Thursday, April 30, 2009


painting by Debbie Neill

End of April

Under a cherry tree
I found a robin's egg,
broken, but not shattered.

I had been thinking of you,
and was kneeling in the grass
among fallen blossoms

when I saw it: a blue scrap,
a delicate toy, as light
as confetti

It didn't seem real,
but nature will do such things
from time to time.

I looked inside:
it was glistening, hollow,
a perfect shell

except for the missing crown,
which made it possible
to look inside.

What had been there
is gone now
and lives in my heart

where, periodically,
it opens up its wings,
tearing me apart.

- Phillis Levin

How 'bout that for an appropriate end to National Poetry Month? The poem is extra-special to me because of the person who first shared it with me. Amazing how flat words on a page can take on incredible dimensions when they are linked to an actual human experience. That's the whole point, after all.... to connect, to share, to be bound by words.

And tomorrow it's on to May. Lots going on in these parts. I'll keep you posted. Meanwhile, thanks for reading!

Sunday, April 26, 2009


Celebrate National Poetry Month!!

Today I am lifting an original poem from fellow poet-blogger Khaled's site. Khaled is passionate about poetry and he pulls off something in this poem that I strive for: poignancy AND humor. I love how this one makes me smile.

Our relationship was

and for a change

and with time
in need of conditioner

Why are you staring at me now that I am bald
and why
are you holding those scissors?

- Khaled KEM

Speaking of smiles, I've been invited to do a little segment on a local tv station.

When I told my youngest son I was wondering what I should wear, he said, "wear what you wore yesterday!" Which was a nice teal-colored top and actually the very thing I thought of! And how amazing that he even remembered what I wore the day before, much less imagined that it would be a good choice for television??

My husband, who was listening, leaned over and whispered in my ear, "and you wish you had a girl."

LOVE that boy.

Friday, April 24, 2009


Celebrate National Poetry Month!!

Today's favorite poem is from YA writer R.A. Nelson, author of TEACH ME, BREATHE MY NAME and the forthcoming DAYS OF LITTLE TEXAS. He says he has many favorites that tend to shift and change with time. Here is one of his current faves:

Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spáre, strange;
Whatever is fickle, frecklèd (who knows how?)
With swíft, slów; sweet, sóur; adázzle, dím;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is pást change:

Práise hím.

- Gerard Manley Hopkins

Russ says, "What I love about this poem is how it recognizes beauty in all its wondrous forms...not just the large and dazzling, but the small, subtle, even forgotten or ignored. Beauty is everywhere -- the universe is a creation beyond imagining...a gift which greets us each day if we will only allow it to do so.

I love how this poem fits in the mouth...I love the feel of its clicking consonants juxtaposed against the assonance, all the internal similarities of sound. I love how in such a short space Hopkins manages to catalog so many wonderfully diverse, yet subtlety connected concrete images. And the first time (and every time thereafter) that I ever read the poem, the last two lines suddenly turned the whole thing so sharply (and rapturously) outward toward the infinite and the size of the blessings we have been bequeathed, that it made the little hairs stand up on the back of my neck. Praise him, indeed."

Is anyone else noticing a theme here?? Yes, beauty is everywhere. Even in the small things. Maybe with poetry, especially in the small things.

Quick update:
1. Took kids to see their first live comedy show -- James Gregory. So fun to see them laugh so hard! My face actually hurt from laughing by the time it was over.
2. Limestone Dust Poetry Festival was inspiring, as ever. So many great poets in the world!
3. Our a/c is not working. Of course this would happen the first day the mercury hits 90 degrees for 2009.
4. Poetry Month is coming to a close. I've got two more events in celebration: a school visit to Inverness Elementary and a presentation at Hoover Senior Center. Then it's over for another year. Looking forward to May flowers!!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Celebrate National Poetry Month!!

"Spotted Flowers on a Tabletop" oil on canvas in artist's painted frame 35.25" x 29.25" x 1.5" $2400

Today's favorite comes from amazing writer/artist Sarah Rakes, creator of the gorgeous painting above. Check out more of her paintings at Marcia Weber's online gallery.

