Word of the Month Challenge after 9 months

REMINDER: You still have time to vote for the June Hall of Fame Poet. We don’t shut off the polls until tonight at 10:00. Each month since October we have enjoyed a number of strong efforts and I think the poems in June rank very high on the list.

If you want to read the poems again before choosing your favorite, there is a line in red letters just above the ballot box (posted the 26th) that says to click on it to read all the poems for June.

Tomorrow we’ll announce the June Hall of Fame Poet and give you the word for July. I think you’ll like it.

We are wrapping up our first nine months of Word of the Month and I’m proud of what has happened. Thanks to you we’ve read 173 poems posted by 68 poets. Slightly more than half (37) of you have posted one poem so far.

Three of you (Liz Korba, Mary Nida Smith, and Steven Withrow) have posted at least one poem in all nine months! Three others (Beth Carter, Janet Gallagher, and Barbara Turner) have missed only once and two (Tracie Stohr-Hunt and Jackie Huppenthal) have posted seven times.

I think these are remarkable numbers which, collectively, represent a treasury of poetry that continues to grow with each passing month. My hat is off to everyone and the invitation is always out for others to join in the monthly exercise of creating a poem inspired by a single word.

Thanks everyone,

Marjorie Maddox today


Hello everyone,
Here, as promised, is my guest today, Marjorie Maddox Hafer, pen name: Marjorie Maddox. I love her voice and you will too. She is an articulate spokesperson for all writers, but especially those who must juggle many roles and still manage to keep writing. For a view of some of Marjorie’s work, here’s the link to Tricia Stohr-Hunt’s feature of her during April. http://missrumphiuseffect.blogspot.com/2010/04/poetry-makers-marjorie-maddox.html

I Do

“So, what do you do?”

The question, of course, pops up again and again throughout our lives. I write—I’m a mother, a wife, a writer. I also am an English professor and director of a creative writing program at a state university. This is my day job, and I love it. But I am a mother, a wife, a writer, and—having fallen in love with words at a young age—it’s the calling of writer that I’ve claimed the longest. For most of my youth and my adulthood, I’ve written and published poetry, short stories, and essays. When I was a child, I shared my work with family and friends, publishing my first poem in Campfire Girl magazine. Over the following decades, I published in literary journals and presses. I became a writer—for adults.

But now I also am a writer for children. This adventure has expanded and enhanced how I view myself. It has allowed me, in new and wonderful ways, to bring together my “lives” as mother, writer, and teacher.

We are a family of readers. Along with my husband—another writer and college professor—I am, not surprisingly, addicted to books. We’ve passed our obsession to our son and daughter. How could we not? To read or not to read: no question there. To sit on our back patio with book in hand and let words envelop me while my daughter, next to me, has flown to an imaginary world through a paperback she’s clutching: this is a life I like. This is a life my husband and I wanted to share when we read page after page to our growing children, watching their eyes—and minds—expand. I hope I can continue this experience by creating books that will transport other children to these worlds that words build.

To do so, I find myself collaborating more and more with family. For years, my husband, an excellent editor, has been first reader for much of my work. However, when I write for children, even my kids join in brainstorming. They test-run my poems and let me know which pieces take off, which run out of gas, which crash. “This is boring”; “I don’t get it”; “Huh?”—they don’t hold back. Their reactions are immediate. They have kid-view expertise. When they get to “Yeah, sweet” or “This rocks,” I know I’m headed in the right direction.

Both my husband’s considered responses and my children’s blunt reactions have become part of my process. When I was writing Rules of the Game: Baseball Poems, for example, my children, two Little Leaguers, and my husband, an avid fan, enthusiastically served as a panel of experts. When I drafted A Crossing of Zebras: Animal Packs in Poetry (a book on collective nouns), my husband, with his background in rhetoric, and my children, with their background in play, entered into the word games. Currently, I’m revising riddle poems, which grew out of rhymed scavenger hunts I’ve had with my kids for years. My audience is willing. Let the family collaboration continue!

This partnership between family and writing has grown to include my role as teacher. For twenty years, my passion for writing and literature has flowed into the university classroom. Then, it was natural that when my children began elementary school, I would visit their classes, leading their friends on poetic journeys.

When I began writing my own children’s books, I joined illustrator Philip Huber in conducting assemblies and workshops at elementary schools. What a joy! To fan a spark that can strike a literary bonfire or a love of reading—or to help a young author take what began as clichéd images and transform them into a crafted and powerful poem: this is what I love about school visits. This also is what I love about college teaching.

