Vol. 6, No. 8   An Online Chapter of Missouri State Poetry Society    August  2007



Travel is often the theme of poems.  My favorite poem by Thomas Hardy is "When I Set Out for Lyonnesse," a beautiful rhymed poem that tells the story in three short stanzas of Hardy's falling in love as the result of travel.  Before he went on the journey, he says no one could have predicted the magic change that would happen to him.  But when he returned, he says everyone noticed the marked difference  in him.  Read the poem at Another travel poem I like very much is Walt Whitman's "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry," which is about a poet commuting to work each day amid a group of passengers on a boat trip across East River between Long Island and Manhattan. Though he makes the trip often, he learns each day from the objects and people he encounters, the "dumb beautiful ministers" that help him learn who he is.  The poem uses many symbols to tie the reader to the writer through the poem.  The mystery of identity is the poem's theme, its "inside," but travel is the "outside" of this free-verse work.  Find it at Many of you have already written travel poems, and others will use travel experiences this summer to engender poems in the future. Pictured above is the cathedral in Florence, Italy, one of the most frequently visited sights in the world because of both its art and its architecture.  Italy is one of my favorite countries to visit.  The more you know about Italy before you go there, the more you will enjoy it and glean poems from it.  Don't be like the naive traveler who drove through Italy but completely missed Florence.  No one thought to tell him that the Italians call the city Firenze.      --Tom Padgett.


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Poems by Members

Missouri State Poetry Society

Summer Contest

Spare Mule Online

National Federation of State Poetry Societies
Strophes Online


See the current newsletter of the Academy of America Poets Society at You may wish to join this organization.

Peter Stanford, former editor of Catholic Herald, comments on the "churchy agnosticism" of  C. Day-Lewis, a recent poet laureate of the United Kingdom.  Find part of this article here.

David Kirby's new book, The House on Boulevard St.: New and Selected Poems, is reviewed by Carol Muske-DukesRead the review here.

James Fenton's Selected Poems is here reviewed by Stephen Metcalf.  Does this collection prove Metcalf's position that Fenton is Britain's best poet today?  Read the condensed review here.

Thomas Hardy is the subject of a very well-received biography just published by Claire Tomalin (formerly praised for her excellent book on Samuel Pepys).  Read highlights of this new work here.

John Barr, president of the foundation administering the largest gift of money ever given to support poetry, gives a progress report in this letter to subscribers of Poetry.  See how the money is being spent by clicking here.

David Kirby reviews Galway Kinnell's new collection with words of high praise and teaches us a bit about long-lined poets and short-lined poets here.

Click Back on your toolbar to return  here after finishing the column.


Click Workshop and do some of the lessons there.
If you have an idea for a new lesson, send it along. 


Read Spare Mule Online and Strophes Online available to you by clicking the underlined titles.

Our new state president, Dale Ernst, 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 on-line publications (such as Thirty-Seven Cents) as well as hard-copy newspapers.  Poets are asked to contact their local newspaper editors to inform them that such a column is available free to them and to relieve the editors by explaining that all of the poems that will appear week by week are accessible, not obscure poems. 

American Life in Poetry: Column 117

The subdivision; it's all around us. Here Nancy Botkin of Indiana presents a telling picture of life in such a neighborhood, the parents downstairs in their stultifying dailiness, the children enjoying their youth under the eaves before the passing years force them to join the adults.

Nancy Botkin

All the roofs sloped at the same angle.
The distance between the houses was the same.
There were so many feet from each front door
to the curb. My father mowed the lawn
straight up and down and then diagonally.
And then he lined up beer bottles on the kitchen table.

We knew them only in summer when the air
passed through the screens. The neighbor girls
talked to us across the great divide: attic window
to attic window. We started with our names.
Our whispers wobbled along a tightrope,
and below was the rest of our lives.

American Life in Poetry: Column 119

I'm especially attracted to poems that describe places I might not otherwise visit, in the manner of good travel writing. I'm a dedicated stay-at-home and much prefer to read something fascinating about a place than visit it myself. Here the Hawaii poet, Joseph Stanton, describes a tree that few of us have seen but all of us have eaten from.

Joseph Stanton

They are tall herbs, really, not trees,
though they can shoot up thirty feet
if all goes well for them. Cut in cross

section they look like gigantic onions,
multi-layered mysteries with ghostly hearts.
Their leaves are made to be broken by the wind,

if wind there be, but the crosswise tears
they are built to expect do them no harm.
Around the steady staff of the leafstalk

the broken fronds flap in the breeze
like brief forgotten flags, but these
tattered, green, photosynthetic machines

know how to grasp with their broken fingers
the gold coins of light that give open air
its shine. In hot, dry weather the fingers

fold down to touch on each side--
a kind of prayer to clasp what damp they can
against the too much light.

