Vol. 5, No. 12       An Online Chapter of Missouri State Poetry Society    December  2006




Poems are frequently regarded as "castles in the air" dreamed up by imaginative individuals who may or may not have a hold on reality.  The castle pictured above is a real castle in the air imagined and then built by a somewhat insane poet: King Ludwig II of Bavaria, which was a duchy of southern Germany.   Although Ludwig lived and died in the nineteenth century (1845-1886), he built castles that evoked medieval times.  He was born in the palace at Nymphenburg (today part of Munich), but spent some years of his childhood in Hohenschwangau, a castle his father, Maximillian II, built in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps.  Ludwig was a teenager when he became king, the "beloved darling" of his people, and his forty-one year reign was characterized by buildings he devoted his own inheritance to construct.  This castle, Neuschwanstein [New Swan Stone], Ludwig built near his father's castle outside Fussen, Germany.  Many of us have visited this castle in Germany, and others have seen Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty Castles at Disneyland in California and Disney World in Florida, which were modeled on this castle.  Although Ludwig spent all his personal fortune on construction, the three castles that he built and the one he inherited that his father built have paid for themselves many times over by tourists' admission fees.  I once visited Neuschwanstein in winter when the hills around it were snow-covered.  The view remains in my memory as a perfect Christmas card, especially one shared by poets.  So, Merry Christmas, my friends!                                                   -- Tom Padgett


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Poems by Members

Missouri State Poetry Society

Winter Contest

Spare Mule Online

National Federation of State Poetry Societies
Strophes Online


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.

Have you visited the website of  the Rogue Poetry Review?  Its handsome first issue contains work by five members of MSPS.  Congratulations are due to Michael Wells, the editor.  See it here.

Charles Wright calls himself a "God-fearing agnostic," according to Joel Brouwer in a review of Wright's new collection Scar Tissue.  Read a summary of the review here.

What is Seamus Heaney up to these days?  Click here to see how his latest collection stacks up, according to Brad Leithauser?
What is the latest book by the newest national poet laureate?  Read parts of Dan Chiasson's review of Donald Hall's White Apples and the Taste of Stone: Selected Poems. 1946-2006.  Click here.

Was Narcissus a poet?  How self-obsessed are poets by their nature?  Read this essay on Paul Zweig, who defended self-obsession twenty-five years before it became the cultural thing to do.

Have you discounted much contemporary poetry as too obscure to occupy your time?  How do you distinguish subtle poetry from difficult poetry?  Read this review of Elizabeth Bishop's latest book for help.

How important is poetry in your life?  Would you like to know how several Americans responded to this question in a recent poll?  Click here to see.

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 Winter Contest.


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


Ted Kooser, current 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 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 083

Poems of simple pleasure, poems of quiet celebration, well, they aren't anything like those poems we were asked to wrestle with in high school, our teachers insisting that we get a headlock on THE MEANING. This one by Dale Ritterbusch of Wisconsin is more my cup of tea.

Dale Ritterbusch

There is this tea
I have sometimes,
Pan Long Ying Hao,
so tightly curled
it looks like tiny roots
gnarled, a greenish-gray.
When it steeps, it opens
the way you woke this morning,
stretching, your hands behind
your head, back arched,
toes pointing, a smile steeped
in ceremony, a celebration,
the reaching of your arms.



American Life in Poetry: Column 085

The Illinois poet, Lisel Mueller, is one of our country's finest writers, and the following lines, with their grace and humility, are representative of her poems of quiet celebration.

Lisel Mueller

Outside the house the wind is howling
and the trees are creaking horribly.
This is an old story
with its old beginning,
as I lay me down to sleep.
But when I wake up, sunlight
has taken over the room.
You have already made the coffee
and the radio brings us music
from a confident age. In the paper
bad news is set in distant places.
Whatever was bound to happen
in my story did not happen.
But I know there are rules that cannot be broken.
Perhaps a name was changed.
A small mistake. Perhaps
a woman I do not know
is facing the day with the heavy heart
that, by all rights, should have been mine.


American Life in Poetry: Column 084

Many of this column's readers have watched an amaryllis emerge from its hard bulb to flower. To me they seem unworldly, perhaps a little dangerous, like a wild bird you don't want to get too close to. Here Connie Wanek of Duluth, Minnesota, takes a close and playful look at an amaryllis that looks right back at her.

Connie Wanek

A flower needs to be this size
to conceal the winter window,
and this color, the red
of a Fiat with the top down,
to impress us, dull as we've grown.

