What’s your word?

Happy New Year! 

A few years ago a friend introduced me to the One Word project. The idea is to replace new year resolutions, which are all about doing, with a guiding word for the year, which is all about being. A resolution is a nagging reminder of what you should be doing. The right One Word, however, is your inspiration and encouragement for being who and what you really want to be.

That year, 2011, we got together and made posters for ourselves with our word on it. My word was Discipline. It wasn’t the best choice for a word. Since I’m not a disciplined individual, it felt like just another failed resolution. My 2012 word was a little bit better, but not much, Action. I was still trying to push myself to be someone other than the low-energy, slow-moving person that I am. I must have known this, because the large poster had been replaced with a sheet of paper decorated with some stickers.

In 2013, I cheated and used a phrase: Whole and Complete. This was better, although looking back, I don’t know what I was thinking because the Complete is redundant. It’s a good thing to feel like a whole person but the next year I thought I’d aim higher. My 2014 word was Grace. Now, I am a klutz, but I had a different idea in mind. In the spiritual sense, grace is favor and blessing received from the Divine, such as forgiveness and redemption. I made a nice mini-poster, and then… meh. I still wanted to aim high though, so my word for 2015 was Serenity.  I never did feel serene that year which ended on a particularly low note with the death of my beloved cat, and my car totaled by an uninsured driver.

I put the One Word project on hiatus in ’16 and ’17.

However, I think the time is right to try again! This year I’m picking a word that I know I can Be, Do, and Have. POETRY!  Yes, I am going for the low hanging fruit, and no, there is no shame in the game here. There is only doing whatever we need to do to get by in the world.

I hope this year brings you happiness, health, prosperity, and lots and lots of poetry!  Please share your One Word for 2018 in the comments below.

If you are interested in learning more about One Word, check out these pages:


Holidays: We’re halfway through

Do you love the autumn and winter holiday season, or do you just bide your time and wait for them all to be over? Where are you on the love-the-holiday spectrum?  I’ve been up and down the scale from mushy, gushy, sappy, holiday love to seething resentment and distress. As I age though I find myself relaxing into acceptance.

Halloween was my favorite holiday as a child. Candy! Costumes! Later it was alcohol and costumes. Now it’s just about the cool weather, the decorations and enjoying other people in costume, especially children, babies and pets.

As an innocent kid, I thought Thanksgiving was a pretty basic holiday: food, family, pie.  It’s still that, but it’s also political, a gateway to consumerism, and a platform for dysfunctional family dynamics. Eat. Enjoy. Be happy to be home again.

So now it’s December which brings Hanukkah, Christmas, Solstice, Kwanzaa, and Ramadan. (Did I forget any?) It’s time for my annual gift buying and exchanging anxiety, and, POETRY! There are five poetry events on my calendar this month. Now that’s the way to spend the holiday season.

Whatever holiday you celebrate, and even if you don’t celebrate at all, I hope the season brings you good food, fun with people you love, and a touch of joy.

That Old Granny Magic

Sometimes you read something that rings so true and right that you find peace in the world. This is one of those essays. Magic is science and science is magic. It takes different eyes to see them both at the same time. Blessed Samhain. May the new year bring you joy.

Appalachian Ink ~ Home of Anna Wess (and Granny)

Last night, in the darkest of early morning hours, I heard the call of a distant train. We all know what that sounds like. It’s unmistakable, like the voice of somebody you once knew. I heard it just as clear and plain as I did when I was a child, when we lived across the river from the railroad tracks and the Norfolk and Southern would sound her alarm as she sauntered by our quaint, coal town neighborhoods. Most of the time, the train’s call was such a distant nuance, like a dream, that we never even woke up at all. We got used to that distant call, and after a while, it became a part of us, a comforting and peaceful wail, an Appalachian child’s lullaby, faithfully reminding us that we were home in our warm beds.


