Friday, December 30, 2016

Pondering: This Gift

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give him: give my heart.
        ---Christina Rosetti

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Pondering: Christmas

Welcome, all wonders in one sight!
Eternity shut in a span!
    Summer in winter, day in night!
Heaven in earth, and God in man!
    Great little One! whose all-embracing birth
Lifts earth to heaven, stoops heaven to earth.
     ---Richard Crenshaw

Monday, December 19, 2016

Shining Moments

My word for this year was SHINE.

And there have been shining moments throughout the year.

I joined the teaching staff of New Day Yoga Advanced Teacher Training and I'm loving the three week-long modules that occur each year. I assist with several of the workshops and teach the chapel portion of the program. My heart glows with shiny joy when I think about it.

I received this special SHINE jar from poet friend, Irene Latham. You can read a few of my favorite shiny messages.

I hosted a Coffee with Dori gathering on my sun porch over the summer. Lots of shining moments!

I climbed a mountain in Montana and got to see where my Bicycle Soldiers began their journey. I call them mine because I've been trying to tell their story for so long, it feels like they are mine. One day it will actually be a shiny story! 

I spent an incredible few days in Western Washington meeting poet friends, some I already knew and some I didn't. Met Nikki Grimes. Met Jack Prelutsky. Met Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell. All shining moments. And reading my poem from Poetry Friday for Celebrations made me feel all shiny and joyful.

I welcomed a new grandson. Perhaps the most shining moment of all!

I'll be taking a break from blogging for the next few weeks. I'm looking forward to celebrating a couple of end-of-December birthdays for my sons-in-law, celebrating Christmas with a new grandson, and celebrating New Year's with precious friends on a trip to Santa Fe. My Pondering posts will continue, as I've pondered ahead, but nothing that requires active thought beyond celebrating these moments!

I'll be back sometime in January with my One Little Word for the year.

 Merry Christmas. May you all shine this season. 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Gifts, Swaps, and Kind Words

I was slow getting my December swap poem out. (Sorry, Brenda!) Last week was an intensive week of yoga teacher training. This week was a slow return to normal. Slow being the key word.

I came home to find three letters from Joy Acey, my December swap poetry partner. Because I was out of town, I missed the surprise impact of these notes coming consecutively, but still it was fun finding three different bits of poetry hygge in my mail. Hygge (pronounced hoo-guh) is a Danish word that doesn't have an exact English translation. Think candlelight, a fire in the hearth, good food and drinks, conversations with family and friends. The art of hygge brightened dark Scandinavian winters. It's an atmosphere that we cultivate at our yoga teacher trainings. I have been actively looking for connections between my yoga world and my poetry world, and I love seeing our poetry swap as a little hygge running from one world to the other.

Five lessons to learn from hygge:

1. Time together is time well spent.
2. The present moment matters.
3. Resting is a priority.
4. Switch off!
5. Gratefulness is important.

While Joy and I are thousands of miles apart (Georgia to Hawaii--I've been there once and it's a long, long way), it definitely felt like we shared a little hygge. Here are my three cards, words and art by Joy Acey.

The first one JOY says:
     Smoke out the chimney
     spirals in the frosty air
     starlight and snowflakes

The second Merry Christmas says on the back:

    The roosters crowing
    over Kauai island
    dripping coconuts.

The last one Myna Bird says:
    golden sun hanging
    plump on the papaya tree
    calling myna bird

and on the back:
    On the first day of Xmas
    my true love gave to me
    a myna in the papaya

Mele Kalikimaka to all!

Tabatha hosts the round up at The Opposite of Indifference.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Pondering: A Moment

Photo by Greg Peverill-Conti 

I learned in the midst of these difficult circumstances as well as in the routine of the day simply to stop, place my hand on my breast, and thankfully affirm Christ's presence within. I would then look with the eyes of my heart and see His strong presence alongside me and sense His love stayed upon me. This takes merely a moment in our busy days.

--Leanne Payne, Heaven's Calling: A Memoir of One Soul's Steep Ascent

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Pondering: Praise

The fetters of my tongue do Thou unbind,
That I may have the power to sing of thee,
And sound thy praises everlastingly.

--from Michelangelo Buonarroti, "To the Supreme Being," translated by William Wordsworth, in Poems in Two Volumes.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Pondering: A Perfect Good

A perfect good, as well as a perfect anything-else, is mythlike. The call of conscience toward perfect goodness is a mythic call lying beyond the best possible set of rules and regulations. Systematic philosophy and systemic theology are no more than statements pointers, dry bran, beside the reality toward which they point.

