Friday, April 21, 2017

Meet Peter Huggins (And Drawing Results)

A Gift of Air, part of the Solomon & George Chapbook Series, is the sixth poetry publication by Peter Huggins. The Series pairs a visual artist with a literary artist and features twelve works by each.  Placed on facing pages, handmade paper pieces by visual artist Allyson Comstock accompany poems by  Peter Huggins.

I'm delighted to introduce you today to Peter Huggins. Peter was part of my first critique group and his voice always brought clarity, whether we were working on poems, picture books or novels.  He and his wife live in Auburn, Alabama, where he is retired from teaching in the English Department at Auburn University after thirty-one years. Peter has written six books of poems, as well as publishing poems in journals and magazines. 

He's also published in the children's book industry--In the Company of Owls, a middle grade novel (NewSouth/Junebug Books, 2008) and a picture book, Trosclair and the Alligator (Star Bright Books, 2006), which has appeared on the PBS show Between the Lions.

If you haven't seen Trosclair and the Alligator, you really should check out a copy. It's a delightful Cajun retelling of the Brer Rabbit in the briar patch story.

And now on to the poetry Peter is sharing with us today. Enjoy!

A Gift of Air

Virgil said honey came
From heaven, a gift of air.
Aristotle thought that bees
Did not make honey but gathered it
As it fell from the sky.
Samson scooped honey
From the carcass of a lion,
Then ate it as he went along.

When I put honey in my tea
I taste the meadow
The bees drank from.
I feel the wind, the rising warmth.
I smell the flowers,
Their sweetness, and I am refreshed.

©Peter Huggins

from an interview with Kudzu House:

Madison: Well, I guess the last question I’d like to ask you is there any advice you’d like to give emerging poets and writers?
Peter: Yeah, and I think I can do that in one word: read. Really, I mean, that’s it. Read. I think you have to just read, read, read. And, if you’re a poet, not just poems. Any poet can learn a lot from reading well-written prose. You can learn a lot about pacing, about story arc. I mean, obviously in poems, you do it in a much more compressed fashion, but you can learn a lot about how to do that, particularly how to pace, and how to elaborate on things that need elaborating or things that need cutting. So reading, and not just whatever genre you’re writing in.

Audubon’s Engraver

At the end Audubon didn’t know his name.
He couldn’t remember birds.
So many of them. My favorite prints:
Louisiana Tanager and Scarlet Tanager,

Blue Jay, Indigo Bird, Summer
Red Bird, Yellow-throated Vireo,
Rose-breasted Grosbeak. I could
Come up with a new list tomorrow.

He killed them, you know. So many
Songbirds, waterfowl, birds of prey
Gone. I know he killed them,
His specimens, he said, to render

Them more precisely, to make the
Come alive. Havell, he said,
You are tender-hearted and do not
Understand the process. You have not

Walked the woods or slogged through swamps
For days on end to see what I’ve seen.
He was probably right and I
Didn’t hesitate to admire or profit

From what he produced.
I gave him the fame he wanted,
Yet I wonder, as the dementia that
Took his life tightened its grip on him,

Did he dream of hawks or songbirds,
Of waterfowl in the long V of winter?
Did he return those birds to the wild?
Did he remember sky?

©Peter Huggins

If you'd like to hear Peter read, click here for "Interview with a City."

A native of Mississippi who grew up in New Orleans, Peter has an intimate knowledge of the South, especially New Orleans and Alabama, and his love for the area is evident in his poetry.


I returned to smell the dark.
That other country had
No scent I recognized as home.
The French and English street names

Were not unfamiliar.
I had grown up with Chartres,
Napoleon, and the muses
Clio and Polyhymnia.

On the Mississippi River,
I smelled the world,
Coffee and bananas,
Cars, silk, wheat, and wine.

The St. Lawrence
I admired from a distance.
The Mississippi was mine.
It flowed through me as I danced.

The twilight on the rivers
Running on the levee;
The long evening on Lake Pontchartrain,
Drinking the salt air;

These brought me to myself,
The cracked and broken ice
A cold dream to remember
When the heat became intolerable.

Exiled Jefferson Davis
Lived for a time
In Montreal as I did.
I fled my past to study

The past and escaped, I thought,
The legacy I was born to.
I theorized the class struggle
In eighteenth century France

And nineteenth century Britain.
I edged my way to the
Twentieth century disasters,
The lights all going out.

I refused the easy charm
Of exile, I rubbed
My fingers in the green grass,
I smelled the dark.

