Vol. 7, No. 4    An Online Chapter of Missouri State Poetry Society    April  2008


Can you imagine a world without flowers that sing in spring?  Walt Disney changed our world so that when I say the two little flowers above are singing their hearts out, the figurative language seems quite literal.  We see their tongues and lips articulating some treble-clef melody like "It's a Small World," which we hear in Disneyland (California) or Walt Disney World (Florida) but surely not at the Disney park in Paris.  I would hate to think you spent a day in France at an American theme park instead of at the Louvre, Notre Dame, Napoleon's tomb, the Eiffel Tower, or just walking the avenues and boulevards of Paris.  I once had a student with our group in London who missed out on the superb theatre that season because he spent his money on American movies playing in London, some of which he had even seen here before our European trip began. However, I really want to talk about singing in spring instead of not making the most of a trip to Europe.  Each spring the Missouri State Poetry Society publishes an anthology of poems by members of all its local chapters and members-at-large.  We call it Grist and feature on its cover a Missouri grist mill.  As a member of Thirty-Seven Cents you have a page for one of your poems (or two short poems) of a total of 37 or fewer lines.  Our only stipulation is that the poems must not have been published in Grist before.  They may, on the other hand, have been published here in Thirty-Seven Cents or somewhere else, or they may be previously unpublished.  The deadline for submissions is May 1, but send your poem/s in early to help the editor.  Dawn Harmon of the Crawford County Bombadils is editing this issue.  E-mail her your work at  Include with your poem your name, your local chapter/s, and your home city.  Additional information about how you can purchase a copy of the anthology is available on our MSPS web site at .  But you do not have to purchase a copy to be published in it.  Join the choir and sing this spring like the two little fellows above. -- Tom Padgett



Issue Next
Poems by Members

Missouri State Poetry Society

Summer Contest

Spare Mule Online

National Federation of State Poetry Societies
Strophes Online


A new collection of the poetry of Robert Creeley was reviewed in February in the New York Times Book ReviewGet the highlights of the review here.

The annual report of the Poetry Foundation in its first year online [see] reveals the sort of content the website features: items from Poetry journal, an archive of 6000 poems all freely downloadable, a poetry newspaper with reviews of poetry events and podcasts, even a poetry best-seller list.  Read more about this report here.   

Joel Brouwer in his review of Robert Pinsky's new collection, Gulf Music, derides the readers who state contemporary poetry is "about as approachable as an alligator with mommy."  Brouwer sets out in this review, "The Civic Poet," New  York Times Book Review, 3 February 2008. pp. 14-15, to prove Pinsky is one of  "a number of skilled American contemporaries [who] write books of general appeal that sell thousands of copies."  According to Brouwer, Pinsky, three-term poet laureate, also has this unique distinction: "No other living American poet . . . has done so much to put poetry in the public eye."  His seventh collection, Gulf Music, may be "his most valuable contribution yet."  The poet "decides to remember and what to remember," Pinsky has written.  The gulf is the distance between one poet's memories and those of other persons.  The music is the physical sounds a poet makes in common with the physical sounds of other persons to overcome that distance.  A poem is both an idea and its sounds.  Pinsky chooses free verse but regular sound patterns to communicate his ideas to readers, states Brouwer.

The first volume of a two-volume biography of Ezra Pound, Ezra Pound: Poet I: The Young Genius 1885-1920, was published in England in November and in the U.S. in December by Oxford University Press.  The author, A. David Moody, is generally accepted as one of the most highly regarded authorities on Pound and his friend T. S. Eliot, founders of modernism in poetry in English.   For the most part, the book has garnered praise, sometimes even when the subject does not, which reminds me of a letter to the editor in the February 2008 issue of Poetry by James Matthew Wilson commenting on Pound: "The poet and critic was simply not as good as he pretended to be. . . . But even the name 'Pound' still captures my imagination; with many others, I perpetuate his centrality to modern poetry despite knowing full well it is mostly an empty center" (p. 443).

