April Halprin Wayland today

CONFESSION: I have a wonderful picture of April and one of her delightful drawings. Sadly, I’m unable to get them on this post and must wait for Kathy to return from vacation to post them for me. Sorry, April!

BULLETIN: Maybe it’s the heat but I can’t seem to get all the information into this post that deserves to be there. For example, many of you have commented on April’s book but I failed to provide a link to help you get a copy. Here it is: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780803732797

It is my privilege today to feature poet and author April Halprin Wayland from near Manhattan Beach, California. When I read some of her work ths past April as one of Tricia Stohr-Hunt’s Celebrate Poetry Month poets (http://missrumphiuseffect.blogspot.com/2010/04/poetry-makers-april-halprin-wayland.html ), I knew I wanted her a a guest on this blog. To see why, read on!

When did you start writing poetry?
In the womb. I was comfortable and the lighting was good.

I started seriously when I was about twelve on my father’s old portable typewriter, writing under the pen name W. Sancington.

So…how did you know you were a poet?

My 14-year-old sister had already taken the journalist spot. The obvious opposite spot was to write dreamy fiction and poetry. I typed pages and pages of poems on that old typewriter late at night about boys, war, my deepest fears and feelings…and more about those boys. I kept the poems in my bottom left desk drawer and never let anyone see them.

Then one day, my sister outted me. She found them, loved them, and was reading them aloud to my mother when I got home from school. I was mortified—as if she had gone into my underwear drawer. That’s when I first saw that the poems might be interesting to more than the dust mites in my bottom left desk drawer.

And the rest is history…

What was your first poem published?

My mentor, Myra Cohn Livingston, was looking for poems for an anthology about mothers. I submitted this poem about my mother, who had been the pianist of the Cleveland Orchestra. Mom was always practicing for one concert or another and often played four-hand piano music with a man named Sidney:

by April Halprin Wayland

My mom is playing piano with Sidney,
I like making my bed to the music
that bubbles under my bedroom door.

Mom and Sidney are still playing piano.
I like pouring milk over my cornflakes
trying to match the tinklings that spill into the kitchen.

Now Sidney’s gone home. Mom plays just for me
and I run around in circles in the living room
and collapse on the lambskin under the piano.

I look up. I see the hardwood and pedals
of the moving hammers and strings —
the piano’s heart — when Mom plays just for me.

© by April Halprin Wayland—all rights reserved.
Originally published in Poems For Mothers
selected by Myra Cohn Livingston (Holiday House, 1988)

Which is easier to write, verse or free verse?

Both and neither! As much as I love the freedom of free verse, I love the order and challenge of creating scaffolding, too. (“The story is little more than scaffolding on which the poet hangs his music.” ~ Christopher Merrill)

Which people or events have influenced your poetry most strongly?

Not in order:

• Studying with my mentor, poet Myra Cohn Livingston for twelve years.

• Joni Mitchell’s poetry

• Listening to my father read Sherlock Holmes to us

• Listening to my mother read Mark Twain, Ogden Nash, and Dorothy Parker to us

• My thirteenth birthday present: Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s A Coney Island of the Mind

• Roget’s Thesaurus and the Capricorn Rhyming Dictionary –(these days I use http://www.rhymezone.com)

• My mother playing piano solos, sonatas, trios and quartets throughout my childhood

• Music gatherings of the Santa Monica Traditional Folk Music Club…and all the songs I’ve heard and sung with them over many, many years

• Cricket Magazine continuing to publish my work when no one else was interested. I’ve published dozens of poems with Cricket and was commissioned to write a poem for their twenty-fifth anniversary issue.

If we open your computer, what’s new?

I took the Poem-A-Day Challenge and wrote (and posted—ack!) a poem each day for the month of April. (http://www.aprilwayland.com/poetry/poetry-month/ )

That was so energizing that I have continued to write a poem a day since then. I didn’t want to post them, but unless I’m held accountable, my rock-solid-shiny-gold-absolutely-sure commitment would probably slowly sink into the mud. So I send a poem every day to one of my best friends, author Bruce Balan (http://www.brucebalan.com/ ), who sails around the world in his trimaran.

Three most amazing things have happened because of my poem-a-day commitment are:

1) Writing has become an absolute priority every single day, no days off for good behavior, no stockpiling poems, no excuses.

2) I am present…I notice more things during the day…as I search for the subject of that day’s poem, I am forced to be aware, to be conscious, to be present.

3) I have become cyber-friends with Kim Stafford, the son of poet William Stafford, who told me that his father wrote a poem a day all his life. Kim sent me his beautiful, award-winning memoir of his father, EARLY MORNING, which I highly recommend.
(http://www.indiebound.org/hybrid?filter0=early+morning+stafford&x=0&y=0 )

Tell us about your newest picture book!

It’s a picture book called NEW YEAR AT THE PIER—a Rosh Hashanah Story, beautifully illustrated by the most highly awarded illustrator in Canada, Stéphane Jorisch. Stéphane and I have been blown away by the response our book has gotten. It won the Association of Jewish Libraries’ Sydney Taylor Book Award Gold Medal, got a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly, was named Tablet Magazine Best Book of the Year and more.

It’s about a young boy named Izzy whose favorite part of Rosh Hashanah is Tashlich, a joyous waterside ceremony in which people apologize for their mistakes of the previous year, cleaning the slate for the new year. But there’s one mistake on Izzy’s “I’m sorry” list he’s finding especially hard to say out loud.

Tashlich (celebrated on September 9th this year) is one of my favorite traditions. We walk to a body of water, sing psalms, and toss pieces of stale bread into the water. Each piece of bread represents something we regret doing in the past year. Because I live near the sea, I get to toss my “mistakes” into the ocean. It’s a way of letting go, of creating a clean slate for the coming year.

The thing I love most about Tashlich is that I’m outside, where I feel especially spiritual. Though it involves community and singing, it’s also a very private time–just me and the end of the pier and the wind, thinking about what I’ve done wrong and how I can do better in the New Year, before I toss each piece of bread out to sea.

I’ve dragged numerous friends to our pier so they can taste the poetry of this ritual, to feel the wind, hear the gulls, experience moments of relief when they tossed each piece of bread. These moments changed me. How could I not share this in a picture book?

In writing this book, I wanted to say that Tashlich happens in the fall…without saying it directly. So this is how the book opens:

Izzy loves this changing time of year. Some days sunglasses, some days sweaters.

April, thank you very much for being my guest today. I loved having you with us.

I am thrilled to have been interviewed by you, David—thank you!

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