Vol. 7, No. 6   An Online Chapter of Missouri State Poetry Society    June  2008


In case you were wondering what happened to me, let me say first that I'm back on track after a week without my computer.  We have had several thunderstorms recently, and one of them got my computer.  My friend in Nebraska put the computer back together for me.  He helps with the national and state web sites, so I held my breath until I found he saved my hard drive.  My pc was on the road to Nebraska and back until yesterday.  I had some of this issue done, so I am sending it out abbreviated and will get back on track with a regular issue in July.- Tom Padgett



Issue Next
Poems by Members

Missouri State Poetry Society

Summer Contest

Spare Mule Online

National Federation of State Poetry Societies
Strophes Online


John Asbery's latest collection of poems was reviewed in an April issue of the New York Times Book Review.  The reviewer, Langdon Hammer, attempts to help readers understand the work of this extremely difficult poet.  Read parts of the review here.

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).

Click Back on your toolbar to return here after finishing a news item.

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 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 161

I may be a little sappy, but I think that almost everyone is doing the best he or she can, despite all sorts of obstacles. This poem by Jonathan Holden introduces us to a young car salesman, who is trying hard, perhaps too hard. Holden is the past poet laureate of Kansas and poet in residence at Kansas State University in Manhattan.

Car Showroom

Day after day, along with his placid
automobiles, that well-groomed
sallow young man had been waiting for
me, as in the cheerful, unchanging
weather of a billboard--pacing
the tiles, patting his tie, knotting, un-
knotting the facade of his smile
while staring out the window.
He was so bad at the job
he reminded me of myself
the summer I failed
at selling Time and Life in New Jersey.
Even though I was a boy
I could feel someone else's voice
crawl out of my mouth,
spoiling every word,
like this cowed, polite kid in his tie
and badge that said Greg,
saying Ma'am to my wife, calling
me Sir, retailing the air with such piety
I had to find anything out the window.
Maybe the rain. It was gray
and as honestly wet as ever. Something
we could both believe.

American Life in Poetry: Column 164

I have always enjoyed poems that celebrate the small pleasures of life. Here Max Mendelsohn, age 12, of Weston, Massachusetts, tells us of the joy he finds in playing with marbles.

Ode to Marbles

I love the sound of marbles
scattered on the worn wooden floor,
like children running away in a game of hide-and-seek.
I love the sight of white marbles,
blue marbles,
green marbles, black,
new marbles, old marbles,
iridescent marbles,
with glass-ribboned swirls,
dancing round and round.
I love the feel of marbles,
cool, smooth,
rolling freely in my palm,
like smooth-sided stars
that light up the worn world.

American Life in Poetry: Column 162

Though at the time it may not occur to us to call it "mentoring," there's likely to be a good deal of that sort of thing going on, wanted or unwanted, whenever a young person works for someone older. Richard Hoffman of Massachusetts does a good job of portraying one of those teaching moments in this poem.

Summer Job

"The trouble with intellectuals," Manny, my boss,
once told me, "is that they don't know nothing
till they can explain it to themselves. A guy like that,"
he said, "he gets to middle age--and by the way,
he gets there late; he's trying to be a boy until
he's forty, forty-five, and then you give him five
more years until that craziness peters out, and now
he's almost fifty--a guy like that at last explains
to himself that life is made of time, that time
is what it's all about. Aha! he says. And then
he either blows his brains out, gets religion,
or settles down to some major-league depression.
Make yourself useful. Hand me that three-eights
torque wrench--no, you moron, the other one."

American Life in Poetry: Column 164

How often have you wondered what might be going on inside a child's head? They can be so much more free and playful with their imaginations than adults, and are so good at keeping those flights of fancy secret and mysterious, that even if we were told what they were thinking we might not be able to make much sense of it. Here Ellen Bass, of Santa Cruz, California, tells us of one such experience.

Dead Butterfly

For months my daughter carried
a dead monarch in a quart mason jar.
To and from school in her backpack,
to her only friend's house. At the dinner table
it sat like a guest alongside the pot roast.
She took it to bed, propped by her pillow.

Was it the year her brother was born?
Was this her own too-fragile baby
that had lived--so briefly--in its glassed world?
Or the year she refused to go to her father's house?
Was this the holding-her-breath girl she became there?

This plump child in her rolled-down socks
I sometimes wanted to haul back inside me
and carry safe again. What was her fierce
commitment? I never understood.
We just lived with the dead winged thing
as part of her, as part of us,
weightless in its heavy jar.