American Life in Poetry: Column 118

Our species has developed monstrous weapons that can kill not only all of us but everything else on the planet, yet when the wind rises we run for cover, as we have done for as long as we've been on this earth. Here's hoping we never have the skill or arrogance to conquer the weather. And weather stories? We tell them in the same way our ancestors related encounters with fearsome dragons. This poem by Minnesota poet Warren Woessner honors the tradition by sharing an experience with a hurricane.

Warren Woessner

When the wind clipped
the whitecaps, and the flags
came down before they shredded,
we knew it was no nor'easter.
The Blue Nose ferry stayed
on course, west out of Yarmouth,
while 100 miles of fog
on the Bay blew away.

The Captain let us stand
on the starboard bridge
and scan a jagged range.
Shearwaters skimmed the peaks
while storm petrels hunted valleys
that slowly filled with gold.
Alberto blew out in the Atlantic.
We came back to earth
that for days might tip and sway
and cast us back to sea.

American Life in Poetry: Column 120

The loss of youth and innocence is one of the great themes of literature. Here the California poet Kim Noriega looks deeply into a photograph from forty years ago.

HEAVEN, 1963
Kim Noriega

It's my favorite photo--
captioned, "Daddy and His Sweetheart."
It's in black and white,
it's before Pabst Blue Ribbon,
before his tongue became a knife
that made my mother bleed,
and before he blackened my eye
the time he thought I meant to end my life.

He's standing in our yard on Porter Road
beneath the old chestnut tree.
He's wearing sunglasses,
a light cotton shirt,
and a dreamy expression.

He's twenty-seven.
I'm two.
My hair, still baby curls,
is being tossed by a gentle breeze.
I'm fast asleep in his arms.


For a general introduction to Lowell, visit the Academy of American Poets site at
There are twelve Lowell poems available at this site.

For critical comment on some of Lowell's poetry, go to

For three Lowell poems, visit

For one poem, go to

Hear Lowell read "For the Union Dead," go to


Diane Auser Stefan   

Arkansas shines   

Real diamonds

Kept just beneath her surface

And waiting for a wistful miner to

Nudge and dig and sift and

Sluice the dirt

Away to find and share her



Diamonds, yes diamonds, found

In the Crater of Diamonds State Park

A quick short stretch from

Murfreesboro, and proudly the

Only such site open to the public,

Nurturing dreams of diamonds

Dug from dirt, cut and polished



Steve Penticuff

Soft and warm,
the bear that greets us
gently in its night-lite glow.
Soft, warm, gentle,
meek for sure,
but tangled up
of course: a too familiar
future of animals
loved but forgotten,
or loved then worn
and torn into oblivion.
Brown or black,
the bear that eats us,
feast of life and limb,
but look: with sheens
of gold and orange
or shiny purple.
Beautiful, beautiful,
magnificent if only
we don't panic
and think to see,
think to stroke its fur
and see.
Sharp the claws
that hold us down,
and white the teeth
that pierce the cheek
and crush the bone.
But stained like marble:
see the silent, indelible
tales of wild salmon
and great blackberry
Ferocious those eyes
that just behold
another meal, perhaps.
But beautiful.
Divine, divine.

Henrietta Romman

It truly hurts God when we shun
Folks He created under the sun.

Harshly or gently we can debate
A person's life, his God-given fate.

Calmly we tend to use God's love
To judge, as if we are from above!

Is it because our sins are forgiven,
Promised homes are set up in heaven?

Living on earth we certainly know
Life is a stage for every man's show.

Pause to recall with all true concern,
Heaven will soon give each one his turn.

Surely remember to hold up your hand,
Stop the chaos consuming God's land!

Gwendolyn Eisenmann

Marion catches stars
when she goes out at night.
So recently come from
their realm, she's at home
in their midst.  Holding up
cupped hands to the sky,
she brings me her treasure, reverently;
I take it, hold it, then give it back.
She kisses it, hands still cupped deep
and tosses it high again.

It's simple.  I should have
thought of it before.
Mysterious and far, I didn't realize
stars come to those who hold up their hands.
Stars are.   Marion knows that.

Bev Conklin

When motel beds were being designed,
they hired a top-notch sadist.
When pain's completely unconfined,
his smile is at its gladdest.

Not one spring in the whole darned thing,
no padding, water, or air:
just cotton lumps as I toss and fling
my body, all night, in despair.

That's not all bad if I've work to do.
In self-defense I'm up at five.
Three cups of coffee, and a poem comes through.
Oh, I'm going to survive!