Months ago the gigantic onion of a bulb
half above the soil
stuck out its green tongue
and slowly, day by day,
the flower itself entered our world,

closed, like hands that captured a moth,
then open, as eyes open,
and the amaryllis, seeing us,
was somehow undiscouraged.
It stands before us now

as we eat our soup;
you pour a little of your drinking water
into its saucer, and a few crumbs
of fragrant earth fall
onto the tabletop.

American Life in Poetry: Column 086

Linda Pastan, who lives in Maryland, is a master of the kind of water-clear writing that enables us to see into the depths. This is a poem about migrating birds, but also about how it feels to witness the passing of another year.

Linda Pastan

are heading south, pulled
by a compass in the genes.
They are not fooled
by this odd November summer,
though we stand in our doorways
wearing cotton dresses.
We are watching them

as they swoop and gather--
the shadow of wings
falls over the heart.
When they rustle among
the empty branches, the trees
must think their lost leaves
have come back.

The birds are heading south,
instinct is the oldest story.
They fly over their doubles,
the mute weathervanes,
teaching all of us
with their tailfeathers
the true north.


Begin your acquaintance with Stephen Dobyns at the website of the Academy of American Poets:

One of his poems is available at the academy's website, "Yellow Beak":

Other poems available on the Internet are as follows:

"Can Poetry Matter?" found at

"How to Like It" at

"Oh, Immobility, Death" at

"Lullaby" scroll down mid-page at

Two good interviews with Dobyns are

one from  Cortland Review here:

and a second from Ploughshares here:

Buy one of his poetry books or mystery novels at Amazon.  Prices run from one penny + postage.
See what is available at


Judy Young

I simply cannot find them though I've looked
All through the house and then once more again,
In every little cranny, every nook
But still can't find the words I want to pen.

I've looked amongst the presents ‘neath the spruce
And searched behind the wreath of mistletoe.
The relatives I've called were of no use
For where my words hide no one seems to know.

I thought that they might suddenly amass
While watching old man Scrooge on my TV
Or stirring Christmas pudding, but alas,
I simply do not know where they could be!

And so good will to you this Christmas Day
Are all the words that I can find to say.

Todd Sukany

loneliness stopped by this afternoon
sat at table and shared a beer
then another and another
until bobby fell asleep

restlessness entered dreams
of failure and deadlines
then another knock
as darkness demanded a nightcap

the cards played themselves
over and over until he slumped
on table and pretzels
restlessness and hopelessness fought all night

tossing one another
around his sheets
until a hollow "g' mornin'"
alarmed today

Harding Stedler

When winter came in curtains
and all else was invisible,
I could see and see through
the misty rain.
Like sheers blowing
outside a summer window,
transparent sheets
of tropical October
blew sideways across the lake.

Canadian curtains
such as these
are all I need for privacy,
and all that herons need
to protect their young.

At windows's edge,
I stood mesmerized
and counted winters
of the geese.

Pat Laster
An Etheree

in thirty-six
hours in Yakima,
swamping roads and bridges
like we’d cover our pancakes
with syrup. Rangers had to close
Mount Rainier National Park--the first
time in twenty-six years--from now till spring.

Patsy Colter

Lying beside a babbling brook
thumbing pages of my favorite book,
bright sunbeams through giant oak leaves
bring a peaceful feeling all over me.

Cool gentle breeze stirs the daffodils,
reminder of spring across the hills.
There is nowhere else I would rather be
than beside the brook under the giant oak tree.

Tania Gray

"Be sure to pack a clock, and sewing kit,
some Band-aids, spot remover, vitamins;
take half a case of bottled water, too,
your head set, book, and extra batteries.
You need warm shoes, your fuzzy slipper socks,
and yoga pants to wear at end of day."
Those cautious words from elder daughter are
a contrast to my younger, laid-back girl's
advice.  She said, "Just pack for all the best!
Believe that nothing will go wrong: it won't!"
I took to heart what each one said. Behold!
My pile of gear is like celebrities'
on tour, and I'll be back in just a week!

Valerie Esker

cleaning up the house
placing my shoes next to yours
inside our front door 

my feet skip about the room
from such small pleasures

Mark Tappmeyer

"[S]he was found to be with child . . ."
                                                   Matthew 1:18

She was found to be with child
says Matthew in
a voice as grammatically passive
as any to hide the finder
of this monstrous wrong
that would pivot her
young life to
the back of Joseph's
plans and make her
now the object of a love
triangle--where perhaps
even subjects act at
the mercy of one
beyond the period.

