poem and poem iv


Did you know you can subscribe to a “poem of the day” at the Poetry Foundation website?  Every morning I get a new poem in my email, and I store them up like saving gift chocolates for a special occasion.  When I write, I like to open a recent “poem of the day” and pick a line that catches my imagination.  So many intriguing ideas or phrases have come out of this poetic exploration.

For instance, one of my stories that I wrote recently starts: “These eyes have never been enslaved.”  Where did that line come from?  Any guesses?  I’ll bet some of my poet-friends will know.  . . . .

. . . Lucille Clifton’s “Homage to My Hips.”  <- (Click on this link to read it.)  Do you know it?

. . . these hips
are free hips.
they don’t like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved,
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do. . . .

My story is about a young woman whose brother has “sold his eyes” to a gang-like organization to raise some quick money.  Her family worries about her brother, who is becoming more distant and disturbed by the things he has to watch through his “enslaved eyes.”  She says she would never sell her eyes, but she worries about her brother and what will happen to him.  (It will be coming out soon on a UK science fiction journal e-publication …)

There is a poem by Nikki Giovanni called “A Poem on the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy” that goes, in part:

Trees are never felled . . . in summer . . . Not when the fruit . . .
is yet to be borne . . . Never before the promise . . . is fulfilled . . .
Not when their cooling shade . . . has yet to comfort . . .


Today I opened the children’s book of poetry by Kwame Alexander that I picked up last April, Out of Wonder.  The poems in this book are written “to celebrate” other famous poets’s poems.  In the book, Chris Colderley, one of the editors with Kwame Alexander, wrote a poem (“Snapshots”) celebrating Nikki Giovanni, which reads in part:

people forget . . . poetry is not just words on a page . . it is . . .a snowflake on your tongue . . a tattoo on the inside of your arm . . . a dashiki and a kaftan . . . tripping down the streets of Lincoln Heights . . . shouting from the hills of Knoxville, Tennessee . . .


Here is my poem after Nikki Giovanni’s poem.

When You Come in After Midnight

Parents are never silent . . . in life . . . not when you make . . . a mistake . . . Never “That’s all right,” . . . instead it’s . . . “I told you so.”

“You never listen,” . . . they say, frowned . . . or its twin . . . “You never learn” . . . when . . . what you need is . . . “I did that too,” . . . or “I understand.”

Everyone else’s parents . . . wore the understanding . . . faces . . .gave the . . . “I love you” . . . embraces . . . like the delicate brush. . . of a sun’s daylight kiss

With my own children . . . I try to be different . . . I listen . . . to their  solo songs . . . to celebrate . . . their triumphs and their struggles . . . with  compassion . . .  and try not to say too much . . . or too little

– Theresa Barker


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poem and poem iii


T.S. Elliot’s “Virginia” caught my eye recently:

T.S. Eliot

Red river, red river,
Slow flow heat is silence
No will as still as a river
Still.  Will heat move
Only through the mocking-bird
Heard once?  Still hills
Wait.  Gates wait.  Purple trees,
White trees, wait, wait,
Delay, decay.  Living, living,
Never moving. Ever moving
Iron thoughts came with me
And go with me;
Red river, river river.


This inspired me to write my own poem, after Eliot’s “Virginia,” about Arizona, where I was born.

Theresa Barker

Red sand, red sand
Slow heat and silence
No breeze is still as sandstone
Still.  Will brush move
Only through the wind-sculpted rocks
Brush once?  Still stones
Wait.  Cactus waits.  Brown brush,
Green brush, wait, wait,
Delay, no decay.  Sleeping, sleeping,
Never changing, ever changing,
Brittle thoughts came to me
And go into me.
Red sand, sand.  Sand.


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Do you read poetry to inspire your writing?  (I know you poets out there – Lyn, Luanne – do!)

I  used to be overwhelmed by poetry.  I felt like I would never understand it, I felt dumb when I didn’t “get” a poem, and I didn’t think I’d enjoy reading poetry, to be honest.  There were some favorites over the years, but mostly I stuck to fiction.  But then I decided to subscribe to “Poem of the Day” from the Poetry Foundation, and I started to use a line or a phrase from the Poem of the Day for inspiration to start my daily writing.  And after several months I started to see some of the same names again, or a particular poem stuck in my mind (like Lucille Clifton’s “homage to my hips”: “. . . these hips/are free hips./they don’t like to be held back./these hips have never been enslaved. . . “).  And now?  I have a great variety of favorites poems and poets.  And I try not to try too hard to understand the meaning of a poem.  I try to just experience it!

