Thursday, February 29, 2024


Greetings, all, and welcome to March (a favored month of mine).  We kick it off, we Inklings, by writing persona poems with Margaret Simon, whose challenge read "A persona poem has a specific audience, conveys a message, is written in the voice of another person, place, or thing, uses direct address. A great sample poem is “Mother to Son” by Langston Hughes."

I'm double dipping for this one, because during the recently concluded February Poetry Project hosted by Laura Shovan (the theme this year was Games), we enjoyed a prompt provided by Margaret herself that included cards from a game she plays with students called Picwits. We each selected one of the cards and one of the photos and wrote to that combination. I stepped into the halo of this angel:

Angel to God

Oh Lord—

Every day, seven days a week

(no rest for me on the seventh day),

I put on my wings 

and leave the house.

It’s like any other job–

there are days you look forward to,

and days you’d rather be elsewhere, 

doing something else entirely,

doing nothing.

That’s my aim, my angle–

to earn a sabbath, just one day 

of angel’s rest 

now and then,

a day when I can 

lie barebacked in a hammock  made of angel hair (it really is 

feather-light), saving no one,

doing nothing.

draft ©HM 2024

That was fun, and good practice too, because I hope to be doing a mask and persona poem project with 6th graders in April, at the old middle school of both my kids.

Go here to find the personas inhabited by the other Inklings, and thanks to Linda at TeacherDance for leading the March into Spring. I hope she's not snowed under...

Catherine @ Reading to the Core

Molly Hogan @ Nix the Comfort Zone

Linda Mitchell @ A Word Edgewise

Margaret Simon @ Reflections on the Teche

Mary Lee @ (A)nother Year of Reading

Friday, February 16, 2024

yet here we are


Tight on time today, but here's a word from our sponsor Planet Earth, in the voice of her proxy, poet Caitlin Gildrien.  This poem comes from the anthology you've seen me mention before--DEAR HUMAN AT THE EDGE OF TIME (Paloma Press, 2023).

I like the breadth of the perspective in this poem, its surprising density given that breadth, its uncertain, intense desire to carry on.

Thanks to Mardiret I mean Margaret of Reflections on the Teche, who is hosting us following the festivities of Mardi Gras!

Friday, February 2, 2024

pssssstt...wanna know a secret?

Greetings, all, and Happy February.  The Inklings are writing about secrets today, which may be the original double-edged sword, invented long before any tempered metal blade. I would love to watch a little home movie of the first moment some humans realized they could, for good or ill, know things that no one else knew, keeping their knowledge to themselves or between themselves and selected others without revealing them to the general public.

And oh, wait--it's occuring to me that THIS may be the real story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and possibly the point of God, to read your mind when your fellow humans can't!  Is it cynical to suggest that God is the original Elf on the Shelf? (Surely that's only one edge of the double-edged sword of the Lord, even so.)

But I digress.  Catherine offered us this challenge which she found in a series of prompts from the Modesto-Stanislaus Poetry Center in Modesto, CA.

Prompt # 6 (for December 20): Our Lips are Sealed…Or Not

Write a poem about secrets——family, community/societal, governmental, personal, etc.  This could be a narrative (how the secret(s) started, where it or they led, the along-the-way and final (if any) consequences.  For inspiration or starting blocks for your poem, here’s this poem, “Family Secret” by Nancy Kuhl.

I received this brilliant poem in my inbox through Poem-A-Day, so I was thrilled to go in this direction, and did so writing after another Poem-A-Day offering I was taken with: "The Lord's Corner" by Tyree Daye.  Here's mine.

I also got excited about Nancy Kuhl's commentary on her "Family Secret" poem and used it for a blackout poem:

And now, before I point you to the other Inklings and their secrets, I need to share this one by Desi, a 3rd-grader I'm having the deep delight of working with regularly.  Here's her poem from the current issue of WHISPERshout Magazine, which you can find here.

