Monday, January 30, 2017


Today, my friends, we are paying a visit to one of Poets United's very first members, Barbara Mackenzie, otherwise known as bkm, who blogs at signed bkm. Barbara joined Poets United in 2010, when Robert Lloyd first began the site. She took a few years hiatus from writing, as poets do from time to time, and we were so pleased to see her name pop up again at Mr Linky. I asked Barbara if she would give us an update, and she graciously agreed. Make yourself a lovely cup of afternoon tea, and pull your chairs in close. Let's dive in!   

Sherry: Wonderful to be chatting with you again, Barbara. We last spoke with you in 2011, for our Life of a Poet series. Would you give us a snapshot of your life today? 

Barbara: I live in Northern California in a valley community steeped in farming from nuts to rice to olive oil.  I live with my husband and one rescue dog, a black shepherd named Indy that is a sweet heart.  I am also in the process of getting a new puppy (a cavapoo); she will be moving in the beginning of January.  


Sherry: Oh, my goodness, Barbara. Indy looks like my boy, Pup. And you are so lucky to be getting a puppy! I long for one. Haddie is adorable.


Barbara: I have been retired from Federal Service since 2009 but work part time in town for a Reclamation District that services the rice farmers in the area.  It is just enough to keep my hand in the workforce and socialize.

Sherry: It is nice when we work fewer hours. That works well with the creative process. You were very active in the poetry world, and then took some time away, as poets do from time to time. Tell us about what brought you back?

Barbara: I was very active in 2010 and 2011, writing and experimenting with various forms, then my husband became ill; that took precedence over writing.  Then I had a few health issues myself, but now everything has stabilized with the both of us, and life is moving at a good and healthy pace.  I now have time to listen to the words in my head and let them take form again with time to put them to the page.
Sherry: And we are so pleased to have you back! I'm so happy to know that you have both returned to good health. When did you first begin writing poetry, Barbara? What do you love about it?

Barbara: I began writing a few words as a child, always being drawn to verse and fairy tales.  I loved children’s poetry books and stories and collected and cherish them to this day.  I played with it throughout my life only studying it on my own mainly by reading various poets. 

Drawn of course to Browning, Dickinson, Frost and Millay .  I did not get really serious about it until about 2005, probably because I had more time available.

What I love about poetry is that a whole story can be told in few words, the challenge of expressing a vision and or emotion with few lines is what I love the most. I have never been a lover of novels or long drawn out story telling, maybe because I see the world in snippets of small tiny stories and events that make up the collective which is life.  

Sherry: That is a good explanation! Which do you prefer, when writing a poem, form or free verse?  Is there a form you find most challenging?

Barbara: I prefer free verse as any of those who have read my poetry can note. I occasionally will take on a sonnet or prose form, but prefer to let the words direct themselves and create their own form.  My poetry is how I view the world at that moment; it is up to me to put that view into writing and to let the words speak for themselves as they feel the need. I find writing poetry cleansing and at times a sacred space away from the world.

Sherry: I like the sound of that: a sacred space away from the world. When reading other poets, what kind of poem brings the strongest response from you? 

Barbara: It can be just about any form, but what the words have to do is take me to that place or moment or experience where I can feel, smell or hide in the words. When a love poem can let me experience the touch or warmth of a lover, when a river can beg me follow or I can feel and smell its rush of water or I (become/am) the one looking out a window as the writer and observe the world below with all its happenings and all its color.  I want to be drawn in and left wanting more.

Sherry: That could not be said any better. What impact does blogging have on your work? 

Barbara: Blogging is where all my work winds up. I have not written on paper in quite a while. Not only does it allow me to write quickly and place thought to paper, it allows me to then place it out there into the cyber world and hope that someone enjoys it. I have never published a collection or book of poems, so blogging allows me to set the words free and get some feedback and connect with other poets and, in kind, read their work. 

Sherry: This would be the perfect time to look at a few of your poems.

long sought

do not love me like another or one with feathered hat you bought
love me like the lover your heart has for so long sought
take me to the morning, the one the dawn has yet to kiss,
take me there, there where long since lovers in forever reminisce
held between the moon and midnight, between the stars and eternity
holding my name as your next breathe - is held in sweetest ecstasy...

do not love me like another or one with feathered hat you bought
love me like the lover your heart has for so long sought
give me but the moments that write volumes without end
suspend the ever after knowing full well it shall not come again
let me read within your eyes the words your silent lips dare not address
and press them to the pages that my life will inscribe as - its happiness

no, do not love me like another or one with feathered hat you bought
love me like the lover your heart has for so long now - sought....

copyrighted 2010

Sherry: Oh, so romantic, Barbara. How lovely. 

