Just an ordinary walk

In the last few weeks my walking partner, dear hubby, has been finding it more and more painful to walk. Then the doctor told him, no more long walks until you’re better. So for now I am walking on my own.

When I took solitary walks in the past I experienced a wonderful loosening of words and ideas. And it’s happening again, if I’m alert to it.

To help with that, I carry a little notebook and pen to write down words, turns of phrase, and images that I don’t want to forget. Or I hold them in my head. That’s what I did for the poem below. When I got home I free-wrote like crazy to capture everything in prose. Later I worked some of my ideas into …


“I am a long skinny shadow now, walking down a golden street” (Photo © 2016 by V. Nesdoly)

Just an ordinary walk

On this cold morning I am soft wax
feeling intimidated by impatient cars
swishing, swooshing
swirling beside me.

One turns right in front
of my WALK light, almost clips my toes.
Even in moments of still, distant traffic hums
a far off siren screams.

City birds above me chirp, warble
sing their own bustle, swoop down (peck, peck),
flutter away. They are nonchalant, daring,
savvy to the rhythm of feet and tires (hop, hop).

My nose tests wind gusts, smells
gasoline, diesel, vanilla, a passerby’s peppery
perfume,  chocolate, cinnamon
(something good is baking at Safeway).

I am a long  skinny shadow now walking down a golden street
past a lady in a taupe coat with her silky dog in red
and a grey couple smoking on a bench.
They pull their Lhasa Apso close so I can pass.

I can’t find the book drop at the library.
The security guard points me to it’s green-light lips
“You scan it.” He shows me which bar-code
and the slot sucks the book from my hand.

As I turn toward home, the sun stares
into my eyes, brash. I shade them
with hands balled into gloves, fingers
squeezing warmth from palms.

A kid with a black-and-white backpack strides by
black arms bare under short black sleeves
black jeans, white shoes—so cool
but how can he not feel so cold?

I climb stairs, twist key in the lock—
happy to be home.
It was just an ordinary walk
but forever engraved in this poem.

© 2016 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

PF-2This post is linked to Poetry Friday, hosted today by the queen of poetic forms, Tricia at her blog Miss Rumphius Effect.


Posted by on October 21, 2016 in Objects, People, Personal, Poetry Friday, Writing


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Brown Girl Dreaming (review)

51-pl9bj7il-_sx331_bo1204203200_Poetry Camp inspired me to be a more regular visitor to my library (thanks, Janet Wong!). My fascination with verse novels prompted me to pick up Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson.

I quickly discovered, though, that this isn’t exactly a verse novel. It’s a memoir—the story of young Jacqueline taking us through her childhood and to a time she comes to realize what her dream is and begins to see it blossom in her life.

The whole thing is told in verse—in free verse poems that are simple. I would say deceptively simple for almost all end in a way that put me on my heels and had me thinking: I believe there is more to this than what first meets the eye. In other words, these accessible poems also invite re-reading.

I love the real-life detail that makes the characters, the brothers and sisters, Grandma and Grandpa, mother, aunts and uncles, come alive. While reading this book I experienced the phenomenon of the particularities of Jacqueline’s life becoming a vessel for my own experience—even though the setting and characters are vastly different.

As I read I also enjoyed one of the advantages of verse novels—how quickly the pages slipped by. I read through this 338-page tome in mere hours.

The book touches on lots of topics:
– What it was like to be an African American girl in the U.S. in the 60s and 70s (Woodson was born in 1963). This book was a great empathy builder for me.

– Family—what is a family, how family members relate to each other, the joy of being together. The family theme runs deeply and widely through the book. I loved the mini family album of photos at the end of the book and the fact that the pictures were of family members as children—about the age that the target audience would be.

“Football Dreams,” about her father, is a poem about family:

Football Dreams

No one was faster
than my father on the football field.
No one could keep him
from crossing the line. Then
touching down again.
Coaches were watching the way he moved,
his easy stride, his long arms reaching
up, snatching the ball from its soft pockets
of air.

Read the rest…

Feeling different is another theme. Not only was Woodson’s color a source of difference, but she was brought up Jehovah’s Witness. “Flag” tells about having to leave the classroom when the students made the flag pledge but how inside she wanted to be there and pledge big:


Alina and I want
more than anything to walk back into our classroom
press our hands against our hearts. Say,
“I pledge allegiance . . .” loud…”

The poem ends:

When the pledge is over, we walk single file
back into the classroom, take our separate seats
Alina and I far away from Gina. But Gina
always looks back at us—as if to say,
I’m watching you. As if to say,
I know.

