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Report from the Mass Poetry Festival

Swirls Four
Medium: Mouse on mousepad
Artist: Margaret Fieland

Painted Rectangles
Medium: Mouse on Mousepad
Artist: Margaret Fieland

This past weekend I attended the Mass Poetry Festival, which took place this past Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I skipped Friday, but I did  attend both Saturday and Sunday.

Back when the event was in the planning stages, I got an email about a reading of poetry from their books by Massachusetts authors who had published a book of poetry in 2011. I hesitated — “Lifelines” was written by six of us, and I was “sure” they’re reject me — but sent in my information anyway.

They said yes, illustrating yet again my father’s maxim, “nothing ventured, nothing gained.”  I hope I remember this: not to assume I will be rejected simply because something is a reach or is out of my comfort zone.

I was part of the Sequential Poetry Reading for poets with new books of poetry that appeared in 2011.  The reading started at Noon on Saturday and lasted until 2:40. We were told that we each would have eight minutes to read, but we had a couple of no-shows, so we each had ten minutes.

The reading went well. The audience included us poets and about an equal number of what I expect were friends or family. It was a real treat to be be able to listen to the poets reading from their own work. A good many (most) of them simply read from a copy of their book. I might have done the same except for Michele’s excellent advice to print out what I wanted to read in LARGE, DARK type, and to practice. I did both, and I was very glad I did. Michele also suggested alternating dark and light poems.  I doubt that, left to my own devices, I’d have thought of this either.

There  were a long list of workshops taking place all three days of the festival, and we were encouraged to sign up in advance. I did sign up for several things, but as it turned out, simply walking into the workshop was generally good enough. I suspect the pre-sign-up thing was to figure out expected attendance at the workshop in order to facilitate room assignments, number of handouts, and the like. Next year, I will attempt to sign up for what interests me, but I won’t be a slave to the schedule.

The workshops themselves were tremendous fun. I arrived Saturday morning, signed in, got a copy of the workshops and a map, and by that time it was a bit too late for me to get to much in the way of workshops, so I ended up going to a couple of the art activity things that had been set up with kids in mind.

I *love* art activities — my mother was an artist who specialized in portraits. I was hugely energized by the art projects, and ended up spending several hours Saturday evening after I returned home playing with MS paint. I didn’t get much sleep Saturday night — MS paint is hugely addicting, and I was pretty pumped up from the festival — so I considered skipping Sunday. In the end, I decided that I would just main line coffee and go for it.

Good decision. The first workshop I attended was given by someone I know. He’s a kick-ass teacher, and I had signed up for the workshop. Not only was the workshop very good, but the attendees, as is often the case with Tom’s workshops, were equally interesting. Several of us exchanged email addresses, and I hope we will keep in touch.

There was also a  lit mag and small press event, and I bought several journals and a book of poetry, collected flyers from some of the lit magazines. I’m reluctant to order off the internet for magazines I’ve never had a chance to look over in person, so I was delighted to have the opportunity to pick up some of the ones I was interested in. The poetry book is a book with poetry in French on one side and a translation by Marilyn Hacker on the other. I find reading modern poetry in French a challenge, so I welcome the opportunity to, first, cover up Marilyn’s translation and simply read the poems in French, and eventually, to read her translation as well.

I didn’t stay for the Saturday night headliners — they started at 7:30 — but the Sunday headliners started at 2:15, so I did go to that. The readers were Frank Bidart, Martha Collins, and Stephen Dunn. Stephen Dunn is one of my favorite poets. I  knew two of the poems he read.

What engages me as a reader and writer of poetry is conciseness and precision in language, the sound of the words themselves, their cadence. Freshness of imagery. A sense of humor. A poem that forces me to take another look at the familiar, evocation of emotion.

Here is one of the poems he read — one of the two I recognized:
What Goes On
by Stephen Dunn

After the affair and the moving out,
after the destructive revivifying passion,
we watched her life quiet

into a new one, her lover more and more
on its periphery. She spent many nights
alone, happy for the narcosis

of the television. When she got cancer
she kept it to herself until she couldn’t
keep it from anyone. The chemo debilitated
and saved her, and one day

her husband asked her to come back —
his wife, who after all had only fallen
in love as anyone might
who hadn’t been in love in a while —

and he held her, so different now,
so thin, her hair just partially
grown back. He held her like a new woman

and what she felt
felt almost as good as love had,
and each of them called it love
because precision didn’t matter anymore.