Check out the secrets of the other Inklings below, and thanks to our own Mary Lee (well, YOUR Mary Lee, too--she's very generous with her participation!) for hosting today at A(nother) Year of Reading!

Catherine @ Reading to the Core

Molly Hogan @ Nix the Comfort Zone

Linda Mitchell @ A Word Edgewise

Margaret Simon @ Reflections on the Teche

AND LASTLY!  I must say a resounding THANK YOU to all who sent me such mantel full of lovely New Year's postcards, and to Jone for organizing us!

Friday, January 19, 2024

50 ways to cure the climate

Greetings, Poetry People!  As I write, snow is falling steadily for the second time this week here in the MD suburbs of DC.  Our 4-day school week dwindled to just one yesterday, and while it's nice to finally have snow days in January, right where they belong, the bigger climate picture is always on my mind.

So I have two bon mots for you today (and I'm not using that expression in the Francophone way meaning "clever remarks"; I'm using it the way my dad used to, meaning "little treats.")  The first is a poem from DEAR HUMAN ON THE EDGE OF TIME: POEMS ON CLIMATE CHANGE IN THE UNITED STATES (Paloma Press 2023).  I'm still getting to know all the poems and poets included in this anthology, where my poem "Prompt: Write a Climate Crisis Poem" appears.  This one I'm sharing is not by me!

Sonnet for the Seasons: New England | Kate Cell


And what if we could stop it, after all,

   could stop the change too swift for us to grasp,

   listening instead to the maple's sweet dusk

drip in the metal bucket?  The whipp-poor-will

may never summer here again.  Recall

   to us Lock's Pond, ice thick enough to rasp

  through to snatch the drowsy trout, the chilled clasp

of hands raw in glazed wool gloves.  How small,

how petty our accounting of the world

  in all its flames.  We have no means to measure

    the beauties we have lost, burnt, broken--

our love shies away from our grief, we lie curled

  in shame.  How should we learn now what we treasure?

    Wait.  Only wait, for the windflower to open.

So who is this decidedly not petty Kate Cell, the poet? "Kate Cell is the Senior Climate Campaign Manager for the Climate & Energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. In her role, she manages the UCS Climate Campaign, leading a multi-disciplinary team of scientists, policy analysts, legislative affairs staff, and outreach and communication experts working to achieve policies that can reduce global warming emissions and increase resilience to climate change impacts. ... She holds a BA in English and psychology from Macalester College and studied at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop."

I don't know about you, but all my hope is in the people, as Adrienne Rich wrote, "those who, age after age, perversely, with no extraordinary power, reconstitute the world."  So my second treat for you on this third Friday of the month, Climate Friday here at mjlu, is a link and an excerpt from The Grist 50, annual list of climate and justice leaders to watch, published by Grist Magazine. Just look at who they are and what they're doing!!!  We are not alone.  Here's just one group of folks working hard on solutions in the Business & Technology arena.


Evette Ellis

She’s building the workforce to support EV infrastructure
Evette Ellis headshot

Long Beach, CA

Cody Finke

Laying a new foundation for cleaner construction
Cody Finke headshot

Oakland, CA

Aaron Fitzgerald

This founder wants to turn everyday products into permanent carbon sinks
Aaron Fitzgerald headshot

Houston, TX

Rob Lawson-Shanks

He’s tackling e-waste with circular design — and robots
Rob Lawson-Shanks headshot

Chantilly, VA

Sandeep Nijhawan

This tech entrepreneur’s next challenge: Green steel
Sandeep Nijhawan headshot

Boulder, CO

Sanjana Paul

Her hackathons fuel climate innovation
Sanjana Paul headshot

Cambridge, MA

Joanne Rodriguez

She’s harnessing fungi to tackle construction waste
Joanne Rodriguez headshot

Bolingbrook, IL

Uyen Tran

Countering fast fashion with lessons from nature
Uyen Tran headshot

New York, NY

Franziska Trautmann

From a recycling problem, she’s creating a coastal-restoration solution

New Orleans, LA

Franziska Trautmann headshot

Seriously, friends, go meet all 50 of these "Fixers." You will get inspired. Is "enspaired" a word, like the opposite of "despaired"?  That's what I mean.

