Oh, Villanelle, You Ruin Me

Twist“Twist” by LostCarPark is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

As a morning poet, I find my footing most easily in free verse. That said, I also enjoy the challenge now and then of a poetry form that forces my hand. Over at OpenWrite today, the challenge was a Villanelle, which has rhyme schemes, syllable counting and repetition. Dylan Thomas has a famous one.

Here is what I came up with.

Yes, I’m obsessed with morning poems
with cracking words like combination lock
before the day’s ideas scatter, blown

by odd winds of origins, unknown,
as detectives, writers scour the block –
Yes, I’m obsessed with morning poems

Not all rhymes we find ring out like phones
some sing false, and others, falter like stock
before the day’s ideas scatter, blown

through corners where wonder’s what we own
and our quiet voices, just talk – talk – talk
Yes, I’m obsessed with morning poems

perched with pen in quiet morning home
I scribble, erase, often have to walk
before the day’s ideas scatter, blown

Each verse, a kite, high in sky, alone
not able to remain stable, aloft,
for I’m obsessed with morning poems
before these ideas get scattered and blown

Peace (and poems),

Poem: Singing the Song of Son to the Father

At OpenWrite, the prompt for poems this morning was about exploring name and place, and after I wrote mine about my name and its roots, I realized the poem would probably work best as spoken poem.

Peace (listening in and rooted),

Slice of Life: Poems for Planet Earth

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

A few weeks ago, I noticed a “call for artists” through our local public library, for an exhibit they were pulling together about healing, health and the state of our planet. They were seeking videos, art and writing. Intrigued, I decided to try my hand at some poems — five short poems — with environmental themes, and I sent them in, and then I forgot all about it (as I am apt to do).

The other day, I found out that the library art gallery had accepted three of the five poems I sent in for its “In This Together: Virtual Exhibit on Planetary and Human Health” display. I feel honored to be among the 41 local artists (some of the other pieces in the collection are really amazing to look at — particularly the visual artworks).

This is from the gallery description:

As we emerge slowly from the Covid-19 pandemic, we reflect on how it has changed us, the environment we live in, and our outlook. While our societies and our world are still in the midst of enormous changes, how do we feel about our role? How has the past year impacted how we relate to the environment and to each other? Have our priorities changed?

abstract photo by Faith Kaufmann

via Hosmer Gallery, Northampton, MA

My three poems can be found here, here and here.

As a poet writing daily throughout the Pandemic, I noticed the act of writing has often been rather lonely. (Maybe that always is the case for poets, but the isolation of the lockdowns seemed to make it even more so). I like the idea of a few of my words being part of a local community collective effort to think on the changing Earth, and how the Pandemic is influencing that thinking, that wonder, that warning. To see my words mingled in with other media and art feels right, and satisfying.

I’m not naive. I don’t think poems or poets can change the world. A few verses won’t change policy. Stanzas don’t scale up.

But writing poems can change the poet who writes those poems, I believe, and the time I spent composing the five pieces gave me a chance to sit with the ideas, to mull things over, and try to capture some thoughts that will help me in my own small actions, each day. There were threads across the five pieces that I know are there, threads I made visible to myself that connect to how I can and should view this world we are caretakers of.

What more can a writer do?

Peace (in poems and planets),

How a Poem Comes to Be

Crane BeachA call for writing about spiritual summer journeys by my friend Carol V. had me revisiting this photograph I shot at Crane Beach (Ipswich, Massachusetts) last week as my wife and I went on an end–of-school-year getaway for a few days as a way to decompress and rejuvenate ourselves.

After posting the poem as digital object, my Western Massachusetts Writing Project colleague Jack C. asked if I might share the poem as verse, and reflect on the process (maybe Jack didn’t ask that in particular, but that’s what I am going to do here because I find it valuable as a writer to do that).

