Thankful Thursday: Hi there, stars

Writing poems can help kids [and adults] shift the way they see themselves, especially if they're feeling sad, walled-off or different from others. In poems, being different is an asset; we don't have to think of ourselves negatively. Our idiosyncrasies are like prizes. It's freeing to express our one-of-a-kind-soul. 

— Susan Wooldridge
Poemcrazy, Chapter 26

On this Thankful Thursday, I am grateful for the fog lifting, the rust flaking, and the rediscovery of Poemcrazy: Freeing your life with words.

Do you know this book? I hope your copy is as tattered and loved as mine. Equal parts encouragement and exercise, this gem had gathered dust on my shelf until the other day when a friend and I met to talk and write.

We were both feeling laden with life. We joked that we knew a hundred words for grey. We joked that we were rusty with our writing. After a time, we laughed our way out of our dread and onto the page. We flipped through Poemcrazy and, like a tarot card, landed on Chapter 26: Hi there stars.

And with that we were lifted. We could write again.

Thank you poemcrazy. Thank you friend. Thank you rust. I love the way you flake away.

It's Thankful Thursday. Joy expands and contracts in direct relation to our sense of gratitude. What are you thankful for today? A person, a place, a thing? A story, a song, a poem? What makes your world expand?


Submission Season 

Harvard Review

Ahh, September. Kids return to classrooms while writers return to computers. In the literary world, September starts the unofficial Submission Season. Writers send their work into the world, hoping to catch the attention of editors, publishers and agents.

As with all things, there is protocol. There are rules. Recognizing that "submission guidelines can be vague, especially for those new to the submission process," the Harvard Review offers a handy how-to guide.



Thankful Thursday: "I'm not a poet"

Photo by Shreyas Panambur I like poems by people who aren’t poets.

After a summer of writing workshops — both attending and leading — I am reminded that I like poetry best in small groups. I like the circle of new names. Each of us offering ourselves on the page, like a date, a gift. We are gathered in an effort to make things matter.

I'm not a writer, they'll say, before reading their work. Huddled together in hope, we lean in, eyes open to the words, to the room’s reverent hush.

I’m not a poet, they’ll say between umms and ahhhs and throat clearing. The voice shakes, a hand trembles.

When done, the reader will fix eyes on the page, and then searching, will look to us in a pause between nod and praise. A half-smile of gratitude appears, a bit of disbelief, a rush of relief.

I don’t usually remember the poem, can’t recall lines or even a passage. It's the cracked voice I know, the tremor, the space between the last word and the first applause.

Always a poem is a victory. The writer saying I am.


It's Thankful Thursday. Joy expands and contracts in direct relation to our sense of gratitude. What are you thankful for today? A person, a place, a thing? A story, a song, a poem? What makes your world expand?



Be the teacher you needed

Job Description
  - for the apprentices

Be nourishing as damp spring soil,
tenacious, faithful as seed buried there.
Be quick, clear as water in a freshet,
determined to go the distance to the sea.
Be solid, dependable as river rock,
smooth and malleable to stream flow.
Have a preference for order &
the ability to laugh during chaos.
Whisper to the bully,
"I don't want to crush your spirit,"
to the shy, self-conscious one,
"I love your socks."
In a world of straight rows
facing the chalkboard, intercom, flag,
Make a circle, listen, sit near the light.
Magician, custodian, queen and scholar,
Remember when you learned to speak Portuguese,
remember the play — no part for you —
Remember the loneliness of the beginner's path,
and be a beginner again —
and again — because you are, will be,
with each new circle, in very lighted space.
Be the ladder, be the lighthouse,
be the lightning bug.
Be the open heart, an idea unspooling.
Be the teacher you needed
that winter your grandfather died,
and the next year when you walked-on to Varsity.
Know yourself as essential,
your students, most important.
You will give and give and give.
No one will witness
your six hundred close judgment calls a day,
but your students will remember
notes in your handwriting
written in the margins of their young lives.

- Ann Staley

A poet based in Corvallis, Oregon, Ann Staley has been a teacher for over 40 years. She has taught grade-schoolers to grandmothers, and has worked in five Oregon school districts, two community colleges, two public universities, and two private colleges. Her first poetry collection, Primary Sources, was published in August 2011.






On our knees


Words feed us just as they separate us.
We stand at parties, we hold drinks, we tell jokes, we laugh, and we talk politics.
But we are always aware of the differences between us and the people we like or even love. They are a part of the world in a way that we can never be. They inhabit their space. We observe and analyze, rub meaning from moments, and yet none of it is truly real to us until we write it down. And when we don't write — when we pretend that we can be like those we surround ourselves with, and fill our lives with kids and work and PTA and husbands who would rather watch TV than read — we end up on our knees.

Laurie Rachkus Uttich
Why We Write
: The Space That Separates Us
from Poets & Writers magazine, Sept Oct 2011