Mississippi Mud

i have pulled
the bullets from my head
and laid them on
the table

your attempt
to kill me has again failed
(failure) it was you
who chose a white world an unclouded day world
not me - i told you
i preferred black and white - soil
and mud against a purified
parceling - muddy, murky writing, mississippi bottom
mud - Faulkner writing, sweaty,
somewhere between light and dark - somewhere between
living and dying; an unsettling word - don't think you
can hold me against
a white background - an all white background
dressed in white

i don't know that kind'a

copyrighted 2011

Sherry: I can feel the narrator, not wanting to be boxed in, defined, preferring the unsettled, conducive to creative release. Well said! And lastly, we have a poem written more recently, which I really love. Let's take a peek.

clouded heart
do not reprimand me
i have been under the influence
the present moon has rendered me
and unquantifiable


i love you
more than a raining sky loves tears
weeping warm
for a moon covered in the greys
of a clouded heart

how can you fault me for such

loving something so primal
as a moon


Sherry: I adore "i love you / more than a raining sky loves tears." Beautiful. What other interests do you pursue when you aren’t writing, kiddo?

Barbara: I have had many interests throughout the years accompanying poetry. I sang in choirs for years, studied philosophy and human psychology, and am a close follower of Carl Jung’s view of life. I have many interests and consider myself a lifelong learner.  

Currently I have expanded creative forces into quilting, having studied textiles and their design. I am looking now into creating quilts that have a unique form of expression. I especially love the Modern/Abstract Quilts their simplicity and art forms.

Sherry: Your quilts are so beautiful. I imagine that must be very peaceful and satisfying work. Is there anything you’d like to say to Poets United, in closing? 

Barbara: I am thankful Poets United has always been there, with a place to express oneself and to make it available to be read by others. It has been a place where I have connected and met other poets from across the globe, to not only read their work but understand what is happening in their world.

I am especially thankful for you, Sherry, for all you have done and championed in keeping Poets United going and poets connected; that is a blessing for all of us.  

Sherry: We have a wonderful team, kiddo; I am just one humble part of it. I am so grateful that Mary stepped in to keep the site going when it was looking for an admin. Poets United is one of the great blessings of my life. We are very grateful for founding members like you, who keep coming back. Thank you for this lovely visit. We look forward to reading much more of your work.

It is so lovely, week after week, hearing from both old friends and new, catching up, getting to know each other better with every year that passes. Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Poetry Pantry #338

Photos of Calatagan, Batangas, Philippines
by Totomai Martinez

"The tree house was my accommodation for 2 nights. It felt good to be away
from the city. The room is air-conditioned, with toilet and bath too :)"

"Some of my friends stay here at the floating cottages."

"Each floating cottage has an access to the crystal blue waters."

"This is the view in front of the tree house."

Happy Sunday, Friends.   Well, I am back once again here at the Poetry Pantry.   So glad to have some very interesting photos from Totomai to share.  The captions under each photo are Totomai's as well.   Come back next week as well for some more of his beautiful photos!

I would like to thank Sherry who ran the pantry so expertly in my absence.  And to Susan, Sumana, and Rosemary who did more than their share as well.  Smiles.  And I would like to thank those of you who continued to write and share.

Lots of great features each week here at Poets United.  I do want to give you an advance heads up for Susan's Midweek Motif prompt on Wednesday.......Faith.      We all have to find ways to keep it alive in our lives.

With no further delay, let's share poetry.  Link your poem below, and then comment on the poems of others who have posted.  Enjoy your Sunday and your week.

Friday, January 27, 2017

I Wish I'd Written This

My Sister Jokes With Me

My sister jokes with me on Skype—pretending that we can feed each other what we're eating through the cameras.

I remember her feeding me when I was a little girl. She makes the same faces when playing with my son and my daughter—lips twisting sour, eyes wide.

It is as if each memory is made of tiny mirrors and if I pick one up to examine it, I must carefully wipe my fingerprints off of it afterwards.

One time, when I was six, she fed me slim skewers of a frankfurter hotdog off the tip of her fork. She was a train, I was a tunnel.

Each piece of meat dipped in ketchup, salty and warm,
with skin just taut enough for my teeth to tear into ...

I ate six hotdogs that day because she fed me.