The Invitation

Carol sent forth a tweet and a blog post with a call for poems, writing and media. She does this regularly for the seasons. This call for work was about, as she writes, to “imagine all the opportunities to relax, meditate, and free ourselves from the restrictive boundaries of our pandemic lives.” I remembered my wife and I walking Crane Beach one early morning. Miles of sand and ocean and almost no one was else was there, and how rejuvenating that was.

The Image

There was this one photograph that I took by chance and then kept remembering back on. At first, I was amused at thinking how the sand shapes in the morning seemed to resemble a gathering of turtles burrowed down into the sand.  And then I saw them as puzzle pieces, scattered on the shore. As I thought more on it, I was drawn to the way the ocean, at night, creates its art, and leaves it for a little while for the world to notice, before pulling it back to water. Something about night’s work and morning’s viewing nudged my mind.

The Poem, Part One

I knew I wanted to write about the ocean at night, and to capture its invisible hand in shaping and reshaping the landscape, but I struggled with the first lines of the poem. I sat with the idea of the poem for some time, mulling over quietly in my head some possible ways to begin. I’d whisper phrases, trying to find the right words and the right rhythm. At last, something clicked, and “What night’s tides leave behind …” seemed to open up the rest of the poem, with the image of the beach still lingering in my head.

The App

Since I know that Carol’s call often is for art, visual, I opened up an app I often use for poetry called TypiVideo. It creates a form of kinetic text poetry but one of the odd elements is that the app only wants a block of text, not verse, and the writer has little control and little agency over where the text/screens start and end. So I wrote this poem as a single block of text (unusual for me) inside the app itself (also unusual for me). Even as I was writing, though, I heard the line breaks and saw where the stanza construction could be. The app didn’t care about that, but I did, and when Jack asked, I went back into the digital poem to reconstruct the poem as verse, pulling the threads of the single block of text back into the form of a poem.

The Poem, Part Two

It was the third verse where I began to pivot, from the visuals of the beach itself to the world at large, I think, as I am the poet I write about, trying to make sense of the landscape that is always in the midst of change (every day and every night, when considering the ocean’s relentless energy) and things we remember (and what we forget). The last stanza hooked me back to Carol’s call for summer, and the understanding that a visit to the ocean (for us) ends with us also heading back home, and what we are left with are the memories (that might become poems).

The Poem, Part Three

What night’s tides
leave behind
when morning arrives

lays scattered
like puzzle pieces,
an invitation
to the poet

to imagine sense
in the unknown,
before the ocean
claims the memory

this season’s always
tugging us towards

Peace (listening to the waves),

Collaborative Poetry: Making a Poem in MidAir

I used Etherpad to invite some colleagues in a new National Writing Project social space to create a poem with me. The video documents the writing of the poem, via Etherpad’s cool time-lapse feature. Since Etherpad now removes all ‘pads’ after a time of inactivity, the full poem can be read here.

What I love about these kinds of activities is the unexpected, the way a fellow writer can take a few lines in a new direction, and how the next person tugs the thread and pulls the poem forward, too. It’s not always in complete sync but going into a collaboration like this means giving up preconceptions about where a piece of writing is going.

(and see how Terry created his own video version)

Peace (in poems),

Writing Down in Lexington (PoMo)

A Bucolic Poem...!!!“A Bucolic Poem…!!!” by Denis Collette…!!! is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

A National Writing Project friend, Deanna, mentioned the month-long LexPoMo (out of Lexington, Kentucky) so I signed up and have been sharing and reading and commenting with a bunch of other poets (lots of people in the mix). Fifteen days in, here are my poems (not sure what happened on June 1):

June 02, 2021 To New Eyes
June 03, 2021 Psaphonise
June 04, 2021 Tide Riders
June 05, 2021 Untethered Times
June 06, 2021 The River’s Footsteps To The Ocean
June 07, 2021 Bent Necks and Balanced Wings
June 08, 2021 Small World Explorer
June 09, 2021 Baby’s Eating Ink Again
June 10, 2021 Each Drop Drops
June 11, 2021 Redamancy
June 12, 2021 End Up Where They Will
June 13, 2021 The Poem Was In Your Pocket
June 14, 2021 Before The Hummingbird Sips
June 15, 2021 Memory’s Mad Curve Ball

Peace (and poems),

A Jazz Poem for Mary Lee

Image found at Mary Lee’s Poetry Site

My friend, Mary Lee Hahn, is retiring and there are a bunch of people writing her poems today. I was thankful to be invited in. Mary Lee and I crossed digital paths years ago, and while our interactions come and go, I still read her poetry via blogs and RSS feeds and I get inspired by her teaching and sharing.

