A Poem from My Dad on the Occasion of Poe’s Death

Last week, my parents visited us over the weekend. Their stay was extended by a vehicular malfunction. My dad returned home, car fixed and a shiny new repair bill under his arm, and wrote this. I don’t know if he meant for me to publish it. We’ll see. 


by Paul Willingham

We took a little trip in our Mercury auto
Out through the farm byways of Minnesota
Crossed the border into South Dakota
To visit the chief poet at Claims Poetica Read the rest of this page »

Literary Tour: At The Mount with Edith Wharton

When I traveled last month, I attended a writer’s event at The Mount in Lenox, Mass., which is the beautiful, sprawling estate of 20th century author and poet Edith Wharton.

I have a photo essay up at Tweetspeak if you’d like to enjoy a glimpse into the spirit of Edith Wharton, which is evident throughout the “autobiographical house.”

Stop on over.

Why the Chicken Crossed the Road

By this time, I’m ready to ask the chicken question.

I’ve been scratching around for an angle, and even as I type this, I don’t have one. But Kim Addonizio tells me I don’t have to know where I’m going when I start writing, and even goes so far as to say it might be best not to. If that’s true, then I could walk her way and ask the age-old question to see if it gets me all the way across the boulevard.

(Addonizio got a poem out of it when she tried.)

So what do you think? Why did the chicken cross the road?


It’s Wednesday, and I’m at Tweetspeak where we’re reading Kim Addonizio’s  Ordinary Genius: A Guide for the Poet Within together. Come on over to read the rest of the post — maybe you’ll find out why the chicken crossed. Or how it wound up in my dryer.

Ordinary Genius: Why the Chicken Crossed the Road

Photo by Toby M, Creative Commons license via Flickr.

Tweetspeak Week


It’s been a great week of fun over at Tweetspeak Poetry — here’s my quick digest, of great articles worth your time.


There is not a single more recognizable southern drink than sweet tea, except maybe Kentucky bourbon. And if one were to combine the former with the latter, one might find a sort of southern drink Nirvana.

— Seth Haines has a weekly community poetry prompt on Mondays, this month writing found poems together around the theme of tea.


I steady myself for the cardboard colors to come:
Dun, amber, sepia sweeping over ungrazed prairie.

— Glynn Young reviews Judith Valente’s Discovering Moons


The recent discovery of a third daguerreotype of Victorian-era poet Emily Dickinson has historians scratching their heads. Long believed to be reclusive and camera-shy, Dickinson seems to paint an entirely new picture of herself, positively mugging for the paparazzi.

— A Tweetspeak exclusive report on the possible discovery of a new Emily Dickinson portrait. (This might explain why I was unable to complete my journalism studies.)


L.L. tagged me on Facebook to come but I was busy that night. Lucky me. [smiley face] Poetry is nonsense. And cryptic.

— Hear me confess to making disparaging remarks about poetry…shortly before beginning to write poetry. Join me and the Tweetspeak gang for a new book club of Kim Addonizio’s Ordinary Genius.


Tweetspeak’s managing editor and I enjoyed poetry readings on the same terrace where Edith Wharton and Henry James sat “on summer nights, reading Walt Whitman’s ‘Leaves of Grass’ aloud.” Not once did security try to escort us to the gate. 

— It’s my week to bring you the best poetic news you can use (or leave sitting on the table). This week, it’s engineered poetry, who to blame for overdue books, and how to talk about classics you’ve never read in our Top Ten Poetic Picks.


I thought of my own life and its lack of transition. My own spiritual tradition ritualizes very few rites of passage: birth, marriage, childbirth, and death. Our larger culture celebrates only a few other markers: driving at 16 and drinking at 21.

— Charity Singleton talks about life transition through the lens of the art museum.


Still here? It’s way more fun over at Tweetspeak

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And one last thing? My favorite WordCandy image of the week. Make your own? It’s simple, and beautiful.


Top photo: Dinner table at The Mount, Edith Wharton’s mansion in Lenox, Mass.

(Not) The Smartest Person in the Room

It wasn’t so very long ago I made the awkward discovery I wasn’t the smartest person in the room. It’s something I can be, you know, if I frequent the right rooms. But there are only a few rooms where that works for me.

The rest of the time, I’m not it.

Turns out (luckily enough) that I don’t have to be.

I find myself in a lot of those other rooms lately, just one of the regular occupants, neither being nor needing to be particularly smart. I tend to keep my voice a little lower, have far less to say and what I do say might be muttered under my breath.

I’m liking that, more than one might expect. It relieves a lot of the pressure, and curiously enough minimizes the potential downside of really messing things up.

This week I started reading The Spirituality of Imperfection (Kurtz and Ketcham). Not far in, the authors remind of the nature of error as a simple fact of our days.

Errors, of course, are part of the game. They are part of our truth as human beings. To deny errors is to deny ourself, for to be human is to be imperfect, somehow error-prone. To be human is to ask unanswerable questions, but to persist in asking them, to be broken and ache for wholeness, to hurt and try to find a way to healing through the hurt. To be human is to embody a paradox…

We are not “everything” but neither are we “nothing.” Spirituality is discovered in the space between paradox’s extremes, for there we confront our helplessness and powerlessness, our woundedness. In seeking to understand our limitations, we seek not only an easing of our pain but an understanding of what it means to hurt and what it means to be healed. Spirituality begins with the acceptance that our fractured being, our imperfection, simply is: There is no one to “blame” for our errors–neither ourselves nor anyone nor anything else. Spirituality helps us first to see, and then to understand, and eventually to accept the imperfection that lies at the very core of our human be-ing. Spirituality accepts that “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.”

Here’s to letting someone else be the smartest person in the room. I’ll be in the back row, getting to know my limitations a little better. Maybe you’d like to sit in the next seat over?


Photo: Letter on Edith Wharton’s desk, taken at The Mount, Lenox, Mass.