Read entire…

The book tackles more themes including death, tolerance, and finding joy in life, relationships and one’s passion.

On this page of her website Ms. Woodson gives a bit more information about writing the book.

This was a beautiful, upbeat, and  educational read that would be perfect for children in the middle grades–ages 10 and up, Grades 5 and up.

Brown Girl Dreaming won the National Book Award in 2014. (In the second video on the linked page she reads from the book.)

PF-2This post is linked to Poetry Friday, hosted today by the lovely Irene Latham at Live Your Poem.


Posted by on October 13, 2016 in Book Reviews, People, Poetry Friday


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Poetry Friday – Poetry Camp edition

Welcome to Poetry Friday, hosted right here today.

When I found out, way back, that Poetry Camp was going to be happening in Bellingham (a mere 40 miles from where I live), I knew I had to be there. Last weekend it all came to pass!

Sign boards like this one welcomed us to the beautiful Wilson Library on the grounds of Western Washington University Saturday morning.


A helpful library staff helped us find our way in this warren of a building to a grand marble staircase that took us to the fourth floor foyer. There table upon table of books were on display—all children’s poetry books!

Table upon table of children’s poetry books.

Just beyond the foyer, the vast, high-ceilinged Reading Room was our Poetry Camp mess hall, you might say, and between 8:30 and 9:30 it filled up quite healthily with poet enthusiasts, poets, teachers, librarians etc.

Inside, in addition to many strangers, were friends. It was such fun picking out the people I knew, sort of, having Poetry Friday’d with them for months but peered at their faces only as tiny thumbnails. Here are some you might recognize.


Poetry Friday poets: Doraine Bennett, April Halprin Wayland, Jeannine Atkins, Robyn Hood Black, and Irene Latham.


Irene Latham with the irrepressible Joy Acey


Me with Bridget Magee

The program was well organized and flowed quite flawlessly. After a welcome from our WWU hosts Nancy Johnson and Sylvia Tag, Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong presented keynotes.

The morning one introduced the Poetry Friday books, how to use them, and then had contributors read poems from the books.

Both the morning keynote (theme: Poetry is for any time) and afternoon one (theme: Poetry is for every subject) made wonderful use of the 38 visiting poet contributors. As you’ll see from the little slide show of some of the readers, it was a treat! I felt like a kid again, held spellbound by teachers who could make poetry come alive.

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We also enjoyed breakout sessions.

As a fan of verse novels, it was wonderful to sit at the feet of four pros: Holly Thompson, Nikki Grimes, Stephanie Hemphill, and Jeannine Atkins.


Verse Novel presenters Holly Thompson, Nikki Grimes, Stephanie Hemphill (Jeannine Atkins not in the picture).

Here are some bits from my notes:
Jeannine Atkins: She loves reading history and looking for “details that wake up the story.” She also looks for what she / we have in common with the historical characters she writes about.

Nikki Grimes: “I want to find the crack that will slip into the reader’s heart.”

Stephanie Hemphill: Her process (of research, and finding a connection with the character) is different for each book she’s written.

Holly Thompson: She uses page turns as a sort of stanza break for some of her chapter-length poems. She finds that the white space of poetry is also useful in easing tension and convincing reluctant readers to read.

My second workshop was “Writing for journals,  magazines and anthologies,” ably led by Bridget Magee and Janet Wong.  We were all encouraged to read (Janet: “Read 50 books a week – take your rolling luggage to the library”), write, send out our poems and reward ourselves—for rejections as well as acceptances. Janet reminded us:

“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”

If / when we decide to self-publish, Janet assured us we were then artisanally published by a “small press” or “consortium” (if we collaborate in the publishing process).


Poetry & Science workshop presenters Jeannine Atkins, Heidi Bee Roemer and Linda Dryfhout.

My afternoon breakout was “Poetry + Science.” Jeannine Atkins, Heidi Bee Roemer and Linda Dryfhout shared their rich experience of writing and teaching science using poetry. (It almost made me wish I could go back into the classroom again—almost.)

