{the #MoSt poetry: 7}

Prompt #7: Write a poem in response to this idea: Notre Dame. This is a prompt from the contest portion of our MoSt 8th Annual Poetry Festival, which will be held on Saturday, February 1st, 2020. The deadline for submissions is Saturday, January 11th, 2020. (For more information, go to our website.)

Predictive text is sometimes helpful for poetry. Typing in “Our Lady Of” and sorting out the location responses gave me these three to work with.

Notre Dame

Our Lady of
One revolution, two world wars, 800 years of countless struggles,
Our Lady of
So many have sheltered within its walls-
Our Lady of
Scoured by flame and wept for – yet rising again.
Our Lady

{the #MoSt Poetry: 6}

Try your hand at writing an ode (a poem of praise) or an elegy (a poem of loss) to a mentor. In The Odyssey, Mentor was a friend of Odysseus whom Odysseus placed in charge of his son Telemachus and of his palace when he went off to the Trojan War. The personal name Mentor has been adopted in English as a term meaning someone who imparts wisdom to and shares knowledge with a less experienced colleague.

Consider who your mentors have been; write an ode or elegy to them and their commitment, energy, enthusiasm, and other characteristics. Or, to whom have you been a mentor? Who needs mentoring, and how, and why? See if you can write your poem embracing some of these elements.

I worked with a teacher early in my career who was THE best teacher I’ve ever known. All linen suits and Northeast accent, she of the pointy-toed pumps, copper-colored bob and brisk manner made me feel like a kid in a wide world where things could yet be learned, and dull, unsupportive administration was just a minor hurdle on an adventurous trail. Scholarly, brilliant, and much older than me, Susan remained someone I emulated the rest of my time in the classroom. Her junior high students, who made it a practice to respect no one at all, held Ms. Goins in awe – as did I. Here’s to you, Susan Goins, gentlewoman, scholar. May you have stars in your crown, wherever you are.

Ode to Susan

Crisp diction crackles from distant classroom
An authoritative alto intones
“Words. Have. Power.” Each rising inflection
Enunciated. Dutiful students
Copy out each word, likely underlined.
As I smile and turn back to my grading.
They don’t understand, these newborn scholars
The weight of a word in potentia
The energy coiled in a compliment
Disparagement’s draining distortions –
But she does.
‘Perspicacious’ is her favorite word
Persistent, curious, bright, she offers
To my school day jokes, anecdotes, an ear,
Calm competence in the face of challenge,
Her belief. My bedrock, firm foundation,
Each shining word a stair by which I climb.

Buffy Silverman is hosting the Almost Solstice Poetry Friday today. Enjoy.

{the #MoSt Poetry: 5}

Write a poem in response to this idea: Handling Earth With Care. This is a prompt from the contest portion of our MoSt 8th Annual Poetry Festival, which will be held on Saturday, February 1st, 2020–and which we heartily encourage you to attend! The deadline for submissions to the contest is Saturday, January 11th, 2020. For more information on Festival registration and contest submissions, go to our website.

Kelvingrove Park Flower 065


garden catalogs
are stacked in a tidy pile
fueling distant dreams
for now, tucked under soft rain
swaddled in compost, earth rests.

and is it enough,
the hopeful stalks of bee-balm,
butterfly bushes,
scattering the worm castings
and forking up the rich soil?

Two hands work alone:
Joining yours, they circle earth.

