Poem of the Week, by Jim Moore

My poems podcast, Words by Wintercan be found here.

The other day I passed a tall chemo-bald man in a fur hat despite the warm day. They cut the bad parts out and now I’m good to go, he told the UPS driver. I smiled at him and he waved, full of cheer.

The broken world is a phrase I see everywhere these days. Yeah, it’s broken, and yeah, wild worry about the future keeps me from sleep. But haven’t all our hearts been broken, over and over, and don’t most of us just want to keep going? Want to haul ourselves up from a fall, from surgery, from depression, from everything that gets thrown at us, so that we can keep on living? There’s something so beautiful about that.

Whatever Else, by Jim Moore

Whatever else, the little smile on the face of the woman
listening to a music the rest of us can’t hear and a sky at dawn
with a moon all its own. Whatever else, the construction crane
high above us waiting to be told how to do our bidding,
we who bid and bid and bid. Whatever else, the way cook #1
looks with such longing at cook #2. Let’s not be too sad
about how sad we are. I know about the disappearance
of the river dolphins, the sea turtles with tumors.
I know about the way the dead
don’t return no matter how long they take to die
in the back of the police car. I know about the thousand ways our world
betrays itself. Whatever else, my friend, spreading wide his arms,
looks out at the river and says,
“After all, what choice did I have?” After all,
I saw the man walking who’d had the stroke, saw the woman
whose body won’t stop shaking. I saw the frog in the tall grass,
boldly telling us who truly matters. I saw the world
proclaim itself an unlit vesper candle while a crow
flew into the tip of it, sleek black match, burning.

For more information about Jim Moore, please check out his website


Poem of the Week, by Langston Hughes

My poems podcast, Words by Wintercan be found here.

My family is multiracial so these latest murders, of eight Asian Americans in Atlanta by yet another white guy with a Hitler haircut, feel more personal to me, more terrifying, right? Wrong. The idea that it’s on Asian Americans and their families to speak out against hatred is as exhausting as being the lone woman in a roomful of men trying to explain to them what sexism is. It is not my responsibility or my family’s responsibility to take a stand against these hate crimes, it’s everyone’s responsibility.

You know that phrase you still see here and there, If you see something, say something? Flip it around and use it for good. Fellow white people, I ask you to practice putting it to use in your own life. When you hear someone (including someone you love) make a “joke” or a remark with racist overtones, practice saying “Oh, I’m not comfortable with that.”

Do it in a way that works for you and your personality. I usually smile-grimace and squinch up my shoulders and say “oh yikes, no no no.” In my experience, this is surprisingly effective. It works for anti-gay and anti-women “jokes” too. Check out this perfect tiny tutorial by the wonderful Linda Sue Park for more tips. Remember that baby steps are still steps.

Freedom, by Langston Hughes

Freedom will not come
today, this year
            nor ever
through compromise and fear.

I have as much right
as the other fellow has
            to stand
on my two feet
and own the land.

I tire so of hearing people say,
let things take their course.
Tomorrow is another day.
I do not need my freedom when I’m dead.
I cannot live on tomorrow’s bread.
            is a strong seed
            in a great need.
            I live here, too.
            I want my freedom
            just as you.  

For more information on Langston Hughes, please click here.

Words by Winter: my new podcast

“Building a Story,” my new five-week workshop

Hi everyone. How are you? Surviving? Possibly looking ahead and wondering how, when all’s said and done in this pandemic era of so much upheaval and reckoning, life will be different? Hard to say. Hard to know.

One thing that seems certain already is that storytelling —by artists in all forms—is alive and well and even thriving. What stories are you turning to for comfort or revelation or laughter these days? What stories are you telling your partner, your friends, your family and your children?

What are the stories you’re telling yourself? Those are the ones that most interest me.

Maybe windows are blowing open in your mind the way they are in mine. Times when everything feels unsteady and in flux lead to new artistry. Being scared is a good thing for an artist. Fear and uncertainty can propel you into the work in ways that complacency can’t. (I spent the winter writing poems that shock me with their fierceness.)

