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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


Poetry Friday – Pumpkin Edition

Welcome to Poetry Friday, hosted right here today!

(Someone mentioned they had trouble finding the link to the widget. It’s way down at the bottom of the page, but also HERE for posting links and reading.)

It was exactly a year ago that I hosted the Poetry Camp Edition of Poetry Friday. It’s hard to believe that a whole year has gone by since that fun Poetry Camp day in Bellingham (October 1, 2016). That one-year anniversary, combined with the fact that this is the Thanksgiving weekend in Canada (second Monday of October) gives my hosting Poetry Friday today a meant-to-be feeling.

One of the things my husband and I especially enjoyed about our visit to Bellingham a year ago was walks along the Taylor Avenue Dock with coffee at Woods. There we ordered Cream Cheese Pumpkin Loaves to go with our coffee. Yum! When I got home, I tried to duplicate those tasty mini-loaves but never got them quite so rich and creamy.

That Bellingham memory plus the fact that it’s Thanksgiving in Canada this weekend has brought pumpkins to mind. So today, a little ode to pumpkins for my own Poetry Friday offering.


Pumpkins (© 2017 by V. Nesdoly)

To Pumpkin

You kept the new world’s
hungry pioneers and pilgrims alive
with your soft sweet flesh
and nutty seeds,
their feet warm with your rind
woven into mats,
their parties and celebrations
fueled by your beer.

But I am not stuck in the past
for you, orange gourd of October,
are still the icon of autumn
visiting our fall menus with spicy milkshakes
fragrant muffins, scones, and pies
infusing grainy loaves with gold
burnishing soups and stews,
ever the magnet of the latté lineup.

We see ourselves
in your well-formed circle
and with cold sharp blades
carve for you vacant eyes,
a triangle nose, a toothy grin
then plant within the fire of life
for one secret night
only to find your precious meat
shattered, your pulp a slurry
on a November sidewalk.

Thank you, large melon
for your stubby steadfastness
through famine to plenty,
your generosity from yellow blossom
to creamy flesh,
your patience with us
as we bake and boil
microwave and sauté
carve and create
you and your orange generation,
most tasty and handsome denizens
of the market’s harvest bin
and the farmer’s freckled patch.

© 2017 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)


Please add your link to the Mister Linky widget and let the pumpkin party continue!




Posted by on October 5, 2017 in Personal


That Said (review)

That Said - Jane ShoreMother’s Day is just around the corner. In one of the happy serendipities of life, a book my son gave me for Christmas in 2012 caught my eye about a week ago. Its jacket flap marked how far I’d read in it—about halfway through. I decided to read on. It turns out That Said: New and Selected Poems by Jane Shore was the perfect book to get me in the mood for Mother’s Day!

Shore is a poet I’d never heard of. I don’t know why because she’s accessible and an interesting story teller—my kind of poet. Her poems are mostly autobiographical about her life in New York. Her parents had a dress shop. They were part of a lively Jewish community. The adult Shore has a child of her own.

She writes frankly about her own mother, with whom she had a perhaps typical daughter-mother hot-cold relationship.

“When my mother got into a bad mood,
brooding for days,
clamping her jaw shut, refusing to talk …
… I’d call her ‘Mrs. Hitler’ under my breath”

(“Mrs. Hitler” – p. 182.)

In her job, Shore’s mother was consumed with clothes. At thirteen, Jane lusted after the size three petites in her mother’s store. They would make her the best-dressed girl in school. But her mom would have none of it, coming home from Little Marcie’s Discount Clothes instead with an armful of clothes that had razored-out labels. Shore concludes:

“She was the queen;
I the heir.
It would have been a snap for her
to make me the best-dressed girl in school.
But for me she wanted better…

‘If I give you all these dresses now,
what will you want when you’re fifteen?’”

(“The Best Dressed Girl in School” pp. 188-191.)

Shore is a mother herself. In “The Bad Mother” she tells how she played with her daughter Emma, letting her be the Princess, the Mermaid and Cinderella while she was the vain stepmother, the fairy godmother, and the wicked witch.

“Once I played the heroine,
Now look what I’ve become.
I am the one who orders my starving child
out of my house and into the gloomy woods,
my resourceful child, who fills her pockets
with handfuls of crumbs or stones
and wanders into a witch’s candy cottage.”

(“The Bad Mother” pp. 159-161.)

Shore also writes about one of motherhood’s bitter experiences, losing a pregnancy.

These children’s faces printed on a milk carton–
a boy and a girl
smiling for their school photographs;
each head stuck atop a column
of vital statistics:
date of birth, height and weight, color
of eyes and hair.

On a carton of milk.
Half gallon, a quart.
Of what use is the body’s
container, the mother weeping milk or tears.

No amount of crying will hold it back
once it has begun its journey
as you bend all night over the toilet,
over a fresh bowl of water.
Coins of blood splattering the tile floor
as though a murder had been committed.

read the rest here…

After her mother died Shore grieved. She takes us with her in the poem “My Mother’s Mirror” where she talks about dividing up her mother’s things with her sister. She inherits her mother’s mirror.

“Now at fifty,
I stare into her mirror
glazed with our common face,
the face I’ll pass down to my daughter
who watches from behind me
with the same puzzled look I had
when I watched my mother
out of the corner of her eye
watching me.”

(“My Mother’s Mirror” pp. 208-210.)

For those of us who are noticing how our mother’s physical characteristics are now being bequeathed to us and our daughters, “My Mother’s Foot” will bring a chuckle of recognition:

“Putting on my socks I noticed,
on my right foot an ugly bunion and hammertoe.
How did my mother’s foot
become part of me? I thought I’d buried it
years ago with the rest of her body…”

(“My Mother’s Foot  – pp. 238,239.)

That Said, New and Selected Poems (2012) is a collection that starts with the newest poems and then circles back to include poems from Shore’s previously published books dating as far back as 1977. This collection reminds me a bit of some verse novels. After reading these writings that span so many years, I feel like I know Shore, her mom and dad, her daughter and her Scrabble-playing family.

Stanley Plumly’s cover endorsement sums up this collection well: “Shore’s poem narratives have long been praised for their juxtapositions of wit and quiet wisdom. Yet her poems of these past three and a half decades also speak through a Talmudic knowledge as ancient as the archetype. Her work is deep because its small worlds become so whole, exacting, and exclusive.”

Thank you, Jane Shore, for validating many of my feelings about my own mother and reminding me of how mothering is a circle of nurturing and being nurtured. You have enriched this year’s Mother’s Day for me with the experience and insight of your writings.

Sorry but only one of the poems I quote snippets of is online. However, a collection of other poems from That Said are on THIS PAGE.


Poetry Friday LogoThis post is part of Poetry Friday, where you’ll find lots more poetry and poetry-related stuff for kids and adults too. This week’s PF is deliciously hosted by Jama at Jama’s Alphabet Soup (who will enjoy Jane Shore’s mother’s recipe for “Shit Soup” (HERE, fifth poem down).


Posted by on May 8, 2014 in Book Reviews


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