By Natasha Marin
from MILK (Seattle, Minor Arcana Press, © 2014)

The book's blurb says:
Natasha Marin’s debut e-book MILK is about sustaining children, relationships, and a thriving creative life through the act of breastfeeding. In this multimedia collection, Marin explores nurturing as an act of both power and privilege wherein milk-filled breast is not just a metaphor, but a galaxy of possibility. 

"It is hard to define such nurturance, but you know when you have received it because you are no longer hungry, even if you still want better for the world and yourself. And that is where Marin’s poems leave the reader: sustained and open to more."

I thought it would be good to give you something nurturing right now, when many are feeling threatened one way or another. 

Many of the poems in MILK are about breast-feeding, as both title and blurb suggest. And there are others, like this, which are less obviously about that primal experience but still recall it.

I can't even remember now where I found this ebook. Maybe it was advertised on Goodreads; maybe someone recommended it. I'm glad I did find and buy it; it's extraordinary, wonderful poetry like nothing I've ever come across before. It makes powerful statements, in language both beautiful and startling. 

Also it exploits its status as an ebook, to play in interesting ways with technology. Marin – also an interdisciplinary artist whose own photos make this collection even more rewarding – explains here how she has arranged the book to be interactive, and discusses whether we have gained or lost more by living in this digital age.

On her Portfolio website, which lists an impressive array of achievements, she states:

The craft of writing is done in isolation with few exceptions.  For this reason, I was inspired to develop projects that engage the larger community and allow others to participate and share in my own creative expression.

The creative work I produce takes on many forms: poetry, video, sound, performance, and immersive and interactive installation. This multiplicity defines my work and functions like a native tongue. I use this language of multiplicity to communicate most profoundly who I am and what I believe about the world we are living in.

At the same time her poems can stand on their own, on the strength of the words alone. I enjoy the earthiness and simplicity of this piece, its everyday details encapsulating so much about the importance of laughter, nurture, and love.

Material shared in 'I Wish I'd Written This' is presented for study and review. Poems, photos and other writings remain the property of the copyright owners, usually their authors.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Change

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”—Mahatma Gandhi


  “I can’t change the direction of the wind but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.”—Jimmy Dean

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.”—Helen Keller

“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.”—Steve Jobs

         Midweek Motif ~ Change

Change often brings variety in life and I wonder if it could be called the spice of life if it’s for the better.

A little bit rearrangement of the same furniture in a room or downsizing or bringing home a new piece gives the taste of newness adding a color to the mind.

The seasons change their fragrance, birdsongs, hues and even warmth. We welcome this change with open arms.

How do we accept change in our personal life, in our society, in the political arena? Nothing ever remains the same once ‘Change’ takes place. How should we react if it’s not to our own liking?

Shall we be The Change ourselves?

Share your poem with the motif Change.

Sonnet 123
by William Shakespeare

No, Time, thou shalt not boast that I do change.
Thy pyramids built up with newer might
To me are nothing novel, nothing strange;
They are but dressings of a former sight.
Our dates are brief, and therefore we admire
What thou dost foist upon us that is old,
And rather make them born to our desire
Than think that we before have heard them told.
Thy registers and thee I both defy,
Not wond'ring at the present, nor the past,
For thy records, and what we see doth lie,
Made more or less by thy continual haste:
This I do vow and this shall ever be:
I will be true despite thy scythe and thee.

Me, Change! Me, Alter!
By Emily Dickinson

Me, change! Me, alter!
Then I will, when on the Everlasting Hill
A Smaller Purple grows—
At sunset, or a lesser glow
Flickers upon Cordillera—
At Day's superior close! 

I (From White Flock)
By Anna Akhmatova

We thought we were beggars, we thought we had nothing at all
But then when we started to lose one thing after another,
Each day became
A memorial day --
And then we made songs
Of great divine generosity
And of our former riches.

 Change Upon Change
By Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Five months ago the stream did flow,
The lilies bloomed within the sedge,
And we were lingering to and fro,
Where none will track thee in this snow,
Along the stream, beside the hedge.
Ah, Sweet, be free to love and go!
For if I do not hear thy foot,
The frozen river is as mute,
The flowers have dried down to the root:
And why, since these be changed since May,
Shouldst thou change less than they.

And slow, slow as the winter snow
The tears have drifted to mine eyes;
And my poor cheeks, five months ago
Set blushing at thy praises so,
Put paleness on for a disguise.
Ah, Sweet, be free to praise and go!
For if my face is turned too pale,
It was thine oath that first did fail, --
It was thy love proved false and frail, --
And why, since these be changed enow,
Should I change less than thou. 

