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.

Thursday, July 27, 2023


How-do, poetry people?  I'm flying through today with two very different thangs, neither of which I spent too much time on.  Something has been distracting me, and honestly it's mainly getting ready for a trip the like of which we've done many times before....

But I'm trying to be chiller about that than usual, while packing more minimally than I do usually. Monitoring one's overfunctioning is very distracting.

Anyway, I tried the Poetry Sisters' monotetra challenge and this is as close as I could get:

But also this, from a quote I saw in Letters from an American Thursday morning:

Now, a note about the Sealey Challenge:  I'll have to take it light, being away from home, so here's the plan.  I go back and read all the unread Poems-a-Day in my inbox, 2 or 3 per day.  I keep an eye on what catches my ear most tightly.  Then I order a different poet's book every week in August to add to my collection and to support the poetry publishing market. At the end I'll tell you what, as they say in England, I plumped for.

Happy Hotter Than July, everyone, and thanks to the inimitable Jan at BookSeed Studio for hosting us!

Friday, July 21, 2023

superheroes for our time

apparently I'm not the first
to imagine this character
Greetings, Climate Citizens.  It's the 3rd Friday of the month and I'm coming at you after a session in the WHISPERshout Studio where we looked at superhero stories and poems.  (My favorite superhero picture book is HAZEL'S AMAZING MOTHER, which in my opinion is an unsung hero of a story.  I hope you've read it.)

The kids wrote about SuperJunior, Batwoman and Superkitty, and I continued a poem I'd started the week before, writing alongside the kids, about the heat.  What was dire became hopeful with the arrival of my own superheroine, and there are many more (and more realistic) superheroines out there, including Dr. Sara Via, Professor & Climate Extension Specialist at the University of Maryland. Her nerdy-in-the-best-way webinar,"The Darkest Hour Is Just Before The Tipping Point," is a current summary of all the progress we are starting to see, coming on faster and faster.  Set aside some time in between the heat domes, the Tornadoes and the wildfires to watch, and then do what you can to help it all happen!


Canada on fire
heat is everywhere
the air is like flame

90 degrees  100 degrees  110 degrees

people are sweating
earth is baking
no one can breathe

the world on fire


She rides the oceans, rivers and streams
Her cape is a wave of blue water

She arrives just in time
with all the people calling her name
with all the people cheering her on

From her fingers spouts of cool water
shoot over the burning forests, burning earth, burning air


Instadraft™ © HM 2023\

Our host today is Margaret at Reflections on the Teche, who looks to be feeling better after her recent surgery--but then homemade strawberry jam fixes most ailments, I guess!

Thursday, July 13, 2023

live from chautauqua

Greetings, fellow poetry fans! Here at the Chautauqua Institution, which I call a "faith-flavored culture camp for adults," there's too much going on for a lengthy post, so I'm putting up an Instadraft™ and promising no kind of commenting this weekend as I reenter real life from this rarefied atmosphere. Thanks to a guy I know from home with whom I had coffee here and who gave me this poem--a dog poem of all things!

Dog Talk

Despite the surgery,
she grew weaker
and I grew stronger:
five times a day and night
I picked up that crippled old collie,
love of our lives,
the one I hear folks
calling a fur baby,
and carried her outside
to do her business.

For 9 months, like a father
holds and diapers a baby,
over and over
I carried all 70 pounds of her
down the narrow stairs,
across the porch and down
the wide stairs to the lawn
and back up when she was done.

Not long after she left us,
Valora came to me in the night,
speaking in her collie voice,
telling me how now
I'd have to go to the gym
to stay so strong.

Instadraft™ © HM 2023

Thanks to the tremendously creative Linda at A Word Edgewise for hosting us this week!