Returning to Earth

I'm getting very old. If I were a mutt
in dog years I'd be seven, not stray so far.
I am large. Tarpon my age are often large
but they are inescapably fish. A porpoise
my age was the King of New Guinea in 1343.
Perhaps I am the king of my dogs, cats, horses
but I have dropped any notion of explaining
to them why I read so much. To be mysterious
is a prerogative of kingship. I discovered
lately that my subjects do not live a life,
but are life itself. They do not recognize
the pain of the schizophrenia of kingship.
To them I am pretty much a fellow creature.

- Jim Harrison

Sarah says, "Jim Harrison uses sharp images to expresses the everyday sacred and takes common verbs and turns them into royalty." And isn't that exactly what we writers strive to do?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Celebrate National Poetry Month!!

Because I LOVE love poems, and I happen to write them as well, people often ask me to reveal my most favorite love poem. It's an impossible task, of course, because love is such a great subject, and there are so many many ways to experience it. So today I give you ONE of my favorite love poems, by the amazing Sharon Olds.


In the middle of the night, when we get up
after making love, we look at each other in
complete friendship, we know so fully
what the other has been doing. Bound to each other
like mountaineers coming down from a mountain,
bound with the tie of the delivery-room,
we wander down the hall to the bathroom, I can
hardly walk, I wobble through the granular
shadowless air, I know where you are
with my eyes closed, we are bound to each other
with huge invisible threads, our sexes muted exhausted, crushed, the whole
body of sex-surely this
is the most blessed time of my life,
our children asleep in their beds, each fate
like a vein of abiding mineral
not discovered yet. I sit
on the toilet in the night, you are somewhere in the room,
I open the window and snow has fallen in a
steep drift, against the pane, I
look up, into it,
a wall of cold crystals, silent
and glistening, I quietly call to you
and you come and hold my hand and say
I cannot see beyond it. I cannot see beyond it.

- Sharon Olds

I love being married, love "each fate/like a vein of abiding mineral/not discovered yet." And yes, that feeling: "I cannot see beyond it."

photo found here

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Celebrate National Poetry Month!!

Today's poem comes from Helen Keller. Yes, you read that right: Helen Keller. She cited this poem as her current favorite in her autobiography, which I have just now finished reading. And it seems especially appropriate as tomorrow I am taking my father to Ivy Green, the place of Helen's birth.


This is the ship of pearl, which, poets feign,
Sails the unshadowed main,--
The venturous bark that flings
On the sweet summer wind its purpled wings
In gulfs enchanted, where the Siren sings,
And coral reefs lie bare,
Where the cold sea-maids rise to sun their streaming hair.

Its webs of living gauze no more unfurl;
Wrecked is the ship of pearl!
And every chambered cell,
Where its dim dreaming life was wont to dwell,
As the frail tenant shaped his growing shell,
Before thee lies revealed,--
Its irised ceiling rent, its sunless crypt unsealed!

Year after year beheld the silent toil
That spread his lustrous coil;
Still, as the spiral grew,
He left the past year's dwelling for the new,
Stole with soft step its shining archway through,
Built up its idle door,
Stretched in his last-found home, and knew the old no more.

Thanks for the heavenly message brought by thee,
Child of the wandering sea,
Cast from her lap, forlorn!
From thy dead lips a clearer note is born
Than ever Triton blew from wreathed horn;
While on mine ear it rings,
Through the deep caves of thought I hear a voice that sings:--

Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,
As the swift seasons roll!
Leave thy low-vaulted past!
Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,
Till thou at length art free,
Leaving thine outgrown shell by life's unresting sea!

- Oliver Wendell Holmes

Friday, April 17, 2009


Celebrate National Poetry Month!!

Today's poem is the favorite of dear sweet Kirie at Three Little Chickies. I am a big fan of Kirie's, so it should come as no surprise that I am a big fan of her favorite poem.

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

- Mary Oliver

Kirie says this: "Mary Oliver's 'Wild Geese' is a poem that I am compelled to read again and again. I wrote about it in a post on my blog and said it's like a mantra for me. It is. I think the authoritative voice that Oliver uses is hugely powerful, and she speaks a message of acceptance that resonates with me. When I first read this poem, it was as though I had been waiting to hear such an exhortation my entire life; I sighed as though I had laid down a burden. When I feel isolated or overly critical of myself, I revisit this poem."

Quick Update:
1. Loved WICKED. Scandalicious!
2. Will be in Montgomery for Alabama Book Festival.
3. Am so sad to be missing book club! The girls are awesome and I was looking forward to the discussion about The Reader.
4. Lebanese Food Festival is also this weekend. Bring on the hummus and kibbee and stuffed grape leaves!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Celebrate National Poetry Month!