And we who’d been part of it,
often rejoicing with one
and consoling the other,

we who had seen her truly alive


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Focus on form: My Aragman

Tuesday, Mary posted about a new form, Aragman:

here is a quick recap

Pick a word or words, and generate anagrams by going to http:// and generating a list

Pick some anagrams. They form lines 1, 3, and 5 of your stanza.

Complete the phrases in lines 2, 4, and 6.

The very last line of the poem is another anagram.

Hint: check out the parameters for advanced search.  The word I chose,  perturbations, had an overwhelmingly large number of anagrams, so I first generated the word list  — simply a list of all the words that can be generated from Perturbations. There were over 1400 of them. Then I picked a few,  and went back to the advanced options, inserting the word I picked and generating all the anagrams with that word.

Here are some of the anagrams I liked — some of them made it into my poem:

Spurn Abettor I
Spurn beat riot
Obstinate Purr
Protuberant Is
Interrupt Boas
Abrupt Stonier
Abrupt Orients
Parson tribute
Repair Buttons
Uproars bitten
Bare tint pours
A Burrito Spent
Bare Iron Putts
Barter tin opus
Boater tips urn

and here are some of the words:


Here is my Aragman


Typdom, Buchstabenspiel in Kreuzwortmanier, al...

Typdom, Buchstabenspiel in Kreuzwortmanier, alte Ausgabe von etwa 1930 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Uproars bitten
create havoc
Top Sun Arbiter
taken in custody
Repairs button
torn in riot

Bare iron puts
dent in car
Boater tips urn
douses new mayor
Urban spite tore
our city apart

I spurn abettor

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Poetic Forms: Sestina

Arnaut Daniel.

Image via Wikipedia

The sestina is a poetic form attributed to twelfth century French troubadour Arnaut Daniel. It consists of six six-line stanzas and a three line envoy. The six end words of the first stanza cycle in a pattern thusly:


and an envoy whose form varies somewhat, but which uses all six end words:




How to choose your end words

There are doubtless many ways to choose ones end words One is to write the first stanza and then lay out the pattern for the rest. The other, the one I use, is to pick six words, generate the skeleton, and start writing. I try to choose words with more than one meaning and that can be used as more than one part of speech.

Here is a link to a sestina generator: Feed it your six words and it spits out a skeleton with the six stanzas and envoy:

Here is a link to sestina by Ezra Pound:


Here are the first two stanzas;


Damn it all! all this our South stinks peace.
You whoreson dog, Papiols, come! Let’s to music!
I have no life save when the swords clash.
But ah! when I see the standards gold, vair, purple, opposing
And the broad fields beneath them turn crimson,
Then howl I my heart nigh mad with rejoicing.


In hot summer have I great rejoicing
When the tempests kill the earth’s foul peace,
And the lightnings from black heav’n flash crimson,
And the fierce thunders roar me their music
And the winds shriek through the clouds mad, opposing,
And through all the riven skies God’s swords clash.

Here is one of mine:


Workers, you are choked by the collar
of convention. Will you spare
yourselves? Will you ever tire
of the endless round of days, brave
the waters of controversy and refuse to play it safe?
Will you strike a blow

for self expression? Will you blow
down the artificial walls your white collar
has erected around you? Will you leave the safe
space you create in the spare
confines of your tiny cubicle? As you brave
each new day, do you ever tire

of the endless wheel of useless make work? The tire
of useless flesh grows round your middle. You puff and blow
climbing a single flight of stairs. How brave
are you? As you lounge, idle, the shirt collar
around your neck grows ever tighter, until there is no spare
room, and you choke. When will it be safe

to throw your old shirt away? What will jolt you from your safe
little life? What would be enough to make you tire
of the endless round of dailyness? Spare
yourself and live, not merely exist. Blow
the clouds from your eyes. White collar
workers, unite. Take a chance. Be brave.

Allow yourselves to brave
unknown waters, to give up your safe
small space, to throw away your collar
and try the new. Rise from your chairs. Retire
from the rat race. Overturn your desk. Blow
your boss’s mind and run from your office. Spare

yourselves. You have no spare
life. You have one chance to be brave.
You will never get another chance to blow
away the small, safe
walls around you before you tire
and are choked by your white collar.

You cannot spare yourself and stay safe.
Let yourself be brave. Throw away the tire
of convention. Strike a blow for life. Throw out your white collar.