I'm pretty sure we will all find enspairation too at the round-up today, served up today in a steaming cup by Robyn Hood Black. See you there!

Friday, January 5, 2024

the elfchen celebrate

Happy New Year, poetry friends, and may it be filled with the breath of peace within and without!

It's the first Friday of January and so the Inklings are tackling a challenge set by yours truly.  I gave my fellow Inklings, said a person at a craft night who spent her time there ordering gifts on the internet, "the gift of HOMEWORK?!"  It was on the order of an Advent calendar, with little doors to open, but instead of chocolates or stickers or Legos or big words (I made that for my kids one year), it had POETRY PROMPTS.

And not just any poetry prompts.  Since I am no longer Christian (though I grew up as the PK of a Lutheran minister) but a pagan-flavored UU, at my house we celebrate what you might call a portmanteau winter holiday called Yuletide.  There's a special candle tree and, of course, ritual words to say each night as we light one more candle celebrating a gift of the human spirit, starting on the Winter Solstice, December 21 and lasting 12 days until January 1st. Here's a slightly abridged version of the words, which my kids (24 and 21) of course know by heart. 

For the challenge, I asked everyone to "pick one prompt that appeals and address it however you like!" As the instigator of the challenge and of the whole Diwakwanhanumas enchilada, I felt compelled to answer all 12 prompts, but the darling (and moreish) Elfchen helped me keep it doable.  Here I go, letting my light shine! (There are a couple you saw last week.)

I hope you'll go and see how the other Inklings selected and addressed these prompts--it will be a complete surprise for me, since we haven't met since Yuletide started.  Let's thank Marcie at her eponymous blog for ushering us into the New Year!

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

Friday, December 29, 2023



Greeting, poetry players! I'm joining with the Poetry Sisters today in their hijinks with the German poetry form which you *could* call an "elevenie," but why would you when you could call it an "elfchen"?

The form (German Elf "eleven" and -chen as a diminutive suffix to indicate diminutive size and endearment) is a short poem with a given pattern.

I am immediately charmed and challenged by this form, because "What do you mean?" but also because in German "elf" means eleven, yes, but when capitalized (Elf), also elf! So to me there is no choice but to write them playfully mischievously.

I hope I succeed a few times here...I'm going with semistandard punctuation, and I think the first word serves as title in these. The first one's from an extended verse narrative I'm working on.



steams darkly

in Mom’s cup:

nose intrigued but tongue



hangin' out,

a blank slate

just waiting for adornment:



lies lightly–

feisty little hothead

craving our casual strike–


Thanks to the Poetry Sisters for letting us all play along! Watch their Elfchens cavort at the locations below, and I'm wishing our host, Michelle at MoreArt4All, and all of YOU a playful and mischievous end to 2023, in the knowledge that a little joy can keep us going even when the world's pretty dark.

Friday, December 15, 2023


Howdy, Poetry Friends!

Busy time here, just as by you, I'm sure--so I just have time to offer a couple of links so you can, if you choose, get a perspective on what went down at the largest climate negotiation ever, COP28.

I trust scientist & communicator Katharine Hayhoe to tell it like it is, with enduring positivity:

I trust Grist to keep its journalistic focus:

I trust Earth Justice, because the Earth needs a good lawyer:

And now, a poem, not by me but admired by me:

Playing with Bees |RK Fauth

So the world turned
its one good eye

to watch the bees
take most of metaphor
                        with them.

