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Susan T. Moss

July, 2017
April, 2017
February, 2017
January, 2017
October, 2016
August, 2016
June, 2016
April, 2016
February, 2016
January, 2016
August, 2015
July, 2015
April, 2015
February, 2015
December, 2014
October, 2014
August, 2014
July, 2014
April, 2014
March, 2014
December, 2013
October, 2013
August, 2013
July, 2013

Mardelle Fortier

May, 2013
November, 2012
September, 2012
July, 2012
May, 2012
March, 2012
January, 2012
November, 2011
September, 2011
July, 2011

Susan T. Moss

May, 2011
March, 2011
January, 2011
November, 2010
September, 2010
July, 2010
May, 2010
March, 2010
January, 2010
November, 2009
September, 2009
July, 2009

John Quinn

June, 2009
January, 2009
September, 2008
July, 2008
May, 2008
March, 2008
January, 2008
November, 2007
July, 2007

Susan T. Moss, July, 2017

July 1 marked the beginning of a new two-year term for ISPS board members including chapter facilitators who will be chosen at upcoming chapter meetings. We shall be keeping the same officers with the exception of Wilda Morris who retired and contributed a great deal as the past secretary. We welcome our new secretary, Melissa Huff, who will attend her first board meeting in August. Tom Moran will continue as the Manningham contest chairman but has stepped down as a member-at-large. Thank you to all who have served these past two years.

I recently participated in a week-long poetry workshop in Wisconsin and had the opportunity to join with others who also wanted to hone their work and share ideas. While it can be difficult to write poetry in twelve-minute exercises, work might evolve from those “on demand” sketches. As the week progressed, it became a little easier when able to give myself over to the creative process and supportive group energy. At the end of the session, I had three new poems.

However, it’s important to seek one’s own company and discover new slants on ideas and wordplay. Those many solitary hours are necessary for contemplation that comes with talking to oneself. For many poets, the combination of sharing critique sessions or even attending short workshops lasting just a couple of hours plus alone time can be rewarding.

Besides taking in the warmth of the season, we need to be good keepers of our poetic gardens and consider what the poet Robert Herrick suggested: “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may/Old Time is still a-flying.”

Happy writing,

Susan T. Moss
stm48@hotmail.com

Susan T. Moss, April, 2017

The public library poetry displays were a big success this April. With the theme of travel, many interesting and varied interpretations gave observers a variety of poems about places and ideas related to the topic. This yearly project, which sometimes drifts into May, offers members an opportunity to address a larger audience and thereby put work out into the world. Many thanks to Sheila Kirscher for collecting, collating and dispensing all the submissions. Thank you also to all those who created the various displays in libraries throughout the state.

I recently had the privilege of judging a contest that included three youth categories. What I found in many of the poems was a vivid and thoughtful chronicling of concerns about justice toward refugees, gender-related issues, racial prejudice, respect for self and others, establishing one’s place in the world, as well as recognizing the beauty in nature and our relation to the planet.

These entries had the capacity to provoke controversy as well as joy. Each of them offered insight as to what young people can and do think about as they mature. Youthful angst, fears, confusion, love and compassion were among the emotions often succinctly expressed. Hopefully, their endeavors will evolve into lifelong passionate efforts to capture life in imaginative connections between topic and expression.

When reading adult poetry, some of the questions posed in youth have been resolved while other concerns linger to be contemplated more deeply as we experience and examine life. Some of the topics reflect the greater human endeavor to resolve difficult situations that have always haunted humanity. In any event, our poetry can be a journal of our personal existence—a record of varying stages of discovery and a way to break the silence of our lives.

Happy writing,

Susan T. Moss
stm48@hotmail.com

Susan T. Moss, February, 2017

With the new year now underway, ISPS is busy gathering poetry submissions for April Poetry Month’s library displays centered on “travel.” Be sure to send your three poems no later than February 28, 2017, to isps.submissions@gmail.com and your bylaw changes vote to Wilda Morris. Also consider joining with Poets and Patrons for an evening of reading personal work at After-Words Bookstore in Chicago on April 13. The owner is offering to sell our own books that evening from 5:30-8:00 p.m. This year ISPS will share a table at the Chicago Poetry Fest held on April 29 at the Harold Washington Library. Several interesting programs will be offered that day, and members’ books can be sold. Another future event will be in June with a joint art and poetry project sponsored by the Downers Grove Art League. More creative possibilities will be announced as time goes by. Members are invited to submit ideas for other opportunities to share poetry among ourselves and with the public.

In this politically charged time no matter what our personal beliefs, it is quite likely that our poetry has been affected. As we go forward flipping through calendar pages and tiptoeing through time, we can help record preferred outcomes and characteristics that improve the wellbeing of us all. Ron Asheton, punk guitarist of the Stooges, stated that “You take a little of the truth from everyone and mix it with a little of your blood and it comes out with your music.”

We are being challenged to make good observations and listen to a variety of information in order to write with an open mind and inquiring spirit. Through- out history, poets have been a source people turn to and can be influenced by when other voices are ignored or drowned out. Poetry can also be a powerful tool for guidance and restoring equilibrium. Thus, like so many poets who have gone before us and who live among us, we are part of a national and world project to make this a better place through the written and spoken word. As Adam Zagajewski’s poem, Poetry Searches For Radiance states, “Poetry searches for radiance,/poetry is the kingly road/that leads us farthest.”

Happy writing,

Susan T. Moss
stm48@hotmail.com

Susan T. Moss, January, 2017

As we begin another year, we have the opportunity to shake off any residual sadness and disappointments and gather the opportunity of abundant joy and creative possibilities. The past three hundred and sixty-five days have been filled with exciting ISPS events including the third volume of Distilled Lives and another Gala on November 5. Brewed Awakening has continued to be a success every month as has been our newest haiku chapter in Northbrook, among other gatherings throughout the state.

With a growing number of members, there are more voices sharing their talents and energy as noted at chapter meetings, the NFSPS and ISPS poetry contests plus poems that appear on our website. The Gala this year offered a chance for some of the newer as well as long established members to share a day filled with programs and readings from our newest anthology. The panel presentation on publishing evoked some good questions and encouraged several unpublished poets to more seriously consider sending out their work. Lee Gurga’s commentaries on contemporary haiku also prompted interest and good questions. Morning music and poetry relating to Carl Sandburg added lively entertainment by Mark Dvorak. The day was complete with members reading their poems from our anthology.

The ISPS board is discussing some more events in this coming year including at least two shared reading opportunities with other poetry groups and again sponsoring April Poetry Month library displays. It is not too early to start working on poems about “travel” as this year’s theme. Many more plans will be forthcoming as the new year progresses.