My poem for her came after the title of the jazz classic (Donna Lee) came to mind when I was playing around her name (Mary Lee) in my head. It’s a strange juxtaposition, I suppose, but the way Mary Lee riffs in her poems was the connection I was going for.

Bird probably wrote it
while Miles claimed it
but Donna Lee reached it:

that groove of notes
as sound poems, a skip dash dance
fluttering around the ear

I hear it forever in Mary Lee, too,
in every haiku or couplet;
she’s plundered

a dance dash skip
of rhyme and rhythm,
written wonder over years;

each verse of hers
a riff of hope:
how love overcomes fear

Peace (for a friend),

Tagging #MarvelousMaryLee and #PoemsforMaryLee

Stories of the Poems: NWP

NWP logo

I enjoyed a series of video interviews that Tanya Baker, of National Writing Project, did with poets called Story of a Poem, digging deep into a single poem with the poets and then ending with an invitation to write. It was like Song Exploder (a favorite podcast of mine) but with poems. I took the poets up on the invitation to write.

Here are my poems:

Squiggles Break My Art

kicked this po em
around somuch
the words have

a p
a r


computer squiGGles
break my


Inspired by George Ella Lyon via https://youtu.be/0L8OKN2gmbE

Words Bring Us Through

Where are the notes
when you need them
the most

the tongues of strings
that have no name
but still, sing:

cancion, oran,
kanzunetta, laul,
canco, abesti

Rest, then, for when
you least expect it to:
Words bring us through

Inspired by Dan (Zev) Levinson prompt of language and his “Sundailed” via

Circular Revision

with the birds,


Wake with
dawn breaking
to the songs
of birds singing


Be awake;
Birds sing
this day into


The day
sings you


Inspired by Shirley McPhillips and “Uncommon Education” via

Every time you lose something — no matter what it is — you find something else…
– Patrice Vecchione


Sometimes I wonder
which reader found it –
that small notebook
of scratched stories,
pieces remembered
only after discovering
an empty pocket
at the train terminal
where I remained,
suddenly reminded,
how ephemeral is ink,
and paper, merely

Inspired by “Finders Keepers” by Patrice Vecchione and the call to write about something that has been lost via https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z2fiEv_bKh8

With a Kiss From Hippocampus

Dipping fingers inside these fluid lands, inside what we don’t understand, so we go where the flow takes us – it breaks us – this tumbling turmoil off rock and ridge where such creatures live, where monsters like this exist – this fall, it breaks us – it takes us, it makes us humble again, for we might yet comprehend how every drop that comes apart from gravity’s kiss is also a drop where worlds resist the pull, such as this, this water, this rain, this, it takes us, this falling, this calling, it draws us to wonder, again, forward, towards bliss

Inspired by H.K. Hummel’s discussion of her prose poem: “The Fable of the Sailor and the Kraken” – and invitation to write about mythological creatures via https://youtu.be/G2MbsnA157E

Writing Rails of Ghost and Bone

That day we were walking
through wooded trails,
lost but never alone,
when we came upon
the remains of rails,
the tail end of the past
clutching the earth
with taut iron fist

how could we resist
the sudden urge to grip
the hammered steel,
slumbering on stone,
and wait on the day
for an oncoming rumble
of ghost and bone?

Inspired by t.l. sander’s poem “This” and the invocation to play with language and poetry via https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSoAtx60v4E 

Peace (and poems),