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!

Thursday, November 23, 2023

#ncte23 & a record set

Greetings, poetry friends, and happy Thankstaking. Yes, you read that right.  Carole Lindstrom (author of many books telling the stories of Native peoples here in the U.S. of A.) laughed when she said it during a session I attended at NCTE this past weekend, but she meant it--in her family they call it "Thankstaking" as a way of remembering what the First Thanksgiving eventually led to for the indigenous people of North America. I also find it wryly useful, and I give thanks for all the Native creators who are bringing their light to children's literature.  

Traci Sorell is one of them, and her talk at the Children's Literature Assembly Breakfast was mightily enlightening, and I'm donating to the Highlights Foundation Native Creatives Scholarship Fund that she's spearheading. 

I enjoyed my conference, most especially being with many of the Poetry Friday friends we all know and love, and yet there's never enough time to go deep, to write together, to follow up on the ideas and the practices we encounter--so there's always some regret about what didn't happen!

Still, there was plenty to enjoy and celebrate with Mary Lee, Margaret Simon, Laura Shovan, Laura Purdie Salas, Amy LV, Mary Cronin, (and if I've missed out any other PF regulars I'm sorry and will come back and edit). Poetry people are the best!

And yet.
And yet.

Last night I opened an email from The Atlantic's Weekly Planet and learned that at the same time many of us were blithely enjoying a session highlighting Georgia Heard, winner of the NCTE Excellence in Poetry Award, and her new book with Rebecca Kai Dotlich (member of the NCTE Excellence in Poetry Committee), we humans set a record that has me shook.

The irony is that I'm not sure I can do anything more powerful than write a poem in response. Today, anyway.  Maybe tomorrow I can do something more green future, less Black Friday.

I'm grateful for Ruth, who is hosting us today at There is no such thing as a God-forsaken town.   See you there, fellow humans.

Friday, November 10, 2023


Greetings, PF Friends--a quick one today, just to highlight a poem I used in my new WHISPERshout Workshop this week.  We were reading and writing moon poems, and while I haven't gotten my hands on Irene's THE MUSEUM ON THE MOON yet...

I do have this anthology collected by Roger Stevens and published by the British press Otter-Barry. In it I found a really great poem for helping kids to notice a range of poetry techniques.

Grace Nichols, a Guyanese-born poet, is an unsung hero here States-side, but is quite famous in England.  Listen for the Caribbean rhythms here.

Look at the moon!

A crescent sky-ship sailing

out of a cloudy cocoon

Look at the moon!

A cauldron of amber

spelling, rain-come-soon

 Each group had fun marking up the poem (which I admit I abridged to make it fit on the chart paper!).  And what do you think about that comma?  Is it a typo?

We're making pinhole art (mine below) and writing about it, and there will certainly be an issue of WHISPERshout Poetry Magazine dedicated to it! 

Go here to read the most recent, October issue of the magazine if you haven't yet, and don't forget to tell the young poets you may know that their poems are welcome and can be submitted using this form.

Thanks to Karen for hosting us at her shockingly clever blog, and I'll see you next week from NCTE--WHEEEE!

Thursday, November 2, 2023

hallowed be a rest

Greetings, all, and happy November!  The hiatus is over, at least for now. I'm back in time meet the challenge set by our very flexible friend Linda Mitchell, who charged us thus:

Write a prose piece–find a poem in it.
Or, write a poem, expand it into a prose piece.
Or, find a prose piece, transform it into a poem
Or, find a poem and transpose it into a prose piece.
Any interpretation of this prompt is perfect.
Going rogue is acceptable too.

I seem to have colored perfectly outside the lines: I made a poetry-kind-of-object, and then transformed it into a prose piece.


I decided also to make a version for younger readers:

I wonder if you prefer one version over the other, and why.  

Thanks to Buffy Silverman at her blog for hosting us today along with the first flakes of snow where she is--wow!  Here's where you can see the rest of our critique group's responses to the challenge:

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

And thank you for being willing to welcome folks back when they have been away a while.  If you feel like being EXTRA supportive, go like my WHISPERshout Page on Facebook, and maybe join me on Bluesky, now that I have officially defected from Twittx.  May poetry prevail!