Those of us who live in a colder climate may start to feel a sense of drawing in and disappearing from even ourselves. This might be a good time to observe from the inside out and then record a different outlook around and within us. As we wrap ourselves in sweaters and warm blankets, we can become more removed from life as we freely live it when not encumbered by boots, mittens and other such apparel. What might be hiding in the shadows of our inner selves that call to greater insights, fresh approaches and creative growth in our poetry? With more time to stay indoors and travel quiet places, we have the opportunity to begin a new poetic journey that lasts throughout the coming year.

Happy writing and may good health and inspiration surround you during 2017.

Susan T. Moss
stm48@hotmail.com

Susan T. Moss, October, 2016

It’s the time of year when we feel changes, whether it’s in the weather or an awareness that diminishing light marks shorter days and longer nights. Sometimes these shifts kindle wishes to keep the easier lifestyle more warmth offers. They can also influence how people can feel a sense of sadness or other seemingly indecipherable emotions.

People often say to a poet that he or she should write a poem about whatever is concerning them such as a reoccurring dream or perhaps something that is hidden from consciousness. While the suggestion is meant to be helpful, it isn’t always that easy to discover the pervading issue and wrestle it into a meaningful and creative written piece.

The concept of trying to write such a poem has its merits, however. Even the attempt to capture what is really behind a prevailing concern is a therapeutic exercise that can lead to positive results, both internally and on the page. Like any effort to create poetry, the deeper work is in finding the intention behind an idea. One can write about a trip or childhood event, but what further comments can be made evolve from discovering the shock, resentment, disappointment or longing, among other emotions that accompanied the initial situation.

In the “doing” of getting words on a page, the journey begins and can take us to previously unknown places. When deeper insights are mined, the poem has the potential to speak back to us and begin to write itself, so to speak. The aha moment opens doors to revelations that intimately speak first to the poet and then at some other personal level to the reader.

For instance, many poems, such as those of Richard Blanco noted in a previous newsletter, have related to the concept of home, the concrete version of a building and also events that have occurred within those walls or places on a map. Thus, location is the first level of description in the poem, and what happened in that space comes next. However, that alone seems rather simplistic although sometimes entertaining. A deeper question might regard why some poets have been drawn to this topic. In pursing the answers, they have learned much about what they miss or don’t miss in relationship to home—the people who are gone, shared and innocent fun, security and wellbeing, among other things memory brings back in both positive or perhaps negative ways. The range of emotions that accompanies these insights can be better understood with the help of the poems speaking back to them and us in continuing internal conversations and what appears on the page.

As we near November 6 at 2:00 a.m. CST, we will again be thrust into even earlier darkness, but our poetry can light the way!

Happy writing,

Susan T. Moss
stm48@hotmail.com

Susan T. Moss, August, 2016

As we finish the summer season and begin all the possibilities autumn offers in the world of poetry, much has been underway with preparing our next members’ anthology, sponsoring the annual poetry contest and planning for a November gala. It’s a good time to be a participant in ISPS and meeting with long-time members and many new ones.

Our annual poetry contest deadline is October 15, and details can be found on page 5 of the ISPS newsletter. The categories offer potential for interesting and challenging poetry from both member and nonmember poets. New judges from several states will participate in reading blind entries. Jim Lambert is presently receiving submissions.

The creation of Distilled Lives volume 3 includes the efforts of a committee to choose poems from the sixty-eight poets who submitted work. Blurb writers for the back cover have been chosen as well as a photo for the front cover. Editors have worked carefully on content and format details. The first launch of the books will be at the November Gala.

Speaking of the Gala, this event will be the second time we have joined together for a congenial and informative day-long event at the Park Ridge Country Club. It also marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of our charter membership with NFSPS. The location offers easy access off of Oakton and Touhy plus abundant free parking. There is an elevator to the second floor where we shall have two spacious rooms. The day will start with a continental breakfast and registration followed by our first presenter, Lee Gurga, who plans to discuss contemporary haiku. After lunch Mark Devorak will offer songs and poetry of Illinois poet Carl Sandburg. The third presentation of the day involves a panel discussion by three people with various publishing experiences. Audience participation is invited as well. Reading our poems from the new anthology and an open mic complete the day. Also, start sorting through your books, both poetry and other appropriate volumes, to share in a book swap. The cost for the Gala will be thirty-five dollars, and further details are forthcoming.

A line from The Great Gatsby suggests that fall is when we start over again, and so too, new ideas expressed through our poetry await each of us.

Happy writing,

Susan T. Moss
stm48@hotmail.com

Susan T. Moss, June, 2016

The NFSPS convention in Chaska, Minnesota, ended on June 13 and was filled with several thought-provoking presentations and writing activities. Among those who attended were four of us from Illinois and two at-large ISPS members from other states. Next year the national convention will be held in Texas at the Hilton Fort Worth Hotel from June 29-July 2, 2017.

One of the recent convention options was a panel discussion on “The Craft of Poetry.” Although we are already poets, it can be interesting to hear from other accomplished wordsmiths about what makes a poem. Some of the thoughts included the style of how a piece is written, such as staccato or lyrical, and whether it offers a universal theme or one of a more personal narrative. Even in the latter approach, the poem fits somewhere in the human condition but perhaps how is less obvious. Some poets hide in poetry and remain shy with their message while others provide a quicker and more immediate connection. Another panelist’s comment was about lying and truth telling in poetry. There is an emotional truth we often consciously or unconsciously embellish, and Wallace Stevens believed that “A poem is the supreme fiction.”

One presentation offered suggestions on ways to “Build Your Brand” by getting your name and work out into the world. Other ideas included creating a word wheel to spin new combinations of words for a poem, the benefits of using a small press publisher, and how American poetry often reflects place and our national identity. Another session focused on doing free writes to get potential ideas for a poem. This technique requires that the writer’s pen never leaves the paper for at least two minutes, and pausing and self-editing are not allowed.

With much to think about on our own poetry journeys, consider the next ISPS opportunity to appear in our anthology, Distilled Lives Volume 3. The deadline is July 15, and information is available on our website. Also, check your membership status which should be renewed for the next year starting July 1. Last but not least, it is not too soon to start writing or selecting which poems you might want to submit for the 23rd ISPS poetry contest with an October 15 deadline.

As summer drifts forward, may we join in the camaraderie of expectation and grow poems that bloom into potential bouquets.

Happy writing,

Susan T. Moss
stm48@hotmail.com

Susan T. Moss, April, 2016

Now that April’s Poetry Month has passed, we can review some ISPS events and accomplishments. This year members’ poetry was in fifteen libraries throughout the state along with some of our poetry on free bookmarks. There was a shared reading with artwork at the Lisle library and an interview about ISPS and poetry aired Sunday April 17 on The Arts Section of WDCB 90.9 which can be heard by clicking here. On the topic of celebrating poetry and poets, it is a good time to thank all the board members and webmasters for all their many efforts to keep our society vibrant and constantly growing. Thanks also to all the members who contribute their talents and enthusiasm.