Awash in diesel, the tugs
Pushed barges upriver.
The lions in the Audubon Zoo growled.
History ran on.

She said, Trust me.
Lie still.
Listen. Music
Will tell you what you want to know.

©Peter Huggins

Here are the results from last week's drawing for five copies of Here We Go by Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell.

Matt Esenwine
Keri (Recommends)
Bridget Magee
Jen Hden

Please send your mailing address to me at

Tabatha hosts the roundup today at The Opposite of Indifference.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Pondering: Incomprehensible

“People who’ve had any genuine spiritual experience always know that they don’t know. They are utterly humbled before mystery. They are in awe before the abyss of it all, in wonder at eternity and depth, and a Love, which is incomprehensible to the mind.”
                 ― Richard Rohr

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Poetry Friday Round Up and Giveaway

Welcome to Poetry Friday. I'm delighted to have you here for a few moments of your day. And yes, I'm giving away five copies of Here We Go: A Poetry Friday Power Book, courtesy of Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell.

Janet and Sylvia have been using their talent and seemingly inexhaustible energy to make bringing poetry into the classroom more accessible for both teachers and students.

Here We Go is a book about four friends whose circumstances are bigger than they are.

Jack's dad lost his job. Life is tough at his house.
Ameera is Muslim and kids often say bad things about her.
Jenna's single-parent mom works long hard hours.
David is a border kid, born in the U.S., but often traveling to Mexico. Life is uncertain.

It's a book about families.
It's a book about poetry.
It's a book about activism.

But most of all, it's a book about finding the courage to be the person you're meant to be and acting from that center.

Let's take a look! I thought the best way would be to dive into a powerpack and participate.

This is the opening page for Powerpack 4. I personally love the creative imagery of these opening pages.  The designs and patterns by Franzi Paetzold capture the theme of each powerpack.

The next spread is a powerplay activity designed by Sylvia that gives students the chance to play with words and word choices.

Here's my wordplay. I began with rhyme, then moved to some slant rhyme.

Next is the anchor poem, a previously published poem from an outside source that reflects the theme of the powerpack. The response poem (written by Janet) is from the point of view of one of the four friends and expands on the theme. 

The mentor poem, again written by Janet in the voice of one of the four friends, gives students an example to study as they begin working on their own poem. 

And finally, there's a writing prompt, created by Sylvia, that challenge students to write using specific techniques encountered in the preceding poems of the powerpack. 

I chose to work with internal rhyme and slant rhyme. 

One day while working on the poem, I received an invitation to participate in a sort of mock poetry slam. Ten rounds of poems (which are read, not recited) matched to a theme given at the beginning of each round. I was suddenly thrown back to an unsettling memory, a loss of memory in fact, in front of a crowd.  Here's my poem. 

Invitation to a Poetry Slam

And suddenly
you’re seventeen
onstage in the school auditorium
after weeks of practice Mrs. Higgins
glasses slipping down her sharp nose
pronounces you ready
oak boards creak beneath your patent leather pumps
orange letters sprawl across royal blue
drapes shout Blue Devils
students slouch in worn wooden seats
you step to the microphone
don’t look at the crowd don’t allow
your gaze to find a face
focus on the doors
the hallway back to homeroom
open your mouth
sentences come out
somehow you relax
think you’ve found your voice
until a pause
long enough for shuffling feet to still
for stoners in the corner to rouse
to check what caused the lack of sound
long enough to vow never again
a loud whisper from stage right
Mrs. Higgins with your speech in her hand
life line for a drowning man

© 2017 Doraine Bennett

And each powerpack unit is loaded with the same kind of learning power.

I appreciate this comment from Ed Spicer, educator and literacy expert. “This book will allow all sorts of emotions and thoughts to bubble forth, including difficult and painful ones . . . and that will be a source of healing.”

Isn't that what we love most about poetry?

In a recent article in The Dragon Lode, the journal of Children's Literature and Reading Special Interest Group, Janet calls the method "poetry fanfiction," encouraging students to use a mix of published poems and new poems as structure for their own expression.
More than ever, tweens and teens are looking to invent new ways to express themselves, to document their lives and insert themselves meaningfully into the world. Poetry fan fiction can teach language arts skills in a brand new way that honors their desires to create. 
This is a book for teachers. Sylvia and Janet have done the pre-write planning for you.
It's a book for students with compelling characters and a good story.
It's a book about using words to help students find their own perspective.

What's not to love?

Leave your Poetry Friday below.
Leave a comment to be entered into the drawing for one of five copies of the book.