Margaret Fieland



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Poetic forms: Cento

National Poetry Month Display @ Forest Hills

National Poetry Month Display @ Forest Hills (Photo credit: mySAPL)

Poetic forms: the cento

A cento is like a rag rug, it’s composed of bits and pieces from other things. In the case of the rug, it’s pieces of old fabric. For the cento, it’s made of verses or passages from other poems, songs, articles, stories, or whatever by other authors.

The first cento I ever wrote was a haiku sequence, and perhaps because I’m a musician, I composed it using verses from old songs: Clementine, Go Tell Aunt Rhody, The Twelve Days of Christmas, Jingle Bells, Good King Wencheslas, and the old Tennessee Ernie Ford song, “Sixteen Tons,” which is one of my favorites. The haiku sequence was the traditional 5-7-5 syllable count of the Japanese haiku, rather than the freer form (seventeen syllables or less) used in so many modern American haiku. Choosing the 5-7-5 syllable count made it easy to select the songs.

Go tell Aunt Rhody, A Haiku Sequence

Twelve drummers drumming
When the snow was round about
Now the ground is white

Nine ladies dancing
Excavating for a mine
Dashing through the snow

Ten lords a leaping
When the snow lay round about
making spirits bright

Dashing through the snow
A partridge in a pear tree
Make the Yule-tide gay

If the Fates allow
When a poor man came in sight
Let your heart be light

And the store boss said
When a poor man came in sight
jingle all the way!

Here’s one I wrote  using lines from songs about the sea.

Sailor’s Song

A hundred years ago, three thousand miles away
A Yankee ship came down the river
With the tinkers and tailors and soldiers and all

Bound to the westward where the stormy winds blow
When this bold pirate
Fought them up and down

Fire in the cabin, fire in the hold
For to fight the foreign foe
Captain Hull broke his heart and died

He fought like a hero till he died
And fifty-five more lay bleeding in gore
Then the signal was sent for the grand ship to anchor.

They dug his grave with a silver spade

Here’s where they came from:
lines from songs on website

A Hundred Years Ago, “A Hundred years ago”
Three Thousand Miles, “Three Thousand Miles Away”
Blow, Boys, Blow, “A Yankee Ship Came Down the River”
Blow the Man Down, “With the tinkers and tailors and soldiers and all”The Dreadnought, “..bound to the westward where the stormy winds blow”
The Bold Princess Royal, ” .. when this bold pirate”
Admiral Benbow, ” ..fought them up and down”

Fire Down Below, ” Fire in the cabin, fire in the hold,”
Johnny Todd, “For to fight the foreign foe”
Captain Hull, “Captain Hull”
Boney Was A Warrior “broke his heart and died”

Bold Nelson’s Praise, “He fought like a hero till he died”
John Paul Jones, “and fifty-five more lay bleeding in gore”
Spanish Ladies, “Then the signal was sent for the grand ship to anchor”

Storm Along, “They Dug His Grave with a silver spade”

And how, you might ask, did I pick these lines?

After I decided I wanted to write a cento using lines from songs about the sea, I searched for a website, and found the one above. I started down the list of songs, picking lines that looked like they might fit. Then I rearranged them. Then I rearranged them again. Then I passed the result past my poetry critique group, removed two lines that didn’t fit, and rearranged the poem into three line stanzas instead of quatrains. And there it was.

Here’s a link to a cento by poet John Asbury:

Try it — it’s loads of fun.

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Imagery: Day and Night

English: Rita Dove in 2004 Polski: Rita Dove w...

Image via Wikipedia

Day and night are frequently used to create mood in poetry. Here are a few of my favorite poems that make use of day/night imagery.

In the poem below, the change from day to dark echoes the change in the narrator’s situation, the beginning of a relationship. The images of the sun rolling up her rug and night strewing salt are potent ones, and echo the domestic setting of the poem.


by Rita Dove

After all, there’s no need
to say anything

at first. An orange, peeled

like a tulip on a wedgewood plate
Anything can happen.

Outside the sun
has rolled up her rugs

and night strewn salt
across the sky. My heart

is humming a tune
I haven’t heard in years!

Quiet’s cool flesh—
let’s sniff and eat it.

There are ways
to make of the moment

a topiary
so the pleasure’s in

walking through.

Here is another favorite of mine:
This one uses vivid imagery to bring the story to life. The nighttime and darkness are an essential part of the story — it wouldn’t have been nearly as romantic if it had taken place in the daytime.

