August 11, 2018

I was recently clever (and lucky) enough to marry a man who loves reading and bookstores as much as I do.  On our third date, he gave me a book of poetry purchased from a bookstore he'd discovered while he'd been away on a cycling trip.  On our fourth date, he invited me to his house for dinner, and when I arrived, my poetry book was casually lying on his coffee table.  Obviously, this man had me pegged.  

It's no surprise, then, that our two-part honeymoon through Southern Colorado and the Pacific Northwest included sniffing out bookstores wherever we went.  We visited some old favorites in Telluride and Crested Butte, and we discovered several new ones along the way.  And of course, we purchased poetry in each one.

My favorite finds were Olivia Gatwood's collection, New American Best Friend, and Oregon Poet Laureate Kim Stafford's tribute to his brother, 100 Tricks Every Boy Can Do.  Both books are worthy reads from...

November 10, 2017

What inspires you to write a poem? 

The sound of a delicious word?  A theme or motif that keeps playing in your brain?  An emotion you are experiencing and want to explore? 

All of these are elements of poetry, and the need to express or play with these ideas is often the first nudge toward something that wants to be a poem.  But once those ideas are harnessed and tussled with, what about how they are placed as words and space on the page?  How can you, as the architect of the poem, master and employ the tools of poetic writing?  How can you become a skilled decision maker when it comes to the technical choices inherent in every poem?  Exploring the answers to the following questions can help. 

How do you decide when to capitalize words in your poems?  Are you intentionally capitalizing every first line, like in blank verse?  Why?  Are you capitalizing every proper noun or the first word in every new sentence?  Why?  Or is your capitalization just whatever th...

July 21, 2017

Top row:  Rennes; Paris

Middle row:  Paris

Bottom row:  Paris 

July 21, 2017

Top row:  Bookstalls on the Tiber in Rome, Italy

Middle row:  Bookstalls in Place Hoche in Rennes, France

Bottom row:  Bookstalls on the Seine in Paris, France 

June 21, 2017

Top row:  Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee.  Owned by Ann Patchett.

Bottom row:  Birchbark Books in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Owned by Louise Erdrich.

June 21, 2017

Top row (L-R):  Boulder Bookstore; Tattered Cover LoDo

Middle row (L-R):  bookbar; Second Star to the Right

Bottom row: (L-R):  Innisfree Poetry Bookstore; Capitol Hill Books

June 21, 2017

Top row:  Crested Butte

Second row:  Steamboat Springs; Estes Park

Third row:  Ouray; Edwards

Bottom row:  Telluride; Evergreen

June 21, 2017

Top row (L-R):  Portree, Scotland; Glasgow, Scotland

Second row:  Paris, France

Third row (L-R):  Bruges, Belgium; Cambridge, England  

Bottom row:  Inverness, Scotland

June 21, 2017

Today I had the distinct pleasure of being interviewed by Rich Bradfield for his podcast The Boulderist.  When the episode is published, I’ll be sure to share the link.

During our conversation, I told Rich about my travel habit of seeking out independent bookstores and buying a volume or two of poetry, ideally by local poets. Bookstores struggle, and the poetry section is invariably the least trafficked and smallest section in most stores. So as part of my tourism, I create poetry karma. I want bookstores to survive and poetry to be published, so I invest in my intention.  

Along those same lines, I realized last fall that I’d assembled quite a collection of photographs from in and outside bookstores I’ve encountered on my travels. I thought it would be fun to share some of them here, perhaps to inspire fellow poetry tourists. The store pictured to the left is Oasis Books, discovered on my recent trip to historic Gloucester, Virginia. I bought used copies of W.H. Auden's...

January 15, 2017

Years of teaching English and visiting elementary language arts classrooms has left me with a low opinion of most language arts curricula. So often, I am offended on behalf of writers everywhere as I watch the inane way children are asked to interact with poetry and story, too often by teachers who are not themselves writers and whose discomfort with writing and literature is palpable. Billy Collins’s poem Introduction to Poetry perfectly illustrates this challenge, and the last two stanzas sum it up nicely: 

But all they want to do 

is tie the poem to a chair with rope 

and torture a confession out of it.                   

They begin beating it with a hose 

to find out what it really means.

Poet Sara Holbrook recently published an ironic illustration of the situation and excoriated the standardized testing industry in her Huffington Post piece, I Can’t Answer These Texas Standardized Test Questions About My Own Poem. I hope you read it. I p...

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