--Clyde Kilby

Friday, November 25, 2016


from "The Pumpkin" by John Greenleaf Whittier
Oh, fruit loved of boyhood! the old days recalling, 
When wood-grapes were purpling and brown nuts were falling! 
When wild, ugly faces we carved in its skin, 
Glaring out through the dark with a candle within! 
When we laughed round the corn-heap, with hearts all in tune, 
Our chair a broad pumpkin,—our lantern the moon, 
Telling tales of the fairy who travelled like steam 
In a pumpkin-shell coach, with two rats for her team! 

Then thanks for thy present! none sweeter or better 
E’er smoked from an oven or circled a platter! 
Fairer hands never wrought at a pastry more fine, 
Brighter eyes never watched o’er its baking, than thine! 
And the prayer, which my mouth is too full to express, 
Swells my heart that thy shadow may never be less, 
That the days of thy lot may be lengthened below, 
And the fame of thy worth like a pumpkin-vine grow, 
And thy life be as sweet, and its last sunset sky 
Golden-tinted and fair as thy own Pumpkin pie! 
Wishing you loads of leftovers.
Carol hosts the round up today at Carol's Corner.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Pondering: Thanksgiving

Photo by Andreas 

"I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder." G.K. Chesterton

"At times, our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us." Albert Schweitzer

"Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude." A.A. Milne

Friday, November 18, 2016

Finding Wonder in the Process with Jeannine Atkins

Irene Latham, me, and Jeannine Atkins at Poetry Camp.
I have immersed myself in novels in verse over the last few weeks. (Of course, only when I wasn't going all ga-ga over a sweet new babe.) I suppose that's what we all do when exploring the ins and outs of a new project. I always find myself with more questions than answers as I make my way along this path, and most of them, the questions, begin with "Why?" There are a few "How" questions, though many of these are answered in the context of a book. And the occasional "When?" But what I really want to know if "Why?"

Why one voice, or twenty-eight voices, or somewhere in between?
Why a close first person or a semi-distant third?
Why a mix of prose and poetry?
Why free verse over form or form over free?
Why poems with titles? Why one long, unbroken stream of consciousness poem?

Sure, some of the answers become evident in the text, but others remain in some form of wonderment  in my brain. I know this journey is a process of discovery that we all make as we press forward, and my process will not mirror anyone else's. However, that does not change the fact that I want to know why those other authors made the choices they made. I keep wondering about the process.

Fortunately I have at least one lovely verse novelist to whom I could wonder my questions aloud. Jeannine Atkins was finding wonders in verse novels long before her latest book, (of course) called Finding Wonders, was published by Atheneum Books/Simon & Schuster. Views From a Window Seat, Jeannine's blog, is a favorite spot to stop and soak up her beautiful gift with words. Another book, Views from a Window Seat (available at, was published artisanally at Stone Door Press. It began, Jeannine says, as blog entries focused on the writing process and is meant for anyone wanting company as they create. And yes, it has been good company for me on more than one occasion.

Without further ado, here are Jeannine's answers to some of my many questions.

Dori: What do you do before an idea becomes a project?

Jeannine:  Ideas are long and wandering, while books are relatively short and focused. I aim to discover all I can about someone, the work she loved, and where she lived. As I read or walk where she walked, some events surface, suggesting scenes that will hint at what to highlight.

Dori: In a recent blog post you mentioned that you work in a new notebook for each new project. Tell me how you approach your notebook. Are you organized or random? Sections? Is there order?

Jeannine:  I am so very random. (Dori interjects: I'm so glad to know there is hope for the rest of us random folks!) And those pretty notebooks eventually get so messy. Ideas don’t come to me in order, but I snatch them when they show up. Later, noting what’s repeated or simply still interesting to me helps me to see a structure. Sometimes I’ll color-code scenes. I’m always left with stray words and lines. Some will be discarded, but some that hold on become the core of poems of their own.

Dori: Is there a typical order you use as you begin a project?

Jeannine:  I first fall in love. My heart still beats hard while I start research to see whether this is the real thing or an infatuation. Some subjects can lead to dead ends if unsavory things turn up. I’m going to spend a long time with a person, so while all of us have flaws, which make us interesting, my aim is to showcase the more wonderful among us. If I’m still enchanted, I continue researching, and keep files with a timeline, known incidents, and themes I might tuck into the action.

Dori: You keep a William Carlos Williams quote near your computer. “No ideas but in things.” How do those things find their way into your notebook? How do you choose which images you will use in your poems?

Jeannine:  I write in free verse, so after paring down, the poetic aspects usually involve imagery more than aspects of sound. I look for things someone might commonly use, and natural science gave me a lot for Finding Wonders. Maria Merian worked with paints and plants, and her study of metamorphosis in moths and butterflies gave me imagery and metaphors. Mary Anning offered the layers of time she found in rocks. Maria Mitchell studied stars, comets, and the way that standing on one roof with a beloved father could show her a vast and gorgeous world. The tools of their trade as well as discoveries often suggested ways that the tangible joins abstractions, and metaphor winks.