As poets, we frequently seek the next idea for a poem, perhaps in an experimental form. We may discover a reoccurring theme or explore something that motivates us to simply put one foot in front of the other. In March I had the opportunity to hear poet Richard Blanco, who read at President Obama’s second inauguration, read some of his work at Hill-Stead Museum in Connecticut. Before the presentation, I had a conversation with him about his poetry that is often about the theme of seeking “home.” Blanco has lived in many places and claims Cuba and Spain as part of his heritage but now spends his time in Maine and New York City. The rich texture and insightful exploration of his work seek to define and confront what seems to elude his sense of peaceful belonging.

With careful scrutiny of our own poetry, we might be able to find personal motifs that start to take shape through various memories, stories, observations or conversations such as in Richard Blanco’s poetry of longing. Thus, there is often more to our poetry than first appears when randomly read. If we want to better understand ourselves, it is useful to look with an objective eye at our work, and as the artist Wolf Kahn said, we should always “start out with a capacity for enthusiasm.” Then, beyond the deeper transitions and feelings, we might see the possibility of a first or another book starting to coalesce. Whatever our endeavors, it is all good, all worth the effort to pin words on the page and contribute to a global conversation.

Happy writing,

Susan T. Moss
stm48@hotmail.com

Susan T. Moss, February, 2016

Signs of spring are beginning to awaken with more chattering of birds, buds daring to give signs of early blooms and longer glorious light. Illinois State Poetry Society is also growing and will soon burst forth with library poetry displays in April (locations are listed elsewhere in this newsletter), opportun- ities to share readings at participating libraries and our second gala on November 5 among other events to be announced.

As the vernal equinox approaches, the renewal of courage to start again is evidenced in gardens and return to warmer days. Like the season, we too can move forward and take chances in our writing. Vulnerability is the soothing of fears by writing about them, finding a way to feel safe about discussing what is true. Whether or not first person I or We is used in a poem, the ability to open ourselves to writing about subjects or feelings that may invite greater reader scrutiny can help us grow as thinkers and poets. While it is riskier, as one member said in a poem, to “Stand up,” this deeper delving into life can help create greater enlightenment and touch other people as well.

The gift we can give each other is the reassurance that we often share the same path, one that seldom seems long enough in spite of potholes, and that we can fly on the words of like-minded camaraderie. While reassuring the lonely, scared or confused, our poetry also releases and often assuages personal misalignments. This spring let’s plant some new ideas and approaches in our poetry and take more risks.

Speaking about starting fresh, the first meeting of our haiku chapter on February 21 at the Northbrook Library was well attended, including member Lee Gurga who drove from Champaign to help kick off the lively and informative gathering facilitated by Susan Auld.

Happy writing,

Susan T. Moss
stm48@hotmail.com

Susan T. Moss, January, 2016

Another year has drawn to a close, and many ongoing and new members have made a commitment to ISPS. We mourn the passing of several members who are listed on our website and look forward to the start of a haiku chapter on February 21, 2016, at the Northbrook Public Library. Some other exciting plans are also underway with more information forthcoming as they evolve.

We often take an accounting of the past year’s personal accomplishments, and as poets, our writing is one of those markers of time and intention. It is also an opportunity to consider what might be fresh approaches to writing as well. Here are a couple of ideas that might be interesting if you have not tried them already.

One suggestion relates to a recent Wisconsin Public Radio broadcast of Jean Sibelius’s music in celebration of his one hundred and fiftieth birthday. It made a pleasant drive through parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin back to Illinois. The program included sections of his choral symphony entitled Kullervo which was based on the Kalevala, Finland’s national epic. He also created tone poems, musical structures usually in a single continuous movement that evokes a poem’s content. These pieces were based on mythology and folklore and the music spoke for the original words. Both formats are interesting ways to reinvent our own poetry, perhaps in collaboration with a musician.

Another idea, which some of us have tried or are presently doing, is to write a series of poems that relate to one theme that runs through and informs a variety of these works. Both metaphorical and literal portrayals of the central idea can be applied as well as different forms. Examples of a central guiding idea could be journey, memory, loss, love, beginnings and endings among innumerable other possibilities. Perhaps a whole collection might result or a section of a collection. This challenge can allow for a variety of approaches, opinions and deeper research into self and observation that might not occur with only one poem on a given topic.

May the new year bring you inspiration and peace.

Happy writing,

Susan T. Moss
stm48@hotmail.com

Susan T. Moss, August, 2015

As we drift into late summer and all seasonal topics seem to have been exhausted like the last blooms, perhaps it will be time to try some other ideas to fill our poetry journals. As mentioned in past “Messages,” there are many approaches, topics and outcomes that are waiting for us to explore. Recently, another poet questioned whether it was okay to write poems on political topics, often ones that require closer scrutiny and then take a personal point of view. The history of poetry verifies the embracing of this subject and how, in many cases, it doesn’t have to “shout” or defame in order to get its messages across. Some pieces by Linda Pastan or Adrienne Rich offer examples. This kind of poetry can also help the writer explore a particular issue and find a venue for objecting to or supporting an idea or event including an array of environmental topics.

Another variation of a past discussion in this forum relates to personal heritage. The present United States poet laureate, Juan Felipe Herrera, fills much of his poetry with his historical interest in and personal connection to immigrant life. He spent his youth helping his parents work in other peoples’ farm fields and has drawn from those Chicano experiences. We too can explore our heritage to further interpret how it might directly or subtly influence our mannerisms, thinking and even unexplained proclivities for certain places, music or food. Like writing music, setting our distant past and more recent stories to poetry can provide new insights and encourage possible fresh styles. Miguel de Unamuno said, “From your work you will be able one day to gather yourself.” Stepping out of our usual poetic endeavors by looking to our family background might offer the next personal new horizon.

With our poetry contest postmark deadline of September 10, we have a wonderful opportunity to submit recent and past work for eight categories. Be sure to note the new choices and check the ISPS website for guidelines.

Happy writing,

Susan T. Moss
stm48@hotmail.com

Susan T. Moss, July, 2015

Summer is moving steadily forward, and one of the mileposts is the annual National Federation of State Poetry Societies convention. This year's event was a very successful gathering held in St. Petersburg, Florida. ISPS had nine attending members who enjoyed the various presentations including cowboy poetry read by a horse-riding, cow-roping Florida wrangler to writing surrealistic poems at the Dali Museum.