Despite the passing of time and the fact that I no longer…

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Working It Out with Poetry

One of the biggest reasons why people are encouraged to write by therapists and perhaps why so many people keep a journal, is because writing helps clarify thoughts. By translating all those brainwaves into words and grammar and syntax, we can make sense of the confusion, understand things or relieve the pain. I used to write poetry in a very offhand way for entertainment, but upon finding a vibrant community of poets and writers when I moved to North Carolina 10 plus years ago, I went from dabbling in the shallows to the deep end of poetry. Poetry helps me work stuff out: illness, sadness, happiness, confusion, and grief.

The act of writing is the act of discovering what you believe. ~ David Hare

Last month a good friend of mine passed away. I met her when we both answered an ad on Craigslist for a writing group.  The organizer disbanded the group after 2 or 3 sessions which is just as well because I didn’t like anyone in the group anyway, that is, except Judy. Judy and I clicked, which is funny when I think about it because we are opposites in so many ways. ‘Were’ opposites? I don’t know the proper verb tense to use when talking about someone who is dead.

Judy was a vegetarian, Nature loving, Earth Mother. I am a meat-eating, city girl who believes Nature is something you drive by and look at. She was athletic and out-doorsy. I like air-conditioning. Always active, she hiked the tallest peak in 48 of the 50 states, and biked across country, some of it while in her 50’s and early 60’s. And she was a wonderful writer and poet!

For years we met every month to talk writing, inspire each other to write, and critique each other’s writing. We started with short stories or essays and then moved into poetry. Even when life got in the way of monthly visits, we still met regularly with papers in hand. A life-long educator in the Montessori school system, she taught me hugely valuable lessons in writing, and in life.

Last week I attended a Celebration of Life for her. Her family hosted the event at a large park and historical site, which was the perfect setting for this special lady. She had a huge impact on a great many people. The gentleman who spoke first, I think it was her brother, said that she had about six solid networks of people in her life, a blessing indeed. After the family spoke, many folks went up to speak. The night before I wrote a poem about her, but perhaps more about myself. I had to, because that’s what I do. I work things out with poetry. I checked my inner compass to see if it would be ok for me to speak. After all, I “do” open mics all the time, but this wasn’t exactly the same thing. But the answer came back yes, and I’m glad I did because many people came up to me and thanked me for the poem afterwards.

So, to share it one last time, here is my poem for Judy Martell. All of her books are available on Amazon.


When you lie beside me you will feel
beneath us both, the heaven I believed in.
Judy Martell, July 1950 – June 2017

Tomorrow I will attend
your Celebration of Life
but you won’t be there

or a cake with candles.
This is my first time
standing in the church of Nature
to say goodbye

A decade of friendship
spent in coffee shops and bookstores
writing, reading, learning

our lives unfolding for each other
with coffee and poetry.

Who will read my poetry now
and tell me I’m not done?
I still need you.

You had the smallest carbon footprint
of anyone I know, yet your life
was as big as the whole outdoors

Your legacy is as big as the sky,
the only heaven you believed in.

Catching Up

It’s me! (She runs in, metaphorically, panting, literally.) I’m here! I’m here! It’s been a while and I have much to tell you. While April was chock-a-block full of poetry, May was as empty as the crumpled wax paper that was wrapped around the burger I just ate, the only thing in it, a limp fold of mayonnaise soaked lettuce. I missed the second Thursday poetry open mic for reasons I can’t remember. I missed the second Sunday open mic because it was Mother’s Day and I was busy feting the one who brought me into the world. And the monthly poetry critique workshop was cancelled because a workshop requires a group, and two people make a line. Fortunately however, two people can work virtually so I was able to salvage some  bacon from the almost-empty burger wrapper.

June brought another afternoon of Poetry on Demand, which is rapidly becoming one of my favorite things to do. I and the Living Poetry crew gathered in the main exhibit space of the Museum of Natural Sciences, Nature Research Center for the Rhythm of Race event.  If you missed the event, don’t worry.  Just leave me a word in the comments and I’ll reply with a poem for you.