Friday, July 7, 2023

sudoku (the numbers must remain single)

Greetings, all, and I hope you had a sparkling* Interdependence Day. I have unilaterally decided that we Americans have taken the idea of Independence too far in an ugly direction, and that Interdependence is a lot more realistic and useful an ideal to celebrate.  Join my movement! (video diversion)

It's the first Friday of the month and time for an Inklings challenge.  I was so taken with Mary Lee's sudoku poem post last month that I passed the challenge on to all of us: "SUDOKU POEM! YES! Make yourself a grid at least 4x4. Reread Mary Lee’s sudoku poem post from June 1 for information and inspiration and create your own sudoku poem. If you need help with word choice, you could use some of the words in the poem “Numbers” by Mary Cornish."

I myself was very interested in the way the numeric content of a traditional sudoku puzzle could translate into words, so I offered the Mary Cornish poem as a starting point, but I don't think any of us used it, not even me! But I did find out that the name of the puzzle originates in the year 2000 and is from the Japanese, short for sūji wa dokushin ni kagiru "the numbers must remain single" (or "the digits can occur only once").  These words, along with the syllables su, do and ku, show up in my 5x5 grid poem below, which is homage to and curse against kudzu.

See, kudzu is that ugly version of independence in vine form--it just runs up and over everything else, unsubtly and selfishly "maximizing its photosynthetic productivity, by making sure its leaves have optimal exposure to the sun — even if it means smothering other plants in a kind of structural parasitism." It can grow a foot in one day. 

But also, you can eat it! I think our task here is clear, people.

Go see what my fellow Inklings have come up with, and thanks to our host for today, Marcie Flinchum Atkins, for rounding us up.  I'm off to Chautauqua with my folks for a week and plan to do a SHEDLOAD of writing and submitting....send focus my way!

*Speaking of fireworks: my Pride Poem was posted on June 21 and you can scroll down and see the video here. It's called "Federal Hill 4th of July".

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, June 30, 2023

haze and heat - happy summer!

Greetings, Poetry Friday friends!  If you need a primer on what Poetry Friday is and why some of us have been showing up to it for 15 years (even after shorter and longer hiatuses. hiati? hiatusi?), you can read more here at Renee LaTulippe's blog, No Water River, and here is an article Susan Thomsen wrote for the Poetry Foundation.

I've just had a brief hiatus of my own, in part due to my attendance at the extremely informative and promising Writing for the Educational Market workshop at the Highlights Foundation last week. As I embark on this newish project of writing on assignment, let me give a shout-out to the workshop leaders--Paula Morrow, Jan Fields, Sandra Athans and Rona Shirdan--and to my fellow participants for an extended party of a very refreshing kind!

Those who know me won't be surprised that I'd like to contribute climate- and environment-related texts to the educational market. I wrote the poem below as a sample, sitting inside this week instead of outside on my porch as I prefer, to avoid the hanging haze of Canadian wildfire smoke full of particulate matter, or PM2.5 – a tiny but dangerous pollutant that, when inhaled, can travel deep into lung tissue and enter the bloodstream, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It's not the SAME as the blanket of greenhouse gases that's causing so much havoc in our climate, but boy, is this a visible, uncomfortable, concrete reminder that climate warming is all around all of us. This has big immediate consequences, like preschool summer camp having to be INSIDE!

I did not write this with the Poetry Sisters' monthly challenge in mind, to consider this quote:

“If grief can be a doorway to love, then let us weep for the world we are breaking apart so we can love it back to wholeness again.”
                                                                Robin Wall Kimmerer in BRAIDING SWEETGRASS

But my poem does seek to carry kids through a doorway, from a familiar personal pain to a mind-bogglingly global pain, and from personal healing to global healing.

In other news, I must remark upon the joyful fact that this week, after years of imagining a scenario in which I get to teach poetry workshops as My Job, I taught the first two classes of Summer @ The Studio!  Now there's a good reason for fireworks!  Happy Independence Day, friends, and let there be liberty and justice for ALL.

Friday, June 2, 2023

turquoise inklings + happy pride!