The Highwayman

by Alfred Noyes

Alfred NoyesThe wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding–
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

He’d a French cocked-hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin,
A coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin;
They fitted with never a wrinkle: his boots were up to the thigh.
And he rode with a jeweled twinkle,
His pistol butts a-twinkle,
His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jeweled sky.

Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard,
He tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred;
He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord’s daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

And dark in the dark old inn-yard a stable-wicket creaked
Where Tim the ostler listened; his face was white and peaked;
His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like moldy hay,
But he loved the landlord’s daughter,
The landlord’s red-lipped daughter,
Dumb as a dog he listened, and he heard the robber say–

“One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I’m after a prize tonight,
But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light;
Yet, if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day,
Then look for me by moonlight,
Watch for me by moonlight,
I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way.”

He rose upright in the stirrups; he scarce could reach her hand,
But she loosened her hair in the casement. His face burnt like a brand
As the black cascade of perfume came tumbling over his breast;
And he kissed its waves in the moonlight,
(Oh, sweet black waves in the moonlight!)
Then he tugged at his rein in the moonlight, and galloped away to the West.

He did not come in the dawning; he did not come at noon;
And out of the tawny sunset, before the rise of the moon,
When the road was a gypsy’s ribbon, looping the purple moor,
A red-coat troop came marching–
King George’s men came marching, up to the old inn-door.

They said no word to the landlord, they drank his ale instead,
But they gagged his daughter and bound her to the foot of her narrow bed;
Two of them knelt at her casement, with muskets at their side.
There was death at every window;
And hell at one dark window;
For Bess could see, through her casement, the road that he would ride.

They had tied her up to attention, with many a sniggering jest.
They had bound a musket beside her, with the barrel beneath her breast.
“Now keep good watch!” and they kissed her. She heard the doomed man say–
Look for me by moonlight;
Watch for me by moonlight;
I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way!

She twisted her hands behind her; but all the knots held good.
She writhed her hands till her fingers were wet with sweat or blood.
They stretched and strained in the darkness, and the hours crawled by like years,
Till, now, on the stroke of midnight,
Cold, on the stroke of midnight,
The tip of one finger touched it! The trigger at least was hers!

The tip of one finger touched it. She strove no more for the rest.
Up, she stood up to attention, with the muzzle beneath her breast.
She would not risk their hearing; she would not strive again;
For the road lay bare in the moonlight;
Blank and bare in the moonlight;
And the blood of her veins, in the moonlight, throbbed to her love’s refrain.
Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot! Had they heard it? The horse-hoofs ringing clear;
Tlot-tlot, tlot-tlot, in the distance? Were they deaf that they did not hear?
Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill,
The highwayman came riding,
Riding, riding!
The red-coats looked to their priming! She stood up, straight and still!

Tlot-tlot, in the frosty silence! Tlot-tlot, in the echoing night!
Nearer he came and nearer! Her face was like a light!
Her eyes grew wide for a moment; she drew one last deep breath,
Then her finger moved in the moonlight,
Her musket shattered the moonlight,
Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him–with her death.

He turned; he spurred to the west; he did not know who stood
Bowed, with her head o’er the musket, drenched with her own red blood.
Not till the dawn he heard it, his face grew gray to hear
How Bess, the landlord’s daughter,
The landlord’s black-eyed daughter,
Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness there.

Back, he spurred like a madman, shouting a curse to the sky,
With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high!
Blood-red were his spurs in the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat,
When they shot him down on the highway,
Down like a dog on the highway,
And he lay in his blood on the highway, with the bunch of lace at his throat.

And still of a winter’s night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the pur
ple moor,
A highwayman comes riding–
A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.
Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn-yard;
He taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked and barred;
He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord’s daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

And here’s one of mine. I find far more of my poems make use of night time imagery than they do of daytime.

In Sleep

by Margaret Fieland

Shadows creep up stairs,
whispers echo in a hall,
footsteps slither
under a door.

A floor creaks.
Blood thumps
in my ears, drowns
cries of murmuring wind.

I cross a vacant cafe
where demons dine on ashes,
enter an empty room,
rest on a floor.

Splinters stab my palms.
I’m dragged down to dark.

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Persona Poems

English: Gwendolyn Brooks, Miami Book Fair Int...