Please share your new poem using Mr. Linky below and visit others in the spirit of the community—
                (Next week Susan’s Midweek Motif will be ~ Faith)

Monday, January 23, 2017

Poems of the Week ~ with Audrey and Annell

Today, my friends, we are featuring three wonderful poems by Audrey Howitt, of Audrey Howitt Poetry, Alive and Well, and Annell Livingston of Somethings I Think About.  Pour yourself a piping hot cup of tea, and settle in to enjoy the words of your fellow poets.

This poem from Audrey  really took my breath away when I first read it. Let's take a look:

Audrey Howitt photo

i met you in the sun

you wrote your poetry
on clouds
blue on white
a daisy, your pen

until grey streaks pushed
your kind aside
deeper and deeper
into the edges
pulling petals apart
a litany to tiny ends

the wilt of a berry
on your breast
rebirth it's red
this new ink
the leaves your pages

poetry, your breath.

September 16, 2016

Sherry: Wow! So beautiful! Tell us about it, Audrey.

Audrey: I am honored and thrilled to be featured---I feel like my poetry is shifting right now--or I as a poet am shifting--one or the other or both--anyway, something of the old is being left behind as the new starts to take more focus--this piece was about that process for me--it feels like a loss of some kind, and I am uncertain right now where this shift is taking me--but I am trusting that it will be a good place for me--

Sherry: It is always interesting, when things start shifting within. Would you tell us a bit about this inner shift?

Audrey: So as much as I understand this shift, and I am not really sure that I do, I sense a kind of deepening or maturing that is starting to happen in my writing. I think I have been writing for 5 or 6 years now. When I first started writing, I was always trying to make my pieces poetic--make them beautiful by putting the words together in a way that pleased me--they were pretty I think--and then I started running out of things to say in that way--I would sit for long periods of time with blank paper in front of me, or worse, start writing and then hating it, just tearing up my work--I began to think that maybe that was all there was to my writing--and that maybe I was done --I had never really thought much about what I wrote--I wrote it and very seldom edited anything.

Now, I feel as though I am waking up a bit more in my writing. I am paying more attention to metaphor and the emotional content that underlies the writing.  I am also sitting with my pieces longer than I used to before I post them. I am trying to understand where they come from and what they mean to me on a deeper level --all of that means that I am posting less often--and working and re-working my pieces more than I used to.

I want my pieces to be good--really good--and I think for that to happen, I have to tell the truth in my writing--and as I move more toward truth, I find that making my pieces pretty is less interesting--that is the story behind this piece--

I feel a bit adrift--

Sherry: Sometimes these shifts can feel discombobulating, but I view them as very positive, personally, as it means growth is happening. And I think the most authentic poems, the ones we respond to most strongly, are the ones that speak the poet's truth.

We will watch where your work takes you with interest, Audrey. You posted another poem recently that I found a very positive response to the political climate we are struggling with these days.  Let's take a look:

Audrey Howitt photo

A Reweaving

i awoke to a world gone mad
hatred its main bargaining chip
and though i didn't want to,
i cried with each step this morning,
picked up worn linen
woven in youth's innocence
its nubs a part of its landscape

i will reweave it
over time
make it stronger
though you may shout your imprecations
loudly in my ear
i will not falter
i will not halt
i will not hate

so that our children
need not fear

Audrey: I was stunned at the election results. I am still stunned and trying to find words to put to the feelings that not only I, but so many people are experiencing now. So many people are really terrified at what this election will mean for this country, the world, the planet---so many people will suffer I fear. Since the election, hate crimes have skyrocketed here--even at the local elementary school, racist graffiti was found this last Friday. And I think we are just seeing the beginning--

I had not been to a protest since the Vietnam War era--but I went to one Sunday, and held hands and sang the old songs--We Shall Overcome seems so appropriate right now. 

Sherry: We are being set back 50 years. At my age, I feel very tired, from all the overcoming. Sigh. 

I love "I will not hate so our children need not fear." That really speaks to me, my friend. But it is hard to hold onto hope.  I find your work strong and powerful; you seem to be tapping into a deep well these days. Thanks so much  for sharing your poem and your thoughts with us today, and where you are at on your journey.

This fall, Annell shared a pensive poem about memories of past summers, that I think you will find very moving.