Today's favorite poem comes from poet-blogger Susan(who is participating in NaPoWriMo -- check her out!), and it is written by Mary Oliver, who happens to be one of my most favorite poets.


Every day
I see or hear
that more or less
kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle
in the haystack
of light.
It was what I was born for -
to look, to listen,
to lose myself
inside this soft world -
to instruct myself
over and over
in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,
the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant -
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,
the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help
but grow wise
with such teachings
as these -
the untrimmable light
of the world,
the ocean's shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?

- Mary Oliver

Susan has this to say about this poem's impact on her life: "I feel validated when I read this poem. It is not idleness that causes one to lose herself in the moment, but rather a keen perception. And the title - what a perfect title: Mindful. I try to be. I strive to be more so. This poem is a reminder to live with my heart open."

I agree with Susan -- it is so important to be open to the universe and the experience of life. To listen.

Speaking of listening... I got in the mail from dear sweet Deb this beautiful red journal with these words emblazoned on the cover: "She listened to her heart above all other voices." Thank you, my friend!!

Sunday, April 12, 2009


Celebrate National Poetry Month!

The sitter

Mrs. McTwitter the baby-sitter,
I think she's a little bit crazy.
She thinks a baby-sitter's supposed
To sit upon the baby.

-Shel Silverstein

Those of you who know me know my first poetic love was Shel Silverstein. Naturally I've done my darnedest to pass this along to my children. And lo and behold, the above poem is son Eric's most favorite poem. It's funny, and he loves the drawing. Also, he had a babysitter once upon a time whom he adored and still talks about from time to time. (As far as I know she never sat on him!)

Quick update: For years it has been our family tradition to go fishing on Easter Sunday. This year we are spending the day with my grandparents instead. (The fish will wait.) Also, I've been de-cluttering. Flylady, anyone? And at night I've been reading Skin Hunger by Kathleen Duey. My older sons both loved this book, and that's really the only recommendation I need. (Nice that it was a National Book award finalist as well.)

Friday, April 10, 2009


Celebrate National Poetry Month!

Today's favorite poem comes from my father. He has always loved poetry and is one of my most fervent supporters. And he is a poet, too, although he would never call himself that.

When I asked him what his favorite poem was, he said he thought his choice would surprise me. But it didn't at all. Because, over the many years and unbeknownst to him, he has given me three separate editions of this particular book. I've chosen to share with you one of the many sections he highlighted:


And a woman spoke, saying, "Tell us of Pain."
And he said:
Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.

Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.

And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy;

And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.

And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.

Much of your pain is self-chosen. It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self.

- Kahlil Gibran

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Celebrate National Poetry Month!

Auguries of Innocence

To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.

(click here for the rest of the poem)

- William Blake

Sun van Zyl of South Africa says according to her diaries, this is her favourite English poem,particularly the first four lines.

She also says this: "I have always surrounded myself with questions about the everything and the nothing of life and the why, but there is a truth in reaching the point of stillness, the point of looking at the now and everything that it stands for, the beauty and the essence of existence. My life would not have been this rich if my eyes were not opened to seeing the awe of the simple things and the complicated things through simple sight. And to realize we are creation and we hold life in our hands and we should respect it always gives us a measure of hope."

And to realize we are creation and we hold life in our hands and we should respect it always give me a measure of hope. LOVE.

Check back later this month for one of Sun's favorite original poems!

Quick update:
1. Finished reading The Underneath by Kathi Appelt to my 9 year old. He said it was his favorite book ever !!
2. Zipped copyedits off to editor. Whew!
3. Having tea today with three other Tenners. Tea, I tell you! Mmmmmm.....

Photo found here.

Monday, April 6, 2009


Celebrate National Poetry Month!

Her Longing

Before this longing,

I lived serene as a fish,

At one with the plants in the pond

The mare’s tail, the floating frogbit,

Among my eight-legged friends,

Open like a pool, a lesser parsnip,

Like a leech, looping myself along,

A bug-eyed edible one,

A mouth like a stickleback,—

A thing quiescent!