Dori: When working on a project, do you plot first? When do you begin writing poetry?

Jeannine:  I start out writing fragments and run-ons that don’t look one bit like poetry. I keep watch for a way to create a bit of suspense. While I can know the outcome of events, the person did not. Sometimes an image glints against theme, suggesting a metaphor, so I have some rough bits of poetry. But, except for occasional lucky accidents, most of the poetry comes late in the process.

Dori: Your verse novels tend to be in third person POV. You mentioned at Poetry Camp that the distance this gives you is important. Can you expand on this idea?

Jeannine:  I sometimes write first person in early drafts to get to know the characters more closely, but then want to see them from the outside. First person might suggest more intimacy than I feel I have a right to, and third person gives me more access to the visual. I want to see these people in action, as well as visualize the work they loved.

Dori: Because you work in historical fiction with real characters, some of their back story is history. Much is probably unknown. How much do you allow yourself to imagine of what might have caused a character to be the way they are?

Jeannine:  I keep to the facts of real events, but within them, may surmise emotion. I always want to include domestic scenes, which are rarely recorded, so I research some common settings of the day (what would she wear or eat, and on what kind of table?), then allow myself to imagine. So much of women’s history has been lost. We need to honor both research and imagination, taking what we have to shape the future.

Dori: Thank you, Jeannine, for your willingness to let us observe a little bit of your process. May metaphor keeping winking at you, and would you kindly ask that friend of yours to wink at the rest of us, too?

Visit Brenda Harsham at Friendly Fairy Tales for today's Poetry Friday Round Up.  

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Pondering: The Art of Diving

"I have come to give myself up," he said.
"It is well," said Mother Kirk. "You have a come a long way round to reach this place, whither I would have carried you in a few moments. Bit it is very well."
"What must I do? said John.
"You must take off your rags," said she,..."and then you must dive into this water."
"Alas," said he, "I have never learned to dive."
"There is nothing to learn," she said. "The art of diving is not to do anything new but simply to cease doing something. You have only to let yourself go."

--C.S. Lewis, The Pilgrim's Regress

There is no more exciting, buoyant adventure on earth than that of finally giving oneself up and taking off one's rags, for that is the prelude to hearing God. It is the beginning of "understanding what the will of the Lord its" and of learning to collaborate with Him in doing it.

--Leanne Payne, Heaven's Calling: A Memoir of One Soul's Steep Ascent

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Pondering: Profound Secrets

Oh my Lord and my God! how stupendous is Thy grandeur! We are like so many foolish peasant lads: we think we know something of Thee, yet it must be comparatively nothing, for there are profound secrets even in ourselves of which we know naught.

--Teresa of Avila

Friday, November 4, 2016

November in Georgia

Today's Poetry Friday host is Laura Purdie Salas at Writing the World for Kids.

Welcome to November. It's not so much the leaves falling causing issues here at my house at it is the acorns. The patio is covered in acorns. The yard is covered in acorns. When the wind blows, acorns fall from the nether regions of my treetops and pelt the tin roof of my sunporch. They pop, bounce, and roll, sometimes jolting me out of my skin. 

Tradition says that an abundance of acorns means a hard winter. So far, there is only drought and residual heat to greet this Deep South November. If you're coming to NCTE in Atlanta in a few weeks, you won't need your heavy coat, unless things change pretty soon, but don't count on it. It's not likely that I will be there, as grand baby number nine is imminent. I spent part of the afternoon yesterday rubbing that sweet little mama's swollen ankles. I can't wait to hold that sweet boy in my arms. I'll keep you posted.

As for poetry, I was delighted to find this poem by Thomas Hood, written in 1844. 


by Thomas Hood

        No sun—no moon!
        No morn—no noon—
No dawn—
        No sky—no earthly view—
        No distance looking blue—
No road—no street—no “t’other side the way”—
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
        No comfortable feel in any member—
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds,

You may read the full poem here.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Pondering: Greatness

Photo by Bayside Church of Christ

from Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster

Gathered at the Passover feast, the disciples were keenly aware that someone needed to wash the others' feet. The problem was that the only people who washed feet were the least. So there they sat, feet caked with dirt. It was such a sore point that they were not even going to talk about it. No one wanted to be considered the least. Then Jesus took a towel and a basin and redefined greatness.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Mary F. C. Pratt: Glad Errand

I have enjoyed Mary F. C. Pratt's poetry since I discovered her through Sarah Arthur's compilation, At the Still Point. Mary blogs her poetry at GladErrand, and she is well worth following.

by Mary F. C. Pratt

Stop being superstitious. You do not
need a special pen or a blue notebook.
You do not need a tidy study with
a writing desk, or a corner table
in a dark café. You do not need to
drink anything but water, and any
cup will do. You do not need stars aligned,
flights of birds, a yellow candle, a white stone.
You do not need melancholy or fear.
You do not need to be in love or war.
You do not need an oracle or a muse.
All you need is a word, and another word.