It’s all interesting, a friend of mine once said about life. Even when everything sucks, I’m just so interested to see what will happen. These words speak to me as a creative writing teacher. It never fails to stun me what happens in the alchemy of a creative writing room. Give a roomful of humans the same ten minutes and the same prompt, and listen to the ten wildly different stories that emerge.

Finding and nurturing someone’s creative spark is a privilege and honor, and as a teacher it’s what I most love. Over the years students have asked me to teach multi-week sessions as well as my one-day workshops and I’m happy to say that I’m finally doing it. Welcome to “Building a Story,” a five-week creative writing workshop offered, via Zoom, for the first time ever.

Dates and time: Wednesday evenings, May 19-June 16, 2021.
Time: 5-8 pm, CST. (Feel free to bring your dinner to class!)
Enrollment: Limited to eight.
Cost: $400 via Venmo, Paypal, Cashapp or personal check. Venmo: @Alison-McGhee-1. Paypal: alison_mcghee@hotmail.com (be sure to use the “send to a friend” option). Cashapp: $mailizhen.
Questions or to register: Email me.

This five-week class is designed for both fiction and memoir writers. (Poets might also find it useful, but I don’t recommend it for picture book writers.) Each week will focus on a different, essential craft of good storytelling, from character development to dialogue to narrative arc. We’ll examine both published work and class submissions.

Participants are welcome (but never required!) to share their work with the class as a whole, and everyone will receive weekly detailed feedback from me.

Bonus: I’ll send out a weekly writing prompt for the month following class.

Poem of the Week, by Joyce Sutphen

My poems podcast, Words by Wintercan be found here.

“Paco, my one real goal in life is for you to be happy.” Actual words that came out of my mouth yesterday. There’s no come on, hurry up about walks with this boy. He gets to choose where he wants to go and how long he wants to spend sniffing that clump of grass. He gets to inspect a dead worm all he wants, and if he wants to roll in it, okay, fine (kind of).

We wander and inspect and I try to see the world through his nose and ears and eyes. His love of the world and his fascination with the garbage cans in the same alley we walk down day after day makes me think of this beautiful poem, by a poet who somehow, always, manages to find words to keep the soul alive.

What to Do, by Joyce Sutphen

Wake up early, before the lights come on
in the houses on a street that was once
a farmer’s field at the edge of a marsh.

Wander from room to room, hoping to find
words that could be enough to keep the soul
alive, words that might be useful or kind

in a world that is more wasteful and cruel
every day. Remind us that we are
like grass that fades, fleeting clouds in the sky,

and then give us just one of those moments
when we were paying attention, when we gave
up everything to see the world in

a grain of sand or to behold
a rainbow in the sky, the heart
leaping up.

For more information about Joyce Sutphen, please click here.

Poem of the Week, by Brian Trimboli

My poems podcast, Words by Wintercan be found here.

One of my dearest friends is brilliant, wild and fearless in body and mind. Whatever she does, she does with all her heart. If something entrances her she will follow it as far as she can: flamenco dancing, acupuncture, poetry, figure skating, music, rowing, the list is endless.

She doesn’t live by the rules most of us live by. I could fill the walls of my house with photos of her and those walls would come alive with her energy.

When I picture her in my mind she’s always laughing, bright eyes full of fun, but I have seen her in despair and exhaustion and pain. I don’t know exactly why this gorgeous poem, so full of pain and longing, brings her to mind, but it does. My friend was young once too. She’s never stopped dreamimg.

Things My Son Should Know After I’ve Died, by Brian Trimboli

I was young once. I dug holes
near a canal and almost drowned.
I filled notebooks with words
as carefully as a hunter loads his shotgun.
I had a father also, and I came second to an addiction.
I spent a summer swallowing seeds
and nothing ever grew in my stomach.
Every woman I kissed,
I kissed as if I loved her.
My left and right hands were rival.
After I hit puberty, I was kicked out of my parents’ house
at least twice a year. No matter when you receive this
there was music playing now.
Your grandfather isn’t
my father. I chose to do something with my life
that I knew I could fail at.
I spent my whole life walking
and hid such colorful wings.

For more information about Brian Trimboli, please click here.