Vol. 5, No. 11       An Online Chapter of Missouri State Poetry Society    November  2006




One advantage in belonging to Thirty-Seven Cents is that you are one of a pack: you never have to howl alone.  There is, on the other hand, one slight disadvantage in belonging to Thirty Seven Cents: you must pay your pack dues or other members of the pack won't hear you howl with them or without them.  If you pay membership dues to another local chapter of MSPS, you owe only $2 to belong to Thirty-Seven Cents. If you do not belong to another local chapter, you owe $4 to belong to Thirty-Seven Cents.  Membership in any local chapter of MSPS means you automatically belong to Missouri State Poetry Society and National Federation of State Poetry Societies as well. Students who used to be members of Author Unknown and Thirty-Seven Cents but who do not attend the Friday AU meetings can remain members of Thirty-Seven Cents for $4. MSPS chapters collect their dues in the fall of the year for the next calendar year.  Already paid for 2007 is Faye Adams [a new member], Tom Padgett, Todd Sukany, and Mark Tappmeyer.  The rest of you need to send your $2 or $4 to Tom Padgett, 523 N. Park Place, Bolivar, MO 65613.  Make your check to MSPS.  Allen Ginsburg, an American poet of the twentieth century, called his most famous poem "Howl."  It is regarded by many readers as provocative, if not objectionable, for its subject matter and its language. Most of us won't be howling on Ginsburg's political subject nor in his language, but we will be expressing ourselves on subjects we favor and in words we feel best express them. Come howl with us!.



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Poems by Members

Missouri State Poetry Society

Winter Contest

Spare Mule Online

National Federation of State Poetry Societies
Strophes Online


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 077

Li-Young Lee, who lives in Chicago, evokes by the use of carefully chosen images a culture, a time of day, and the understanding of love through the quiet observation of gesture.

Li-Young Lee

While the long grain is softening
in the water, gurgling
over a low stove flame, before
the salted Winter Vegetable is sliced
for breakfast, before the birds,
my mother glides an ivory comb
through her hair, heavy
and black as calligrapher's ink.

She sits at the foot of the bed.
My father watches, listens for
the music of comb
against hair.

My mother combs,
pulls her hair back
tight, rolls it
around two fingers, pins it
in a bun to the back of her head.
For half a hundred years she has done this.
My father likes to see it like this.
He says it is kempt.

But I know
it is because of the way
my mother's hair falls
when he pulls the pins out.
Easily, like the curtains
when they untie them in the evening.

American Life in Poetry: Column 079

The news coverage of Hurricane Katrina gave America a vivid look at our poor and powerless neighbors. Here Alex Phillips of Massachusetts condenses his observations of our country's underclass into a wise, tough little poem.

Alex Phillips

To be poor and raise skinny children.
To own nothing but skinny clothing.
Skinny food falls in between cracks.
Friends cannot visit your skinny home.
They cannot fit through the door.
Your skinny thoughts evaporate into
the day or the night that you cannot
see with your tiny eyes.

God sticks you with the smallest pins
and your blood, the red is diluted.
Imagine a tiny hole, the other side
of which is a fat world and how
lost you would feel. Of course,
I'm speaking to myself.
How lost I would feel, and how dangerous.

American Life in Poetry: Column 080

Readers of this column during the past year have by now learned how enthusiastic I am about poems describing everyday life. I've tried to show how the ordinary can be made extraordinary through close and transforming observation. Here Tess Gallagher goes to the mailbox to post a letter. We've all done that, haven't we? But notice how closely she pays attention to this simple experience, and how she fits this one moment into the meaning of her life.

Tess Gallagher

The sleep of this night deepens
because I have walked coatless from the house
carrying the white envelope.
All night it will say one name
in its little tin house by the roadside.

I have raised the metal flag
so its shadow under the roadlamp
leaves an imprint on the rain-heavy bushes.
Now I will walk back
thinking of the few lights still on
in the town a mile away.

In the yellowed light of a kitchen
the millworker has finished his coffee,
his wife has laid out the white slices of bread
on the counter. Now while the bed they have left
is still warm, I will think of you, you
who are so far away
you have caused me to look up at the stars.

Tonight they have not moved
from childhood, those games played after dark.
Again I walk into the wet grass
toward the starry voices. Again, I
am the found one, intimate, returned
by all I touch on the way.


American Life in Poetry: Column 078

Mothers and fathers grow accustomed to being asked by young children, "What's that?" Thus parents relearn the world by having to explain things they haven't thought about in years. In this poem the Illinois poet Bruce Guernsey looks closely at common, everyday moss and tries to explain its nature for us. I admire the way the poem deepens as the moss moves from being a slipcover to wet dust on a gravestone.

Bruce Guernsey

How must it be
to be moss,
that slipcover of rocks?--

greening in the dark,
longing for north,
the silence
of birds gone south.

How does moss do it,
all day
in a dank place
and never a cough?--

a wet dust
where light fails,
where the chisel
cut the name.