Read the rest of her rules:
#1 , #2-4, #5, #6-8.

Visit Linda at TeacherDance for today's roundup.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Pondering: To Become Named

This painting hangs in my living room. I don't know the artist, 
thought I wish I did. 
Sometimes the light shines, diamond-shaped, through window 
onto the canvas like a ray of sun on a valley of sunflowers.
To stand before it opens and lifts my heart, calls me to the distant horizon 
even while I am filled with present beauty. 

from Walking on Water by Madeleine L'Engle

Stories, no matter how simple, can be vehicles of truth; can be, in fact, icons. It's no coincidence that Jesus taught almost entirely by telling stories, simple stories dealing with the stuff of life familiar to the Jews of his day. Stories are able to help us become more whole, to become Named. And Naming is one of the impulses behind all art; to give a name to the cosmos we see despite all the chaos...and all great works of art are icons of Naming. 

When we look at a painting, or hear a symphony, or read a book, and we feel more Named, then for us that work is a work of Christian art. But to look at a work of art and then to make a judgment as to whether or not it is art, and whether or not it is Christian, is presumptuous...We cannot know in any conclusive way. We can know only if it speaks within our own hearts, and leads us to living more deeply with Christ in God. 

...There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred, and this is one of the deepest messages of the Incarnation. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

My Daddy's Hands

I can still feel my father's hands cupping my face even though it has been almost four years since those hands stilled. One finger shortened to the first knuckle by the wood pulled crooked into a saw blade. A faint smell of machine oil or car lubricant. The stains of axel grease that remained years after he retired from his work on diesel buses. They were big hands. They held the expansive gift of his love. It's not his birthday or his death day or anything else special. Just an ordinary Friday with my daddy on my mind. 

The Gift
by Li-Young Lee

To pull the metal splinter from my palm
my father recited a story in a low voice.
I watched his lovely face and not the blade.
Before the story ended, he’d removed
the iron sliver I thought I’d die from.

I can’t remember the tale,
but hear his voice still, a well
of dark water, a prayer.
And I recall his hands,
two measures of tenderness
he laid against my face,

Read the rest here.

Visit Miss Rumphius Effect for today's roundup.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Pondering the Path: Enuma Okoro

These Thursday posts began at the first of the year as a response to a group of poets who wanted to share something of their Spiritual Journey. I've decided to call this my "Pondering the Path" post. I like that old fashioned word. says to ponder is: 

       1. verb (used without object) to consider something deeply and thoroughly; meditate (often followed by over or upon)
       2.verb (used with object) to weigh carefully in the mind; consider thoughtfully. He pondered his next words thoroughly.

I hope you'll enjoy pondering these these thoughts with me.


from Reluctant Pilgrim by Enuma Okoro

Note: After her father's death, Enuma began working her way back to God with the help of a spiritual advisor, Sister Catherine.

"What are some of those incarnate ways? How is God becoming flesh to you?" she prodded.

"In my friendships--how my girlfriend Sophie listens to me and creates a space for me to share how badly I'm doing whenever I need it. How my friend Nora, who lives in another state, lets me call her in the middle of the night because I can't sleep. And when I take my daily walk, I feel a little put back together at the end of it. It's almost like I'm figuring out that experiencing God's love and presence isn't just about my being obedient and performing well for God. It's simply God's love..."

"...It sounds like you are letting yourself come to God in a very real and present state of being. That can be a very helpful and sincere way to pray--communicating with God with the real emotions we are feeling and not with pat responses that we think God wants to hear from us...learning to pray and communicate from the present seat of your emotions is part of learning to be awake and aware of life around you and within you...lean into God's peace wherever you find it. God is consistent and generous and abundant in guiding us and in affirming his will with us."

"But what if I relax so much that I miss the signs?" I worried aloud.

"You will not miss the signs You might choose to ignore them, but you will not miss them. God is too generous with them."

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Poetic Faux Pas

Irene Latham hosts the Poetry Friday Roundup today at Live Your Poem.

The Atheneum Hotel, Chautauqua, NY. Photo by Teresa Mitchell.
For those who asked after Wednesday's last Poetry Camp memories. Here's the whole story of my crazy encounter with Bea Cullinan, written for inclusion in a scrapbook for Kent Brown.

I arrived at Chautauqua 2007, the Highlights workshop, and checked into room 204 of the Athenaeum annex. My roommate had not yet arrived, so I unpacked, went down to the lobby for a soda. I had not yet worked out the logistics of the hotel, so I was unaware of the blunder I was about to commit in returning to my room.

