Winding down

Hi everyone,

Two days left of goo foffing. It has been lovely. The turtles don’t want to see us go. I’ve promised them I’ll be back but I don’t think they understand. They’re beginning to gather in small groups to whisper among themselves. I hate to leave them, but what can I do? I’ve even caught a couple messing around my keyboard and one managed to pull up my flight schedule.

Today I hope to finish revising the last of a set of poems for a collaborative effort with Pat Lewis and Steve Withrow. If I don’t finish before we leave, it will be difficult to find the time I need come Monday. Wish me luck.


My Italian Sonnet

Hi everyone,

Inspired by Steven Withrow’s sonnet,steven_withrow and spurred on by Jane Yolen’s witty example.

Comes now my contribution to the cause.David as bookends IMAG2753
by David L. Harrison

Honeybee, a vibrant buzzing thing,
Humming through the sultry summer hours,
Dipping in and out of willing flowers,
Sipping, pausing, sipping, taking wing,
Known more for her industry than sting.
Nature-blessed with honey making powers,
Performs her alchemy in hidden bowers,
Spinning gold with sisters as they sing.
Honeybees for twenty million years
Have met their fated daily rendezvous,
Pollinating blossoms in return
For smuggling pollen home to feed their peers.
So much depends on what the humans do,
And if the greatest predator will learn.

Jane Yolen
The little honeybee has buzz.
A taste for something sweet and runny,
Like a clown, she seems quite funny.
Body’s mostly stripes and fuzz.
She’s looking as she always does.
When she sells her cache of honey,
Her golden glow, bespeaks of money.
Why do we love her—just because.

But ask the little bending flower
Who gives up her hard-earned pollen
Whether she feels raped and fallen,
Or is filled with certain power.
There she is, all pollen laden
Virgin, violet violated.
By a bee much recreated,
Set aside, nor more a maiden.

(c) by Jane Yolen; all rights reserved

Featuring Steven Withrow


 Hi everyone,

Most of you who visit my blog already know or have heard about Steven Withrow. He has a unique voice and contributes regularly to the pool of freshly minted poems that deserve to be read and celebrated. I asked Steven if I could feature him and he graciously agreed. Now I’ll stand aside and let him do the talking. I think you’ll be glad you listened.
By Steven Withrow

When I was eleven years old, my fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. DiDio, told me that I had an imagination like a rocket: it needed space to do its work. From a distance of thirty years, I can see now that she was exactly right.

As reader and writer, I’ve tried out many imaginative spaces—stories, plays, essays, comics—and I’ve found the most room for maneuvering in what is often the tightest of forms.

A poem is a djinni’s lamp—bigger on the inside than on the outside. Take this one, for instance, from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations:pfa_celebrations

Reading Braille

I sail my fingerships
Over a paper sea
I do not see

I sail my fingerships
Across a dotted alphabet
Shaped like wave caps

Forward and back
I do not stop
Until I touch bottom

Of the great, wide page.

© 2015 Steven Withrow, all rights reserved


Minus the title, it is just 40 words, 53 syllables. Little more than a sentence or two of prose. But a tiny world nonetheless. Spare and spacious. Compressed and capacious. I like it best when I say it aloud a couple of times.

All my poems from fifth grade or before were meant to be said (or sung) aloud. But in my teenage years, in part because of the influence of certain teachers, I pictured a poem as belonging to a silent reader. I held this image through high school and college, and I began to doubt my love of rhyme, meter, and pattern.

By the time I reached graduate school, I seldom read poems aloud. Poetry had become an enclosed space—an echo chamber—and my imagination, I’d forgotten, is claustrophobic. For several years I pretty much avoided poems.

What brought me to my senses was my rediscovery of children’s poetry through the work of David McCord, Karla Kuskin, Ted Hughes, Edward Lear, Charles Causley, and Valerie Worth. I quickly made up for lost time, and for the past decade I’ve read and studied every poem I could find for children, teenagers, and adults.

The idea I want to challenge in my lifetime is that poetry is peripheral. Poetry is central, fundamental, integral. Some evidence: Verse predates prose historically; rhyme and pattern are pillars of language development; poetry is global and communal to a greater degree than all other literatures. But it goes beyond poetry’s precedence and presence. A poem is human utterance at its utmost, its extreme distillation. Think of Bashō’s or Issa’s haiku, Shakespeare’s sonnets and soliloquies, Emily Dickinson’s vivid verses, Charles Causley’s Cornish ballads. We say poems to ourselves and each other from birth, just as we tell stories, but are we encouraged to sweep that idea to the corners when we enter a classroom, a library, a bookshop?

Today I write verse as often as I can, but it feels much more like composing music now. I am acutely aware of my physical need to experience and perform the words, to feel the syllables in my mouth and the breath in my body. It’s a joy I’ll never abandon again.

Here’s a poem for slightly older readers that contemplates the afterlife of love and celebrates the mechanism of a poem:
TheGristMill (3)

Note: The Plimoth Grist Mill was a water-powered, corn-grinding mill built by the Pilgrims in Plymouth Colony in 1636. John Jenney ran the mill until his death in 1644, leaving it to his wife Sarah and son Samuel, who ran it until 1683.