Peter Meinke, the new poet laureate of Florida, read as did nationally known Lola Haskins plus several other Florida poets. In addition, several couples presented a panel to discuss how they negotiate their respective artistic lives together.

One of the highlights of this year's convention was the number of Illinois poets who won awards from honorable mentions to first place. Our unofficial count at the convention was twenty-nine awards in varying categories. We also had three Manningham winners. A special congratulations to Max Seifert for his winning chapbook, The Hole of Everything, Nebraska.

After hearing two different approaches to cowboy poems by the aforementioned Doyle James Rigdon, and another poet, Sean Sexton, the concept of regionalism (place) as a poetry genre opens many content opportunities. Within this type of writing, culture and ethnicity might also influence the material. If we look at our own local neighborhoods, there may be different influences that can offer dialects, jargon, landscape, customs, food and so forth that can add new ways to address the familiar and produce a sublimity in our writing.

Another avenue to creating new work might be trying three techniques of surrealist poetry: automatic writing (just write everyday about something), dreams (interpretation of personal dreams), and juxtaposing realities (taking apart what's "real" and reassembling it in creative ways). Another approach to making new work is erasure poetry. Pick basically any written work and start to remove words or parts of them until there is some kind of final piece that offers something different than the original material offered. This type of exercise is part of the "found poetry" genre.

Whether it's fantastical content, local character or many other approaches to creating poems, one of the gifts poetry can offer is the preservation of personal and community history and as Meinke stated, "emotional history of the world."

Happy writing,

Susan T. Moss
stm48@hotmail.com

Susan T. Moss, April, 2015

As we drift into warmer days and ease of moving beyond housebound routines, I hope that you are going to respond to a recent survey of ISPS members about a possible future gathering to celebrate poetry. The three possible locations include the Chicago area, Pontiac or Springfield. This event could be one day or could be over a couple of days. Workshops, opportunities to read poetry and many yet-to-be decided plans would be offered. Please respond by hardcopy to the ISPS secretary, Wilda Morris, 499 Falcon Ridge Way, Bolingbrook, IL 60440 or by email to ISPS.PamL@gmail.com.

Another way to participate in sharing poetry is to attend this year’s National Federation of State Poetry Societies convention in St. Petersburg, Florida, from June 24-28. Several ISPS members plan to attend interesting workshops and enjoy camaraderie with new and known poets.

On the subject of sharing poetry, I was recently at two different events where cento poetry was written and presented. Cento is the Latin word for “patchwork,” and this type of poetry borrows lines from other poets to create a new poem. Variations of this could be phrases rather than a whole line, and even using your own work might be a good challenge. It’s important to clarify that the new poem is a cento or modification, however.

One more idea for trying something fresh for spring is to write a poem that will fit on a postcard and which relates to the picture on the card. It could be a persona poem from a traveler or a response to something observed or felt relating to the scene and perhaps include a salutation to a real or fictional reader.

Now that the blooming season has arrived, we might find new inspiration in the surprise of blue scilla waving like inland seascapes over lawns and parkways. Perhaps the call of cardinals and other birds awakens us from winter’s long nights. It’s surely a time when we find fresh reminders of life reinventing itself, just as we too discover ways and words to celebrate beginnings. As recently deceased poet Steve Kowit stated, "Let it all influence you."

Happy writing,

Susan T. Moss
stm48@hotmail.com

Susan T. Moss, February, 2015

Now that the new year is underway, it could be a good time to make some poetry resolutions. A few examples include participating in this year’s poetry month library display with a March 7 deadline.

Another idea is to participate in more open mics at local coffee houses such as Brewed Awakening in Westmont or Madame Zsu Zsu’s tea shop in Highland Park, The Café Gallery in Chicago or so many other local places in your own area.

Perhaps this is the year to start sending or send more poems to various national, international and local journals. Duotrope, Poets and Writers Magazine and The Line Break (an online blog) are just a few places to check for submission ideas.

You might even decide to assemble your own work into a chapbook or full-length collection. The poems could be self-published or in cooperation with a publishing house.

Hosting one of a growing number of salons held in private homes is a congenial way to share poems and even add music or art as a combination of celebrat- ing creativity.

Try contacting local bookstores for readings by a small group of poets. Many places are happy to host an evening or weekend afternoon event and also sell the poets' books.

Start another ISPS chapter with members in your area at the local library. Help is available with guidelines and feedback. Participate in more theme-related poetry contests. This year’s NFSPS offers many choices as do local contests. Highlandparkpoetry has ongoing opportunities. Also watch for the next ISPS poetry contest this year.

Make a video of you reading personal poetry and send it out to the world. This idea is growing quite popular. Check YouTube for some performance ideas.

Set aside more time to collect and respond to ideas for writing poetry. It helps to have some goals for future work and even places you want to submit the finished pieces or compilation for a personal collection.

With this year still new between first days of winter and early sightings of spring, it is time to consider the quote by Rainer Maria Rilke, "And now we welcome the new year, full of things that have never been."

Happy writing,

Susan T. Moss
stm48@hotmail.com

Susan T. Moss, December, 2014

Looking back on 2014, ISPS accomplished so much in what seems like a very short time. Some of the highlights were publishing a second members' anthology, many and varied reading opportunities, poetry contests on the local and national level, creating poetry in response to art, attending the NFSPS convention in Utah, starting new online critique groups and participating in ongoing chapter meetings. In addition we welcomed many new members.

We also recognize the loss of several admired poets including Maya Angelou, Galway Kinnell, Robert Peters and Mark Strand. We salute the new United States Poet laureate, Charles Wright, who stated, "I'd rather be memory, touching the undersides/Of all I ever touched once in the natural world."

What of recollection? Several of our members are also memoirists, who like many of us, want to "write down memories before they can't be recovered" as Ted Kooser proposes. Through the succinct venue poetry can offer, we have the opportunity to capture the stories, observations and history that contribute to our individual lifetimes. Poetry formats what lingers in our thoughts and which we as well as others can reflect on long after the actual events or feelings. Galway Kinnell believed "A poem expresses one's most private feelings and these turn out to be feelings of everyone else as well."

When we write poems that can positively contribute to the world's human collective, we are part of the continuity that redeems us from oblivion. The everyday of our lives is not forgotten. Raindrops and birdcalls endure on a page spoken in harmony with the hope that we have helped hold what is precious. This reminds us, as Colum McCann wrote, "We seldom know what echo our actions will find, but our stories will most certainly outlast us."

May this past year breathe softly in our memory and the coming year bring moments worthy of recording.

Happy writing,

Susan T. Moss
stm48@hotmail.com

Susan T. Moss, October, 2014

After recent travels through Spain, I am again reminded that poetry is everywhere: in art, architecture, the written word, the grace of a flamenco dancer, the scent of orange groves and so much more.