Sunday, September 24, 2023

mjlu still on hiatus...and grateful


Greetings, Poetry Friday friends. I just wanted to post a word of thanks to Catherine Flynn, who agreed to take over my hosting duties today while I manage the overload that crept up upon me this month.  I'll have to celebrate my 15th bloggiversary at another time. In the meantime, I am very, very grateful for my friends in this community, for the opportunities that I'm having, and for all those who are Doing the Work in an often sad and angry world.  May poetry prevail!


My house is currently overflowing with guests, some of them quite small and needy.  I'll be back when I've attended to everyone sufficiently.  Until then, go well, my friends, and may poetry prevail!

Friday, September 15, 2023

climate friday at mjlu: kids vs eu, us v fossel fuels, Thomas Edison

insert your beloved kids' faces here

Greetings, fellow citizens of Earth! It's Climate Friday here at the blog.  A month ago we all rejoiced at the success of a group of kids (now many young adults) who sued the government of Montana and won a judgment that the state had not protected their constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment.

Next up, on September 27, a group of six Portuguese youth are similarly bringing a case--filed in September 2020 against EU member states as well Britain, Switzerland, Norway, Russia and Turkey--at a hearing before the European Court of Human Rights for failing to do their part to avert climate catastrophe. They are seeking a legally binding decision that would force these governments to act against climate change. Read more at these links and share with others, especially those you know in EU countries who might advocate in support of their case!

And how did we get to the sorry state we're in?  You can blame it on the Industrial Revolution, or on Henry Ford, or on the Baby Boomers riddled with consumption (not me, despite my birth year of 1964; I resolutely claim GenX, equally riddled with consumption), or you can blame it on Big Oil--there's certainly no shortage of evidence that they knew what they were doing.  But here's my take on the culprit/s:

Being a woman, I will not avoid the real labor of thinking, and I'll be joining (not too far from Edison's Pearl Street Station) this Sunday's giant END FOSSIL FUELS March to the United Nations in NYC.

The United Nations is doing its part, calling on world leaders to take real steps to lead us off fossil fuels to protect people and the planet. On September 20th in New York, the UN Climate Ambition Summit will gather world leaders to commit to phasing out fossil fuels. This March is part of a global weekend of events that you can read about here.

We'll be there to demand President Biden take bolder action to end fossil fuels.  It helps that I have a daughter to visit in Brooklyn (who will march with us), but adding my body to the throng of bodies calling for the U.S. to lead harder in response to the global crisis feels like the right thing to do.  

Biden claims that "practically speaking" he's already declared a climate emergency, but as word people (and world people), we poets know that there's a big difference between policies here and there--even good ones--and actually standing up and announcing it publicly from a very high dais, preferably with a related required action.  If you'd like to participate in an action related to this March, go here to find an event near you. What should I put on my sign?? Suggestions in the comments, please.

Thanks to Rose for hosting us today at Imagine the Possibilities. Maybe try not to drive anywhere today....and don't forget to turn of the lights when you leave the room. 💡

Friday, September 1, 2023

incomplete syntax, incomplete challenge

Greetings and rabbit, rabbit to you all. This illustration is by my friend Robin Galbraith, who has been spending an hour protesting Supreme Court ethics violations for *56* days!  See her activism on Facebook:

Here in the mid-Atlantic the day is dawning sunny and pleasantly cool (with 98* predicted for next week, so let's not break out our sweaters). As it's the first Friday of the month, we kick off with the Inklings Challenge, set by Margaret Simon:

Jack Bedell is a former Louisiana Poet Laureate. His poem “Ghost Forest” uses the poetic element of enjambment. Write a poem on any topic using enjambment.
Here is the Poetry Foundations definition:

I applied my Definito preparation approach and read about the etymology of the word jamb.  Come on through, readers; the doorway's open

Maybe every poem (not just every poem by me) turns out to be about the body somehow, the source of all our metaphors.  You could test that idea that by reading DEAR HUMAN AT THE EDGE OF TIME, the climate anthology published by Paloma Press, edited by three distinguished folks and including 69 distinguished poets and me. The virtual book launch was last night and it was most enjoyable!  Pre/order your copy at this link--it releases at some point this month, and my paperback copy is very satisfying to have in hand.  The variety of the poems is wonderful, and you can watch the recorded launch reading here.  That challenge is pretty complete, although I hope to participate in another of the readings that are forthcoming.