The public was also invited to the last event of the day. Jack Prelutsky (first US Children’s Poet Laureate ever) signed books, recited poems and serenaded us. Then he was honored by some delightful poetry reciters from a local elementary school and by fellow poet, Tod Marshall, Washington State’s current Poet Laureate.


Jack Prelutsky signing.


Jack Prelutsky singing.


Jack Prelutsky reciting


Tod Marshall delivered a wonderful tribute to his fellow poet!

Finally, there was cake. What a perfect way to end a sweet day!


And now it’s time for today’s dessert—your poems. Please add them to the widget. Happy reading!


Posted by on October 6, 2016 in People, Poetry Friday, Writing


Night Class


Photo © 2016 by V. Nesdoly

Night Class

I wake at night in the classroom with God
go to His desk to watch Him marking my day.
“Here,” He says, “see your anger when you were kept waiting
your rudeness when disturbed
your defensiveness when criticized?
These are all places the theory you know in your head
those textbook passages you can say by memory
could have been applied.”

My face reddens and I crumple in shame.
Knowing how to use the formulas I can say by rote
to solve the equations of life
–in spite of review after review–
continues to confound me.

But His loving eyes reach deep into my spirit.
“Don’t worry girl,” He says, drawing me up.
“This is not your final grade.
I have planned for you a lifetime
of projects, quizzes and tests
each designed to give you
more insight.
Getting it wrong is also teaching you
how to get it right.”

© 2016 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

I see by the various versions of “Night Class” in my files that I first wrote it in 2007.  I was reminded me of that old poem when, a few days ago, I read “The Temple of Memory” by John O’Donohue:

The Temple of Memory

When you visit the wounds within the temple of memory, you should not blame yourself for making bad mistakes that you greatly regret. Sometimes you have grown unexpectedly through these mistakes. Frequently, in a journey of the soul, the most precious moments are the mistakes. They have brought you to a place that you would otherwise have avoided. You should bring a compassionate mindfulness to your mistakes and wounds. Endeavor to inhabit the rhythm you were in at that time. If you visit this configuration of your soul with forgiveness in your heart, it will fall into place itself. When you forgive yourself, the inner wounds begin to heal. You come in out of the exile of hurt into the joy of inner belonging.
– John O’Donohue 
Excerpt from ANAM CARA

I love this part of O’Donohue’s piece:

“You should bring a compassionate mindfulness (my one-little-word of the year)  to your mistakes and wounds. …When you forgive yourself, the inner wounds begin to heal.”

May we do that –forgive ourselves– as we press ahead on the spiritual journey.


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Carrier Pigeon


Carrier Pigeon

Bird Lady has tossed her breads.
Clay pigeons, come leave your beds
time to stuff stool pigeon heads!

Dockyard pigeons, homing too
from bridge girders and the zoo
Pigeon Forgers, drop by, do!

Pigeon-chested, pigeon-toed
pigeon-heated by the road…
full tums all—that is the goad.

© 2016 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

Poetry Friday regulars will recognize the Jane Yolen-invented form of this ditty (a septercet: seven syllable lines, three lines to a stanza, any number of stanzas), my attempt to rise to this month’s challenge at Michelle Barnes blog Today’s Little Ditty.

(If you’re curious about what some of these pigeony figures of speech mean, check HERE.)

And now, I’m soon off to Bellingham and Poetry Camp! Hubby and I even did a reconnaissance trip a few weeks ago when I needed some software that was only available south of the border. On that outing we scouted the campus of WWU, so I even have my bearings (sort of).

See some of you this weekend!!


PF-2This post is linked to Poetry Friday, hosted this week by Karen at Karen Edmisten: Mom. Writer. Consumer of Coffee (I like that last!).



Posted by on September 29, 2016 in Form poems, Light, Nature


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Clematis’s kids


I just love the post-blossom stage of clematis flowers. To me they look a lot like tousle-headed children.


PF-2This post is linked to Poetry Friday, hosted today by Catherine at Reading to the Core.


Posted by on September 22, 2016 in Haiga, Haiku, Nature, Personal


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Crows always seem like such wise old watchers to me. If they could talk, I wonder what stories they would tell

I took the photo of this old sage in  Loeppky Park, Dawson Creek this summer.


PF-2This post is linked to Poetry Friday, hosted today by Michelle at her blog Today’s Little Ditty



Posted by on September 16, 2016 in Form poems, Haiga, Poetry Friday


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