I crossed the bridge into the annex, walked to the end of the hall and opened the door to what I thought was my room. There, propped up on the bed, was an attractive older woman in a state of comfortable disrobement. I couldn’t decide whether I had fallen out of the back of a wardrobe into a strange new land or opened a door into the Twilight Zone.

I jerked to a stop, managed to keep the soda can in my hand, and said, “You’re here.”

“Yes,” she said, without dislodging herself from the pillow.

She didn’t look like the picture I had conjured in my mind of my roommate. We had only exchanged a few e-mails, but I expected someone closer to my own middle age.

“I’m Doraine. I’m your roommate,” I said.

She looked at me a bit strangely and sat forward. “You are?”

During this short exchange, my eyes scanned the room. Clothes hung in the closet. A sweater draped across the back of the desk chair. Bottles, brush and comb stood in neat rows on the dresser. I had only been gone ten minutes. How could she possibly have done this so quickly? Unless...

“Am I in the wrong room? Oh dear, I’m so sorry. Is this room 204? I am so sorry, I don’t know how I did this.”

A ridiculous mixture of horror and silly giggles brewed inside. I backed out the door and registered the 304 written in brass. I raced down the stairs hoping to get out of earshot before the elixir in my gut burst forth like a shaken soda. I shut myself into room 204, rocked my head in my hands, and tried, between fits of laughter, to convince myself that I hadn’t done something so utterly stupid. Only I had done it. And I just had to tell somebody. The problem was that I didn’t know anybody.

I readied myself for dinner, the secret hysteria growing. If I didn’t tell someone, I would bust.

On the porch of the Athenaeum, I found my only two acquaintances. We had ridden in the back of the limousine together from the airport. I poured out my adventure, relishing the relief from the pressure within, and we laughed together like ten-year olds.

Unburdened, and with new friends in tow, I relaxed and enjoyed my first meal. Kent Brown welcomed us and introduced the faculty and staff. There was one last introduction toward the end of his speech-making, a special introduction of a dear friend and icon in children’s publishing, Bea Cullinan. Bea had been a part of the first Chautauqua conference, along with Kent’s mother.

“Stand up, Bea,” Kent said.

Bea stood up.

I nearly dropped my desert fork. There, fully dressed and beautiful, was the occupant of room 304.

I can only imagine what Bea must have felt like on the other side of my adventure. She was gracious when I introduced myself as her intruder and apologized. She even agreed to look at some of my poems. The conference was, of course, life-changing, but the memory of walking in on Bea Cullinan still starts a silly giggle brewing inside my chest.

I leave you with this lovely translation from Danish poet, Inger Christensen's Light.

from Light: “It’s very strange”
by Inger Christensen
Translated by Susanna Nied

     It's very strange
     the eggs are everywhere

     There must be some mistake

Read the rest here.

What a Prayer!

from "The Wreck of the Deutschland"
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

With an anvil-ding 
And with fire in him forge thy will 
Or rather, rather then, stealing as Spring 
Through him, melt him but master him still: 
Whether at once, as once at a crash Paul, 
Or as Austin, a lingering-out swéet skíll, 
Make mercy in all of us, out of us all 
Mastery, but be adored, but be adored King. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

A Few Last Poetry Camp Memories

The final event of the day. The first U.S. Children's Poet Laureate Jack Prelutsky had all of us spellbound. What an amazing performer. What an amazing man. Mr. Prelutsky no longer does public presentations, so this was such a special occasion. 

He saved the best for last:

Rat for Lunchby Jack Prelutsky 
Rat for lunch! Rat for lunch!
Yum! Delicious! Munch munch munch!
One by one or by the bunch--
Rat, or rat, oh rat for lunch! 
Scrambled slug in salty slime
is our choice at breakfast time,
but for lunch, we say to you,
nothing but a rat will do. 
Rat for lunch! Rat for lunch!
Yum! Delicious! Munch munch munch!
One by one or by the bunch--
Rat, oh rat, oh rat for lunch! 
For our snack each afternoon,
we chew bits of baked baboon,
curried squirrel, buttered bat,
but for lunch it must be rat. 
Read the rest here.
I got to tell my Bea Cullinan story from my 2007 trip to Highlights Chautauqua workshop. I love telling about walking into her room accidentally.  It was like walking through the back of the wardrobe into a strange world. It was one of those moments when you do something so horribly stupid that the only response is to giggle like a hysterical ten-year-old! My most famous poetic faux pas.

A few more memories.
There should have been a camera!


...Sylvia Tag jogged around the room at the final dinner high giving each table while singing the Rocky theme song. Da-da-daahhh, da-da-duuhh.