The windmills Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra's Don Quixote saw have been replaced by steel giants lining ridge tops from San Sebastian to Barcelona. However, the place Washington Irving evoked, with romantic and historical lyricism in Tales of Alhambra, still looms with fortress grandeur.

It's a land of olive trees and marigolds, Sierra Nevadas that are wrapped in a mantilla of sunshine competing with a full moon at night tiptoeing through bell towers punctuating the Sevilla skyline, a place of Inquisition and civil war, sacrifice and passion.

As a painter and sculptor, Joan Miró of Barcelona was greatly influenced by the poetry of Spanish mystics. He felt, as many poets do, that our creative endeavors have to engage in works that transcend "human and collective effort." Miró's paintings often have poetic titles such as The Smile of a Tear and The Lark's Wing Encircled With Golden Blue Rejoins The Heart of The Poppy Sleeping on The Diamond-Studded Meadow.

Federico Garcia Lorca's words call from tiles lining a wall in Granada’s old city. His poetry and plays were banned by Francisco Franco but again speak to passersby to fully partake of life and live courageously. Jean Ramón Jiménez, another prolific Andalucian poet who died in 1958, also had his poetry immortalized in blue and white tiles – his words another reminder of the many-faceted layers of time and place, memory and inspiration.

One particular connection I made with Miró and Picasso was when I saw photos of their studios. They both immersed themselves in everyday items, found objects like a bone or shell, ideas scribbled on scraps of paper, utensils for creating their art, worn oriental rugs, all seemingly scattered without plan or purpose, designing a place where creativity could incubate and hatch. I knew then that in this little room where I attempt to put my own ideas to paper, I am in good company.

Happy writing,

Susan T. Moss
stm48@hotmail.com

Susan T. Moss, August, 2014

The big news is the publication of our second volume of Distilled Lives containing eighty-one of our members' poetry. It also has wonderful blurbs by Kevin Stein, Illinois Poet Laureate; Estella Lauter, Door County Poet Laureate; Jeremy Downes, most recent past President of NFSPS; and Ralph Hamilton, Rhino Poetry Editor. If you didn't submit this year, consider the next opportunity and in the meantime, get an anthology to enjoy reading an exciting variety of poems.

Now that the annual NFSPS convention is over, Judith Tullis, Kathy Cotton, Jim Lambert, Gary Ketchum, Amy Jo Zook and I have several good poetry-related ideas and also ways that might enrich what ISPS could offer its members. Next year's gathering sounds very promising and will be held in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Some highlights of this year's presentations might be useful or at least interesting. For example, Rob Carney mentioned that our poems could help deconstruct myths, but we should consider creating our own primal myths and origin stories. Poems can also make someone or something special. They offer ways to turn a complex idea into the familiar and find a name for the shadows of our lives. Each effort should incorporate action verbs and avoid "flourish."

Diane Glancy stated that we need to "order the disorder" of our ideas and express the heartbeat of a poem. The outcome is a mediation between "a hostile world and us" as Picasso also tried to achieve in his art.

A lecture by Joel Long emphasized reaching beyond self to write something new and then discover what we didn't know before the poem took us there. We gather the things we need and refer to them through images, ideas, theme and story details. Follow the sound of the poem to attain the music it holds.

Good poems, according to Lance Larson, need a "volta" (turn). This is a sudden leap to a different terrain – the heart that reconfigures the poem. Shakespeare's sonnets offer examples with pithy moments as does haiku in the second or possibly third line. The juxtaposition of two opposites often work to setup a turn, and there can be more than one in longer poems.

Perhaps, as the proverbial saying states, "there is nothing new under the sun"; however, there is much to learn, construct and enjoy in the forging of poetry.

Happy writing,

Susan T. Moss
stm48@hotmail.com

Susan T. Moss, July, 2014

Several other ISPS members and I will be attending the NFSPS convention in Salt Lake City in late June. This yearly event, held in varying parts of the country, offers a variety of opportunities to hear informative speakers, meet new poets and visit with those already known from previous years. Energy runs high with anticipation of presentations by fine poets, possibly winning contest awards and sharing optional daily open mic readings.

Energy should also be part of our writing. Recently, I spent a week in a poetry workshop at The Clearing in Door County. Three other ISPS members were also there and shared their work and discussions about writing poetry. One topic was how we fill our poetry with vitality. Some of the ways include keeping a balance or tension such as between gain and loss, past and present, opposites of feelings, levity and seriousness, among many other themes, tones and approaches.

It can be a challenge to find new and fresh approaches to poetically transcribing something calling to us. Early drafts may be list-like in recording the event, feeling or observation and thereby, miss the underlying breath and subtext driving the desire to make a subject more elevated and inspirational. At this juncture, we need to evaluate what drew us to the initial idea and then delve deeper into our intimate self, and the motivating élan that needs to share something with a larger audience.

When I considered how I get energy into my poetry, I took a cause and effect approach. First the idea, thing, etc. emanates its vigor and kindles my interest. Then I write down these initial responses and try to capture the intention and goal to further discover yet a deeper purpose– the soul of the poem. Next, I step back, take a walk or do something else to provide a little time away in order to let the first thoughts marinate and form their own voice that often speaks to me if given a chance.

The following phase is the reworking of the structure, word choice and rhythm that help energize the poem. Eventually, the poem dances or in some way slips off the page into a broader realm of existence, thus combining the message and animation to deliver a poem. At completion, I have tried to capture, hold and then send out to the world a piece of myself that will perhaps also speak to others.

To be a poet is know what and how something affects us. Detecting and defining what motivates an idea, listening to its message and deciphering the code into poetic language become the ultimate challenges and creative joy.

Happy writing,

Susan T. Moss
stm48@hotmail.com

Susan T. Moss, April, 2014

Recently, one of our members, Amy Jo Zook, sent me some reprints of ISPS history as noted in NFSPS contests and the STROPHES. The years include 1976, 1978, 1983 and 1984. Our current archival collection will be enriched with this information that precedes the data from the 1991 ISPS charter with NFSPS. Our state society takes on a richer meaning when we can trace the people and ideas constantly building a better poetry community. In keeping with this concept, the board voted to present Glenna Holloway with a lifetime membership in appreciation for her help during 1991 to charter ISPS in the National Federation of State Poetry Societies.

As has been noted in a former Message, our personal history is a complex and important component of who we are and thereby, what we write. Gabriel Garcia Marquez said, "What matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it." In regard to how we remember those who have touched our lives, T.S. Eliot stated, "What we know of other people is only our memory of the moments during which we knew them. And they have changed since then." One might add, so have we.