Fragments Geometry and Change
by Annell Livingston (2015)  
#204  11”x11”  gouache on w/c paper  

regrets        lie around       like dead flowers in the garden

the season for fresh blooms     is gone    i prepare for winter

leaving wet suits    on the line      summer's laughter fleeting

yet my heart is filled   with the warm cargo of summer   beach parties

picnics      hold the shell to your ear       gentle breezes heard

waves pound the shore   seagulls scream   the sun sets in the west                                                                                          

regrets left behind     to return another season      with thoughts of you

hearts entwined with silver thread        there is no danger we will forget

our tongues lap warm milk from the bowl            you were torn from me

years gobbled up                     your brindled coat thrown over the chair

your presence remains            memories of summer        fill my heart

from the bridge             i see the ship               leaving shore  

mist settles in       the view becomes obscure      the afternoon light

lingers                  still, i try to follow the ship         until out of sight          

there is a trail across the water      white foam       reflections of sky

with a tiny needle    i make small stitches     to hold memories together

bind pages into the book    whisper words           hoping you will hear 

October 7, 2016

Sherry: This pings at my heart, Annell, the loss, the golden memories, the stitching together and, especially "hoping you will hear." Sigh.

Annell: Thanks for asking for this poem, and for giving me the opportunity to talk about it, and what I was thinking.

regrets       lie around                like dead flowers in the garden

(so many things I wish I had done differently…..)

the season for fresh blooms  (spring)     is gone    i prepare for winter

leaving wet suits           on the line 
(children leave their wet swim suits on the line, and at the end of summer,
you will often find them there)
summer's laughter fleeting     yet my heart is filled

(though my heart is filled with regrets, it is also filled with the fun we had)                                       

with the warm cargo of summer        beach parties

picnics             hold the shell to your ear  
(when summer is over, that one precious shell, found at the beach is there on the shelf, 
when you hold it to your ear, you can still hear the sounds of summer)           

gentle breezes heard

waves pound the shore       seagulls scream            the sun sets in the west 

(the idea of the setting sun, end of day, end of summer—
there is a certain sadness  in this idea)                                                                                

 regrets left behind (sometimes we forget the regrets)      

to return another season         with thoughts of you 
(yet when I think of you, the regrets return)

hearts entwined with silver thread 
(I have an image that I carry, my heart entwined with the ones I love 
with silver thread  that cannot be broken)    

there is no danger we will forget  
(we can never forget the ones we love…the love remains)

our tongues lap warm milk from the bowl 
(I am thinking of my precious kitty here, the beauty of his being)             

you were torn from me (and quickly my thoughts change, your death,
which came too soon)

years gobbled up (the years you were lost to me) 
your brindled coat thrown over the chair imagining it was the coat you wore

your presence remains  (and even when a person is gone, they are still there,
they pop up unexpected anytime)

memories of summer     fill my heart (still I think about the time
we did have together)

from the bridge   i see the ship  (again imaging, when you died, you left in a ship)              
leaving shore    

mist settles in      the view becomes obscure (I follow the ship with my eyes,
until I can see it no more, you have gone to a place I cannot follow….yet)
the afternoon light

lingers       still, I try to follow the ship          until out of sight 

there is a trail across the water      white foam        reflections of sky

(perhaps it is the silver thread, that is wound around our hearts…
that creates that line to you)

with a tiny needle          i make small stitches        to hold memories together

(I imagine myself, sewing, making stitches, holding memories together)

bind pages into the book (a book of memories)   whisper words
perhaps I speak to myself, or maybe to  you)

(I hold you close, and in some mysterious way, I hope you will hear
what I say to you, you will know how much I loved you)
  hoping you will hear

Note:  It has been two years and five months since my Son died, in some ways it happened yesterday, and in other ways it has been a lifetime.  The shock has softened, and I am glad he no longer suffers the pain of his illness, (here it comes) but I still miss him so.  Wish he had not died.  Wish I could have known he would die so soon….wish it could have been different….he was who he was, and I am who I am….I suppose it was as it was, and could not have been another way.  I wonder….what makes us think it would have been better if it had been “my way?”   I am grateful I was there when he died.  To be with him, to comfort him, to hold him…it all happened so quickly, the healing takes time, an important element in the healing.

This poem could have been called a “Mother’s Lament.”  There are some things in life that are hard, and over time, they do not fade away, they crystallize into marble.  Some regrets will always be there.  We will live with them for as long as we live.                       

October 7, 2016 

Sherry: I think every mother's heart is filled with regrets, things we wish we had done differently. But we know we did our best. Thank you for this very moving poem, Annell, and for sharing your thoughts behind and between the lines.

We hope you enjoyed these beautiful offerings, friends, each one straight from the poet's loving heart. Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!

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