Phyllis Moutray

The bull whizzes in the wind
as the red Ford truck rolls on
toward the local sale barn.

The striped kitten misnamed Lily,
cuddles and chortles as I rock us
in my well-worn Lazy Boy.

Summer sunrise brightens eastern sky.
following a sleepless night brought on
by a late reunion with friends.

A noisy sunset backlights
a flock of redwing blackbirds
roosting in an ancient oak tree.

The roiling Pacific around the bend
sounds like thunder
announcing a summer storm.

A grandbaby belly laughs
in response to his father
tossing him high in the air.

Moments like these
remind me where I am
and where I've been.

Pat Laster

I wish to share with you, dear niece,
some treasures of my past,
in hopes they will remind
you of the worldís good gifts.

--a smooth, thin, chipped and shiny shell,
a hole drilled through for camp activity.
Add chain or thong, and it becomes a necklace,
symbol of a shining life, a thankful heart,
a helping hand amid lifeís mucky murk.

--this grungy, thickened, malformed
shell could represent the bumbling, stumbling
folk insisting on their own agendas,
godly or perverted. Side by side,
these shells portray not good and evil, but
our differencesóinherent, philosophical.

--a piece of driftwood found in Florida.
See how it leans as into the wind, the world,
but stands. Its pock-marked, holey-ness
may imitate our strengths and weaknesses
when washed by winds of changing times.

--a polished stone when turned one way
is wishy-washy, rocking on its side; but turned
another way, sits solidly, reflecting layers,
glistening ochres, browns.

Iím glad you are my niece, with goal
of saving whales, embodying the kind
of social action needed by our world,
our nations, cities and ourselves.

Laurence W. Thomas

Oh, that I may be able to organize my days
into neat packages of goals set and accomplished
that as I retire I may tie the ribbon on the bundle
and rest untroubled--to know that I donít need
to look over my shoulder to decide which deity to believe
nor to follow the polls in choosing the next president.
Let me walk the path through wrong decisions alone
rather than taking the course of other peopleís choices.
Give me strength to turn from tempting TV ads
or joining organizations to increase their strength
while diminishing mine--to just say no is easy
and thereís an end to it. Grant me the power
and wisdom to know when not to just say yes.

Jeanetta Chrystie

Caller says boys and girls gather Ďround,
Weíll start danciní when you hear the sound

Of music, then youíll tap your toe,
Clap your hands, and do-si-doĖ

Your partner, then an allemande left,
Back home to momma, and smile your best.

Now a right and left grand, then promenade
And swing that skirt, with flounces of jade.

Box the map, then allemande bar,
Count of eight, now shoot that star.

Go around one, with this one swing,
Square your set, and make a ring.

Circle left, then hands in the air,
Weave the ring, then half grand square.

Swing your partner, then shake hands.
Yellow rock your corner, then unhand

A ribbon on a maypole, you can say
Now youíve square danced a Macrame!

Tania Gray

Itís hot in Serbia. Eight days of sweat
are imminent. How many shirts and shorts
to take? Deodorant in mini size
to fit in my quart bag, will it suffice?
Itís hot in Serbia, our host has warned.
I think that means weíll seldom feel a blast
of freoned air. Yet still weíll promenade
along the Danube. Forty years ago
as newlyweds we lived in Tucson, where
itís hot. Our car was AC-free, our house
was swamp-box cooled, but still we visited
the Anasazi ruins, bull-fights, San
Xavier. We did it all in temps that killed
some travelers the same time we were there.
Itís hot in Serbia. Weíll seek the shade.
Weíll wear a hat, and be so mesmerized
in Belgradeís grip weíll never feel the heat.






Jennifer Smith

There is a battle raging in this world.
To the souls of men Satanís darts are hurled.
Though we canít see the battle strife,
The wounds surround us in our daily life.

Turmoil and trouble are everywhere.
No peace is found, no respite there.
Battered and bleeding, our hearts are torn
By struggles keen that we have borne. 

Many the folks who ignore the pall.
They refuse to believe it exists at all
Like ostriches with their heads in the sand,
For the strife of battle permeates our land.

Our innocent children too often fall
The victim of this devilish brawl.
Tragedies abound on every side.
Who then is praying, who will stem the tide?

Oh brother, listen to the trumpet call.
Take up your armor, lift high your sword.
Bend the knee and pray for the little ones.
The battle calls, and it must be won!

We wrestle not with flesh and blood
But powers of darkness against our God.
For we must fight in the power of the Lord
Take up His armor, and use His Sword

There is a battle raging in this world.
To the souls of men Satanís darts are hurled.
Though we canít see the battle strife,
The wounds surround us in our daily life.