Greetings, PF People! It's June and that means Pride Month in the US and in much of the world (but let's spare a thought for LGBTQ folks of Uganda). I had the pleasure of kicking off the month by participating in my first public reading in a very long time last night, with 4 other queer poets who all have poem-videos that will appear one by one throughout June at  The very first video is from Ishanee Chanda, whom I met last night--she had a certain offhand, subtle style that jumped up and grabbed you when you weren't expecting it, a great reading! My poem will appear on June 21st--don't worry, I'll remind you.

Typing the title above has reminded me of something from my ur-memory: that for a period, probably in 9th grade, I wrote exclusively with a cartridge fountain pen full of turquoise ink. I believe that's also when I figured out handwriting finally--getting it even and regular came slow to me and it only happened when teachers stopped fussing at me about the Palmer Method.

I'm thinking about these things because our Inklings Challenge on this first Friday of June is to write a color poem, thanks to Molly, who says, "I’m always startled by the dazzle of color that arrives in spring after months and months of blues and whites and greys. This month I’m inviting you to write a color poem." She kept it broad with a just a couple of examples, and I'm going with this poem about something else that came slow to me--although the fountain pen might suggest otherwise.

           I Finally Choose a Favorite Color

Turquoise, you persist, you win,
and I shake your hand.

You are slick and solid
with sharp enamel edges,
which shocks me.

You smell like sky upside down water.
Next to my ear you breathe
a Mediterranean sound

of cavewave, squid and pebbles.
When I open my mouth for a taste,
I find you are liquid, tart,

which slakes me.
Returning you to you,
you reshape yourself, no longer

a tile of middling blue but a bowl,
a curved mirror
exactly the size of my face.

You can find this poem published at Lines + Stars Journal.  Let's go see if anyone else had trouble committing to a favorite color (I was 34 years old and had married two people before I married turquoise; there were just so many other great choices!)

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

Thanking our host today, Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect, and leaving you with the opportunity to enjoy KIDS' POEMS every week at...

Friday, May 26, 2023

a ghazal for the youngest among us

Greetings, Poetry Friday Fans! I missed last week and look forward to making some rounds this long weekend.  It being the last Friday of the month, the Seven Poetry Sisters are sharing their challenge, which is simply to write a ghazal.  Ha.

I've tackled this challenge before with the Inklings critique group and it was challenging indeed, but I came up with something that I was proud of (and which therefore is redacted from the post so I can submit it elsewhere). But luckily for busy me, I found another attempt in my notes which also looks pretty good.  It even touches on the Sisters' theme of transformation.

So here, in cheater-pants fashion because I have a MANUSCRIPT to finish, is a ghazal I wrote during the last trying days of PreK before the COVID-19 shutdown. The group of kids I had were unlike any group of 4's I've known, and in a way, the break in the routine of distress behavior and the switch to online school was a good thing.  It certainly saved my psychological bacon!

And how are you doing with that, folks? I'm realizing that this might be at the heart of what we keep calling "self-care"--not to take care of ourselves in addition to everything else we are doing and which leads to the distress in the first place, but to ASK FOR WHAT WE NEED, giving others the responsibility and the opportunity to carry some of the load in a way that actually helps. (As a teacher, for me that's never treats in my mailbox but a note acknowledging something hard or helpful that I'm doing.)

Ghazal-wise, this poem doesn't exactly follow the rules.  Each stanza is not "structurally, thematically, and emotionally autonomous," and I did get a little carried away with the rhyme scheme...but I'm sticking with this beyond-the-bandaid poem.

Thanks to our host today, Patricia at Reverie--go guzzle all the ghazals!

Friday, May 12, 2023

extra sensory perception

Greetings, Poetry People! You know how your TBR stack (physical or virtual) gets so deep you've forgotten what's in it? I went casting around in Audible to see what I had available to read and found AN IMMENSE WORLD by Ed Yong, a book about how animals have sensory "umwelten" that humans have, essentially, only just begun to think of understanding.

This coincides with the arrival home of my college-aged son, who is now a bio/psych major instead of a psych/bio major and who knows just an avalanche of fascinating facts about animal and mycological life.  This is a kid whose phone contains, among the various culture memes and plenty of music, a graphic of the life cycle of slime molds, which he describe as like a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book. (MEANWHILE, by Jason Shiga, was a seminal text in our house.)

