Poetry Friday – My Week in Poetry and Future Poetic Opportunities

Today is Poetry Friday. Tanita Davis is rounding up the posts for this Ides of March at {fiction, instead of lies}

This week has been a week of poetry reading (as well as writing regular shitty first drafts of poems for the Stafford Challenge).

First and most importantly, I read poetry by my daughter Maria. She took an advanced poetry class as a senior in college and made this beautiful book of poems:

My favorite poems of this collection are Maria’s Sonnets i and ii, written about her spring break trip 14 years ago. She experienced a vastly different spring break than is typical for a college junior.

I’d never seen my Grandma grey and worn.
This shrunken woman in the hospice bed
cannot be my grandma. My grandma lives alone
in Yucca Valley, hiking on the dirt

roads with muddy furrows that sink like
the laugh lines on her cheeks. She conceals
wispy hair under immaculate wigs. Despite
sore hammer toes she works her sky-high heels.

That day I hiked the furrowed roads alone,
adrift amidst waxy creosote.
Stringy jackrabbits, baby quail gambol,
flitting through dry gulches like rowboats.

Somehow I didn’t want to be inside
Spring Break two thousand ten, when Grandma died.

Spring Break two thousand ten, when Grandma died,
I arrived in time for bon voyage,
the convalescent odors scattered by
tamales, Spanish rice, tortillas, guac,

and Grandma, a bit tipsy on boxed wine.
One last boisterous fiesta while the Reeds
were still a family, whole and feeling fine.
The jalapeño sweat displaced the needs

that lay beneath the cornered hospice sheets.
The jalapeños were what got to me,
the smiles against those hospice whites.
The laugh of one you love is therapy

with nebulizer and glass of sweet rosé.
I’d never seen my Grandma grey and worn.

~By Maria C. Krebs, reprinted with permission by the poet

Another book I’ve read this week is Counting Descent by Clint Smith. Last year I won a Barnes & Noble gift card from Carol Labuzzetta from a promotion on her site The Apples in My Orchard. I “lost” it for several months, and when I found it recently, I added Barnes & Noble on my to-do list when we were in Temecuela last week. For more than one reason, I wanted to buy a book of poems, but I also got this package of beautiful origami paper.

I’ve been wanting to read more of Smith’s poetry because I knew him more as a journalist with his podcast Justice in America and his book How the Word is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America. Here is Clint Smith reading the poem titled, “Counting Descent.”

Another book I read was this 40-year-old verse novel. The Donner Party by George Keithley is the evidence I’ll bring to the next meeting of our Friends of the Library. It is convincing evidence, I believe, for the request to be less picky about the books we place in our book shop. I was volunteering on Saturday, and I found this book in the box to be recycled (not to sell in the bookshop):

It is beautifully-written and full of detail of the horrors of the cross-country trip to California that the Donners, Reeds, and others made in 1846. There are some offensive and archaic references, which were revised in a 2012 reprinting of this book, but it’s a worthwhile find for 50 cents or $1–the price we charge for books at our Friends bookshop.

Tomorrow the March Open Write begins at Ethical ELA. Do join us!

Another opportunity on Ethical ELA: Verselove is coming in April. If you are looking for community and 30 days of writing prompts for April’s National Poetry Month, you will be coming to the right place. You’re welcome to join us. Sign up for Verselove here.

Finally, for those who are still here. If you’ll be writing a #poetrypals animal pantoum, have you seen the Pantoum Tool here? I find it very helpful.

Slice of Life – Disengaging with Fiction

Today’s Slice of Life at TwoWritingTeachers.org, 10 August 2021

The year was 1992 and my husband was traveling for his job. My children were two and four, and we had been at some friends’ house all day playing with their kids and passing the time. As we were leaving Kevin gave me a book, The Sphere, by Michael Crichton. I have no idea if the book was any good, or if I just needed an adult book and anything would have worked. Perhaps I had mentioned earlier in the day that it had been a long time since I had read a novel, and that is why he gave it to me. Anyway, I brought it home, put the girls to bed, and started reading it. I’m not a super fast reader, but for some reason my brain devoured this science fiction book and I read it until 3:00 a.m., and when I finally turned the last page I went to bed.

Those devouring reading times have come once in a while throughout my life when I have fasted too long from reading. For the past few years of teaching grade 5, my students and I have kept track of our reading. Each year I read 40-60 books. However, the pandemic came and reading became something I neglected. I don’t know why.

However, this month reading is coming back to me, fortunately. I read Clint Smith‘s How the Word is Passed, Winn Collier‘s Holy Curiosity, and yesterday I read most of The Racketeer by John Grisham. It was awful, but mesmerizing. I just had to finish it, kind of like The Sphere all those years ago. It reminded me that I need to find good fiction and start reading again! I need fiction to disengage and relieve stress, stress internalized from the daily news as well as the nonfiction books I’m reading.

Do you have any suggestions for my next adult or young adult fiction book?


This chapter about the Juneteenth celebration at Galveston Island has helped me walk further along a new path of truth in America’s history. This passage, written by a young black man, also speaks to me, an older white woman, who learned history in a similar way with white-washing and lies to hide the deeper truths of white supremacy that people didn’t want to say aloud. We are also seeing it in our lived day-to-day history in this, the 21st century.

I watched these young people read to the audience parts of history that placed our country in context. I felt, in that moment, envious of them. Had I known when I was younger what some of these students were sharing, I felt as if I would have been liberated from a social and emotional paralysis that for so long I could not name—a paralysis that had arisen from never knowing enough of my own history to effectively identify the lies I was being told by others: lies about what slavery was and what it did to people; lies about what came after our supposed emancipation; lies about why our country looks the way it does today. I had grown up in a world that never tired of telling me and other Black children like me all of the things that were wrong with us, all of the things we needed to do better. But not enough people spoke about the reason so many Black children grow up in communities saturated with poverty and violence. Not enough people spoke about how these realities were the result of decisions made by people in power and had existed for generations before us.

Smith, Clint. (2021) How the Word Is Passed, Little, Brown and Company. Kindle Edition.


For so long
arisen from history
lies told about slavery
lies about our country
Not enough people
spoke about
realities of power
for generations before us

I’m trying to find a balance in how to read these rich chapters. For the first few chapters, I highlighted things I wanted to remember on my Kindle. This time I took notes in a journal. After three pages of notes and two poems, I was still only half finished with the chapter. Hmmm…I’ll keep trying.