Vol. 7, No. 3    An Online Chapter of Missouri State Poetry Society   March 2008


Spring arrives this month like a lamb or like a lion.  The saying about March goes "In like a lamb, out like a lion; in like a lion, out like a lamb," but I have had enough winter this year.  I prefer March to be "In like a lamb, out like a lamb."  Speaking of lambs, we recall that William Blake (1757-1827) saw his lifetime of poetry in terms of lambs and tigers.  The poet divided many of his poems into Songs of Innocence (1789) and Songs of Experience (1794), with the poem "The Lamb" representing the Romantic concept that children are innocent as well as representing Blake's strong New Testament beliefs in Jesus Christ.  This poem and its counterpart "The Tiger" are found here.  Spring is usually regarded as a time of creative fervor for artists.  Those of us who have been "stove up" throughout the winter feel the juices rising in us to produce poetry.  So whether you are still in the innocent or the experienced part of your life, my challenge to you is to write a poem to capture it.  I read in one of the reviews below in "Poetry in the News" that poets are basically rememberers, choosing what to remember in hope that readers will remember something from their own lives that the poem evoked.  It is time to e-mail your page of poetry to the Grist editor for our 2008 MSPS anthology.  Every member should send a page of 37 or fewer lines to send to Dawn Harmon at Include with the poem, your name, your city of address, and your local chapter name: Thirty-Seven Cents.  Send your poem to her well before the May 1 deadline so that she can work on the anthology over a period of time, not all at the last moment.  You may send something new or previously published just as long as it was not published before in Grist.                           -- Tom Padgett



Issue Next
Poems by Members

Missouri State Poetry Society

Summer Contest

Spare Mule Online

National Federation of State Poetry Societies
Strophes Online


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." 

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

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 147

Our earliest recollections are often imprinted in our memories because they were associated with some kind of stress.  Here, in an untitled poem, the Nebraska State Poet, William Kloefkorn, brings back a difficult moment from many years before, and makes a late confession:

I stand alone at the foot
Of my father's grave,
Trembling to tell:
The door to the granary is open,
And someone lost the bucket
To the well.

American Life in Poetry: Column 149

In a newspaper you may find some advice for maintaining and repairing troubled relationships. Here, in a poem by Linda Pastan of Maryland, is one of those relationships in need of some help.

The Quarrel

If there were a monument
to silence, it would not be
the tree whose leaves
murmur continuously
among themselves;

nor would it be the pond
whose seeming stillness
is shattered
by the quicksilver
surfacing of fish.

If there were a monument
to silence, it would be you
standing so upright, so unforgiving,
your mute back deflecting
every word I say.

American Life in Poetry: Column 151

Thirty, forty years ago, there were lots of hitchhikers, college students, bent old men and old women, and none of them seemed fearful of being out there on the highways at the mercy of strangers. All that's changed, and nobody wants to get in a car with a stranger. Here Steven Huff of New York tells us about a memorable ride.


You used to be able to flag a ride in this country.
Impossible now--everyone is afraid
of strangers. Well, there was fear then too,
and it was mutual: drivers versus hitchhikers.
And we rode without seat belts,
insurance or beliefs. People
would see me far ahead on a hill like a seedling,
watch me grow in the windshield
and not know they were going to stop until
they got right up to me. Maybe they wanted
company or thought I'd give them
some excitement. It was the age
of impulse, of lonesome knee jerks. An old woman
stopped, blew smoke in my face
and after I was already in her car she asked me
if I wanted a ride. I'm telling you.
Late one night a construction boss pulled over.
One of his crew had been hit
by the mob, he said as he drove, distraught
and needing to talk to someone.
We rode around for a long time.
He said, I never wore a gun to a funeral before,
but they've gotta be after me too.
Then he looked at me and patted the bulge
in his coat. Don't worry, he said, you're safe.
American Life in Poetry: Column 148

I've written about the pleasures of poetry that offers us vivid scenes but which lets us draw our own conclusions about the implications of what we're being shown. The poet can steer us a little by the selection of details, but a lot of the effect of the poem is in what is not said, in what we deduce. Lee McCarthy is a California poet, and here is something seen from across the street, something quite ordinary yet packed with life.

Santa Paula

There's a woman kissing a cowboy
across the street. His eight-year-old son
watches from the bus stop bench.
She's really planting one on him,
his Stetson in danger.
It must have been some weekend.
Seeing no room in that embrace for himself,
the boy measures his future, legs
straight out in front of him.
Both hands hold onto a suitcase handle,
thin arms ready to prove themselves.

American Life in Poetry: Column 150

There's a world of great interest and significance right under our feet, but most of us don't think to look down. We spend most of our time peering off into the future, speculating on how we will deal with whatever is coming our way. Or dwelling on the past. Here Ed Ochester stops in the middle of life to look down.