My Sealey Challenge, however, is another matter.  I cannot seem to read a whole collection of adult poems at a sitting; it's all too intense somehow.  So I went ahead with my attempt to catch up my inbox full of a Poem-A-Day, and was what you might call moderately successful.  Unlike some of you all, it turns out that a deadline by itself (as opposed to a deadline-or-else) is not enough to marshal my self-discipline; plus, I've had to give into a routine of very much less routine and structure than I'm used to.  It's been a year and I'm still not that comfortable with it!

But I am going to order 4 books like I planned:

An older one, Lace & Pyrite: Letters from Two Gardens by Ross Gay and Aimee Nezhukumatathil, two of my favorite poets;
One by Camonghne Felix, who was a political speechwriter before being a poet-- Build Yourself a Boat;
Swoon by DJ Savarese, and 
WELCOME TO THE WONDER HOUSE, poems by Rebecca Kai Dotlich & Georgia Heard.

You can see the rest of the Inklings' responses
to the enjambment
by clicking these 

Linda @A Word Edgewise
Mary Lee @A(nother) Year of Reading
Molly @Nix the Comfort Zone
Catherine @Reading to the Core
Margaret @Reflections on the Teche

Happy New (School) Year and honoring the Labor of all this weekend!

Friday, August 18, 2023

toot tooting and the #sEEleychallenge

Greetings, Poetry Lovers! It's the 3rd Friday of the month and time for a climate-focused post; luckily there's a gigantic piece of good news to celebrate. As I hope you know, on Monday, a Montana District Court Judge Kathy Seeley ruled in favor of the youth plaintiffs in Held v Montana, ruling that the State of Montana’s failure to consider greenhouse gas emissions from energy and mining projects violates the state constitution because it does not protect Montanans’ right to a clean and healthful environment and the state’s natural resources from unreasonable depletion.

This is the first case challenging state and national climate and energy policies to make it to trial in the U.S., and is now the first in which the plaintiffs, 16 Montana youth now ages 5 to 22, are VICTORIOUS.  If you've heard of the #SealeyChallenge in which we all read poetry all August, you'll see why I'm hoping a SEELEY Challenge 😁 will take off , and that other groups in other states will see success in other lawsuits that challenge policies that damage the climate futures of our young people. For more information visit the Flathead Beacon's ongoing coverage site, and especially take time to read once again about the young woman climate activist, Rikki Held, who as the only plaintiff of age at the time the case was filed, gives her name to this landmark decision. (Isn't it right that our Earth should be held with care?  And also that "Held" is the word for HERO in German?) Then go give some money to the Beacon, to Our Children’s Trust, or to another journalism or legal organization that supports climate rescue.

Poetry itself can be leveraged in the effort, of course, and I'm happy to say that I'm doing my part!  Although I'm not in the class of poets famous enough to be featured on this poster, I do have a poem in the forthcoming anthology DEAR HUMAN AT THE EDGE OF TIME: Poems on Climate Change in the US, edited by Luisa Igloria, Aileen Cassinetto and Dr. Jeremy Hoffman.  I'm certainly enjoying the company I'm in! Join us for the virtual launch next week!

click to buy from an indie bookstore

And while I'm tooting, I'm very late to announce with pride that I have two poems in the anthology of Metaphor Dice poems, POETRY BY CHANCE, which launched in July!  You heard about it from plenty of other Poetry Friday friends, and I just let the date go by unmarked.  My poems are titled "Loss," and "You have to".

click to buy from an indie bookstore

Our host today is dear Molly at Nix the Comfort Zone, where she offers up a "haphazard combination of perennials, wildflowers, and weeds." Delightful!

