Poem: Considering the Fourth of July

The book is almost ready! Here’s a little Friday poem, written some time ago but it will also be in the book, appropriate for the upcoming holiday.



Unwinding the Brain

I love to write but sometimes I need to give my brain a break. Coloring and Sudoku are a couple of my ways to do that. What are yours?



Off Kilter: A Poem Playing With Space

I was inspired by a poetry workshop recently at The ARTS of the Southern Finger Lakes with poet Mong Lan. We read a poem that played with space and it reminded me of improvisational jazz. I wrote this poem that plays with spacing, line breaks, tab stops, subscripts, and superscripts. What do you think? Is it playful for you or just weird? Do you like it? Not like it? Why?


Punctuation in Poetry

Punctuation in Poetry

Over the past few months I’ve ramped up my scrutiny and editing of my poetry, trying to get it ready for publication. I’ve learned a few new things about what I like in poetry and I’ve found I like playing with space and punctuation.

We’ve long debated capitalization and punctuation in my writer’s group. I’m of the mind that you punctuate and capitalize as you would any sentence, even though it is broken up by the end of a line.

Now, we know periods create a full stop so that’s a fairly long pause. Commas cause a shorter pause. I believe line breaks create a pause in our brain even if we continue reading. I learned recently that our brains treat written language as a physical terrain, so I liken that line break to stepping over something in your way. You may not be stopping but it slows you up just a little.

At one point I thought to myself, “Oh, I don’t like those short dashes Word is putting in. I think I’d like all long dashes.Then I tried it and realized, “Oh, all long dashes is no good either.”  It was just too much. So I learned more about hyphens (-), En dashes (–) and Em dashes (—) than I thought possible but I also learned how to make them in Word.

And now, it ‘feels’ right, because I was able to use the right punctuation.

Poem: Existential Bathtub Conversations


The Hardest Part of this Book



The proof copy of A Sanctuary Built of Words: Poems of Peace, Grief and Passion has been ordered. I can’t wait to see it!

I thought that the hardest part of creating this book would be editing the poems. Writing them happened over twenty years, kind of at its own pace, and many of them were created to capture a moment in time or to exorcise an excess of emotion, so they often came quickly.

Editing was the next step and that happened over time as well. Re-reading a poem after a period of days or months can often allow the solution to rise to the surface.

Choosing the poems was not too difficult either; I have far more than 74 but that is what I chose to include so it was a matter of choosing my favorites. I did go back and replace two that I had originally chosen because one wasn’t in keeping with the tone of the book and I found I had something new that I liked better for another.

No, the most difficult part, for me, has been choosing the order of the poems. I realized at some point that the poems classified themselves into categories of peace, grief and passion with a strong thread of humor interwoven. Some poems covered more than one category but most fell strongly enough into one category to be classified there. It occurred to me to count up how many of which category I had and I found that it was roughly 40% Peace, 40% Grief, and 20% Passion. I determined to rotate through the themes in ordering the poems so as not to overwhelm the reader with the grief – peace, grief, peace, grief, passion.

I did the work and put them in order and  . . . it didn’t work. At all. It was too disjointed and helter-skelter. Back to the drawing board. This time I created a spreadsheet that labeled the poems with their main category of peace, grief or passion but then added the topics that they conveyed those themes through – motherhood, nature, relationships, et cetera.

As I looked at the spreadsheet and read the poems again, relationships seemed to emerge. This poem lead naturally into this one and these two were related in a way. I let the natural symbiosis take over and voilá! Order has been achieved. It isn’t perfect but it’s a lot better than where I started.

Holding Space: A Poem

I wrote this a while back after reading an article on holding space for friends who are suffering in some way, while thinking of a friend. The recent news and reminders to check on your friends brought it to the forefront of my mind. Please feel free to share any of the poems you see here with anyone you think might need or enjoy them.



Shonda Rhimes and Grey’s Anatomy


One of my modern writing influences is Grey’s Anatomy. Yes, I’m as influenced by movies and televisions as books. It’s all about stories to me, wherever we find them. Some people like to say that there is nothing good on television anymore but I think that if you look for it, and if you don’t just zone out when you watch, there are some great and inspiring works. Grey’s Anatomy was one of those for me.

I started watching Grey’s Anatomy, created by Shonda Rhimes, back when it first went on the air and was immediately in love with the writing. I adored the characters of Meredith Grey and Christina Yang. I loved George. I watched it every Thursday for years, until life intervened. Six months ago, I started going back and watching it from the beginning, as time permits. (Which means I’m only through episode five or so.) But the writing still inspires me.

I read her memoir, Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person, this past year and it was just like her writing on Grey’s Anatomy. Now, Rhimes starts out by saying that she loves to lie, but I find more truth in her fiction than a lot of other places in life.

Her tone is completely conversational, as if you were right there with her. She talks about her writing –

“There’s a hum that happens inside my head when I hit a certain writing rhythm, a certain speed. When laying track goes from feeling like climbing a mountain on my hands and knees to feeling like flying effortlessly through the air. Like breaking the sound barrier. Everything inside me just shifts. I break the writing barrier. And the feeling of laying track changes, transforms, shifts from exertion into exultation.”

I call it the writer’s high. It’s incredible and I totally agree.

Shonda is an introvert, an extreme introvert, highly gifted with words and, it seems to me, highly intelligent. Saying yes to things is terrifying, but she begins doing it anyway, even if it finds her “licking the dust at the bottom of the Xanax bottle because oh yeah, I don’t take Xanax anymore, it’s been twelve years since Xanax was my friend.”

 “I was just an unusual kid. Lucky for me, my parents held unusual in high regard. And so when I wanted to play with the cans in the pantry for hours on end, my mother didn’t tell me to stop messing around with the food and go somewhere else to play. Instead, she declared it a sign of creativity, closed the pantry door and let me be.”

Lucky for all of us.

“As Watergate played out on the tiny black and white set my mother had dragged into the kitchen and balanced on a chair just outside the pantry doors, my three-year-old imagination made a world of its own. The big cans of yams ruled over the peas and green beans while the tiny citizens of Tomato Paste Land planned a revolution designed to overthrow the government. There were hearings and failed assassination attempts and resignations . . . Man, that pantry was fun.

This memoir is a window on her world –  vivid, honest, engaging, funny and wonderful. I’m so glad she decided to share it.

Keuka – a poem for the first day of June.