Steven Penticuff

It’s Tuesday, almost midnight here on the hill,
and we’re alone for a change so I sneak a kiss,
because next Friday’s Moon Harvest Dance
seems so far away.
My little firefly lights up at the strange romance,
and so do I, but the boss looms and lurks and
tortures my mind--that pheromone queen
who tracks and knows everything,
because she’s about to check our progress again:
too few tunnels, too little sweat, food’s runnin’ low,
so tomorrow we’ll pay--triple output, she’ll say.
We’ll comb the countryside for more dead insects,
load ’em up, drag twenty times our body weight
into freshly dug chambers while she looks on with
her iced tea and loose collar, tapping her ugly feet.
Sure, the 5 p.m. work whistle will blow in three days
and we’ll lose ourselves for a few precious hours,
but sure as subterranean heat
the weekend will slip into Monday, and even
our short-lived bliss will seem like an illusion.



Faye Adams

The bells are ringing,
listen, listen.
The angels are singing,
do you hear?
They are telling the story
once again.

The Son is exalted, exalted

Handel's Messiah is heard
in heaven, as always.
What a gift God gave us
through one man,
willing to listen.

Listen closely,
listen with your heart,
what do you hear?

David Van Bebber

I’m stuck here waiting
for joy to walk through that door
to take me to a place I knew before.

They don’t speak of me going home
or the torment of this stay.

I am disregarded like the rules of this house;
no one listens and everyone cares.

Servants to themselves and the falsehood
to which they have pledged.

The photographs on the wall
give testimony to a life of lies.
Their smiles reek of pain.

When I speak,
no one hears my silent ache.
I am lost in the lies of unspoken promises.

The assurance of a short stay,
undefined by the plastic tongue of a snake
deceiving even himself.

Will this never end or must I run away?
Fleeing my loving capturers,
running from this house to another home
of mine where I’ve never been.

Gwen Eisenmann

Sappho has said there is a form poetic
useful to say a single thought surprising
in brevity and as matchless in meaning
as sunrise can be.
Hearing the star uncommmon in its ringing,
three wise men met considering its meaning,
traveling far, following its shining, they
showed us the way home.

Henrietta Romman

If I am really blest enough
For luck to pass through my door,
I'll reach up for this stuff,
And spoil myself some more:

"Please mail me a check of time that sped,
A prize for years the locusts ate,
With a promise of success ahead
Indeed to ameliorate my fate."

Nothing more I need to ask,
Nothing for a poet's task.
Even as I choose my prize
Receiving is bliss in disguise.

Pat Durmon

Ageless, the muse in me gently
Waits in an inner room but watches the visible
As she lets her mind move everywhere, while
Keeping the key and speaking her heart. She
Entreats me at every turn like a keen wind to
Not abandon myself with absurd words, but to
Insist on a life on earth that breaks loose from
Night fog and day sleep--to awaken to the
Great Mystery that promises another birth.

Diane Auser Stefan

such apathy
abounds in life today
no one wants to get involved
“I’m too busy,” they curtly say
seems everyone has an opinion
but few will speak them out
they seem to think what they believe
won’t carry any clout
they’ll walk right by the needy
never see the drugged or poor
thereby themselves they so deceive
as they shut their lives behind closed door
what causes this lack of interest,
lack of concern or compassion anywhere?
well, don’t ask me because, you see
I simply do not care

Larry Thomas

They come from their castles and harems, their kitchens of mothers with make-up to help in assuming their guises.  Little breasts heave large under some stuffing of tissue as the Prince leans from his dashing stallion to sweep them away from their scullion schools to live happily ever after their homework and dishes are done.  Swords drawn drip blood as young, dashing stalwarts kneel before kings granting knighthood and gold bars of chocolate.  All in camouflage, the hunter steadies his gun, hoping to bag his limit, thinking of tables heavy with pheasants and ducks as the shrieks of three witches shrouded in black chanting incantations as they add eyes of newts and entrails to their cauldron.  Cinderella bemoans her fate till, shedding her rags, she discovers a gown so jewel laden even her suitor is beguiled at the altar, but the spell ends at curfew and all that remains is one tiny shimmering slipper soaking up rain by the side of the driveway.

Tom Padgett

My friend is playing Scrooge this Christmas
so he won't be at our meeting.
He'll be too busy Bah-Humbugging
to write a Christmas greeting,

at least till Marley--the guy in chains--
brings warnings from Beyond
and ghosts appear, one by one,
three ghosts who correspond

to Ebenezer's Christmas Past,
Present, and Yet to Come.
John--uh Scrooge--will age on stage
and laugh with little Tom Thumb.

No, that's not right--it's Tiny Tim
that eats Christmas goose
when John--uh Scrooge--metamorphoses
and all bells break loose.

So the play with Christmas greetings
ends on a happy note,
but Scrooge--John--won't be at our meeting
to read a poem he wrote.