But now—

The wild stream, the sea itself cannot contain me:

I dive with the black hag, the cormorant,

Or walk the pebble shore with the humpbacked heron,

Shaking out my catch in the morning sunlight,

Or rise with the gar-eagle, the great winged condor,

Floating over the mountains,

Pitting my breast against the rushing air,

A phoenix, sure of my body,

Perpetually rising out of myself,

My wings hovering over the shorebirds,

Or beating against the black clouds of the storm,

Protecting the sea-cliffs.

- Theodore Roethke

I have Doraine at Dori Reads to thank for introducing me to this poem... but I did not know she would claim it as her favorite. Here's what she has to say: "John Gaynor Banks says that desire is 'part of the Atomic energy of the soul.' Leanne Payne says, 'Desire the great things.' It’s so easy to squelch our desires, so freeing when we allow ourselves the gift of longing. I love Roethke’s images here. Before-- frogbit, a lesser parsnip, a stickleback. And then, longing releases that atomic energy and becoming is realized. Beautiful!"

I couldn't agree more. Thanks, Doraine!

Saturday, April 4, 2009


Celebrate National Poetry Month!


Alone in the night

On a dark hill

With pines around me

Spicy and still,

And a heaven full of stars

Over my head

White and topaz and misty red;

Myriads with beating

Hearts of fire

That aeons

Cannot vex or tire;

Up the dome of heaven

Like a great hill,

I watch them marching

Stately and still,.

And I know that I

Am honored to be


Of so much majesty.

- Sara Teasdale

Jim Reed, who is editor of Birmingham Arts Journal and owner of Reed Books and a dear friend of mine says, "More than any poem of childhood, 'Stars' captures the intense pleasure of facing the universe alone and knowing that one is not really alone. Its crisp, unpatronizing use of words both familiar and exotic gives the reader hope that this night on a hill might be repeated many times as needed, through a long and unknown future life."

I wish y'all could hear Jim read this one. Gorgeous.

Quick Update: As of yesterday's scan, MY FATHER IS CANCER-FREE!! Thanks for all your thoughts and prayers. "Survivor" really is a beautiful word.

Friday, April 3, 2009


Celebrate National Poetry Month!


Locate I
love you some-
where in

teeth and
eyes, bite
it but

take care not
to hurt, you
want so

much so
little. Words
say everything.

love you

then what
is emptiness
for. To

fill, fill.
I heard words
and words full
of holes
aching. Speech
is a mouth.

- Robert Creeley

The Storialist , who is an amazing blogger-poet, loves this poem by Creeley because...

"[the poet] wonders about the connection between words, speech, meaning, and emotion. I first read this poem over a decade ago, and fell hard for its halting, haunting lines. I love this poem (and Creeley's writing, in general) for its longing, simplicity, and playfulness. This is one of the two poems that I have memorized (and have recited unsolicited to friends), and I am eternally inspired by Creeley's ability to end his poems with understated gravity."

Three cheers for understated gravity! Definitely something to aspire to as poets.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


April is National Poetry Month.

To celebrate, I'm hosting a virtual "My Favorite Poem". Modeled after Robert Pinsky's Favorite Poem Project, all my April posts will include someone's favorite poem and a few words about why that poem is important to them personally.

Today it is my pleasure to share with you MY favorite poem. Or at least one of them.

A Secret Life

Why you need to have one
is not much more mysterious than
why you don't say what you think
at the birth of an ugly baby.
Or, you've just made love
and feel you'd rather have been
in a dark booth where your partner
was nodding, whispering yes, yes,
you're brilliant. The secret life
begins early, is kept alive
by all that's unpopular
in you, all that you know
a Baptist, say, or some other
accountant would object to.
It becomes what you'd most protect
if the government said you can protect
one thing, all else is ours.
When you write late at night
it's like a small fire
in a clearing, it's what
radiates and what can hurt
if you get too close to it.
It's why your silence is a kind of truth.
Even when you speak to your best friend,
the one who'll never betray you,
you always leave out one thing;
a secret life is that important.

- Stephen Dunn

The first time I read this poem, it left me breathless. It said all the things I felt but hadn't yet found the words for. At the time, writing was my secret life. I squirreled my poems and stories away in stacks and drawers and not a soul read them. I knew exactly what Dunn was talking about when he said it was like a small fire in a clearing. I loved the poem because it gave me permission to continue my secret life, to nurture it, to celebrate all the things about me that are just mine.

Wishing all of you happy healthy secret lives. And if you'd like to be a part of this project, please contact me as soon as possible.