{the #MoSt Poetry: 4}

Write a poem in response to one or some (or all!) of these quotations, and/or use them as an epigram in your poem, or form the title of your poem from part of the quotation:

“There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.” (Douglas Adams)

“Out of every wandering in which people and places come and go in long successions, there is always one place remembered above the rest because the external or internal conditions were such that they produced happiness…One cannot divine nor forecast the conditions that will make happiness; one only stumbles upon them by chance, in a lucky hour, at the world’s end somewhere, and holds fast to the days, as to fortune or fame.” (Willa Cather)

“Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency. Nothing is that important. Just lie down.” (Natalie Goldberg)

**“If we can recognize that change and uncertainty are basic principles, we can greet the future and the transformation we are undergoing with the understanding that we do not know enough to be pessimistic.” (Hazel Henderson)**

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” (Albert Einstein)

“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” (E. B. White)

“Those are my principles. If you don’t like them, I have others.” (Groucho Marx)


uncertain optimism

Life consists of change:
uncertain, the world we know.
we keep on, hoping
that the Universe, beckoning
will bring certainty at last.

{the #MoSt Poetry: 3}

Write a poem in response to this idea: The Graceful Stumble. This is a prompt from the contest portion of our MoSt 8th Annual Poetry Festival, which will be held on Saturday, February 1st, 2020. The deadline for submissions is Saturday, January 11th, 2020. For more information on Festival registration and contest submission, go to our website. Ready…Steady…Go~~~

Ach, stumbles – there’s nothing graceful about my stumbling, so this one is topically challenging! Mainly, the phrase “graceful stumble” reminded me of watching my eldest sister and her classmates wear high heels at their eighth grade graduation – I was so very impressed at their three-inch lift! Obviously, I must have ignored a lot of …erm, graceless flailing, but I was so impressed. Learning to stumble gracefully was a learned thing.


peace to the road
we all are occupying –
as we race forth, our
goal becomes surviving

we runners fall –
pant on our backs, recover –
(despite good shoes, we
all fall, we discover)

this, our best hope
when life defies objective:
stumble with grace –
and falling, gain perspective.

all grace is learned
and learning graced with trying –
our stumbles, earned, mean
bruises preface flying.

{the #MoSt Poetry: 2}

Consider times in our lives when we are at the table, or someone has said, Come to the table. Write a poem for these times, or about the many sorts of tables (dining, negotiating, or even Periodic) we come to — or leave. For inspiration, consider this poem by our current U.S. Poet Laureate, Joy Harjo. Ready…Steady…Go~~~

Our family has, in the past couple of years, made a bigger point of getting together for meals than we had done for a while. Losing a family member a year for the last few years has brought home to all of us the fact that thought we are a big, sprawling family, we aren’t all of us in robust health, or very young anymore, and so we need to be sure we’re making the most of our time together. Scheduling these things is hectic, accommodating all of us – boyfriends, pets, and children and all – is a pain. But, it is a worth the strain.

Skyway Drive 412

à table

finding the leaf takes a moment
scouting through the house, asking Dad where
after the last holiday
it has gone.

then, when it is recovered,
it takes a village to lengthen it –
two to pull apart the stubborn panels
one to brush away the dust and crumbs,
and lay in the cumbersome board

even then we are not ready
the naked wood is too exposed
to hold our feast; our best efforts
must crown brocade and crystal
silver and porcelain

knives laid just so, plates set, chairs tucked in
across a gulf of roast and rolls
we reach out and link hands
restoring, unbroken, the circle.

connected one more time
we taste life’s sweetness.

{the #MoSt Poetry: 1}

Write a haiku for some goodness that has happened to you this year. If you find it difficult to choose just one, feel free to create a haiku series of goodnesses. Ready…steady… go…

Is anyone else exhausted?

The funny thing about December is that one has moments of… jump-started energy, where, at need, one can achieve all manner of things, despite crowds, driving rain, fog, unexpected traffic snarls… and then, afterward, one collapses into oneself like a disappointing souffle.

I am very nearly to the “afterward.” Our family is very low-key (for Christians) about Christmas, so I’m doing gigs right up until Christmas Eve. Everyone else’s holiday energy keeps me bolstered, but I’m really most happy to just sit under blankets with a book and basically be left alone.

And how I can hear you asking is that different from you on every other day? Um, THE BLANKET? Duh. I don’t use that in the summertime…


To get to the point of this post, today kicks off the Modesto Stanislaus Poetry Challenge, and we’re beginning gently, with a haiku. Especially since we did those all November, we can do this!