...the hug after dinner between Sylvia and Janet that embodied the mutual affection, respect, and accomplishment they shared at the end of this remarkable weekend. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Poetry and Social Studies

I'm still working my way though Poetry Camp memories, more for my own benefit/journal than for yours. 

In the Friday night MakerSpace workshop led by Robyn Hood Black, we each created a found poem from 1940s seashell flashcards. There were some surprising results. My workshop partner, Carmen Bernier Grand said hers was definitely not child friendly! 

like deep water
drawn on our shores
to leave room for the strong

On Saturday I wished I could be in at least five places at once. Deciding which workshops to attend was a challenge in itself. Each of the three workshop slots hosted Poetry Friday Anthology poets conducting five different sessions. 

10:45-11:30am: Workshop Session 1 (choose one): Writing and Understanding Poetry
  1. Playing with Sound (rhyme, repetition, rhythm, alliteration & more): Susan Blackaby, Kenn Nesbitt
  2. Playing with Visuals (& unusual forms): Kathi Appelt, Joan Bransfield Graham, Bob Raczka
  3. Metaphor & Simile: Irene Latham, Liz Steinglass
  4. Verse Novels: Jeannine Atkins, Nikki Grimes, Stephanie Hemphill, Holly Thompson
  5. Poetry & Picture Books: Robyn Hood Black, Julie Larios

11:45-12:30pm Workshop Session 2 (choose one): Reading and Sharing Poetry
  1. Poetry Performance Tips (Elementary): Joy Acey, Brod Bagert, Michele Krueger
  2. Speaking for Change: Writing and Performance for  YA: Sara Holbrook, Michael Salinger
  3. Writing for Journals, Magazines and Anthologies: Bridget Magee, Janet Wong
  4. Publishing Anthologies (for children & by children): Carol-Ann Hoyte, Kenn Nesbitt, Ken Slesarik
  5. Blogging about Poetry: Jone MacCulloch, JoAnn Early Macken, Greg Pincus

2:30-3:15pm: Workshop Session 3 (choose one): Teaching Poetry
  1. Poetry + Science: Jeannine Atkins, Linda Dryfhout, Heidi Bee Roemer
  2. Poetry + Grammar: Michelle Schaub, Patricia Toht
  3. Poetry + Social Studies: Carmen T. Bernier-Grand, Doraine Bennett
  4. Poetry + Movement: Nancy Bo Flood, April Halprin Wayland
  5. Poetry + Art & Music: Cynthia Grady, Eric Ode, Lorie Ann Grover
  6. The Dancer and the Dance: Tod Marshall (current Washington State Poet Laureate)

How would you choose?

 Carmen and I taught the social studies workshop. It was really fun to work with this passionate poet!

For my teacher friends, I want to pass along the handout I used for my portion of the workshop. This version shows you my notes.

Here's the empty sheet. I can't figure out how to load a file here, so if you'd like this handout and printing the .jpg doesn't work, comment or send me an email or a message and I'll send the file to you. 

Friday, October 7, 2016

Poetry Camp

Violet Nesdoly hosts the Poetry Friday Round up today at Violet Nesdoly / poems. Meeting Violet was one of my favorite moments of Poetry Camp. I can't believe I didn't get a picture of us together!

I seriously thought I was going to post this earlier in the week. Ha! What was I thinking? I have managed to unpack (although I still haven't found my night guard mouthpiece, yipes!) I haven't washed clothes yet. I haven't grocery shopped yet. (So grateful for a patient husband and a daughter who brought shepherd's pie that lasted two nights!) I did teach five yoga classes and I think I've mostly caught up on my sleep.

First let me just say Poetry Camp was amazing. My ride from Seattle to Bellingham was with Janet Wong's husband, Glenn Schroeder and Louisiana poet, Brod Baggert. Both have lawyer backgrounds, so I stayed entertained in the back seat listening to these two. Of course, my Eastern Time Zone body was screaming three in the morning! When Brod asked who were my favorite dead poets, it took a minute to remember their names. Theodore Roethke, Christina Rosetti, Gerard Manley Hopkins. Ask me next week and I might come up with three different names.

I swiped this from Janet's Facebook page, so I have no idea who gets the photo credit.
I was both surprised and delighted when I stepped of the elevator at Western Washington University's library and Janet Wong said, "Hi, Doraine!" I mean, I knew who she was and I'd never seen her in person, but didn't really expect her to know me. Then there was the S'mores gauntlet greeting from Nancy Johnson's children's lit students.

After a tour of the library, Janet led forty poets in a discussion that ranged from performance poetry  to poetic forms and everything in between. Watching Janet's deft facilitation was as instructive as the discussion itself.

