Poem of the Week, by Naomi Shihab Nye

IMG_8937Small, wooden, stained a peeling dark red-brown, our kitchen table has moved with us from apartment to condo to house. It’s too short, so over the years I’ve glued and re-glued blocks of wood to the bottom of each leg. My little kids did their homework on it while I cooked for them, my teenagers and their friends talked and laughed around it while I cooked for them, my grown children sit around it laughing and drinking wine while I cook for them.

Salt and pepper grinders, Penzey’s Fox Point seasoning, a trivet that used to be my grandmother’s, cloth napkins each folded a different way to differentiate their owners, scuffs and burns from hot pots carelessly set down: this is our table, found curbside twenty years ago by me, who loved it at sight and for no apparent reason.

Now the table is leaving us, passed on to my daughter’s friend Shrimp, to be replaced by a kitchen island and four tall counter stools. When I sat at it yesterday eating a tomato sandwich, I thought of this beautiful poem.


Daily, by Naomi Shihab Nye

These shriveled seeds we plant,
corn kernel, dried bean,
poke into loosened soil,
cover over with measured fingertips

These T-shirts we fold into
perfect white squares

These tortillas we slice and fry to crisp strips
This rich egg scrambled in a gray clay bowl

This bed whose covers I straighten
smoothing edges till blue quilt fits brown blanket
and nothing hangs out

This envelope I address
so the name balances like a cloud
in the center of the sky

This page I type and retype
This table I dust till the scarred wood shines
This bundle of clothes I wash and hang and wash again
like flags we share, a country so close
no one needs to name it

The days are nouns: touch them
The hands are churches that worship the world






For more information about Naomi Shihab Nye, please click here.

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Poem of the Week, by William Henry Davies

98CCB3C4-DC19-4DF8-B68C-5B477DC4CFDERelaxation is not my style. My style is more making long daily to-do lists and then crossing items off one by one. Sometimes I can trick myself into relaxing if I turn it into a task and add it to the list —rest and read–which when you think about it is kind of pathetic.

My mother sent me this poem last week. When I looked up the author, his sideways grin made me think he knew how to have fun. What did he remember, in the end, and what will I remember – how many things I crossed off my lists? Or the hour I spent yesterday in my kayak on Lake of the Isles, paddling in silence behind that drifting flock of geese?


Leisure, by William Henry Davies

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.



For more information on William Henry Davies, please click here.

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New podcast and online summer workshops!

Hello friends,

Wow, what a year. Is that even possible to say, since we’re only halfway through? All the everything happening around us and to us, the swirl of life in 2020. It feels as if we’re at a breaking point, a breaking point that’s necessary, scary, exhilarating, exhausting.

Some days I’m filled with fear, some days with fury, and every day a kind of wonder and hope for the future world we can make together. A world we can all breathe in. With that better, kinder world in mind, I’ve created a new podcast and moved all my one-day workshops to Zoom, on a pay-what-you’re able basis. I’d love to see you in one!


Welcome to my new podcast, Words by Winter

Words by Winter: Conversations, reflections, and poems about the passages of life. Because it’s rough out there, and we have to help each other through. Each brief episode includes a story or conversation or letter from a listener, along with a poem. Words by Winter can be found anywhere you listen to your podcasts.

Click here for Words by Winter on Apple Podcasts.

Click here for Words by Winter on Google Podcasts.

Click here for Words by Winter on Spotify.

I’d love to hear from you about what you’re going through, what uncertainties or troubles you’re dealing with, maybe in the silence of your own mind and heart. Let me know, and I’ll go in search of a poem to help you through, one that might help all of us through, in the way that poems have been helping me ever since I was a little girl.

Sometimes life feels too hard, too intense, just too much, and if that’s where you are right now, reach out. Whoever you are, whatever age, whatever place in life, you can drop me a line or send a voice memo to wordsbywinterpodcast@gmail.com. 

Note: Music-free episodes are available upon request to listeners with hearing difficulties.