Pondering: Happiness

“she had long accepted the fact that happiness is like swallows in Spring. It may come and nest under your eaves or it may not. You cannot command it. When you expect to be happy you are not, when you don't expect to be happy there's suddenly Easter in your soul, though it be midwinter.”
               ― Elizabeth Goudge, The White Witch

Friday, April 7, 2017

Meet Nick Norwood


now that you are here
amid crag and gleam
mist-rise and vapor
dark jade frothing
into white lace
here where the rains
come to gargle
spit jets of spray
see herons creep
smokestacks peer
through high windows
spirits sleep
spool and spindle
shaft and shackle
tie-snake and eagle
sit still
as an old powerhouse
and mind your moorings
the river roaring

© Nick Norwood

On Fridays in April to celebrate National Poetry Month, I will be introducing you to some of my "real life" poetry friends that you might enjoy knowing.

Today you will meet Nick Norwood. He is a professor of creative writing at Columbus State University. When I returned to school back in 2000 as a non-traditional student (old, in other words! I was 50 when I graduated),  Nick was my creative writing professor. He is much of the reason I am writing poetry today. 

Nick is also the director of the Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians in Columbus, Georgia, and Nyack, New York. His poems have appeared many literary journals, including The Paris Review, The Wallace Stevens Journal, and The Oxford American. He has been featured at the PBS NewsHour site Art Beat, U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser’s syndicated column American Life in Poetry, and on NPR’s Writer’s Almanacwith Garrison Keillor

The poem above, "powerhouse," was a commissioned collaboration between Nick and  CSU art professor, Michael McFalls. The sculpture scrolls across the top of the retaining wall along Columbus' downtown Riverwalk exactly opposite the old Eagle and Phenix Mill house. Click here for a reading of the poem and comments by the poet, sculptor, and sponsors of the work.

And now enjoy these poems that Nick is sharing with us.


Shorty, lone ornament of the south pasture;
brawny, bristle-maned chestnut stuffed with clover.

A savage saddled: ornery, headstrong, mean.
But once, in a snit, I banged through the screen

and found him idle by the barbwire fence
just staring—calm, inert—toward the house

and got a wild hair, thought, I’ll stroke his muzzle.
Sidling up, age nine, my palm met his skull—

an anvil, a fieldpiece shrink-wrapped in hide—
and the news traveled up my arm. This cloud

of sweat and flies and moist, long-rifled breathing,
this piss-hot leathery stink, had being.

He was a beast, all right, but so was I.
At last we two were meeting eye to eye

and my brain forged for us an island north,
hardships braved, friendships kept, galloping forth. 

We stood long in Texas while the June sun
slowly moved, mid-morning; a calf went on

bawling for its mother. I remember
hearing my grandmother’s radio stir,

crackle, and settle on the local weather
as we were disappearing into the heather.

© Nick Norwood

From the interview, "Five Questions with Nick Norwood" by J. Aaron Sanders at The Negatives:

What is your philosophy of failure?
Writing poems is like cold-calling. I’ve heard that among salesman it’s considered success to have one out of 20 cold calls result in a sale. That means 19 of those calls were failures. Only 5% of the work succeeded. That seems about right. William Stafford defined a poet as a person who, in a lifetime of standing out of doors during thunderstorms, manages to get himself or herself struck by lightning two or three times. And Stafford’s own career is proof of that. Though he wrote many fine poems, anthologizing mostly reduced him to two or three, and really he’s known to most people by only one—his brilliant, beautiful, and sad “Traveling Through the Dark.” All of his other poems are, in a sense, failures of varying degree.


Dad dead, Mom—back in the bank, tellering—
started dressing in cute skirts and pants suits
she sewed herself from onionskin patterns
and bright-colored knits picked up at Cloth World.
Got her dark brunette hair cut in a shag.
And she and her single girlfriends from work
on a weekday night would leave me to “Love
American Style” or Mary Tyler Moore
and step out to hear the country house band
or now-and-then headliners like Ray Price
and Merle Haggard. Mom’s blue Buick Wildcat
shoulder to shoulder with the other Detroit
behemoths in the dim lot around back.
Wind skittering trash along the street. Bass
notes thumping through the sheet-metal walls
and the full swinging sound suddenly blaring
when a couple came in or out the door.
I know because I’m there, now, in the lot,
crouched behind the fender of a Skylark
or Riviera, in the weird green glow
of the rooftop Ronnie’s sign, not keeping tabs
on Mom, not watching out, just keeping time
with the band and sipping a Slurpee
while she dances through this two-year window
before getting re-hitched, settling back down.
Just twenty-seven, twenty-eight years old,
looking pretty, and having the time of her life.