American Life in Poetry: Column 080

One of poetry's traditional public services is the presentation of elegies in honor of the dead. Here James McKean remembers a colorful friend and neighbor.

James McKean

From my window
I watch the roots of a willow
push your house crooked,
women rummage through boxes,
your sons cart away the TV, its cord
trailing like your useless arms.
Only weeks ago we watched the heavyweights,
and between rounds you pummeled the air,
drank whiskey, admonished "Know your competition!"
You did, Kansas, the '20s
when you measured the town champ
as he danced the same dance over and over:
left foot, right lead, head down,
the move you'd dreamt about for days.
Then right on cue your hay-bale uppercut
compressed his spine. You know. That was that.
Now your mail piles up, RESIDENT circled
"not here." Your lawn goes to seed. Dandelions
burst in the wind. From my window
I see you flat on your back on some canvas,
above you a wrinkled face, its clippy bow tie
bobbing toward ten. There's someone behind you,
resting easy against the ropes,
a last minute substitute on the card you knew
so well, vaguely familiar, taken for granted,
with a sucker punch you don't remember
ever having seen.

American Life in Poetry: Column 082

Many poems celebrate the joys of having children. Michigan poet Jeff Vande Zande reminds us that adults make mistakes, even with children they love, and that parenting is about fear as well as joy.

Jeff Vande Zande

Her small body shines
with water and light.
Giggling, she squeals "daddy,"
splashes until his pants darken.
Five more minutes, he thinks,
stepping out quickly,
pouring himself a drink,
not expecting to return
to find her slipped under,
her tiny face staring up
through the undulating surface.
Before he can move,
or drop his scotch,
she raises her dripping head,
her mouth a perfect O.
The sound of her gulped breath
takes the wind out of him.
Her face,
pale and awed,
understands the other side
of water and air.
His wife didn't see,
doesn't know.
Her feet pulse and fade
in the upstairs joists.
His daughter cries,
slips from him, not giggling.
She wants out.
He tries to keep her
in the tub, in the light.
He's on his knees.


Begin your acquaintance with Pattiann Rogers at the website of the Academy of American Poets:

Four of her poems are at the academy's website, including "Stone Bird":

Next, visit her website for an extended introduction to her and her work:

Rogers was born in Joplin, Missouri, received a bachelor's degree at University of Missouri in Columbia, is the mother of two sons and grandmother to three, and lives now in Colorado with her husband who is a geophysicist.

Buy one of her books at Amazon:


Judy Young

through vertical lines of dropping snow
a leaf drifts diagonally

Bev Conklin

House being
It’s high time.

Paint scaling,
just won’t stick

Workman here
three weeks now.
“Get ‘er done!”

Pat Laster

The hardwoods during autumn’s rain and frost
and wind surrender, drop their leaves on earth
to blanket, nourish, turn—the greenness lost.
Those leaves blow free until they find a berth.

Knowing winter lurks,
voles and mice scurry to find shelter.
Geese gather, their
pilgrimage imminent.

While breezes vagabond through valleys, hills,
all humankind—inside, nest-warm—prepares
to feast, give thanks, and watch for changes in
the hardwoods during autumn’s rain and frost.

Pat Durmon

I can see her still—
she raced against the clock
and the disease claimed more and more of her.
My sister’s house was leaning
onto itself like barns tilt before they collapse.
Her lidded windows, dark-circled
and open part-way, waited and watched.
It’s all they knew to do.
Her frame, greyed and shriveled, stacked and stirred
the red death seeds inside her.
Bare legs, reduced to bony, blue columns
curled under her cottony gown. As her house
breathed a light snore, she rocked, gently rocked,
back and forth
back and forth
like a dappled light touches stones
through the cottonwoods.

Words of pardon— delicious and nutritious—
all said, all received. We held hands and waited,
my heart on its knees. Her body fought the stormy seas.
Not ready to cave-in and go through the tunnel,
she inhaled air and got a second wind. We lifted songs
and clapped our hands to hymns we knew
by heart. Some would probably say we were mad.
Maybe we were. Her house, not empty,|
startled me over and over
as she altoed without abandon.
Again and again
tangy tears leapt to my eyes.

Late evening, I stepped away
from the nursing home, humming that one hymn
as a fading red and purple sunset
left the sky.

Velvet Fackeldey

Each new year her resolution is
to speak more clearly and distinctly,
to enunciate each syllable
of every word.
She is intelligent and her speech
should reflect that.
Soon the habits slip back
and she runs words together,
slides into her hillbilly twang,
and the promise to herself
is lost.
Too late she hears herself
and knows she has failed
When the new year comes
she'll try once more
to give voice to the person
she wants to be.

Valerie Esker

In Florida, the winters don't bring ice
or snow, or need to stack up kindling wood.
Instead, cold sends the snowbirds to what's nice.

They want a piece of southern paradise
at least, part-time, they swarm our neighborhood.
In Florida, the winters don't bring ice.

Floridians should make some sacrifice.
Can winter sometimes bring a bit of good?
Instead, cold sends the snowbirds to what's nice.