Friday, August 4, 2023

urtica dioica

Salutations to you all from the south of England!  We are here with the (grown-up) kids visiting that side of the family, and to make up for last July when it rained one single time and was as warm and sunny as you could ever hope Blighty to be, this time we are layering and wrapping and taking our macs with us wherever we go.

Yesterday, however, there was a fine spell between 8 and 3 and we took our opportunity to get outside--more on that shortly. While INSIDE on Wednesday I spent quite a bit of time with Rebecca Brock's first chapbook, published last year.  She's a poet some of you may know if you have participated in any of Laura Shovan's February Poem Projects.

EACH BEARING OUT is the title, and I'm going to share one poem that answers our Inklings First Friday Challenge this month, set by Catherine Flynn:

Robin Wall Kimmerer teaches us that “It's a sign of respect and connection to learn the name of someone else, a sign of disrespect to ignore it…Learning the names of plants and animals is a powerful act of support for them. When we learn their names and their gifts, it opens the door to reciprocity.” Look closely at the flowers, birds, trees, or other natural features in your neighborhood (or if you’re traveling, a new-to-you species) and write a poem about your chosen species. Free choice of format.

Imperial Moth Caterpillar | Rebecca Brock

Pale green and long as a cattail,
the caterpillar had a face
like a ladybug's shell
except yellow, spotless.

They push a stick into the dirt,
to mark the spot, before racing
their bikes back to find me
coming slowers, on foot, with the dog.

Brothers, they call out
to each other, call out to me,
their cheeks red and legs pedaling--
the dog pulls at his leash to greet them.

To love something is not the same
as naming it but they know the names
of things matter and I am grateful to be asked
something for which there is an answer.

They hover and the dog jumps
and tugs as I try to stay still
enough to type caterpillar, late summer, 
yellow face---to find the before, the during,
even the remarkable after: a flying creature,
pale yellow with brown spots, dusky
and ready to mate by midnight.

I'm still learning how to trust
a creature with its own life---
but they already know to kneel,
even to marvel,
at the body
into what had seemed
such solid ground.


Children DO know that the names of things matter, and they are born to be collectors of those names, of distinguishing features, of species knowledge, if we honor that survival instinct and let them.  We all know kids who have catalogs of dinosaurs or construction vehicles, horses or Hatchimals--but how many do you know that can name a dozen culinary herbs? More than three kinds of birds? More than one species of butterfly? I don't think we give our children nearly enough opportunity to learn their natural surroundings the way kids 200 years ago would have HAD to, just to eat.

So, back to yesterday's fine day.  We went blackberrying on the South Downs, near Hope Gap at the Cuckmere River that feeds into the English Channel.  There were lots of blackberry bushes, of course:

and, we quickly discovered, lots of stinging nettles growing in among and in front of the blackberries:

Looking closely, there's a clear difference between the leaves, but for the uninitiated, those leaves with their "serrated margins" are pretty similar. I had finally put on some SHORTS and sacrificed both knees and forearms for the bounty of berries that I collected.  Things went much better for my tall son with the long arms, who could reach the berries without wading into the Urtica dioica, and no one seemed to suffer the intensity of histamine reaction as much as I did--instead of 15 minutes of sting and burn I had hours, followed by a gritty, sandy tingling like your foot waking up after you've sat on it too long. (I'm pain-free this morning, you'll be glad to know.)

So have I learned an awful lot about stinging nettles?  Yes!  Do I have a poem?  No!  Not yet.  But maybe by the time you click this link, some 5 hours anon, I will.  I have no doubt that my fellow Inklings will give you plenty to noodle on in the meantime. Thanks to Mary Lee at A(nother) Year of Reading for hosting us today with a goldfinch poem and bonus stitchery! May the Earth love us all back, despite ourselves.