Thankful Thursday: Why I Write

 It's Thankful Thursday.
Gratitude. Appreciation. Praise.
Please join me in a weekly pause
to appreciate people, places & things.

On this Thankful Thursday, I am thankful for the way one thing leads to another. Of course, and always.

A chance meeting leads to a conversation, leads to introspection, leads to examination. Hours later, rushed and heavy-hearted, I am in a writing workshop with nature essayist Kathleen Dean Moore. She's speaking softly but fiercely, and I am gathered on the edge of every word.

The world is invested in renewal, she says. Everything blooms, grows, dies, and tries again. What is the role of the writer?

She shares this manifesto. We read it aloud, line by line, in a circle, our voices rising and falling — grasping, getting, giving. On days when the world spins with questions, it's comforting to examine and then hold, if even briefly, a slice of certainty.

Why I Write

by Terry Tempest Williams
from Writing Creative Nonfiction

I write to make peace with the things I cannot control.

I write to create fabric in a world that often appears black and white. I write to discover. I write to uncover. I write to meet my ghosts. I write to begin a dialogue. I write to imagine things differently and in imagining things differently perhaps the world will change. I write to honor beauty. I write to correspond with my friends. I write as a daily act of improvisation. I write because it creates my composure. I write against power and for democracy. I write myself out of my nightmares and into my dreams. I write in a solitude born out of community. I write to the questions that shatter my sleep. I write to the answers that keep me complacent.

I write to remember. I write to forget. I write to the music that opens my heart. I write to quell the pain. I write to migrating birds with the hubris of language. I write as a form of translation. I write with the patience of melancholy in winter. I write because it allows me to confront that which I do not know. I write as an act of faith. I write as an act of slowness. I write to record what I love in the face of loss. I write because it makes me less fearful of death. I write as an exercise in pure joy. I write as one who walks on the surface of a frozen river beginning to melt. I write out of my anger and into my passion. I write from the stillness of night anticipating-always anticipating.

I write to listen. I write out of silence. I write to soothe the voices shouting inside me, outside me, all around. I write because of the humor of our condition as humans. I write because I believe in words. I write because I do not believe in words. I write because it is a dance with paradox. I write because you can play on the page like a child left alone in sand. I write because it belongs to the force of the moon: high tide, low tide. I write because it is the way I take long walks. I write as a bow to wilderness. I write because I believe it can create a path in darkness. I write because as a child I spoke a different language. I write with a knife carving each word through the generosity of trees. I write as ritual. I write because I am not employable. I write out of my inconsistencies. I write because then I do not have to speak. I write with the colors of memory.

I write as a witness to what I have seen. I write as a witness to what I imagine. I write by grace and grit. I write out of indigestion. I write when I am starving. I write when I am full. I write to the dead. I write out of the body. I write to put food on the table. I write on the other side of procrastination. I write for the children we never had. I write for the love of ideas. I write for the surprise of a sentence. I write with the belief of alchemists. I write knowing I will always fail. I write knowing words always fall short. I write knowing I can be killed by my own words, stabbed by syntax, crucified by both understanding and misunderstanding. I write out of ignorance.

I write by accident. I write past the embarrassment of exposure. I keep writing and suddenly, I am overcome by the sheer indulgence, (the madness,) the meaninglessness, the ridiculousness of this list. I trust nothing especially myself and slide head first into the familiar abyss of doubt and humiliation and threaten to push the delete button on my way down, or madly erase each line, pick up the paper and rip it into shreds-and then I realize, it doesn't matter, words are always a gamble, words are splinters from cut glass. I write because it is dangerous, a bloody risk, like love, to form the words, to say the words, to touch the source, to be touched, to reveal how vulnerable we are, how transient.

I write as though I am whispering in the ear of the one I love.


What are you thankful for today?


What's on your agenda?

To Do

Start here.

Show up.

Be present.

Be honest.

Work hard.

Work up.

Work out.

Stand tall.

Stand up.

Stand out.

Speak softly.

Seek love.

Seek help.

Help others.

Help yourself.

You are.

You can.

You wish.

You want.

Clear out.

Clear up.

Dry up.

Dry out.

Drive by.

Walk in.

Stroll through.

Get up.

Get lost.

Breathe deep.

Breathe hard.

Breathe in.

Know yourself.

Be yourself.

Begin again.

- In answer to the question, "What's on your agenda?"
  by Drew Myron


Thankful Thursday: Steal

On this Thankful Thursday, I am thankful for permission to steal.

Today's steal sponsored by Poets & Writers, where this week's writing prompt calls for a cento.

Latin for patchwork, a cento is a poem composed entirely of fragments and lines taken from other poems and/or written sources. As a fan of collage, this prompt really perked me up —  and gave me permission to wander through poetry books and borrow great lines. I discovered the process of collecting (or stealing) is as much fun as writing (or, in this case, arranging) the lines.

Here's my cento:

This season won’t last 1

There are times when
the mind knows no wholeness.2
This is the enclosure (flesh,
where innocence is a weapon) 3
where the air has a texture
of drying moss.4

Dearest. — I remember how 5
my mind carried the night, wailing. 6
You’re only as sick as your secrets. 7
There is unexpected sun today, 8
or something like that. 9

1. Margot Lavoie - March madness
2. Laurie Sheck - Nocturne: Blue Waves
Amiri Baraka - An Agony. As Now.
Susan Stewart - The Forest
5. Frank Bidart - Ellen West
6. Drew Myron - Lessons, winter
7. Brenda Shaughnessy - Your One Good Dress
8. Elizabeth Alexander - The Venus Hottentot
9. Adrian C. Louis - Looking for Judas

All lines, except 1 and 6, culled from The Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry

It's Thankful Thursday! Gratitude. Appreciation. Praise. Please join me in a weekly pause to appreciate the people, places & things that bring joy. What are you thankful for today?


Start Now?

     In this season of fresh starts, what are you creating?

     A book, a poem, a painting, a home?

     Are you jotting lists, stacking stones, making plans?

     Does your head spin, heart race, hand shake? 

     Do you wonder, wander, worry?

     Tell me, I'd really like to know, what stirs

     your imagination, what stretches your mind?




On Sunday: Try This

Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note

              (for Kellie Jones, born 16 May 1959)

Lately, I've become accustomed to the way
The ground opens up and envelops me
Each time I go out to walk the dog.
Or the broad edged silly music the wind
Makes when I run for a bus . . .

Things have come to that.

And now, each night I count the stars,
And each night I get the same number.
And when they will not come to be counted,
I count the holes they leave.

Nobody sings anymore.

And then last night, I tiptoed up
To my daughter's room and heard her
Talking to someone, and when I opened
The door, there was no one there . . .
Only she on her knees, peeking into

Her own clasped hands.

- Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones)


For years, I've carried lines from this poem in my head: Nobody sings anymore . . . Things have come to that . . . I count the holes they leave. I love the title, how it suggests backstory to events deep and complex, and the way the poem offers everyday acts that, in their simplicity, turn reverent and illuminating.

This is the thing about poems: We can carry them in us, and draw our own (and changing) conclusions. We can pluck lines and make our own meaning.

Try this: Pick a line from this poem and use it as your own. Let it launch you into new work. Where will it take you? What words will you follow?  If you like, share your fresh words here, by posting them in the comments sections below.  Or, if you're feeling shy, email me ---