The five books of poetry contending for the National Book Award in Poetry for 2007 were The House on Boulevard Street by David Kirby, Magnetic Fields by Linda Gregerson, Old Heart: Poems by Stanley Plumly, Messenger: Selected and New Poems 1976-2005 by Ellen Bryant Voight, and Time and Materials by Robert Hass.  The winner named November 14 was Robert Hass.  The prize was $10,000 and a crystal sculpture.  See more on Hass, our Poet of the Month for December (click here).

Lucille Clifton of Columbia, Maryland, recently received the Poetry Foundation's Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize of $100,000.  The annual prize established in 1986 is given to a U.S. poet in recognition of lifetime achievement.  The judges were Linda Bierds, W. S. Di Piero, and Christian Wiman.  For more information about Clifton, see Poet of the Month in November issue (click here).

Charles Simic is our nation's new poet laureate to succeed Donald Hall.   Simic's work is problematical since much of it is surrealism.  However, he has some poems everyone can appreciate.  The Week magazine for August 17, 2007, reprinted his short poem "Watermelons."  Here is the complete poem: "Green Buddhas / On the Fruitstand / We eat the smile / And spit out the teeth." 

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Click Workshop and do some of the lessons there.
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Read Spare Mule Online and Strophes Online available by clicking the underlined titles.

Our state president is encouraging us to enter the MSPS Summer Contest.

Visit our MSPS Bulletin Board for news of events and contests in our area.



Ted Kooser, former U. S. Poet Laureate, in response to an interviewer for National Public Radio, stated that his "project" as laureate was to establish a weekly column featuring contemporary American poems supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska.  This column appears in online publications (such as Thirty-Seven Cents) as well as hard-copy newspapers.  Poets are asked to contact their local newspapers to inform them that such a column is available free to them and to relieve the editor by explaining that all of the poems that will appear week by week are accessible, not obscure, poems. 

American Life in Poetry: Column 153

In this endearing short poem by Californian Trish Dugger, we can imagine "what if?" What if we had been given "a baker's dozen of hearts?" I imagine many more and various love poems would be written. Here Ms. Dugger, Poet Laureate of the City of Encinitas, makes fine use of the one patched but good heart she has.


We barge out of the womb
with two of them: eyes, ears,

arms, hands, legs, feet.
Only one heart. Not a good

plan. God should know we
need at least a dozen,

a baker's dozen of hearts.
They break like Easter eggs

hidden in the grass,
stepped on and smashed.

My own heart is patched,
bandaged, taped, barely

the same shape it once was
when it beat fast for you.

American Life in Poetry: Column 155

The American poet Elizabeth Bishop often wrote of how places--both familiar and foreign--looked, how they seemed. Here Marianne Boruch of Indiana begins her poem in this way, too, in a space familiar to us all but made new--made strange--by close observation.


It seems so--
I don't know. It seems
as if the end of the world
has never happened in here.
No smoke, no
dizzy flaring except
those candles you can light
in the chapel for a quarter.
They last maybe an hour
before burning out.
                   And in this room
where we wait, I see
them pass, the surgical folk--
nurses, doctors, the guy who hangs up
the blood drop--ready for lunch,
their scrubs still starched into wrinkles,
a cheerful green or pale blue,
and the end of a joke, something
about a man who thought he could be--
what? I lose it
in their brief laughter.
American Life in Poetry: Column 154

Here, poet Yusef Komunyakaa, who teaches at New York University, shows us a fine portrait of the hard life of a worker--in this case, a horse--and, through metaphor, the terrible, clumsy beauty of his final moments.


When the plowblade struck
An old stump hiding under
The soil like a beggar's
Rotten tooth, they swarmed up
& Mister Jackson left the plow
Wedged like a whaler's harpoon.
The horse was midnight
Against dusk, tethered to somebody's
Pocketwatch. He shivered, but not
The way women shook their heads
Before mirrors at the five
& dime--a deeper connection
To the low field's evening star.
He stood there, in tracechains,
Lathered in froth, just
Stopped by a great, goofy
Calmness. He whinnied
Once, & then the whole
Beautiful, blue-black sky
Fell on his back.