Introducing the Summer Session Workshops! 

9C805922-3A4B-4E42-8B12-B14912EDB00ECome join me on my (virtual) porch this summer! All my three-hour workshops are now taught via Zoom and designed for writers of any and all experience. No preparation required. Each workshop is intensive, exhilarating, and fun. Consider them a recharge of your creative spirit. I regularly update my class offerings (and I’d also be happy to design one specifically for your group, whatever that group is). 

NOTE: I welcome everyone and respect everyone’s individual financial circumstances. Sometimes, when under great duress, it’s even more important to feed your creative soul.

Therefore, all my classes are pay-as-you’re-able (truly, no questions asked), from free to a maximum of $75. Payment can be made via Venmo to Alison-McGhee-1, or via my Paypal account, which is alison_mcghee@hotmail.com. Personal checks are also fine.

All workshops are strictly limited to ten participants. To register for one or more, please email me.  


Creative Writing Kickstart!

Date and Time: Tuesday, August 4, 10-1 pm, CST

Have you always wanted to write but aren’t sure how to begin? Or, are you a writer in need of an energy boost and a fresh start? This three-hour intensive Kickstart workshop will recharge your writing energy and help you develop a regular writing practice. We’ll do several brief writings and talk about various aspects of craft and process –maybe language, maybe flow, maybe dialogue, maybe tense and point of view, maybe some other things– in terms of what makes great writing great. 

The class is designed for writers of all abilities, experience levels and genres – so I forbid you to worry if you’ve never written before! Whether you’re a longtime writer in need of a boost or someone who’s always had an interest in writing but never known how to sit down and get started, the class is designed for you. 

Bonus: Weekly writing prompts will be emailed to you for one month following the end of class. 


The Art of Writing Picture Books

Date and Time: Saturday, August 8, 10-1 pm CST

Do you love picture books? Have you ever wanted to write one? Are you curious how to go about it? Welcome to my one-day picture book writing workshop! In our intensive, fun class, we’ll deconstruct some classic picture books, talk about ideas for new ones, and go through all the nuts and bolts, such as how long can a picture book be? What’s the relationship between writer and artist? How do you write a picture book that children will love and adults won’t mind reading ten thousand times in a row?

We’ll come up with ideas, draft a basic outline for one or more picture books, read aloud some favorite passages, and provide instant feedback on anything you come up with. This class is designed for people of any writing ability or experience – all are welcome. Guaranteed to be illuminating, exhilarating and fun.


The Freedom of Form

Date and Time: Friday, August 14, 10-1 pm CST

When you’re stuck in a piece of writing, feeling lifeless, what do you do? Grind through, hoping desperately that a window will open? Give up? Take a break? Declare yourself a failure and slink off to drown your sorrows? I’ve taken a shot at all these methods, and none of them work as well for me as re-framing the work itself. I give myself seemingly arbitrary rules to work within, e.g., Write this scene as a series of text messages, or, Write this novel as a series of one-hundred-word passages. 
The freedom of assigned form is real, people, and it’s why novels usually have chapters, and picture books are usually under 500 words. It’s why enduring forms of poetry like haiku and sonnets and sestinas are still alive and thriving. In this workshop, which is designed for writers in all genres, we will play with form as a way to open up your writing, your mind and your heart to the freedom and creativity inherent in all art. This class is designed for people of any writing ability or experience – all are welcome. Guaranteed to be illuminating, exhilarating and fun. Enrollment is limited. 
Bonus: Weekly writing prompts will be emailed to you for one month following the end of class.