I love these two ladies, Irene Latham and Jeannine Atkins.
There was lunch with poets and the lovely connections we all made or renewed. There was a session on marketing/branding and social media. There was a session on conference proposals. There was talk about traditional and artisanal/boutique publishing. (We are deleting the "self-publishing" word from our vocabulary from here on!) Honestly, it was a bit like drinking from a fire hose.

Julie Larios led a writing workshop using Oulipo techniques for getting out of a writing rut. Basically it meant giving yourself specific constraints with the understanding that the constraints themselves force your brain to operate in a different way, letting the poem lead you. I was in a song-writing workshop earlier this summer where this same concept was the basis for creating a song.

Here's an example we actually worked on: Write a five line poem. The final vowel sound in each line must be a long a, e, i, o, and u.

How can she stay in this sun-deprived place?
She watches leaves on the elm sway in the breeze
and lifts her eyes to the graying sky,
weighing the distance she must go.
She spreads her wings and lifts toward blue. 

A fun first draft that I wouldn't otherwise have written. Maybe it will go somewhere, maybe it won't. Maybe I'll salvage a phrase or two. Who knows?

If you read my post yesterday on friends, this should have gone on that post, but that didn't happen. On the way to dinner with April Halprin Wayland and Nancy Bo Flood, I wrapped my arm through April's and said, "Help me out here. I'm feeling a bit like a fraud after sitting in the room the all those amazing poets." She just patted my arm and said, "We all have our own level of fraudulence to deal with." Maybe it never goes away, that feeling that you're just pretending to be a poet. But there's nothing for it but to keep writing.

New friends and other wonders! Nancy Bo Flood and Jone Rush MacCulloch.

Then on Saturday when the conference actually began, I stood as Janet called on the first twenty or so of us to stand and read our PFA poem. Mine lasts about ten seconds. Janet asked me to read it a second time. I was startled, but I read it again. Later a teacher came up to me and asked if I had read the "Our Blended Family" poem. "Yes," I told her. 
"Thank you so much," she said, "for writing that poem. Most of the students in my school come from blended families. I am so grateful to have a poem to read to them where they can see themselves."

I don't remember her name. I wish I hadn't been so surprised that I forgot to ask about her school. She made my day.

I told Janet and Sylvia that on Friday I felt a little like an imposter in the middle of all these rock stars. By the end of Saturday, I felt a little like a rock star, too.

 There's more, of course, but I'll save it for later.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Best Kind of Friend!

Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person: having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but to pour them out. Just as they are--chaff and grain together, knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness, blow the rest away.

     ---George Eliot, 1819-1880

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Our Home

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting; 
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
          Hath had elsewhere its setting
               And cometh from afar;
          Not in entire forgetfulness,
          And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come 
               From God, who is our home:
                           --William Wordsworth

Friday, September 23, 2016

Stop Staring!

Be sure to visit Catherine at Reading to the Core for today's Poetry Friday Roundup.

Recently I sat at a sidewalk table having coffee with my daughter. I do enjoy people watching, but when one woman stopped outside the coffee shop to hug a friend goodbye, I suppose I really was staring. My daughter said, "Mom, you have a really bad habit of staring at people." 

People watching is supposed to be conducted in a non-intrusive manner, but sometimes I can't help myself. My writer brain kicks in and wants to know why, want to know how, wants to understand what is behind that gesture. Then my yoga brain kicks in and want to figure out which muscles are not firing and how to address the resulting postural issues. So yeah, sorry folks, but I'm a hopeless starer. 

This month Jane Yolen and Michelle at Today's Little Ditty gave us the challenge to writer a septercet, a poem of Jane's conjuring with three line stanzas, each line containing seven syllables. The staring episode became my starting point. 


It's rude to stare at people,
my daughter's words remind me.
I'm sure that's what I taught her.

I turn away, pretending
disinterest in the woman's
rounding spine, her frowning mouth,

but I need words to describe
her gait, the way she drags one
foot then firmly plants it down.

An accident? Polio?
No way to know. Or did she
strive like Jacob with her God?

My prying eyes refocus
on her face. My daughter pulls
my arm, forces me away.

The woman's figure chiseled
on my prying mind creates
a tale--Once upon a time.

© 2016 Doraine Bennett

Thursday, September 22, 2016

It Took a Long Time

Return of the Prodigal by Rembrandt

The Prodigal
by Elizabeth Bishop

The brown enormous odor he lived by
was too close, with its breathing and thick hair,
for him to judge. The floor was rotten; the sty
was plastered halfway up with glass-smooth dung.
Light-lashed, self-righteous, above moving snouts,
the pigs' eyes followed him, a cheerful stare--
even to the sow that always ate her young--
till, sickening, he leaned to scratch her head.
But sometimes mornings after drinking bouts
(he hid the pints behind the two-by-fours),
the sunrise glazed the barnyard mud with red
the burning puddles seemed to reassure.
And then he thought he almost might endure
his exile yet another year or more.