What is your favorite poem?  Or poet?  What poem or poet would you recommend to a friend or young person, who may be just starting to read poetry?

Ah! April is National Poetry Month!

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Poetry by Jameson Fink is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Did you know April is National Poetry Month?  – I only realized it yesterday when I saw a notice in my local public library.  How did I miss this?  So embarrassing!

If you are like me, you may be a reluctant poet – someone who feels they don’t know enough about poetry to write it well, but who keeps learning and striving and experimenting with writing poems.  If you are already a confident poet, kudos to you!  And Happy National Poetry Month!

Who are your favorite poets?  I truly enjoy many poets’ work, but I especially like W. S. Merwin, Joy Harjo, Rita Dove, William Carlos Williams, Langston Hughes, Robert Pinsky, and Ted Kooser and Billy Collins.  – and more.  Gosh, just being able to list poets I enjoy makes me feel more confident about my own work as a poet.

In honor of National Poetry Month, I decided today to try to write a poem every day in April.  – Not necessarily here on the blog, but in my own writing practice.

Have you ever tried writing a poem each day?  Or perhaps another daily creative routine, such as taking a photograph each day, or writing a blog post every day?  Did you keep up with it, or did you let it drop after a few times?  What did it teach you, or what did you get out of it?

Here is the poem I wrote today, “Pick Up a Rock” –


Pick Up a Rock

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Pebbles by Jeremy Segrott is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Pick up a rock

Your fingers automatically curl into a fist.

break a window

break a promise

break a bone


Pick up a rock

Keep your palm open.

build a hut

build a school

build a friendship


It all comes down to this:

closed fist or

open palm?


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Pebbles by Jeremy Segrott is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Poem on the Street – #internationalwomensday

“Blue Seattle Photo,” photo by Theresa Barker.

Have you ever seen an image that almost seemed like a poem in itself? That is what this image seemed like to me – a poem on the street.

(I know you photographers out there do this every day- Amy Maranto, Miriam Hurdle, Monica, Audrey & Tom, and others!) 

Last week I was in downtown Seattle for an appointment, and I happened to see this utility-box mural while crossing the street.  First, let me say that I always think it’s awesome when utility-boxes have art murals.  Second, I just loved the image here, and how the newspaper boxes next to it complimented the idea within the image, from my point of view.

A poem!

I thought today would be a wonderful day to share this with you.  Happy International Women’s Day!

Weekly Photo Challenge – topic Wish.   https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/wish/


where we are ourselves in poetry

“Poetry, I tell my students,/is idiosyncratic.  Poetry/is where we are ourselves . . .” – Elizabeth Alexander, “Ars Poetica #100:  I believe”

Poetry by Riccardo Cuppini is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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Poetry by Riccardo Cuppini is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Where we are ourselves
is poetry.

Where I am myself
is in the ocean,

is in the bright wispy ribbons
of an orange winter sunset,

is in the pealing laugh of
a beloved daughter,

is in the fragrance of
soon-to-be daffodils,

is in the juicy crunch of
a leg of fried chicken,

is in the succinct working of
a crossword puzzle;

Where I am myself
is in the soft-purr of an
all-black kitten-cat,

is in the gurgling rush
of Ravenna creek
beside me,

is in the hard earthy
surface of brick.

Is poetry where we are

About this post

When I wrote this, I thought of you, my blogging  community.  Where are we when we are most ourselves?  In our blogs.  To you!

About the epigram (poetry fragment)

I often use a line or two from a poem to start my creative process.  You’ll see these epigrams at the top of some of my work.  I thought you’d like to know a little more about the poet whose poem I used for my epigram today.  She is an accomplished poet and Person of Letters, and I was not familiar with her work until I encountered her “Ars Poetica” poem this morning!

Elizabeth Alexander is a poet who was born in Harlem, New York, and grew up in Washington, D.C.  She has earned degrees from Yale and Boston University, and she received her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.   She is the chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.  One of her books, American Sublime, was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize.  Dr. Alexander composed and read a poem for President Barack Obama’s Presidential inaguration, “Praise Song for the Day,” which includes the lines “Say it plain: that many have died for this day./Sing the names of the dead who brought us here”.

“Alexander writes on a variety of subjects, most notably race and gender, politics and history, and motherhood” (from poetryfoundation.org).