                        in all their airborne
                                shifted on the breeze

for the last time. Of course,

the absence of bees
                                    left behind significant holes
in ecology. Less

            were the indelible holes
in poems, which would come

Our vast psychic habitat
shrunk. Nothing was

            like nectar
                                    for the gods

Nobody was warned by
a deep black dahlia, and nobody

grew like a weed.

Nobody felt spry as
                        a daisy, or blue
                        and princely
as a hyacinth; was lucid as
            a moon flower.            Nobody came home

                        and yelled   honey!   up the stairs,

And nothing in particular
by any other name would smell as sweet as—

the verbal dearth
that is always a main ripple of extinction.

The lexicon of wilds goes on nixing its descriptions.
Slimming its index of references
for what is

super as a rhubarb, and juicy
as a peach,
or sunken as a
comb and ancient as an alder tree, or
conifer, or beech, what is royal
as jelly, dark as a wintering

hive, toxic as the jessamine vine
who weeps the way a willow does,
silently as wax
burned in the land of milk and

all the strong words in poems,
they were once

smeared on the mandible of a bee.

Keep bees on your mind even in this dead of winter, and thanks to Janice for hosting
us today at Salt City Verse!

Thursday, November 30, 2023

lucky us: lục bát

Greetings on this first (not sixth, not eighth) of December!  I have sixes and eights on my mind because the Inklings are challenged (again so soon?) by dear Molly to try a Vietnamese poetry form called the lục bát. Her charge went like this:
Last month there was an Ethical ELA challenge to write a lục bát poem. I was really intrigued by the interwoven rhyme scheme. ... Here’s a link to more information about this form: luc bats Or maybe you’ll get inspired by something in this fascinating blog post about Vietnamese language and poetry:
And if that’s not working for you, feel free to do whatever the hell you want :)

I do appreciate Molly's plainspokenness and flexibility, but I went for the lục bát--which means, in Sino-Vietnamese, "six eight". It has a looping, syllable-counted rhyme scheme that looks like this:


From Wikipedia I also learned that Vietnamese, being a tonal language, bestows a pattern of flat (bằng) and sharp (trắc) tones to the lines of a Lục bát that sounds like this, if you know how to do it.

Bằng bằng trắc trắc bằng bằng 

Bằng bằng trắc trắc bằng bằng trắc bằng.

That's pretty cool, right?
So first I just goofed around with the six-eight idea and wrote certainly the most foolish lục bát ever:

six shakes, cuz seven ate

nine; swelled up; celebrates their new

round belly, how they grew

from two scrappy sticks who spent all

their lives between the balls

of six and eight, now calls their name

“sweet sixteen,” got some game,

lords ten over the same fat six

which crowded seven’s sticks

forever. now lil six just quakes.

          draft ©HM 2023 

But this morning I decided to get serious and it really helped to know that the lục bát has "iambic tendency." I know someone who died last week 1 month shy of 100, and now Henry Kissinger as well.

I have a strong feeling that the last word should match one of the previous ones, like A or D, so there it is.  Are you hoping to live to 100?

Pop in to all the other Inklings to see what they've done with the sixes and the eights, and if you've had enough of that you might enjoy this 6's to 9's song.

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

Two other notes:  the November issue of WHISPERshout Poetry Magazine features moon poems you won't want to miss (2nd and 3rd grade poets keep knocking my socks off).

And, yesterday kicked off the UN Conference of Parties on Climate, or COP28.

Here's an explainer about this year's COP from the UN and from The Guardian, and why it matters. (Yep, it matters for exactly the reasons you think it does.)

Here are Grist's "4 Issues to Watch."

And here's We Don't Have Time, a world citizen organization which streams live from COP28 and gives a good overview and update from each day's sessions with options to dig deeper if you have time.  Because we DON'T have time.

Finally, I'm thanking Anastasia Suen at Small Poems for hosting us, and for the little book TODDLER TWO that I read and read with my toddler back when Anastasia was just getting going with her publishing career! Happy publication anniversary, Anastasia!