© 2015 Steven Withrow, all rights reserved


Publishing my poems in print and online is important to me, as I like to imagine my words coming to life in another person’s mind and voice. I also like to share my favorite poems by other writers whenever I read in public on my travels.barding_around

As a way to reach a wider audience, I’ve created a weekly YouTube series called Poetry at Play. The first episodes can be viewed for free at . Please share the link with anyone who might enjoy it (especially parents and teachers) and subscribe to the channel.

You can find my poems for children in The National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry (edited by J. Patrick Lewis),natlgeo_nature_poetry The Poetry Friday Anthologies (edited by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong), and Dear Tomato: An International Crop of Food and Agriculture Poems (edited by Carol-Ann Hoyte).dear_tomato Upcoming anthology appearances include The National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry (edited by J. Patrick Lewis; Fall 2015) and One Minute Till Bedtime (edited by U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate Kenn Nesbitt; Little, Brown; Fall 2016).

My first collection of children’s poems, co-authored with British poet Roger Stevens, will be published in the UK by A&C Black (part of Bloomsbury) in 2016. I self-published my first collection of poems for adults, Crackles of Speech, in 2014.cracklesofspeech My speculative poem “The Sun Ships” appears in Eye to the Telescope (Issue 16, April 2015). Library of the Early Mind: A grown-up look at children’s literature—a documentary film I co-produced with director Edward J. Delaney—premiered in 2010.

I live with my wife, the illustrator Lesley Breen Withrow, and our daughter in Rhode Island and can be reached at stevenwithrow (at) gmail (dot) com.

Thank you for reading. Be sure to give yourself space on the launchpad!

Crackles of Speech by Steven Withrow

Hi everyone,

I just finished reading Steven Withrow’s newly released book of poetry, CRACKLES OF SPEECH. In his words, “This book is a gigantic milestone for me — more than a decade of work and play . . .”

These poems are for a general reading audience. His collection for younger readers (AVALANCHE AND OTHER POEMS) is also just coming out and I look forward to reading them. But back to CRACKLES. With this work Steven establishes himself as a voice to be heard, a gifted poet to read and reread. He has long been intrigued by rhyme and form and demonstrates it here with a delicious smorgasbord of poetic concoctions. Reading these poems is a lesson in variety that alone keeps you wondering what he’ll dish up next. He loves words and knows a lot of them so keep your references handy.

Skillfully blending colorful language with unique metaphors and similes, Steven tells us in WOOD THRUSH that two week old wood thrush chicks test their wings against the air, “…their tail feathers/bent out behind them, like fingers/clutching updrafts as a boy holds a book.” In BROKEN BRIDGE, “Between commutes, night workers/Houdini’d a two-lane overpass.” In SNOW IN APRIL he stands “…among a million moths.” When explaining to an arborist (RESCUING A SUGAR MAPLE) how he’s practiced the art of benign neglect regarding his yard, “He shrugs and starts to mark his pad –/a figure with a dollar sign./’Art,’ he says, and waits a moment/before handing over the bill,’is crabgrass, weeds, and dead shade trees.'” In describing the beheading of a snake in COPPERHEAD, “across an epic afternoon Dad demythologized/by chucking a tongueless S into the brush.”

Here’s how you can order your own copy.

Congratulations to Steven Withrow. Ten years well spent. On to the next!


Happy All Hallows’ Eve!

REMINDER: If you have a Halloween poem to share, please post it in the comments section. Bring ’em on!

Hi everyone,

I have two Halloween poems. The first one is an original and was inspired by that glowing bird feeder in my back yard.IMAG0667

Three Signs
David L. Harrison

As sunlight flashed across the lake
I, with coffee, half awake,
Rubbed my eyes and tried to make
Certain there was no mistake.

As morning erased away the night
A fairy lantern in the light
Adorned my tree, a brilliant sight,
A beacon blazing ruby bright

As though to light some stranger’s way.
For whom of course I could not say
But a mere bird feeder yesterday
Was now aflame with flashing ray.

A second sign then puzzled me.
Beneath the boughs where hard to see,
Shadows flickered along the tree
Toward the lantern. Could this be

Sun’s illusion to make leaves leap,
Or fairies summoned from their sleep?
Denizens of dark and deep
With secret rendezvous to keep?

The third sign made me believe —
As owls sobbed as if to grieve
And feathery silhouettes took leave —
Spirits were coming for All Hallow’s Eve.

This second poem was originally published in EASY POETRY LESSONS THAT DAZZLE AND DELIGHT, a Teaching Strategies book published in 1999 by Scholastic and co-authored with Bernice Cullinan.

I hope you and all the munchkins in your circle enjoy the day and evening. If you want to share a Halloween poem, please post it in the comment section. I look forward to reading them.

This One Night of the Year
David L. Harrison

I fight to overcome my fear
This one frightful night of the year,
When glowing skeletons appear . . .
“Trick or treat!”

Monsters stagger down the street,
Mummies wrap in tattered sheet,
Fairies dance on tennis-shoed feet . . .
“Trick or treat!”

Goblins lurch and witches scratch,
Pumpkins leave their pumpkin patch,
Eager fingers reach to snatch . . .
“Trick or treat!”

Muffled voices, rustling wings
Sniff me out, my doorbell rings.
“Boo! Shoo, you scary things!”
“Trick or treat!”

Steven Withrow sent me a poem to add to the fun today so here it is with a thank you to Steven.



What if
to you?


you’ve got
a few snakes
of your own?

© 2013 Steven Withrow, all rights reserved