Gwendolyn Brooks

Persona Poems

Persona poems are poems that are written in a voice other than that of the author, where the author pretends to be someone else. The first one I wrote was in response to a poetry writing exercise. The next one that I recall writing ended up in “Lifelines.” Since then, I’ve created two imaginary poets as part of the science fiction novels I’m writing, and written at least 30 poems by each of them.

Writing a persona poems involves getting inside the head of the narrator (or in my case, the supposed author of the poems). It’s kind of like acting a part in a play, except that the writer is creating their own dialogue.

One thing that surprised me in creating the two poets and writing in their voices was the ease with which I slipped inside their heads. The first poet I created, Raketh Namar, namesake of the main character in my novel Relocated, which will be available from MuseItUp publishing this coming July, was supposed to live and write 5,000 years before the action in the novel, and was the author of one of the most sacred texts of my aliens, the Aleynis. I don’t usually write prayers or write about spiritual subjects, yet I found myself writing them without difficulty.  This past November I created another poet, Constance Trusdatter, a very political poet who lives and writes about 100 years before the action of my current work in progress, another science fiction novel with some of the same characters as the first. I don’t usually write much about politics, yet a good number of Constance’s poems are strongly worded poems about this very subject.

Here is a persona poem by Gwendolyn Brooks, one of my favorite poets.The young girl’s voice, her longing, and her desire to be  bad come through so clearly.

Notice the pattern of two unrhymed lines followed by two lines with end rhymes, and how in the final stanza both pairs of lines rhyme.

a song in the front yard

By Gwendolyn Brooks
I’ve stayed in the front yard all my life.
I want a peek at the back
Where it’s rough and untended and hungry weed grows.
A girl gets sick of a rose.

I want to go in the back yard now
And maybe down the alley,
To where the charity children play.
I want a good time today.

They do some wonderful things.
They have some wonderful fun.
My mother sneers, but I say it’s fine
How they don’t have to go in at quarter to nine.
My mother, she tells me that Johnnie Mae
Will grow up to be a bad woman.
That George’ll be taken to Jail soon or late
(On account of last winter he sold our back gate).

But I say it’s fine. Honest, I do.
And I’d like to be a bad woman, too,
And wear the brave stockings of night-black lace
And strut down the streets with paint on my face.

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Where do poems come from: poetry prompts

Prompts are one of the ways that I generate poems, and one of the subjects I return to again and again is coffee.  Yes, that hot, black (I like mine black), bitter, caffeinated beverage that I gulp down every morning.

I keep my poetry in Google documents, so just for grins, I searched through my documents for poems that mention coffee. I stopped counting after I reached twenty. At least three of those poems were written in response to prompts. Nope, make that at least four.

I am well and truly addicted to coffee. At various times in my life, I have drunk up to twelve cups a day. When I cut way back, now many years ago, I was tired for a month. I drink a cup every morning. If I’m working at the computer, I often pour myself more — and am just as likely to take a couple of sips and forget about the rest. I’ll drink it hot, cold, and anywhere in between. I like mine black and strong, unless it’s iced, and then I like it with half and half. It’s my favorite excuse for memory lapses. I can always think of something to say about coffee.

The poem below was written in response to the April, 2010  day 25 prompt on Robert Lee Brewer’s blog. The prompt: write a poem inspired by a song, and to include song title and artist. Most of the songs in the poem below  are from Chicago’s album, “Chicago 17.”  In order to end the poem in the way I wanted to, I had to use one song from BoyzIIMen.  The poem appeared in Summer, 2010 issue of Cyclamens and Swords .

Road Work

Cars creep along Route 6,
sign reads,
Road construction.
Expect delays,
while Chicago’s “Stay the Night”
blares on my radio.

Headlights illuminate
bits of fog,
rain blows through
open window
while Peter or Bill
sings “Remember the Feeling.”

Swig cold coffee,
get a mouthful of grounds
as “Something About You”
drifts out my window.

Jacket’s wet,
no place to pull over
while someone’s singing
“Something was Wrong.”

Car cuts in front of me,
I stand on my brakes.
Chicago’s crooning
“Please Hold On.”

Sirens sing
up the highway
while Boyz II Men belt out
“End of the Road.”

This is another that was  written in response to a prompt from Robert Lee Brewer’s Poeticasides blog. The prompt was to write a poem in which someone (or something) is stuck somewhere.