American Life in Poetry: Column 156

We greatly appreciate your newspaper's use of this column, and today we want to recognize newspaper employees by including a poem from the inside of a newsroom. David Tucker is deputy managing editor of the New Jersey "Star-Ledger" and has been a reporter and editor at the "Toronto Star" and the "Philadelphia Inquirer." He was on the "Star-Ledger" team that won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news. Mr. Tucker was awarded a Witter-Bynner fellowship for poetry in 2007 by former U. S. Poet Laureate, Donald Hall.


A slow news day, but I did like the obit about the butcher
who kept the same store for fifty years. People remembered
when his street was sweetly roaring, aproned
with flower stalls and fish stands.
The stock market wandered, spooked by presidential winks,
by micro-winds and the shadows of earnings. News was   
around the horizon, ready as summer clouds to thunder--
but it moved off and we covered the committee meeting
at the back of the statehouse, sat around on our desks,
then went home early. The birds were still singing,
the sun just going down. Working these long hours,
you forget how beautiful the early evening can be,
the big houses like ships turning into the night,
their rooms piled high with silence.


For an encyclopedia article, read

For the Academy of American Poets page, which includes 6 Creeley poems, see

For the Robert Creeley home page, see

For critical comments on some Creeley poems, visit

For 25 poems, some with critical comment, see

Bev Conklin
April's gliding in
    on slippers green.
The woods and the world
    come back to life.
Red Buds and Dogwood
    bloom and preen,
readying again
    for summer's strife.

Phyllis Moutray

When I dream,
is it in haste,
is it in poetry?
Does it fade upon awakening?

Is it of wealth, of health,
or of ephemeral things,
like love and rapture,
and cozy hugs once felt in spring,
lingering into the fall of our relationship--
once enthralled--
now, like us, wilting on the vine.

What are my hopes
as I grow old?
To live in luxury,
or love's warm robe of comfort,
not possible alone,
with long fading feelings
of having been wronged?

I dream hazily, lazily, sometimes hastily
of what might someday be,
and long ago was, though briefly,
having been spoiled
by trivializing realities.

Now grown and tall,
they honor us with their calls.



Diane Auser Stefan



got up

late that day—

woke with hunger

bigger than the Bronx!

So he started to cook—

melting butter in the pan,

adding onions, sliced tomato,

crushed walnuts, an egg— hot concoction—

a midday meal fit for a king in Queens!


Jean Even

We can’t climb any higher mountain

Than Mt. Zion where saints gather in prayer.

O the joy we have worshiping You,

You who gave all to become our purveyor.


May our hearts be full of happiness

As we sing our songs in brave sincerity.

Let them be acceptable to You,

A cherished prize absolute with posterity

Henrietta W. Romman

Last month, at sundown to be precise,
We heard some murmurs then more cries,
The proclamation for the water well
Was "Contamination! Obnoxious smell!"
Challenging shouts rose in the air:
"No more drinking-water to spare."

The residents were dauntless and bold,
The sheriff was instantly called.
Their outrageous determination
Edged with bitter exclamation,
A gleam of vengeance in their eyes.
The sheriff shut out the water supplies!

Tough work continued dusk to dawn,
Still no healthy water for us to own.
With weeks carrying water from the store,
Our backs were complaining and sore.
God only knows we cannot blaspheme
Against an order high and supreme.

We kept on boiling and wailing,
We kept on toiling and wailing,
"O good old H20, O good old H20,
O healthy H20, where did you go?
O where did you go? O where did you go?
We need to know. We need to k