CLOUD TALK:  Thanks for these comments on the cloud in the May issue.

MAY picture:  The picture is a "Wooleybooger," a name we, as children, called cloud figures with faces we couldn't identify as any known animal or person. We loved them the best, the woolier the better. Best identified while lying on our backs in the grass on a hilltop.                      --Gwen Eisenmann
As for the cloud--at first, like you, I thought it was a white lab rat. . . but on closer inspection, I see that it is really Ernie the Ermine. . .                            -- Diane Ausser Stefan
The cloud reminds me of childhood days in what we neighborhood kids called the Meadows.  It was acres of green rolling hills near the edge of our homes on the west side of Youngstown, Ohio.  We spent many hours there playing cops & robbers,
cowboys & indians, and just generally having kid-type fun.  One our favorite pastimes in the spring was flying kites.  My brother usually manned our home-made version and I just stood around freezing in the brisk March wind looking skyward, watching the kite loop and sail just below those marvelous fast-moving white vapors.  I fell in love with clouds during those delicious innocent years.                       -- Valerie Esker


Pat Durmon

From where we stand in the yard, we see
beyond leaves of the sweet gum tree. This evening
it carries a burden of bees . . . a swarm of thousands.
They look like a dusty brown cloud as they cluster
on two limbs.

The bees cling to one another the way an old couple
sleeps waiting for heat, hugging the one in front
like a pillow; and yet, they seem one organism
not unlike a crowd emerging from a subway.
No busyness with fleur-de-lis. No spreading of gold.
No humming like bacon sizzling.

But what are they doing here? Here where
the May sun begins to warm our days, here where
there is no glittering hive for a queen and boundless
bees, here where we stand momentarily mute
with eyes wide-open.

Actually, it is touching the way the sweet gum holds up
leafy arms and a swarm of bees cleaving, perhaps
catching a brief bit of rest. The air suddenly seems
intoxicated with gentle waves. And we are full-up
with certainty that we know little about these shifting
times— only that we tread on tender ground.

Jennifer Smith

This is a poem about a pair of sisters.
(I suppose they really love each other.)

The older one is Elle May;
She’s more mature, more set in her way.

MaryRose is the younger one--
Outgrew the older ‘fore she was done!

Sometimes they play real nice together.
Sometimes they’re jealous, each one of the other.

Personalities? They each have one.
MaryRose is the talker; Elle the quiet one.

Around the house MaryRose scampers with glee,
Plays with her toys, and “talks” to me.

Nestled in the bed ‘tween us each morn
Elle is content to sense our love alone.

Arts and crafts are, oh, such fun.
String art is their favorite one!

On the couch I lie and read--
Elle likes to cuddle and “read” with me.

Birds and squirrels on the porch to watch
Such excitement! MaryRose talks a lot!

These girls are not afraid of the dark
Though storms are a fright and loud noises a shock.

Ah! These sisters give us such delight
All through the day and even at night.

Changes in our schedule, toys on the floor,
Followed the kitties right through our front door!

Senyru sequence
Pat Laster

first day out of school
an early telephone call
spoils my sleep-in

first day out of school
at mid-afternoon, the child’s
still in his skivvies

the last day of school
this year and in this building
5th graders crying

now that school is out
I move grandchildren’s art works
from icebox to file.

fathers sometimes cry
on their kids’ first day of school
and at commencement

Tania Gray

“Your problem isn’t knick-knacks,” Charlotte said,
“it’s too much paper. Look at all your books,
the magazines, the files, the greeting cards,
the manuscripts, the monographs, the mail
your mother kept and you have failed to shred,
old lesson plans and uncompleted works,
the folios of art and teacher helps!”

My life is all ephemera. It’s thin
and two-dimensional, rectangular
and flat. When viewed on edge, it disappears.
When massed on shelves, packed up in boxes, stacked
in piles, the fragile pieces of my past
accumulate a heavy, solid mass.
It’s not a pretty sight. Each item cries
to be held up to light and scrutinized,
yes, savored and adored. Who has the time?
I need a Presidential Library
and curator. I need archival help.
That, or a herd of goats to munch their way,
eliminating pesky problem pulp.

Jeanetta Chrystie

Worthy causes fill each hour,
And greedily my days devour.
Offering bouquets so sweet
And accolades--they do entreat.

The guise of productivity
Is busy-ness, yet do I see?
Plied with applause and usefulness,
I soon succumb to busy stress.