Irvington 206

secret garden

from the first cherries
to the sharp bite of citrus
a year-round table

{poetry friday is right here!}

Welcome to Poetry Friday in December!

Hayford Mills 233 HDR

Gratitude is the theme the Poetry Sisters chose this month for our original poems. It’s kind of a low-key challenge for those of us who are in the teeth of exams and end-of-year work emergencies, or who, like me, are preparing for the slog of holiday concerts and staying upright and healthy until the final notes are sung. At this point, we’re grateful for small things, like a full night’s sleep, an unexpected packet of tissues in a cardigan pocket, or the umbrella behind the driver’s seat, and not in the trunk. This delightful poet is equally grateful for… earthworms:


by Carl Denis

Aren’t you glad at least that the earthworms
Under the grass are ignorant, as they eat the earth,
Of the good they confer on us, that their silence
Isn’t a silent reproof for our bad manners,
Our never casting earthward a crumb of thanks
For their keeping the soil from packing so tight
That no root, however determined, could pierce it?

Imagine if they suspected how much we owe them,
How the weight of our debt would crush us
Even if they enjoyed keeping the grass alive,
The garden flowers and vegetables, the clover,
And wanted nothing that we could give them,
Not even the merest nod of acknowledgment.
A debt to angels would be easy in comparison,
Bright, weightless creatures of cloud, who serve
An even brighter and lighter master.

Lucky for us they don’t know what they’re doing,
These puny anonymous creatures of dark and damp
Who eat simply to live, with no more sense of mission
Than nature feels in providing for our survival.
Better save our gratitude for a friend
Who gives us more than we can give in return
And never hints she’s waiting for reciprocity.
– (Find the rest at The Poetry Foundation.)

Lynedoch Crescent D 430

This November I committed to a haiku a day, to help put my mind into the proper frame for Thanksgiving. The Poetry Sisters challenge this month was meant to be a gratitude sonnet – which, while still within my topical scope is a considerable step up in terms of word count. However, since Laura threw down the gauntlet, I (competitively) had to follow suit. Sara was inspired next. Tricia is poem-ing between teaching and stitches, and the rest of the Poetry Sisters will be poetrying through the weekend.

My haiku grew into a brief sonnet – after a little shopping trip which put me in mind of the power of thanks. I hope during this busy season, all of us find this to be true: gratitude greases the wheels, making difficulties and stress easier to bear for everyone.

greasing the wheels

We all have thankful hearts within
Despite the words of thanks unsaid
We’re grateful for what seems built-in –
Convenience, as we move ahead.

The city worker, climbing high
Changing the bulbs or pruning trees.
A cashier’s precise keystrokes fly,
The post arrives as guaranteed.

All gears and cogs, the life we crave
Is fashioned by a thousand hands –
If gratitude no roads will pave,
Its dearth creates a hinterland.

A little wax makes stuck drawers glide:
Likewise, a “thank-you” dignifies.

~~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~~

And here’s a great way to start a new year: The Modesto-Stanislaus Poetry Center is having a New Year’s Poetry Challenge! This year’s NYPC will begin on December 15th. Opt-in via email, and you’ll get your first prompt the night of the 14th! If you’d like to jump in, shoot them an email: Info_at_mostpoetry_dot_org. You will receive a prompt a day for 30 days. You choose to write to all the prompts, some of the prompts, or none of the prompts – it’s all for fun. Toward the end of the 30 days, they’ll put out a call for any poem you’d like to share in an NYPC chapbook.

Thanks for dropping by!

(P.S. – I’m told sometimes it’s difficult to comment on these blog posts. Apologies in advance; WordPress is a capricious deity at times! If you comment and don’t see it, please don’t worry – it’ll come through eventually. The In-Links link works now (Thanks, everyone who emailed!) – and here are the links from the comments:)