Heather Lewis

She started when she was only three
When she took home
The tiny crystal bottles
Found lying on the bridge.
When a hurt would overtake her,
She would pull a bottle from beneath her bed,
Cry her tears into its emptiness,
Then seal it tight.
For every hurt,
The tears shed over the years
Were captured inside a new vial.
She only allowed herself to cry
The few tears needed
To fill its meager depth.
All her tiny jars of sorrow were kept
Out of sight.
On the night before her wedding,
Just before age of twenty-one,
As she packed the last of her belongings,
The tear-filled bottles rolled out
From beneath her bed.
Suppressed emotions began to seize her;
Fear, doubt, guilt, and pain.
Her unshed tears not placed in isolation
Mounted to a breaking point inside her.
So she gathered all her imprisoned emotions
And drove out to the bridge.
She opened all the bottles and emptied
All her hurts and tears into the water below.
Climbing up and over the railing,
She stared at the horizon a brief moment before she let go,
throwing herself into the swirling lake.
All her tiny crystal bottles lay up on the bridge
Until a girl,
No more than four,
Picked them up and carried them home.


Tania Gray

At port Frankfurt it’s punishment
to travelers’ astonishment—
if you go through their terminal
you’ll run the gauntlet criminal,

for they are frankly insolent.
Like hell, it’s dark and virulent,
you’ll suffer thirst and harassment.
They’ll misdirect you farcical
at port Frankfurt.

By chance and sheer luck prescient
we found restrooms convenient,
a vendor not too bestial,
a place to sit in airport thrall
until our flight was imminent
at port Frankfurt.


Returning home, on Concourse B
“all’s well ends well” the jamboree,
the customs agent was our chum,
our country loves the venturesome
returning citizens.  We’re free
         at mad O’Hare.

Renee Johnson

Love is a many splendored thing . . . all you need is love.

I thought of writing you a letter or painting you a picture, or
even taking a photograph that captures what I want to say,
but words are my art;
in poetic beauty
they paint on canvas the vivid art you are to me.

The brisk cool of late autumn turns quickly to winter’s chilling cold;
you told me once there is something mysterious in that season,
in the way cold winds chase you
and awaken parts of your soul long kept dormant,
while the rest of the world hibernates
and waits for warmer days.
Warmer days are coming, and the warm winds
carry change fast approaching.

She came, dancing on the winds of independence,
her intoxicating air swept round the room,
and you couldn’t breathe enough of her,
see enough of her.
The fire in her soul awakened the embers in yours;
autumn passed, winter took its place. Spring
arose triumphantly, and with it,
the fear that this would fade.
The heat of late spring swelled into the full force of summer,
but each day
only strengthened the interwoven threads
binding her to you
and you to her.

You and she are:
silence over a cup of coffee; the look that
needs no verbal accompaniment; a cold night;
sacrifice that asks for no other justification;
peace under blankets of down.

Eloquence and the right words left you
as you bent on knee
under oak shade;
a sparrow sang in the branches above,
the clouds moved across the sky in a choreographed dance, and
the wind whispered to the swaying grass of beauty seldom found,
glimpsed here only by the July mosquito and Midwest grasshoppers.

As the amber sky fades to shades of purples and then to the deep blues of night,
this love, this harmonized song of life, will not fade;
it will only grow brighter, stronger, with the coming of the new day,
and will forever be the art this world needs to see.

Bobbie Craig

In celebration of
winter's end, wee
woodland amphibians
herald nature's promise.

Upon the soft dusk,
spring's peeper chorus
serenades the earth with
ageless melodies.

Hear the pond dwellers
triumphant concert and
be assured all the
world is in tune.









Pat Laster

early spring warmth
a mourning cloak butterfly
on the witch hazel

redbud in full bloom
poet colleague discovers
she has lymphoma

lady in new grave
owing the cemetery
a clean-up fee

bedraggled pansies
in the newly-green garden
dianthus blooming

Valerie Esker

I'll never hear, though I may roam,
a tree sound lovely as a poem . . .
a verse whose words sing lilting rhyme
and make my toes tip-tap in time.
I love that God created trees . . .
they blossom forth for us and bees,
they shelter birds, shade girls and boys,
but unlike poems, make little noise.   

Harding Stedler

A riderless motorcycle sleeps
on pavement where its engine
used to rev. Tornadic swirls
have passed, and "Six hundred
fifty pounds of metal,"
the owner said, "blown over
by the wind."