Out of Stock

At the coffee house
I order a large inspiration,
cream, no sugar,
but they’re out,

so I pull out my notebook,
sketch connected circles,
large to small
across the page,

add squiggly lines,
then rows of dots,
finally a trace
of a tree,

and wait for something
to fill in the blanks.


What makes a poem?

What makes a poem

When I was a child, my definition of a poem was something that resembled “The Highwayman,” rhyming lines formed into stanzas, with evocative imagery, and that told a story. As I grew older, and discovered poets like Sandburg and Amy Lowell, I realized poems didn’t need to rhyme, and, as my poetic horizons expanded to include Whitman and Elliot, I realized that they didn’t have to tell a story. My definition of a poem became lines and stanzas with evocative imagery. Then I encountered prose poetry.

Now I’m not a big fan of prose poetry. For me, I need lines and stanzas to feel that it’s a poem, but modern poetry doesn’t agree with me.

So what makes a poem, beyond the let me read it, and I’ll let you know if it’s a poem? The use of language to move beyond literal meaning, to evoke a mood, a sensory image, by the way that language is used is the basis for poetry.

If you studied poetry in school, you may have studied poetic devices: rhyme, meter, alliteration, assonance, consonance, metaphor, simile, to name a few.

Rhyme is probably the most familiar: cat, hat, sat, bat, rat, with meter, the rhythm that the words form when read aloud, a close second.  Alliteration, where words begin with the same consonant sound, assonance, where words have the same vowel sound, as in black cat, and consonance, where words have the same internal or ending consonant sounds as in near cure.

Here’s a poem of mine, in the tradition of Walter De La Mare’s The Listeners: It appered in the June, 2010 issue of ezine Dark Eye Glances. Notice how the first and last stanzas are   nearly  identical —
At Midnight

Three to ride the shadowed road,
two to catch them as they slowed,
one to flee and try to warn,
none to live to see the morn.

Three rode out one moonless night
beneath the shafts of silver light
of stars above in a cloudless sky
and none of them demanded why.

Not one of them asked why they rode,
why they left their snug abode
to ride the woods that dark, dark night
beneath the shafts of silver light.

When midnight chimed they stopped and stared.
Two strangers stood with broadswords bared.
Two brothers dead without a fight,
one brother left, one to take flight.

One brother turns and flees in fright,
rides and dies that dark, dark night,
killed by strangers with broadswords bared.
Three brothers caught all unprepared.

Three to ride the shadowed road,
two to catch them as they rode,
one to flee and try to warn,
none to live to see the morn.

On Writing Poetry

Poetry is about truth, and writing truly exposes me, even if I am not the subject of the poem. If I pull my punches, soften my truth, or omit some detail that I feel exposes me, I stab my poem in the gut. I have to write truth, though not necessarily for publication.

The poem that propelled me, indirectly, into serious poetry writing is a case in point. I was in a meeting, listening to someone talk about his drinking, and inspiration struck. I hauled out my handy pad and pen, and, ignoring the nudges of my companion, (She: “What are you doing?” Me: “Taking notes.”), jotted down what would become one of my first published poems. But it was about a sensitive subject, and I hesitated to submit it for publication. Would people assume the narrator of the poem was me? Maybe not, but at the very least, the poem would clearly indicate that the subject was one that mattered to me. Was I willing to risk that? Ultimately I decided I was.

Some time after that,  I wrote a poem about a batch of chicken soup (I was annoyed, and I find writing poetry can be wonderfully therapeutic) and hesitated before writing, “I wanted to hit her with the soup pot.” Yes, the line ended up in the poem. Best of all, by the time I’d finished writing it, the impulse itself had passed.

Here’s the poem. It was published in the June, 2006 Humdinger (


I don’t want to hear how unhappy you are
because I didn’t buy any Roast Beef at the deli
or because I made Chili from Dave’s recipe
with the six tablespoons of Chili powder

and Minestrone
with the rind from the Parmesan cheese in the broth
just like Marcella does.

It was enough to make me want to hit you
with the soup pot.

And if you’re ever happy with my cooking,
then please tell me.

But I’m not holding my breath.

Introducing Margaret

Margaret Fieland

Green on Thursdays

Where I was born, the world ended
at the Hudson River
and Sixth Avenue
was still one block west of Fifth.

In my neighborhood
you never wore orange on Saint Patrick’s day,
never mind if you weren’t Irish.

Better to wear green,
unless it fell on a Thursday,
because then they might think you were,
you know,
one of Them.

Maybe I’ll just wear blue.

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