In an effort to keep a record of their unique past, perception of other people and public events, some of our ISPS members are combining poetry and memoirs. These prose pieces tell stories from the writers' lives, and related poems create a tighter reference to the moments in form or free verse.

Perhaps you could try another version of this and write in tanka prose: a combination of prose and tanka verse. The latter is a lyrical poem generally with a line format of 5-7-5-7-7 syllables.

Writing a haibun of one or more paragraphs in a concisely constructed, imagistic style with the inclusion of one or more haiku is yet another way to capture moments of autobiographical memory. This format and the tanka prose have become very popular and offer other writing challenges that can have surprising and insightful results.

Happy writing,

Susan T. Moss
stm48@hotmail.com

Susan T. Moss, March, 2014

Several subjects have come to mind as I considered what to discuss for this issue of the ISPS newsletter. Updates of ISPS activities and accomplishments are noted as well as a few comments about poetry.

I am happy to announce that Illinois State Poetry Society now has official archives which have been compiled and sorted by Carolyn Jevelian and me. These are housed at the Northbrook Public Library in the reference section and may be perused on location. Although our society goes back many more years than when we were chartered at the National Federation of State Poetry Societies convention in 1991, historical records have been found for about only the past twenty or so years. The collection will be regularly updated, and I invite anyone who has old ISPS-related material to contact Carolyn or me.

This year there are several libraries where members' poetry will be displayed during April Poetry Month. A couple of libraries have invited us to show poems in May due to conflicts for space. Please consider sending two poems to Sheila Kirscher as described in the mailing sent out to members. So far, participating libraries include Wilmette, Winnetka, Highland Park, Glenview, Hinsdale, Indian Prairie, Aurora, Pontiac and Carbondale.

Illinois State Poetry Society will be offering a chance for members to sell their books at the Poetry Fest held at the Harold Washington Library on April 26. Bring your publications for display on a table in the lobby.

Watch for other announcements about reading opportunities and writing workshops sponsored by ISPS. The Brewed Awakening is an ongoing and popular venue to share your work.

With so much competition among thousands of poets trying to get into hardcopy journals, you might want to try some other venues to share poetry with the world. The internet offers various sites, and one of them is Your Daily Poem (YDP). Go to www.yourdailypoem.com and read some of the archived poetry to see if your work fits. This site is read by people in many parts of the world and can be a fun way to get published if chosen. Another source is to submit previously pub- lished work to littleeaglereverse.blogspot.com and if accepted, it will be shown with accompanying art of your own or publisher’s choice. One more suggestion is A Year of Being Here at www.ayearofbeinghere.com/ for a more meditative genre. These are just a few examples of electronic sources for sending out your poetry.

Happy writing,

Susan T. Moss
stm48@hotmail.com

Susan T. Moss, December, 2013

I would like to wish each of you a very happy and healthy new year filled with inspiration and also to offer a welcome to our many new members. This 2014 will be exciting with work on our second anthology and more opportunities for sharing our poetry through workshops, displays and readings for the public.

Our poetry reflects so many aspects of our lives. The impulses that guide the inspiration can come, as E.O. Wilson states in The Creation, from our primal relationship to nature. "Poets, at the highest human level of expression" evoke "experiences lost from conscious memory" because they are aware that "something fundamental moves beneath the surface of our conscious minds, something worth saving."

On a more conscious level, there are many other sources that can awaken memory including conversations, objects, sensory experiences and even the influences of nursery rhyme cadence and whimsy or seasonal sentiments to express a story. The latter seems apparent in this excerpt from Noel Coward's poetic lyrics spun from a heartfelt longing in the song, "Come The Wild, Wild Weather."

Come the wild, wild weather,
Come the wind and the rain,
Come the little white flakes of snow,
Come the joy, come the pain,
We shall still be together
When our life’s journey ends
For wherever we chance to go
We shall always be friends.
We shall always be friends.

In our striving to keep ideas and memories secure and embedded on the page, we share, according to Barry Lopez in Crossing Open Ground, a "spiritual exhilaration, compassion, futility, final causes... drawing on... human meditation." With so much impermanence of objects and notions of what rules or social guidelines are in vogue, poetry plays an ever-increasing role in keeping "something worth saving."

Happy writing,

Susan T. Moss
stm48@hotmail.com

Susan T. Moss, October, 2013

The power of poetry should never be underestimated. Recently, the BBC interviewed several veiled women in Kabul, Afghanistan, who meet to recite their poems condemned by warlords. One woman wrote of such things as smoking with a lover and thereby, broke taboos and was forced to flee for her life. These women write of forbidden freedoms commonly embraced by Western cultures and with their poems, they attempt to break down barriers and shift moral judgments.

While most of us are not living behind a literal veil, when we write we too need to cross barriers, whether they be internal blocks or a hesitation to declare truths against issues that threaten society’s well-being, for example. Poetry has the capacity to analyze, persuade, initiate, captivate, assuage and entertain, among others. Possibilities are only limited by our imagination and ability to formulate ideas.

When we are complicit in writing what touches us and which insists on being said, personal insights can be revealed. With a willingness to open ourselves to deeper knowledge which we intentionally or unconsciously hide, our poetry can grow in previously unsuspected ways. The process of continually unmasking and experimenting, delving deeper and pushing the limits of self-expression can help us discover our own freedom to communicate. It can be a pleasant surprise to meet a stranger speaking of more than “shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings...” and realize that it is ourselves.


Now that fall is at full throttle and winter not far behind, I wish for each of you holidays filled with peace and joy.

Happy writing,

Susan T. Moss
stm48@hotmail.com

Susan T. Moss, August, 2013

With September comes a series of changes as already noted in the different slant of sun, cooler mornings and evenings, and fewer conversations among birds. There begins to be something in the air which signals fewer days with green, leafy trees and blooming roses. Poets have responded to these actual changes with their various writing styles and often with philosophical and emotional content.

The concept of change can be a good topic and guiding force for creating poetry. In a deviation from Robert Frost's usual poetic form, "Nothing Gold Can Stay" embodies not only the more obvious reference but also the deeper motivations and consequences of change that move from allusions to nature to the whole human set of realities and myth that ultimately end one way or another.

Nothing Gold Can Stay
Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Perhaps our poetry incorporates the theme of change more often than we realize. So much is written about everyday things that, although they are repeated out of habit, are never quite the same. Maybe we have even tried different styles of writing poetry and thus, have attempted to vary our predictable patterns of thought and technique. One ISPS member related the story of how he used to write in free verse but after attending a workshop on rhyme, he completely reinvented his form and how he thinks about ideas.

With the insight that change is constant, in what new ways might we explore writing patterns, themes, topics and possible metaphoric outcomes? How might we hear our inner voice speaking to us in a different way?