But evenings the first star came to warn.
The farmer whom he worked for came at dark
to shut the cows and horses in the barn
beneath their overhanging clouds of hay,
with pitchforks, faint forked lightnings, catching light,
safe and companionable as in the Ark.
The pigs stuck out their little feet and snored.
The lantern--like the sun, going away--
laid on the mud a pacing aureole.
Carrying a bucket along a slimy board,
he felt the bats' uncertain staggering flight,
his shuddering insights, beyond his control,
touching him. But it took him a long time
finally to make up his mind to go home. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

National Blended Family Day

Today's host for the Poetry Friday Roundup is Michelle at Today's Little Ditty

In a few weeks I'll be heading to Western Washington University for Poetry Camp. What an amazing poetry packed weekend it's going to be. I'm looking forward to connecting with some special poetry friends and making some new ones. 

Anyone a Girl Scout? Remember this song?

Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell, developers of the Poetry Friday Anthologies, have put so much time and effort into the weekend. I'm looking forward to saying thank you in person. 

I will be presenting a session on Poetry and Social Studies with award-winning author, Carmen Bernier-Grand. Yes, I am excited! 

Click here for Cynthia Leitich-Smith's interview with Carmen.

Today happens to be National Blended Family Day. I still open my copy of the Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations and feel quite delighted to be included with such a talented group of poets. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Broken Image

Spiritual Journey Thursday

Photo by Christopher

A right conception of God is basic not only to systematic theology but to practical Christian living as well. It is to worship what the foundation is to the temple.
   --A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy

Before the Christian church goes into eclipse anywhere there must first be a corrupting of her simple basic theology. She simply gets a wrong answer to the question, "What is God like," and goes on from there.
    --A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy

God is not a symbol of goodness. Goodness is a symbol of God.
   --G.K. Chesterton

Friday, September 9, 2016

Poetry Friday Browsing

It's a hot, slow day in Georgia, and I'm moving like sorghum syrup. 

Photo by Melinda Stewart.

Amy Ludwig VanDerwater is hosting Poetry Friday at The Poem Farm where you can read all about Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell's newest poetry book, You Just Wait. These two are always up to something new!

I was excited to find a copy of Jeannine Atkins' newest book, Finding Wonders, in my mailbox this week. Stop by Irene Latham's blog, Live Your Poem, for an excellent review.

I just finished reading House Arrest, a novel in verse by K.A. Holt, which I highly recommend. Check it out here.

I leave you with this poem of syrup and fond memories.

from "Maple Syrup"
by Donald Hall

Related Poem Content Details

we take my grandfather’s last  
quart of syrup 
upstairs, holding it gingerly, 
and we wash off twenty-five years  
of dirt, and we pull 
and pry the lid up, cutting the stiff,  
dried rubber gasket, and dip our fingers 
in, you and I both, and taste 
the sweetness, you for the first time, 
the sweetness preserved, of a dead man  
in the kitchen he left 
when his body slid 
like anyone’s into the ground.

Read the rest here.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Thankful Heart

Spiritual Journey Thursday

Oxford's Magdalen College - The Gates Leading to Addison's Walk. Photo by JR P.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
—Psalm 100:4

Thankfulness opens the door to My Presence. Though I am always with you, I have gone to great measures to preserve your freedom of choice. I have placed a door between you and Me, and I have empowered you to open or close that door. There are many ways to open it, but a grateful attitude is one of the most effective.

from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young

Thursday, September 1, 2016

An Old Favorite

I'm returning to an old favorite today. You can see it's been loved a lot over the years. 

Stop by Penny Klosterman's blog for the round up today.

 David McCord and Marc Simont are an unbeatable team. Read Lee Bennett Hopkins remembrances of the poet at Renee LaTuillipe's blog, No Water River.  Read this tribute to Simont at School Library Journal.

"Spread," said Toast to Butter,
And Butter spread.
"That's better, Butter,"
Toast said.
"Jam," said Butter to Toast.
"Where are you, Jam,
When we need you most?"
Jam: "Here I am,
Strawberry, trickly and sweet.
How are you, Spoon?"
"I'm helping somebody eat,
I think, pretty soon." 

You just have to love the sound and the rhythm and the humor!

...Meet Ladybug,
her little sister Sadiebug,
her mother, Mrs. Gradybug,
her aunt, that nice oldmaidybug,
and Baby--she's a fraidybug.

This is my rock,
And here I run
To steal the secret of the sun;
This is my rock,
And here come I
Before the night has swept the sky;
This is my rock,
This is the place
I meet the evening face to face.

May you find your rock and meet the evening face to face.