But teaching young children is unique. Discussing and writing poetry with children is, to put it simply, loads of fun. Together we spin, twist, and fly with words. We trial-and-error our way through rhymes. We try on umpteen different metaphors and look at the world through kaleidoscope glasses. I do the same thing, of course, with college students, but the enthusiasm from a room filled with K—sixth graders is immediate. The kids and I are in this enterprise together, this exciting world of the imagination, as we go full-speed-ahead where the words take us.

Likewise, it is an honor to read my books to children and see their reactions. Writing, of course, is a solitary act—at a computer in a room with a door closed. Publishing, especially for an adult audience, also can seem a solitary act. Except for the occasional letter or review, I don’t get to interact with my audience until I meet them, face-to-face, at a reading or other literary event. When I meet kids at their school, I get to see my words jump from the page and into their minds. The sudden laugh, the “aha!” in the eyes, the nose crinkled in playful disgust—these reactions shout louder than the best review.

And all this keeps me coming back for more. All this beckons, “Hey, Teacher,” “Hey, Mother,” “Hey, Author, it’s good to have you here. Sit down. Make yourself comfortable. Write. “

And so I do.

Marjorie Maddox

Please post your comments for Marjorie in the boxes below. Thanks, Marjorie!


Marjorie Maddox tomorrow


Thanks to you who have let me know your preferences among the features I’ve introduced since starting my blog last August. Many readers have dropped by to review the boxes. Voting ends Saturday.

I’m happy to introduce Marjorie Maddox today by posting her bio. I became familiar with Marjorie and her work last month on Tricia Stohr-Hunt’s month-long celebration of poetry. I like Marjorie’s work very much and was glad that she accepted my invitation to appear as my guest. I am sure that many of you are already familiar with Marjorie, but for those who do not, you are in for a new treat.
Marjorie Maddox Hafer
(pen name: Marjorie Maddox)

Director of Creative Writing and Professor of English at
Lock Haven University, Marjorie Maddox has published Weeknights At The Cathedral, (an Editions Selection, WordTech, 2006), Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation (2004 Yellowglen Prize, WordTech Editions), Perpendicular As I (1994 Sandstone Book Award), When The Wood Clacks Out Your Name: Baseball Poems (2001 Redgreene Press Chapbook Winner), Body Parts (Anamnesis Press, 1999), Ecclesia (Franciscan University Press, 1997), How to Fit God into a Poem (1993 Painted Bride Chapbook Winner), and Nightrider to Edinburgh (1986 Amelia Chapbook Winner), as well as over 350 poems, stories, and essays in such journals and anthologies as Poetry, Prairie Schooner, Crab Orchard Review, and Image: A Journal of the Arts and Religion.
Her fiction has appeared in many journals, newspapers, and magazines, including The Sonora Review, The Great Stream Review, Cream City Review, Art Times, US Catholic, Midway Journal, and the anthology Dirt, published by The New Yinzer in Pittsburgh. Her short story collection, What She Was Saying, was one of three finalists for the 2005 Katherine Anne Porter Book Award and a semifinalist for Eastern Washington University’s Spokane Fiction Book Award and Louisiana University Press’s Yellow Shoe Book Award.In addition, she is the co-editor of Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania (Penn State Press, 2005) and has two children’s books, A Crossing of Zebras: Animal Packs in Poetry (WordSong, 2008) and Rules of the Game: Baseball Poems (WordSong, 2009). Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation was a runner-up (Brittingham), finalist, or semifinalist at 20 national competitions, including the Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize, OSU The Journal Award, the Vassar Miller Prize, New Issues Press, the Coffee House Press Poetry Prize, and the Winthrop Poetry Series Prize from Pleiades Press. Local News From Someplace Else has been a finalist for the Samuel French Morse Poetry Award, sponsored by Northeastern University, for the Kentucky Women’s Prize, sponsored by Sarabande, for the Magellan Prize, sponsored by Button Wood Press, for the Mammoth Books Poetry
Award, the Ashland Poetry Press, Prize, and a semifinalist for the Crab Orchard Poetry Award, and elsewhere.

Marjorie studied with A. R. Ammons, Robert Morgan, Phyllis Janowitz, and Ken McClane at Cornell, where she received the Sage Graduate Fellowship for her M.F.A. in poetry in 1989, and at the University of Louisville with Sena Jeter Naslund, where she received an M.A. in English.

Her numerous honors include Cornell University’s Chasen Award, the 2000 Paumanok Poetry Award, an Academy of American Poets Prize, the Seattle Review’s Bentley Prize for Poetry, a Breadloaf Scholarship, and four Pushcart Prize nominations. She lives with her husband and two children in Williamsport, Pa., birthplace of Little League and home
of the Little League World Series. She is the great-niece of baseball legend Branch Rickey, the Brooklyn Dodgers manager who helped break the color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson.