What the Frost Casts Up

A crown of handmade nails, as though
there were a house here once, burned,
where we've gardened for fifteen years;
the ceramic top of an ancient fuse;
this spring the tiny head of a plastic doll--
not much compared to what they find
in England, where every now and then
a coin of the Roman emperors, Severus
or Constantius, works its way up, but
something, as though nothing we've
ever touched wants to stay in the earth,
the patient artifacts waiting, having been lost
or cast away, as though they couldn't bear
the parting, or because they are the only
messengers from lives that were important once,
waiting for the power of the frost
to move them to the mercy of our hands.

American Life in Poetry: Column 152

A child with a sense of the dramatic, well, many of us have been that child. Here's Carrie Shipers of Missouri reminiscing about how she once wished for a dramatic rescue by screaming ambulance, only to find she was really longing for the comfort of her mother's hands.

Medical History

I wanted it: arc of red and blue
strobing my skin, sirens singing
my praises, the cinching embrace
of the cot as the ambulance
slammed shut and steered away.
More than needle-pierce
or dragging blade, I wanted the swab
of alcohol and cotton, the promise
of gauze-covered cure.
My mother saved anyone
who asked, but never me,
never the way I wanted:
her palms skimming my limbs
for injury, her fingers finding
what hurt, her lips whispering,
I got here just in time.


For an encyclopedia article on Norris, visit not to be confused with, who is dead.   There are at least  four other writers by this same name. 

A somewhat expanded bio is found at

For a picture and an interview, visit

One poem "Luke 14, a Commentary"  is available at


Bev Conklin
Let's march into March,
Shamrock in hand.
Then all will honor
St. Patrick's birth
through each and every land!     

Laurence W. Thomas

At the emergency center, set up to treat

ambulatory victims for broken bones
and gashes, in the high school gym,
survivors asked in anxious tones
after friends and loved ones.  In the street
they consoled each other, exchanging grim
tales of the carnage among the dead
and wounded.  Ambulances screamed away
adding their terrorizing wails to the night.

A disheveled couple embraced where they lay

moaning, but alive.  He surveyed the sight;

“It’s a miracle we weren’t killed,” he said.


Dewell H. Byrd

White Rose
cut to seed
eye to eye
dried chilled
ready to plant.

Warm spring
full moon
sandy soil

Seeds spaced
eye to sky
pressed firm
covered light
rain readied.

Green shoots


Judy Young

Last night a shadow passed over you
As you rose in the eastern sky,
Bright and full,
Turning your illuminated face red
As if a battle of heavenly bodies
Left you covered in blood,
Deep and foreboding,
Reminding how you prophesied, in ancient times,
Of mortal omens that would befall those
Who witnessed your fiery gaze.

But this morning, you hang in the west
In the mist of the predawn sky,
Paled and spent,
With a rainbow casting a halo
Around your scarred but shining face,
Proclaiming centuries of survival
And recanting the unfounded prophesies.


Dave Gregg

I wrote the poems
at her insistence 

psalms about her whisper
sonnets of her smile

so many for so long
they have no value, really
pubescent paeans to folly

ardor at half-price in red tags
pleading “Buy me, buy me!”

And I did.

The sale


A skewed rondeau
Tania Gray

I had a dream to be an acrobat
when I saw ladies fly.  Lithe as a cat
inside the Barnum-Bailey Circus tent
they floated, daring grace embodiment.

From this I had a goal.  I set my hat
to spin up high, an air aristocrat.
I balanced standing on my trike, I meant
to pump the swing to heights magnificent—
            I had a dream.

My sis and I put on a show—one cent
was the admission price for dazzlement.
We rent our cheesecloth costumes falling splat,
the audience went scat, and that was that--
           I had a dream.

Pat Laster

I. their tops twisted out
dozens of hardwoods and pines
lying arrow straight

II. young teen latch-key kid
entertains himself blowing
dandelion puffs

III. a warm winter
dogwood blooming
on the Ides of March

IV. redbud and pear blossoms
all of a sudden
   and just as quickly
   our love has lost its bloom

Valerie Esker

noisy cicada
waking grandma from her nap
     storm clouds gather

Brian Anderson

Behold thyself, once mighty rooster!
You were king of all countryside,
Leader of all laborers.
There was never a task 
You did not conquer,
No maiden-hen’s tower
You did not scale.
You wrestled the sun
From its slumber each morning,
And disciplined your flock
That they might provide for mankind.
Alas, the sun you once raised
In your powerful punctuality
Now runs on digital time.
The eggs you once seeded
With flaming fertility
Can be mass produced 
Through genetic engineering.
Modernity crept 
Into your American Kingdom,
Ravished your hens,
And usurped your throne.
Perhaps you have suffered
A fate worse than regicide,
Bearing on your shoulders
The manifestation
Of all men’s fears.