I gave myself--so indiscreet.
Now, lay my plans at our Lord’s feet.
He sorts the chaff with but a breath
And tunes my heart to what He saith.

Now beckon those sweet scents of praise
That court my heart but waste my days.
God waits for hearts to guide and bless
As He defines “What is success?”

Valerie Esker

"I have made peace with the water",
said the woman standing in sand.
While she gazed at the breakers breaking,
three times stretched out her strong hand.

She then magically molded an image,
gathered stars from celestial array;
fashioned them into a necklace
that rivaled the brilliance of day.

We witnessed the pompano skipping,
saw the rising sun shock the sky red.
I trembled to see frenzied sharks feeding.
"Make peace with the water!", she said.

I cried, "All souls are called by the water.
Not all can answer that call!"
She flung her net into the ocean,
pulled out a magnificent haul.

"Make peace with the water ", she sing-songed.
"Only then can you sail the salt-sea."
Forever I always will wonder,
did she mean that dark sea . . . within me?





Laurence W. Thomas

The morning light idles
behind lashings of clouds
shades malinger
streetlights argue with time
the feral cat lies low
her kittens mewling
winds finger and stiffen
like waifs
looking for an offering
finding only errant leaves
first explorations
of raindrops singing patter songs
prevoyant as snare drums.

Dewell H. Byrd

Mid-America danced to the tune
of a 5.2 temblor recently.

Eyes got big,
tummies turned inside out.

We have five of those
on the left coast before breakfast.

Our restaurants are well known
for fantastic scrambled eggs.

When California’s San Andreas fault
decides to crack its last smile

the West will stand solid, rigid;
watch the nation sail into the Atlantic.

So, cowboy-up, middle America,
take your shakes and build an ark.

Harding Stedler

Like a UFO,
the alien funnel touched down
and then was gone,
leaving in its wake
downed trees and power lines
and buildings in heaps of brick.
It left behind a shroud
of dark black clouds
and torrential rain
to mask its fury.

There was nothing kind
or earthlike about the monster
that leveled houses
and snuffed-out lives
as quick as a finger snap.
It showed no remorse
for the wickedness of its ways.

The horror inflicted on the innocent
defied description.
They will be forever scarred
by the deafening roar
that gave them no time
to seek shelter.

Diane Auser Stefan

Look up!
Can you see
that downy cloud
just above the trees?
What’s it look like to you?
I see Ernie The Ermine,
fresh from his morning river swim,
all shaken off, soft and billowy,
lightly floating across the sky to dry.

Steve Pentcuff

A simple cup of coffee ("small: $1.85")
and beside it, in chalk, on its own
special board: "First natural philosopher
(appr. 540 B.C.)"

I pose my answer bashfully
in a question (though I know I'm right),
and a twenty-something at the counter
flashes irritation all the way

to the register, where her manager
wrote today's answer. "Yeah," she says,
without the fanfare I hoped for,
and gives me my 10% discount.

Perched high at my table, feeling
like Zeus, I take my first sip
and calculate on a napkin the .068%
I just earned toward this month's loan

from a Master's degree in philosophy
ten years ago. The problem
with a philosopher, perhaps, is that
this feels like a good enough deal.


Jean Even

Rise up and sing unto God, for His Glory is upon us.
Be strong in the grace of God’s love; He has us thrust
In freedom’s way, where liberty proliferates around us.

There is so much joy that there is nothing to discuss.
All we can do is sing for the blessings He has given us.

Tom Padgett

Since we were on the Frisco spur
from Willow Springs to Piedmont,
our little town (population 723)
had two trains, two days a week,
or rather one train twice, two days.
On Tuesday and Friday mornings it
arrived at nine o'clock or thereabouts,
transacted business at the depot,
made its way on east, with stops
at Birch Tree, Winona, bigger
little towns than Teresita and Montier,
which it royally scorned. At Piedmont,
its switched its engine so its tail
could pull it back home after noon,
making the same stops it made
earlier that day. If we were
truly fortunate, the pressure gauge
would warn the engineer it needed
water for its last leg home. On
those lucky days the big black
beauty pulled beside the tank
that brooded a short distance
from our depot. Then the tank,
a grasshopper-like assemblage,
detached its hindleg--the trough down
which water ran to build up steam
for the train to complete its trip.
As it huffed away, the boys
who had collected here from
all over town sighed, climbed
back on bikes, accepted as their
fate one more day's delay
in their careers as engineers,
and prayed the train would take
another water break when it
next came down the Frisco spur.


 Top Workshop Index