Before closing, I would like to remind everyone about the October 4, 2013, invitation by the Northbrook Public Library to read our poetry at their annual night of the arts. Be sure to reserve a reading slot by notifying me in advance.

Happy writing,

Susan T. Moss
stm48@hotmail.com

Susan T. Moss, July, 2013

It is with much appreciation and joy that I greet you all as the newly elected president of ISPS. First, thank you to Mardelle Fortier, Judith Tullis, Gail Goepfert, John Gordon, Wilda, Morris, Carolyn Jevelian and the chapter facilitators (who have all been re-elected) for serving as board members over the past two years.

Second, welcome to officers Jim Lambert, Wilda Morris and Judith Tullis. Carolyn Jevelian has offered to continue working on the ISPS archives as an historian. Also, congratulations to all our members who did so well in the NFSPS contest this year.

In the next two years, many interesting and exciting events have already been suggested. For example, there is talk of having a state convention. The closest to this we have come is when we celebrated our twentieth anniversary as a recognized member of NFSPS. Requests for more workshops on how to prepare journal submissions and how to publish a book are also on the list. Creating another members' anthology is another very real possibility. Of course, I am open to other ideas and look forward to hearing more from you.

Not only does ISPS need to be actively supporting poetry among ourselves and the rest of the world, but also within ourselves. Recently, I heard Riccardo Muti, conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, speak about the process of not only writing music but also listening to it. He mentioned that when a composer puts down notes on a page, he or she hears the music between the notes. This space unseen or literally heard as such helps form the total sound patterns and theme of a symphony or individual song.

So, too, it behooves the poet to hear the unspoken thought or intention between the words that form a poem. It's those internal moments that help shape the total "melody" of our work. It's what forms meaning and feeling of a piece just as in music. The more we listen to that inner voice, the more we can learn about what is speaking to us and reaches out to be heard.

Finally, please don't forget to renew your membership. Your presence is an asset to the greater ISPS community.

Happy writing,

Susan T. Moss
stm48@hotmail.com

Mardelle Fortier, May, 2013

There is something about escaping from a flood that gives you a perspective concerning the important things in life! Among many important aspects, two at the top remain poetry and friendship. The Illinois State Poetry Society emphasizes both. I am grateful that as your President for the past two years, I have been privileged to bask in your friendhship as well as your love of poetry.

Together, we have continued and furthered the great traditions and programs of ISPS: the Manningham contest, ISPS contest, the expansion of our club throughout Illinois, poetry readings at Brewed Awakening, and service to senior citizens, to name a few.

I have valued your friendship and assistance, and look forward to our meetings in years to come. A round of applause, please, for our hard-working past officers!

My best wishes for the success of our new officers, and welcome to new members.

Mardelle Fortier
President, ISPS (Fortier@cod.edu)

Mardelle Fortier, November, 2012

I hope everyone had a happy Halloween. As October ends, we have monsters (little trick or treat tykes and monster storms). The front page of most newspapers shows cars in New Jersey buried in three feet of water. We are reminded of Mary Oliver's poem, "Crossing the Swamp": "...Here/ is swamp, here/ is struggle,/ closure--/pathless, seamless,/peerless mud..." There is no aspect of life not reflected in or dignified by poetry. Mankind's poetic impulse is the greatest evidence of our sentient being.

For ISPS members, who are by nature intellectually adventurous, winter is the perfect time to write--to try new forms, be alive to nature, and reflect on new perspectives of life. I challenge all of us to try a bold experiment: maybe a design that you have never taken on, such as a villanelle or sestina.

Also, it is a great time to share our poetic gifts with others, especially at ISPS meetings and poetry readings. We provide a warm venue for the sensitive souls who write, read, and enjoy poetry. Remember, at 12:30 pm on the last Sunday of each month, there are featured poets and an open mike at Brewed Awakening poetry readings; the $7 cover charge is much less than most activities and includes coffee and scone. Civilized life amid the struggles of nature!

As Mary Oliver writes: "Here is the endless/ wet thick/ cosmos, the center/ of everything..." Yet, for poets, winter has its unique pleasures.

I look forward to seeing all of you at our next meeting.

Mardelle Fortier
President, ISPS (Fortier@cod.edu)

Mardelle Fortier, September, 2012

If you're reading this, I'm happy to reflect that you've survived another summer, with its succession of 90 degree days, and drought, and are looking forward to real fun in attending the autumn ISPS meetings. Since it's fall, the temperatures are cooler and hope springs for the Monsters of the Midway. The fall colors remind us of the beauty of nature and the changing seasons, the predictable cycles of life.

One thing doesn't change and that is our happiness in greeting poetry colleagues—new and seasoned—at our ISPS meetings where earnest poets share their verse and their friendship. We rejoice in steadily increasing membership, and applaud all who took the trouble to invite potential members to visit our club. In the workshops, we try to be encouraging and supportive, and I am grateful for your enthusiasm about each other's poems.

I welcome everyone and look forward to seeing you all at the next meeting of ISPS.

Mardelle Fortier,
President, ISPS (Fortier@cod.edu)

Mardelle Fortier, July, 2012

We warmly welcome all members (new recruits and veterans) and hope that you will take advantage of ISPS services:

  • A poet-friendly meeting place for members to socialize and critique poems;
  • The ISPS web site (www.illinoispoets.org);
  • The ISPS informative newsletter; also Strophes (from our National Federation, NFSPS);
  • ISPS-sponsored poetry readings, poetry contest, library poetry exhibits, lectures;
  • Liaison with ISPS chapters and other poetry groups like Poets & Patrons of Chicago.

We hope that you take advantage of the diverse opportunities presented by Illinois State Poetry Society. Frequently we update you through the web site and e-mails. Many events are free, and through our club you are also connected to exciting happenings through the Chicago area, such as Poetry Fest, and also nationwide. Shelley and Keats would have loved to enjoy these services.

Welcome again, to all members—past, present, and future. Enjoy the summer!

Mardelle Fortier,
President, ISPS (Fortier@cod.edu)

Mardelle Fortier, May, 2012

John Keats reminds us, "The poetry of earth is never dead; (the grasshopper) he takes the lead in summer luxury--he has never done/with his delights" (Keats, "On the Grasshopper and the Cricket"). Like grasshoppers and crickets, we poets too delight in summer pleasures as the temperatures soar into the eighties.

For poets, there are many opportunities to delight in the poetry of earth. Poets and Patrons contest will bloom in late summer (see Barbara Eaton for details). ISPS has an exciting new category for its contest, set up for November. In September, Prairie Light Review through College of DuPage is seeking submissions from poets (630-942-2733, Prairielightreview.org; plre@cod.edu). Also, the last Sunday of each month there is a poetry reading at Brewed Awakening, Westmont, at 12:30 p.m. It's a lot of fun! Our club hosts other poetry events; check e-mail announcements, this newsletter, and the ISPS website.