Jennifer Smith

I’m cold, I’m hot
I want food – then not.
I ache, I moan.
Go away! Leave me alone!
I’m dizzy, I’m weak,
I’m tired, let me sleep!
I cough, I hack,
My chest hurts, I’m out of whack.
I think I’ll live – I fear it’s true –
All I have is a Missouri flu.

Jeanetta Chrystie

Restless and troubled, I arise
   still dressed from falling asleep with my tears.
   I can no longer hear God over the screaming in my mind,
   “You are unfair! I don’t deserve this! Where are you?”
   I wallowed in rumpled clothes and self-pity.

I came here to get away and think
   but I had only stayed inside, and cried.
   Inside the two-room beach cabin;
   wrapped in myself, unwilling to get out.

“Where are you, God?” I shout out the door into the      
   Barefoot, I step out into the silent predawn morning.
   Walking and feeling alone,
   Thinking in the stillness on the beach.

I gaze up at the first shrill cries of seagulls taking flight.
   I lose myself in the barely lit golds and peaches of dawn.
   Enraptured I gaze at the unfolding flower of dawn,
   The color-splashed grandeur of each moment’s changes.

The warmth of the sun reaches my skin.
   The warmth of the Son reaches my soul.
   I walk making footprints in the sand;
   The piecrusty powder of earth, moist and cool.

I watch as water fills my footprints until they are mine no   
   An awareness of God’s enveloping presence fills me
   As dawn’s palette fills His sky.
   I Am is mine.
   And I am glad.









Bobbie Craig

Noah's dove
purple crocus

Steven Penticuff
Broken yellow tractor,
drought-choked yard,
tired, empty nest from
but they loved him like
a turnip out of season
the day he arrived
without reason
on their door step.
A baby in a basket:
how they danced
on old grief's casket
to raise such a child.
In time, he ran away
(like a turnip he was gone)
and although on that day
he vowed to stay away
(for he was born to roam),
during their long dirt
nap he headed home.

Pat Durmon

back and forth
in black
as they fly,
then light
near the horses

they go silent
while they
walk around
on two feet
for something
to beak

crows hover
here in the valley
and scavenge
the land
Away! Away!
I say
they fade
for the moment
but return
the self-same day
fat as chickens
these hard-times birds
with full black coats
boast about how
their caws and yaws
force that big white sun
to war-paint the sky
and sink down low
beyond the horizon

Julia Bartgis

You befriended me,
offering a consuming comfort
and a snug fit.
You kept life away,
by letting me stuff dreams in.

You swallowed the
dreams whole
and held them
within your shelter.
They lay

dormant, secure,
and hidden
within the depths
of the faux fur lining.
Then, the Son shined,

and the warmth
freed me from
your embrace.

Jean Even

God’s peace flows from the center of Heaven
There’s nothing to imagine nor is it a sweven
He is the Holy One on Mount Zion

and His power is greater than the roar of a lion.
His vast glory covers all of heaven

Even more so now than seventy times eleven
We on earth will praise His name forever.

His brightness is our guiding light, His words our lever.
We can not hold out against His power,

Not even if we climb the tallest mountain tower
Pestilence flees from the coals at his feet.
And He drives evil asunder into superheat

There is nothing to imagine when earth bows to Him
All eternity will bow to His peace.

Henrietta W. Romman

Only now LORD I know what lies in store for me:
From the horoscopes of life You set me free
Forevermore to trust, expect, and hope in thee.

Harding Stedler

That husky lumberjack cough
I battled for most of the week
is all but gone now.
It had denied me peace
for days on end
and sent me crashing across the bed
in daylight hours.
Instant sleep followed,
and the cough became quiet.

It drained my energy reserves
and rendered me effortless.
Winter cold chose me
to be its victim,
and I disliked January even more
than when its grim, gray skies
plummeted me into depression.


Diane Auser Stefan

arrogant gaggle
unhurried and honking geese
block the gravel road

Gwen Eisenmann
Sage-green, still growing
showing gray at the tips,
like clay still malleable
though I am what is called old.
Old means ripening
like fragrant herbs mellowing,
knowing slowing --
or so I've been told.
But every morning
walking with dawn glowing
on the horizon, I am
thinking -- color it all gold.

Nicole Heeren

She searched for a dream,
for a sliver of a diamond
in the starry sky,
in the seconds that ticked by,
and on the fading path behind her.
What she found was a gleam
of a tiny shell in the sand,
with edges too rough
and not gloss or shine enough
to be worthy of taking it with her.
She’d been wishing for a diamond
somewhere deep inside her head,
but reality held it from her
so she kept the shell instead.

A seven
Tom Padgett

My first memory of her:
she found some four-leaf clover
under the backyard clothesline.
She found it all her short life.
I thought it a good-luck sign
till on her grave grew clover,
my last memory of her.


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