Memoir in Moments: Writing Your Life

Date and Time: Tuesday, August 18, 5-8 pm CST

Maybe you’re at a new stage of life, looking back. Maybe you’re thinking about your family, or your children, and all the stories they might not know about you. Maybe you’re looking back on your childhood, the things you wondered about back then, the conversations you had, the places you went, how all of them were pieces of a much larger life puzzle. Think about that T-shirt you wore all the time in seventh grade. Think about your favorite dessert when you were five years old. Your favorite song as a senior in high school. The secret you’ve never told anyone. The dream that came true, and the one that didn’t. The unexpected turns your life has taken, and how they placed pattern to everything that came after. 
This class is for anyone interested in writing out some of their own life stories. We’ll focus on memoir moments in this class, brief, specific writing prompts that shine up from the page and give readers a perhaps unexpected window into who you are. This class is designed for people of any writing ability or experience – all are welcome. Guaranteed to be illuminating, exhilarating and fun. Enrollment is limited. 
Bonus: Weekly writing prompts will be emailed to you for one month following the end of class.


A Novel Idea: Ways to Coax that Book Into Reality 

Date and Time: Saturday, August 23, 10-1 CST

Is there a book within you that wants to be written? Stories that want to be told? Do ideas and an urge to write them out come to you at work, while walking the dog, cooking dinner, folding laundry, and in dreams? Are you frustrated because you don’t know how to begin, or how to keep going once you’ve begun? Welcome to this workshop, drawn from my own experience as a novelist, in which every single book presents its own specific building-block challenges. 

Through a series of in-class prompts, discussion of creative process –both general and specific to you– and intuitive and practical analysis, we’ll come up with an individual book-writing practice plan for each participant. Note: This class will be helpful for anyone who wants to write a book, regardless of genre or subject matter. 

Bonus: Weekly writing prompts will be emailed to you for one month following the end of class.

Poem of the Week, by Kari Gunter-Seymour

IMG_7693This morning on the porch a bee was bumbling against one of the screened windows. Its little legs drifted below its huge, furry body as it tried over and over to get out. So I upended my fox mug over it, slid a letter from my mother between the screen and the buzzing mug, then held the whole mess tight and maneuvered outside. Whisked the letter off and watched the bee lumber into the air again.

That bee made me think of the ending of this haunting poem. We endure so much to get here. To be alive. To stay alive. 


I Come From A Place So Deep Inside America It Can’t Be Seen, by Kari Gunter-Seymour

White oaks thrash, moonlight drifts
the ceiling, as if I’m under water.
Propane coils, warms my bones.

Gone are the magics and songs,
all the things our grandmothers buried—
piles of feathers and angel bones,

inscribed by all who came before.
When I was twelve, my cousins
called me ugly, enough to make it last.

Tonight a celebrity on Oprah
imagines a future where features
can be removed and replaced

on a whim. A moth presses wings
thin as paper against my window,
more beautiful than I could ever be.

Ryegrass raise seedy heads
beyond the bull thistle and preen.
Everything alive aches for more.



For more information on Kari Gunter-Seymour, please click here.

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Poem of the Week, by Marie Howe

991DA27A-58E0-41E4-87E6-9CA5515E0597Last week I was weeding my garden on a steambath afternoon when clouds tiered overhead, the air turned greenish, and a breeze sprang up. There’s a tall pine tree in my tiny front yard, with limbs that sweep down to earth, and when the first drops splatted down, I stepped inside them to watch the storm.

As a child I built a platform in the giant maple tree by the side of the road, accessible by a rope no one but me could climb. I used to stay up there for hours, reading and thinking in the crook of the tree. At one point I carved my initials into the biggest limb   –   A   R   M.   Over time, a decade or two, the tree puffed itself around the wound and healed itself. 

Trees talk to one another through their roots. Trees of the same species will share water and food. All trees in a forest are interconnected. They shelter one another, the way the tree in my front yard shelters me. 


The Copper Beech, by Marie Howe

Immense, entirely itself,
it wore that yard like a dress,

with limbs low enough for me to enter it
and climb the crooked ladder to where

I could lean against the trunk and practice being alone.

One day, I heard the sound before I saw it, rain fell
darkening the sidewalk.

Sitting close to the center, not very high in the branches,
I heard it hitting the high leaves, and I was happy,

watching it happen without it happening to me.




For more information about Marie Howe, please check out her website.

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