©Nick Norwood


Remember the first time
you let yourself in—
stunned by the sheer
silence of it all,

the sunlight blooming
on mute, blank-faced
walls. And how you
stormed, then,

from room to room
blistering furniture
and framed photographs
with your hollering,

commanding the sunlight
to go away go away
because you wanted
to be alone.

Remember how you
yelled yourself
and scared.

And how eventually
you dropped
into your mother’s chair
and watched

that same sunlight creep
silently across floors,
up walls,
and let itself out.

© Nick Norwood

If you would like to hear Nick reading, click here for PBS News Hour's Art Beat.

I hope you enjoyed meeting my friend. Irene Latham hosts the roundup today at Live Your Poem. Be sure to stop by. There are so many wonderful ways to celebrate National Poetry Month in the Kidslitosphere. And if you haven't been following Irene's progressive poem, be sure to check out the links below and catch up.


1 Heidi at my juicy little universe
2 Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference
3 Doraine at Dori Reads
4 Michelle at Today's Little Ditty
5 Diane at Random Noodling
6 Kat at Kat's Whiskers
7 Irene at Live Your Poem
8 Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
9 Linda at TeacherDance
10 Penny at blog-a- penny-and- her-jots
11 Ramona at Pleasures from the Page
12 Janet F. at Live Your Poem
13 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
14 Jan at Bookseedstudio
15 Brenda at Friendly Fairy Tales
16 Joy at Poetry for Kids Joy
17 Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect
18 Buffy at Buffy's Blog
19 Pat at Writer on a Horse
20 BJ at Blue Window
21 Donna at Mainely Write
22 Jone at Jone Ruch MacCulloch
23 Ruth at There's No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town
24 Amy at The Poem Farm
25 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge
26 Renee at No Water River
27 Matt at Radio, Rhythm and Rhyme
28 Michelle at Michelle Kogan
29 Charles at Poetry Time
30 Laura Purdie Salas at Writing the World for Kids

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Spiritual Journey Thursday: Easter Symbols

Purple on Palm Sunday. 

On the first Thursday of the month, a group of bloggers reflect on aspects of the spiritual journey. Today we will all be posting about "New Life/Spring/Easter" over at Violet Nesdoly's blog.

One of my favorite visual images at Easter is color. I love the colors in the liturgical calendar, the draping of the altar and the cross during this season.
Changes to black on Good Friday

And finally a bright, glorious white on Easter Sunday. 

It's what I love about images. Not many words necessary.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Line Three of the Progressive Poem

Welcome to day three of National Poetry Month. I hope you'll join in on all the fun. Jama Rattigan has a giant list of  poetry happenings.

Today we're celebrating with line three of Irene Latham's 2017 Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem.

Line 1 from Heidi:

I'm fidget, friction, ragged edges--

Line 2 from Tabatha:

I sprout stories that frazzle-dazzle

Hmm. Tabatha wasn't ready to rhyme, but I'm feeling a leaning in that direction. Have you looked at your rhyming dictionary today? Not many options for edges or dazzle! So, I'm opting for a little slant rhyme. 

Here's line 3:

stories of castles, of fires that crackle

So far we have

I'm fidget, friction, ragged edges--
I sprout stories that frazzle-dazzle,
stories of castles, of fires that crackle

And now line four from Michelle to see what happens next.


1 Heidi at my juicy little universe
2 Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference
3 Doraine at Dori Reads
4 Michelle at Today's Little Ditty
5 Diane at Random Noodling
6 Kat at Kat's Whiskers
7 Irene at Live Your Poem
8 Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
9 Linda at TeacherDance
10 Penny at blog-a- penny-and- her-jots
11 Ramona at Pleasures from the Page
12 Janet F. at Live Your Poem
13 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
14 Jan at Bookseedstudio
15 Brenda at Friendly Fairy Tales
16 Joy at Poetry for Kids Joy
17 Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect
18 Buffy at Buffy's Blog
19 Pat at Writer on a Horse
20 BJ at Blue Window
21 Donna at Mainely Write
22 Jone at Jone Ruch MacCulloch
23 Ruth at There's No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town
24 Amy at The Poem Farm
25 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge
26 Renee at No Water River
27 Matt at Radio, Rhythm and Rhyme
28 Michelle at Michelle Kogan
29 Charles at Poetry Time
30 Laura Purdie Salas at Writing the World for Kids