Meanwhile, I'm trying to write a poem a day this month using quotes and phrases overheard and overread as starting points.  Here's the first inspired by AN IMMENSE WORLD:

Thanks to our host today, dear Robyn over at Life on the Deckle Edge! Bonus Mother's Day photo: me, my mom, my daughter.

Rehoboth Beach, Nov. 2015

Bonus music connection for anyone still reading: "Senses Working Overtime" by XTC.

Thursday, May 4, 2023

speedpost: inklings challenge

Giant UU Climate Convocation on Saturday; so many last-minute details like oh-yeah-we-probably-need--a-moderator-for-the-consensus-discussion-and-what-about-"Blue Boat Home?"***

So dear Linda made it easy for us with this:

Write a poem from your O-L-W for 2023
Find a piece of artwork that has a word(s) embedded and write an ekphrastic poem inspired by the piece
Go to Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day (any similar site) and be inspired by a word from there
Just write a poem–about anything that needs to be written

Et voila here is a definito that is definitoly linked to my OLW hashtag CHANGE:

Merry May Friday to you all and don't forget to check out all the other Inklings and all the other goodness at the blog of our lovely host Linda, TeacherDance.

****Bonus "Blue Boat Home"

Friday, April 28, 2023

ode in the style of neruda

Greetings, all, and hoping you are blessed by continued energies for this end of National Poetry Month! April is a glory, and also, for those of us who are Poeting and Earthing to the utmost, kind of a long haul. Luckily, we have poetry to get us through Poetry Month. ; )

My NPM project continues over at WHISPERshout Magazine, where "we" are publishing 4-5 poems each Wednesday, from a deep stock of children's work that lurks in my photos, files and blog posts from the last 25 years.  I'm announcing on social media the opportunity for poetry appreciators of all ages to comment on the work, and for young poets to submit their poems and accompanying artwork.  As far as I know it's the only online outlet for kids ages 4-12 to publish, so I do hope you'll share with families, classrooms and programs (homeschool? library? festival?) where young poets may lurk.  Thanks!

I'm joining in the Poetry Sisters' challenge this month again because they are writing in the style of one of my favorite favorite poets--Pablo Neruda.  I love him because he manages always to draw out of solidly concrete and even childlike images the most soul-shaking revelations.  In his odes he speaks directly to dictionaries, bees and artichokes, to sadness, numbers and bicycles. He is extravagant in his choice of vocabulary but spare in line length, giving us the most delicious and demanding bite-sized mouthfuls. He is playful, and wore hats with aplomb. You can learn more about this grand and humble human by reading THE DREAMER by Pam Munoz Ryan. I hope my ode in the style of Pablo serves as an ode to the poet himself.

Friday, April 21, 2023

earth day climate poetry workshop

This post honors my dear friend V., currently in the hospital being treated for lymphoma+complications.  Please send a bolt of energy her way.

Greetings, poetry lovers and earth huggers! I know that poets come in all flavors, but honestly, is there a poet among us who is not dazzled by the daily marvels served up by our planet without any effort from ourselves? Simultaneously, is there a poet among us who is not touched by grief when we face the daily damage served upon our planet by our efforts to prosper, to profit?

Tomorrow at my congregation's annual retreat I'll conduct my annual poetry workshop, and it will be based on a book given to me by that dear friend V.  It is HERE: Poems for the Planet, edited by Elizabeth J. Coleman (Copper Canyon Press, 2019), and like me, you might have missed its glorious variety of work by living poets.  Part of its aim is to acknowledge our complicated emotions about our climate crisis through poetry. The entire collection emphasizes what W.H. Auden said about poetry:

“Poetry might be defined as the clear expression of mixed feelings.”

I'm pretty sure we all suffer from some overwhelm and paralysis about the situation despite knowing at some level that there is good news out there (go here to hear my minister talk about some of it in the context of RESISTANCE). Thankfully, this anthology also emphasizes what bell hooks said about art:

"The function of art is to do more than tell it like it is--it's to imagine what is possible."