“Great JeanMarie! But what about the dollar?” Yes, it’s true, Poetry on Demand is not free. It costs $1. For this blog post only, I’m waiving the fee, on one condition. Pay it forward. Put a buck in a charity collection jar, or hand it to someone holding a sign at a street light asking for help. You’ll be glad you did.

And finally, the best update of the bunch. Last year I submitted three poems for consideration for a new book of modern poems about the timeless subject of mythology. It was to be an international, bilingual book out of India. I got the news in December that two of my poems were accepted, (Jump! Jump! Squee!) but unfortunately they didn’t have room for the screenplay. Hmm… Which two poems were accepted? And I don’t write plays.  I was invited to attend the book launch and open mic but as it was held in New Delhi, India and I am a non-travelling American, I passed. I did wonder occasionally which of my poems got published, but life is busy and time moves quickly. However, perhaps it was because May was a slow poetry month, but I finally sent an email asking about the book.

For all you aspiring poets out there, I hate to break it to you, but there’s not a lot of money in poetry. Shyam politely informed me that they couldn’t afford to send me a complimentary contributors copy, but that I could purchase one, which I was happy to do. He did the dollars to rupees conversion and told me that I could pay him after I got the book. Trust.  As you can see from the picture, I got my book: Mythos: An International Bilingual Antholog by Poets, Artists Unplugged. It is really lovely, and I’m not just saying that because they published all three of the poems I submitted! It is 370 pages, half in English, half in Hindi, and with over 20 pages of beautiful full color artwork. I can tell you that I’m as pleased as Jenny Lou Carson must have been when she became the first woman to write a No. 1 country music hit, in 1949!

Keep on writing folks. Get connected with Calls for Submission group on Facebook, or sign up for one of the many free email newsletters promoting writing and poetry markets and contests. Then send your babies out into the world!




April showers brought poetry

April 2017 is officially over and so we put to rest another National Poetry Month. Don’t know about you, but I had a very good run this year. Let’s review.

Not quite one a day, I wrote a total of 29 poems. That was due in large part to the wonderful fundraising event, Tuxedo Cat Ball, for Safe Haven for Cats, where I and 3 other poets, plus one terrific poet wrangler from Living Poetry wrote Poems on Demand. POD: $1 (or $5 if the event is held at a country club) and 1 word buys you a completed poem in 3 minutes.  Between pestering my friends for words to practice on and the event itself I wrote 21 poems. Two of my “customers” at the Ball liked the poem I wrote for them so much they said they would put it up on the wall. (Squee!) The rest of the poems came from spontaneous prompts.

Other poetic events of the month included the monthly poetry critique workshop run by a fellow poet and friend, Bartholomew Barker, and performing at two open mic events.  I submitted poetry to four different poetry journals, and, last but not least, I read lots and lots of poetry!

By the end of the month, I started finding poetry everywhere! Beyond the red roses and violets of blue, poetry can be found in an image, or a turn of phrase by someone in conversation, or a document, or even, as shown below, an article about the revival of the Cornish language.

If it cannot spread, Cornish may be trapped in eternal reawakening, not truly asleep, but never making it out from under the covers into the world.

Lovely! So much nicer to think of a language as sleeping than dead.

So what’s your takeaway here? Don’t be afraid to immerse yourself in what you love! Find your art. Create it. Purchase it. Share it. Art can be visual, literary, dance, culinary, gardening, bird watching, the list goes on and on.  It’s good for your heart.

And speaking of sharing, here is one of my more successful poems on demand, from a word requested by a good friend of mine. Enjoy.

high and tight
or low and lumpy
everyone’s got ‘em
even humpty dumpty
they give you a place to sit
and fill out the back of your pants
they’re fun to have and to hold
shake ‘em when you dance
whatever you call ‘em
booty, bum, tush or butt
wherever you go be sure
to make your buttocks strut!