream of a robin but like a sprawling 

of vines that have invaded but also wind us in with their remarkable vigor,

so many symbols 

telling me 

in no uncertain terms

to tendril forth

a proposition of attention,

a red-light vigilance thrumming behind my eyes

which is also delight within the halo of my ribcage

winding and raveling and reeling me 

into a mission, should I choose to accept it,

with a life-and-death ripening 

explosion of imperfect solutions,

“should I choose”--

and who among us could ignore such

an invitation to complexity?

Hear ye! Hear ye! I am here

to hunker down on my knees in the grass the gutter the gravel

to spell it out for us 

again and again

how the normal passage of

hourly annual geologic time is continuing its rounds

steady as ever with its glowing sunsets

and weathering leaves and twiggy entropy,

so many of the natural things steady 

in the habits that make us gasp

with seasonal joy, 

say in the form of a pumpkin

which makes us want to stay alive even, thank you;

and thank you  

for not letting us forget how how simultaneously

nothing is normal, just look around

at all the bugs that no longer accompany us on the windshield

of our daily driving,

and thank you for giving us children

every day, even the 8 billionth

mercy, mercy, thank you

for the medicine that kept that mother alive

oh thank you thank you

for blooming and burning,

and thank you for what inside those children’s

wonder bursts like a wolf in woodchip facepaint

howling into the world,

likely glittering a long contrail

of invention like one named Miles ought,

or, like one named Aurelia ought,

casting bolts of golden inclusion:

“I’ll miss you, August”--oh

thank you

for the way someone admirable steps

to the mic and announces

they will suffer fools with actual weapons

to represent us 

muster-blustering into the field;

and thank you, friends, when next spring

everything that fell 

spiky or sticky or swollen

will regenerate itself thank you very much

with no help from us

when that translucent hope that maybe

we have not already f*cked everything up

will cause me to 

fall down crying,

when I see that the bee

has pollinated the melon,

and when I see that

Bill 13-22 Electrify New Buildings has passed 

and that glacially

we are rethinking everything,

how we’re trying.

And thank you, too. Thanks for the 

board or the lectern or the page I have put you on.

Here is a statistic. 

Put on these comfy shoes

and take an electrolyte tablet for your 

water bottle, dear one,

for I know this is going to be long, and hard.

I can’t stop

my gratitude, which includes, dear reader,

you, for sticking it out with me,

for puzzling along with my

porcelain berries and the tech logos

and the bruised banana and the cell tower.

Here is a bowl of soup. I have stirred change into it.

And thank you for the shadow of a chance

glancing over these words as I write them,

for the way the unremembered elephant 

in the room keeps arriving garlanded with loops of apple peel

which, oh, might be your one reason

to carry your soapbox all the way down to the orchard,

just that one beauty of apples,

or the simple hand-cranking of an ingenious peeler

(and ask how its components were made).

And thank you, again, for the true kindness

with which you type, patiently,  what a rich post, thanks for the link, 

we’re doing that in my neighborhood too

I appreciate it.

I am excitable, judgmental.

I am sorry.  Mercy oh mercy I am grateful.

I’m putting all my effort into 

holding on more loosely, 

into kneeling quietly in the grass the gutter the gravel,

into just lightly touching your feed

with something teetering 

between process and product,

between purple aster flowers 

and legibility, between digital snips 

and the one I am scared to try,

the six letters poured out in gasoline and lit on literal fire

meaning it’s much worse than we think,

and sooner; to which I say

what do you think all these little placards of art are,

other than loving

what every second goes away?

Slow down, I mean to say. Stay.


I hope I am not too loud.

I hope I am loud enough. 

And thank you.



Click here for the #change album.

Ruth is our host today at There is no such thing as a godforsaken town--more unabashed gratitude!