Patsy Colter

We all face the wounds
an empty-nest syndrome leaves.
Mothers put away treasures left behind,
pack away memories for another day.
Children one by one leave the nest,
parents are helpless to protect them.
They must face their challenges, as
they flap their wings and fly.
Not always in the direction
we would like them to go but
relinquishing hold give our best,
asking God to protect them.
Our job is now done, they must
make their own rules and decisions
as they grow into adulthood.
As a tight band squeezes our heart,
we know we must let go and let them fly.

Harding Stedler
Sixty years ago,
I met things born of country:
houses without plumbing,
unheated bedrooms,
and gravel roads.
Frequently, a nighttime summons
led me across a moonlit path
to where a pair of eyes
looked up at me
and I had to choose.
On moonlit nights,
I could look at colored pictures
between covers of Sears and Roebuck
and dream of fancy sweaters
and Christmas sleds.
On stark dark nights,
I carried a flashlight
for my browsing.
I lived in fear
that city relatives would someday come
but would not understand
and that I would be embarrassed.
I lived in fear
that I would be the occupant
when vandals came
to topple the 4 X 5
on Halloween.
Ultimately, indoor plumbing came
to accommodate all squatters,
and everyone had to learn to flush
in a place not nearly so quaint
as the home of the crescent moon.

Mark Tappmeyer
"Can the pot say of the potter,
'He knows nothing'?"
Isaiah 29:16

We're told
we're clay,
yet we itch
to spin our trays of clay
and mold our lumps
our own way.

But as potters
emerged from clay,
we've no idea,
      mute as mud,
what we're to say,
      thick as bricks,
what we're to do,
for clay's inert,
ever having been
a derivative of dirt.

Faye Adam

To give comfort to a friend
(or stranger for that matter)
is one of life's treats.
To watch worry lines
disappear and a smile
begin; to share a hug
and send them off
with a load less heavy-
gives my step a spring,
sends my spirit to the clouds.
Better than a cheesecake
brownie or a double-dip
caramel sundae.

Todd Sukany

Since you have been gone an eternity
and table staff specialed meat stew
mortified, I just read, "Cooked Before You."

Cindy Tebo
piasa bird
repainted on a bluff
so many truths are devoured by

Pat Durmon

No Arkansas games in high Julyó
so the radio is mute.

By pure accident, my husband
and I spot a curious, coal-black
critter with a narrow body
and sharp-ridged back
pushing his way through thicket
and weeds at the edge of the woods
as we drive past to our place.

Itís a wild hog, he says as he slows,
and the hog whirls and disappears.
To me, the hog looked dazed
like a sleepy child, benign
and coming out of the dark.
But a razorback, the meanest hog
in the world, is known to outrun
any deer on the Ozark mountains.
Not one Bambi is safe.

We leave him there without a word.

Jean Even

Come, Holy Spirit,
And show me this wonderful thing.
Open Heavenís gate
For angels of God to come and go.
Let down Your heavenly ladder,
The one that Jacob saw,
And let me hear my Fatherís voice
In wonderful timbre ring.

When the time comes for me,
Please open the gate of heaven.
I may not see the land of Bethel
Where Jacob had his dream
Or go to Mt. Olivet
Where angels will blow their trumpets
On the day of resurrection
When Jesus comes to claim His own.

Come, Holy Spirit;
Teach me the way I should go in Godís will.
I know Iím more than the lilies
When it comes to raiment to wear.
Like the birds that toil not,
I know God will provide meat for me to eat.
Lead me into His righteous peace
So I can come unto God again.

Judy Young

The sky
Explodes into brilliance,
Reds and oranges
Forcing notice,
In celebration
Of the successful
Of completing
Another day.


Tom Padgett

Iíve worked hard, played hard by the book,
and wonít be paid a lickspittle fee--
I've earned a big reward, so, look,
Iím taking a trip to Italy.

The days to wait are gathering speed,
but I meet them boldly, grittily;
and hoard the energy Iíll need
next week when Iím in Italy.

Time over there will pass in a flash:
Iíll laugh and wisecrack wittily
and spend my euros ( Italian cash)
on things to bring from Italy.

My Italian vocabulary, though,
is stiff and small (brittle and wee):
arrivederci and buon giorno
are all I can say in Italy.

Iíll visit Venice, Florence, Rome
enjoying every bit I'll see,
buying cards so when Iím home,
Iíll see what I saw in Italy.

Since trips improve with each replay,
no one will dare belittle me,
and Iíll impress them when I say
the words I said in Italy:
arrivederci and buon giorno.