So in my little workshop, we'll read and write together to find spiritual grounding and resilience for the work at hand and ahead.

We'll start with my recent poem "Between Chapters of BRAIDING SWEETGRASS," published recently in The Bezine--the mother of all mixed-emotions poems.  Then we'll read one poem each from four of the anthology's five sections.  Participants will read to self, then out loud if they choose; we'll discuss, keeping always in mind the uncomfortable power that rises out of our mixed wonder and grief, despair and righteous anger; and then do a little drafting before moving to the next poem.

  • Where You’d Want to Come From: “Naming the Field” -David Hart

  • The Gentle Light That Vanishes: “First Verse”-Tim Seibles

  • As If They’d Never Been: “The Weighing”- Jane Hirshfield 

  • Like You Are New to the World–”A Small Poem” - Vievee Francis

Three of these poets are new to me--always one of the attractions of an anthology to discover new voices and personalities, don't you agree?  This one has an extra bonus feature which follows this last poem in the book:

A Small Poem | Vievee Francis

         for Jen Chang and Martha 


                             From a morning without expectations a surprise,

a word unanticipated and meant. Rare

and jarring. Syllables moving one to tears

when the winter sky is a simple blue, and nothing

is there to impede the dailyness of things. But

the word grows from a note a hello a salutation

and plants itself like a spring dandelion seed that by

afternoon is full grown and blowing more seeds,

lightly, sweetly, a coloratura of delight, and I 

feel as if I were both the plucked and the child

plucking the stem and twirling.  How a single word

can set the world turning from one moment into

the next in startlement.

What follows this poem "to set the world startlement" is an entire Guide to Activism by the Union of Concerned Scientists!  It's a 30-page summary of actions we can take, from the simple and individual to the loud advocacy we can lead, that contribute to change.  

[Don't forget, too, that our money talks.  This week I heard a presentation from the author of this article about social impact investing for people and planet.]

Poetry can be a tool for navigating your feelings about our climate emergency and then getting on with our day, whether it’s a day of activism or a day of rest & process. So, I wish you a Mixed-Emotions Earth Day full of whatever you need to live by Jane Hirshfield's words:

"The world asks of us
only the strength we have and we give it.
Then it asks more, and we give it."

Thanks to our host Karen Edmisten for doing the honors today, and do take a moment to visit Issue 1.3 of The WHISPERshout Magazine featuring poetry by kids ages 4-12.

Friday, April 14, 2023

classic found poem a la Jone

Greetings, Poetry Paloozers! (Wait, that didn't come out quite right. We are not loozers; this month we are all winners!) Today I'll be joining in Jone Rush McCulloch's "Classic Found Poem Palooza," but not before I give another introduction to a project of WHISPERshout Writing Workshop...

the new online journal publishing poetry by kids ages 4-12, WHISPERshout Magazine! Issue 1.2 is now out; each month will have four Wednesday "episodes." We're keeping it small, in keeping with the audience--younger kids and classes of students through 6th grade. (When I say we I'm currently talking the Royal We, though I hope one or two of you might be interested in contributing to editorial duties...just let me know in the comments!) Please share the link to the site with kids and grandkids and teachers you know and encourage them to submit their work.  Here's a sample of the poem-accompanied-by-artwork presentation we're going for.

"paper" by Jordy, age 7, MD

Now, on to the classics!  Jone and her friend Moe have asked us to "Find a classic book.  Look for a poem in it." As I have four different editions of my namesake classic HEIDI on the shelf, that's my obvious source!  I searched a 2000 reprint of the 1880 original published by Aladdin, the first two or three pages of Chapter 4 called "A Visit to Grannie," and found this.

That was fun--not least the part where I broke a rule I didn't know I had and HIGHLIGHTED THE PAGES OF MY BOOK. It felt illicit and delicious!

It is really fun to see all the contributions to Jone and Moe's Padlet--thanks for this great opportunity, and thanks for hosting us, Jone!