For further information about Marjorie, check out her reviews page: http://www.lhup.edu/mmaddoxh/reviews.htm

Whew! All that in one lifetime! If you are impressed by Marjorie and her accomplishments, you are going to really like what she has to say tomorrow. Be back then!


Announcing Marjorie Maddox as an upcoming guest

Have you voted yet? Please use the boxes that went up on Saturday to provide me with your feedback. Here’s the link: https://davidlharrison.wordpress.com/2010/05/15/which-features-do-you-like-best-about-my-blog/ 

I’m assigning a value of 3 to all 1st place votes; 2 for 2nd place votes; and 1 for 3rd place votes. So far the list from most liked to least looks like this:

1 — Word of the Month Poetry Challenge
2 — Guests on Fridays
3 — Poetry Tips (want them more frequently)
4 — Poem of the Week
5 — Monthly Teaching Tool
6 — Activities on Kids page
7 — Voting for Hall of Fame poets

These early results are based on a small sampling of visitors to my blog so I hope to see more of you let me know what you think.

I’ll leave the boxes up through this coming Saturday so please take time to give me your opinions! Thanks!


This is the final week for submitting May’s Word of the Month poems!! I hope you still plan to share your work based on the word of the month: STONE. Let’s hear from you! Students, we’re waiting to see your poems come in too. Don’t lose track of the time and let Friday slip by.

I’m pleased to tell you that this week’s Friday guest is Marjorie Maddox. Many of you enjoyed Marjorie’s work during April when Tricia Stohr-Hunt selected her as one of her featured poets. Here’s the link to that: http://missrumphiuseffect.blogspot.com/2010/04/poetry-makers-marjorie-maddox.html


JonArno Lawson tomorrow


Last month I read with pleasure the poems and interviews posted on the sites of Tricia Stohr-Hunt and Greg Pincus. Some of the poets I know and others were new to me. Now I have a list of those I would like to read and learn more about.

One of those poets is tomorrow’s guest, JonArno Lawson. JonArno was kind enough to agree to be my guest this week so you’ll meet him tomorrow. To help me become better acquainted with him, I asked questions and have posted our Q/A bio session here.

JonArno Lawson

When, where, how, and why did you go about becoming a published author/poet?
I was first published by Exile Editions in 1997 – my first book (a compilation of poetry and aphorisms) was called “Love is an Observant Traveler”
How many times did you fail before you succeeded?
I’m still failing every day! I was lucky in terms of my first publication though – I made a chap book just for fun, and sent a copy to an author I liked (Timothy Findley) and he liked it, so he sent it to Exile Editions, and they called me and asked if I had a manuscript they could look at. A real Cinderella story. But it’s gotten harder from there – I’ve had many manuscripts rejected since.
Were you always a writer or have you done other things too?
I do other things, but these days mostly I’m a Dad and a writer. I worked for a long time as a group home counselor in a home for Developmentally Disabled Elderly Jewish People. I also worked as a clerk in a law library. And I’ve taught now and then, mostly workshops.
Do you draw inspiration from your family?
They’re indispensible! My kids give me all sorts of ideas, first lines, and they help me edit too.
What did you study in school?
I studied English.
Has your work received any honors?
Twice I’ve received The Lion and the Unicorn Award. One of my books got a Bronze Moonbeam. All were nice to get, but the best thing of all is a note from an appreciative reader.
Are you a native Canadian?
I’m a dual Canadian/American citizen. I grew up in Canada, I live in Canada, but I’ve spent long stretches of time in the United States – in Schenectady, Annapolis, Chincoteague, and Miami.
How many other books have you had published?
I’ve got seven books out there right now, and two more due out next year.
What genre(s) do you like best?
Anything well-written, whatever the genre. I love to be surprised by someone’s point of view. I’ve read a lot of travel books over the past year – “The Danube” by Claudio Magris is a very surprising book. “The Baby in the Mirror” by Charles Fernyhough, who’s a Dad and a child psychologist, was very surprising. Marilyn Singer’s “Mirror Mirror” really surprised me too. . .
Do you have other books in the works that you can discuss?
I’m working on a number of things – which helps me a lot, because then I never feel stuck – but I’m not sure which are developing well and which aren’t, and I don’t want to jinx any of them. . .

As you can see from this exchange, JonArno is a straight shooter who answers candidly and shares the same dreams and frustrations that most writers face. You will enjoy his essay tomorrow so don’t forget to come by.