They fall upon our state like scattered rice,
then jam our once clear roads, and so they should.
In Florida, the winters don't bring ice.

On cruise ships snowbirds roll their lucky dice
to win the loot the natives never could.
Instead, cold brings the snowbirds to what's nice.

Our sad, dull lives sure need a bit of spice.
The snowbirds bring that, and that's understood.
In Florida, the winters don't bring ice.
Instead, cold brings the snowbirds to what's nice.

Gwen Eisenmann

About as tall as the table
under which she plays
with a hand-held mirror,
rapt in the gaze

of herself, she knows
the mysterious Other
but hasn't words
to tell what she knows.

"Me," she says, and runs away.
But later that day, down at the creek,
splashing, learning to duck her head,
she did it, came up laughing and said,

"I got it!" The Other was born.

Steven Penticuff

Any novel
with my name
on it
had better spill
from necessity
tortured but pure,
a great urgent
or not at all.

Picture Salinger
sitting docile,
taking notes
in a "how-to"
course for writers,
patiently re-
turning to his

If it comes
to your attention
that he, Harper
Lee, Thomas Hardy,
or Toni Morrison;
John Steinbeck,
Flannery O'connor,
or Kurt Vonnegut;
George Orwell,
Richard Wright,
or Gabriel Garcia
Marquez did such
an awful thing,

then please
don't tell me,
and kindly also
put me out
of my misery
before I find out
from somebody


Faye Adams

Sealed in by porcelain,
the fiend grows
(festering more each day),

invades and destroys.

Pain walks in--
claims new territory,
nails down occupancy sign,
settles in for a long stay.

White coated savior
plunges his magic needle.

Whirr of the x-ray,
buzz of the drill--

pain subsides,
sun comes out,
world turns right-side up.

David Van Bebber

A hotel beside Interstate 44 in Tulsa, Oklahoma,
defies gravity with its formation,
for now it provides stay only to my thoughts.

Windows, some boarded, some just gone.
Years of defending neighbors from
the bullets of rocks and beer bottles.

The eroding ivy has overtaken the once blue paint,
and the fortress of stone work,
carved to defend its weekend rates
and complementary breakfast
has fallen victim to its phantoms.

This casualty of capitalistic warfare,
once elegant,
suffers the humiliation of currency defeat.

And though the rooms lie empty,
this hotel leaves no vacancy in my imagination.
It stands a monument,
a place of rest for the wandering mind.

Laurence W. Thomas

Is this your evidence then, quaking in the wind and turning yellow,
that I, in turning eighty, am soon to be your fellow?

Nathan Ross

She is humble and mellow peering out through the glass
that pops curiously as the sun rises. We both sit in the
library, a common place to notice but not to be
noticed. Birds dance, leaves catch the gentle
breeze and fall, as if in love. In my mind, I
hold her hand and we negotiate more. I
ask for nothing more than to hold her
hand. In reality, her book-bag zipper
once again breaks off our imaginary
relationship and she heads for class.

Henrietta Romman

I tried
to pray with
my heart and soul,
sins and burdens fell
upon My Rock, Himself.
He set me free forever.
As He lifted me with His love,
I sang His praises while angels joined
with multitudes of heaven's holy hosts.

Harding Stedler

A December sky
left ducks to shiver
and take refuge
in the swamp grass
of September.
I walked backwards
on my journey
around the lake today,
feeling my sojourn
was one of rewind.

No amount of huddling
could bring summer back.
As a child of warmth,
I could not return to August sun.
It had faded into hiding,
where worms measure daylight
by the segment.

Diane Auser Stefan

Frantic, darting, conflicting--brain jags and lags
Running my mind one idea to the next
Unrelenting, unable or capable of
Stopping or slowing
Total disarray, nothing constructive completed
Rambling mind--that sounds too slow for how I feel
Time Outs--good idea, but
I can’t seem to do it
Only writing words like these
Numbs the scattered side of my soul today

Tania Gray

Why do they wear black if it's White Tie?
The bride's mother and father could cry--
a black day--dollars by thousands fly
to hire the hall, the band;
a drop-dead stunning soiree to die
for: this party is grand!

"A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ . . . " Matthew 1.1
Mark Tappmeyer

They were
an odd ancestry.  Black
fibers in the wool brush.
A wolf loosed
in the sheep fold.  Farmers
turned fleecers.
Murderers from monarchs.
High risk genetics for growing
a kingdom come,
a will be done
on earth as well as heaven.
But then came
the miracle child
who in season
bore seed
that sanctified
the treed.

Tom Padgett

About the time the fall semester metes
out mid-term tests to grade and hand back soon,
when campus life like that old harvest moon
wanes gibbously, when painted leaves retreat
before the autumn rains but students' prose
turns turgid, freshest of ideas dries
to deja vu, when harsh November tries
the door, impatient to move in, when most
of life seems past its expiration date--
just then here's news we wake to celebrate,
gone all malaise and banished every pain:
the Cardinals win the Series once again!
They resurrect our hopes from bleak ennui
by winning victories, late inningly.