A dead motorcycle
is something I've never seen
before. Stiff and lifeless,
poised for burial,
the Kawasaki cadaver
will never know concrete again.
35,000 miles of heartbeats
suddenly stopped,
its owner in disbelief.

I yearn to hear its engine
one more time,
to see its exhaust
churn out morning clouds.
But once the breathing stops,
there is no rewind.

Steve Penticuff

That which makes a good spouse
makes a bad poet, I suspect
and settle gently . . . soundlessly
like a heavy snowfall . . . into these
happy years. It's toasty under
all these conventions, you know.
They say poets get warm here,
fall asleep, have been known
to disappear and perish altogether
in this place.
True, my students sometimes
like to google Guthrie, early Dylan,
Kerouac and Ferlinghetti
because of me. Small consolation,
though, as I wonder:
why am I not the one stretched out
under the moon, unshaven
in my own hut on my own mountain
peak? Why am I not hopping trains
to the West Coast, challenging
authority, reading radical poetry
to motley slam crowds in New York
or Chicago, flapping these arms
on a private beach like a crazy bird,
building fires and stacking coals
to heat a can of beans? Why won't
future generations google me?
That which makes a good spouse
makes a bad poet, I suspect,
and I'm a pretty good spouse.

Gwen Eisenmann

A n acrostic can

B ecome a plan
R esembling an
I nner puzzle, but
E very puzzler
F inds an answer

H idden somewhere
I n the muddle.
D on't give up--
D iscover the key,
E nter the password,
N ow wait and see.

M essage
E clectic?
S omething
S illy?
A nswer--computering!
G oogle knows
E verything!

Pat Durmon

On a wet and grey
Thanksgiving evening
the old buck
with a crown of thorns
—no shyness,
no lady companions—
vaulted mid-air
like flash lightning
from brushwood
onto the narrow road,
all senses razor-keen.
As for me,
muscles tensed
and a roller-coaster
scream choked back.
A sharp fragile flash:
only a split-second
before my truck
veered right,
and he made
his grace escape
beyond the light.

Dave Gregg

yesterday passed
without me
there is no recall
or memory
faded hours
lost, not found
perhaps misplaced in
time's vast sock drawer

Laurence W. Thomas

When you were with me these same scenes beneath the trees shocking winter ennui into such green to give us pause,

later would wear into such matter-of-fact passing that we made 
of our indifference. Along these streets decked out to celebrate

seasons, we feigned a shudder as ghaisties and ghoulies chanted their way to mysterious homes they hoped would be haunted.

When electric icicles hung from gutters, trees bloomed in the
and in living rooms, we were given to wonder, and sometimes    
      to awe

at such gauche demonstrations of faith, strengthening ours in each other. We didn’t always agree, when we took our tours,

on the changing of seasons; you saw death in the leafless trees,
the barren bushes, and I saw still life patterns, traceries

of bare branches that held beauty while making solemn promises
that what we had, we’ll have again with all the coming solstices.

Nicole Heeren

They came upon the lone tower of bark
in the clearing,
standing stick straight,
wholly resistant to the breeze.

He saw its powerful trunk,
branches extending upward
into the sky
further than his eyes could scale.
He envied its strength,
its enduring power that
supported it until
its limbs
climbing toward heaven,
spreading themselves across
the sky, mastering the universe—
and the tree became
his hero.

But she, she looked closely
and saw the tree’s weathered clothing
that shed itself whenever
she brushed its ancient bark,
and saw the weakness in its
presuming force,
and its lonely limbs, to her,
did not overpower the sky
but instead begged for
guidance from a greater authority,
pleaded for a cure
from its solitary position.
She couldn’t bear its loneliness—
and the tree became
her warning.

Tom Padgett

Six of his neighbor’s chickens come to scratch
celestial providence in his backyard.
Their busy feet assert their need to find
some food and gravel bits to grind it fine.
This dusty industry enables sight,
for as they stir the thickening clouds about,
he understands that such provision puts
the ordained grit within his gizzard, too.
They move away, aware of chickenness
but not of his now quickened consciousness
of lessons learned from feathered messengers.




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