"The poetry of earth is never ceasing," as Keats noted. Poetry is a summer delight, as it is during every season.

Sincerely,

Mardelle Fortier

Mardelle Fortier, March, 2012

T. S. Eliot reminds us that April is the cruelest month. It teases you with the warmth of Spring, only to drench you with cold rains. It makes you desire the out-of-doors only to force you to work on your income tax. The political season goes on, but the baseball season is yet to really begin. The one bright aspect: April is National Poetry Month.

There will be many poetry events, from other clubs and ours. Check ISPS newsletter and please come to ISPS meetings where these events will be included in announcements. On April 14, from 10-2, Lisle Library will have a set of booths to promote their programs. I hope to gather a few volunteers to offer information to patrons of the library.

If you know of some poets who are still in winter doldrums, please encourage them to come to our meetings and offer a ride if needed. We miss those of you who have not been able to attend ISPS events.

The readings at Villa St. Benedict went well with a lively audience. This program is a new one for our club, and we thank all who are involved.

T. S. Eliot also said that Rum Tum Tugger was a curious cat! ISPS meetings are a great place to indulge your curiosity about poetry and renew contacts with supportive poets. Look forward to seeing you there!

Sincerely,

Mardelle Fortier

Mardelle Fortier, January, 2012

Greetings and best wishes for the holidays!

As we start a new year, the Illinois State Poetry Society is busy with a host of forward-looking projects. The poets' outreach to a veterans' hospital has taken place and is on-going. The club also reached out to the senior community at Villa St. Benedict (connected to Sacred Heart Convent) in Lisle on January 14.

I hope that more of us will turn out to support the readers at the Brewed Awakening events. If you're busy, you could drop in for part of the session. We want to hear your poems and renew acquaintances. The ISPS Board is considering a number of changes to the club contest and work on this will be proceeding in 2012.

We extend condolences to Susan Moss and her family for her recent loss.

Glancing out my window I see the unexpected: no snow. Life and nature are filled with surprises, which provide much for poets' reflection.

Once again, have a happy and safe New Year!

Sincerely,

Mardelle Fortier



Mardelle Fortier, September, 2011

Firstly, we should recognize that the ISPS Anniversary Gala was well organized and attended. Special thanks to all who organized the Gala and made it such a successful event. We also appreciate those who attend the poetry readings at the Brewed Awakening.

There are ambitious goals we hope to achieve in the next two years. We want to increase our number and especially interest young people in poetry and our club. We wish to reach out as well to the elderly, the lonely, the sick or forgotten and help to brighten their lives. For our current members we want to make our meetings both useful and enjoyable so members look forward to and attend them.

With your help these goals can be achieved. Any ideas or suggestions you have are very welcome. Please feel free to communicate them to me.

Sincerely,

Mardelle Fortier



Mardelle Fortier, July, 2011

Blizzards, earthquakes, tsunamis, heat waves, climate change and a tornado! Isn't it wonderful to come to ISPS meetings, a calm refuge from the world, where good friends can meet, socialize and celebrate their love for poetry?

Firstly, I wish to thank all club members for electing a new slate—my fellow officers are all great—and to thank the prior officers for their stellar service. In the coming months we hope to increase both membership and attendance at our get-togethers by both current and new members, veteran and young poets, and to extend the love of poetry as widely as possible. It's great that so many make the effort to travel to meetings despite rain, snow, heat, or sports games; we enjoy hearing such a wide range of creative and strong poems.

We wish to personally show our appreciation to Caroline Johnson for her work in our meetings and her wonderful service in providing our newsletter. Special thanks also to Barbara Eaton for all of her facilitating and organizing of Club matters.

On behalf of the officers, we look forward to seeing all our friends at ISPS and serving you in the new term!

Sincerely,
Mardelle Fortier


Susan T. Moss, May, 2011

It is with some sadness that I write this last message of my two-year term. However, as we approach our twentieth year anniversary and look toward the future, there has been much to celebrate over the last couple of years. From publishing our first anthology to adding two new chapters, attaining Articles of Incorporation and displaying members' poetry in eight libraries during this year's Poetry Month, we can be proud of all our hard work and accomplishments. Membership is at a new high of 122 with consistent growth, and there is a celebration to look forward to on August 20, 2011.

While we are celebrating the past, it is also important to preserve the institutional memory of Illinois State Poetry Society. The next decade will bring more events, changes and additions that need to be chronicled as well as our history. It would be useful as well as interesting for new members and long-time participants to know about this statewide group.

Regarding poetry, an acquaintance, who is not a poet, asked how she is supposed to read a poem and then interpret the poet's intentions behind the words. Of course, we cannot control what effects our work may produce nor how a listener or reader deconstructs its content. Once the poem is set free, it takes its own path, and sometimes we gain insights from what others see. There is often some intuitive reference that speaks to many and strikes a chord of recognition. The "aha" when somebody does find the poet's deeper subtext or motivating force can be rewarding but need not happen in order for the piece to be appreciated. The process might be compared to actors developing their characters. They create stories, reasons, ideas, history or any other number of motivations for what is ultimately seen in the actual play. These will probably never be known by the audience, however.

So what shall we write this spring into summer? Perhaps memories will fill notebook pages for future poems or reworking former pieces for a collection will call to us. Much waits to be noted and said. With each observation and daily event dangles the possibility for a poem—it's just a matter of writing it!

What has been true over the years and remains the goal of our society is to promote and support poets and their work. We are a vital force for getting out the word through various venues we offer plus wherever members seek places to read and submit their work. There is an esprit de corps, and many of us have become good friends through a love of words and participation in ISPS. I shall be around and invite your thoughts as we start another adventure over the next two years. I have enjoyed working with the present Board members, and I shall remain on the Board. I wish the new leaders much success.

Happy writing,
Susan T. Moss


Susan T. Moss, March, 2011

A few events are worthy of note in this March message. First, an update on the ISPS anthology includes the final touches on editing and formatting before sending everything to the publisher. The process will include return galley proofs and more editing before the final printing. Next, a date and location for the official celebration of our twentieth anniversary and anthology are also in the planning. Another chance to participate in the NFSPS convention as a ISPS delegate will be in mid June. Check STROPHES for further information. Please let me know if you are interested in helping to represent ISPS.

Other events involving ISPS include several things for Poetry Month in April. Members' work will be displayed in the Westmont, Winnetka, Northbrook, Wilmette, Lisle and Lemont libraries. Also, member Gail Goepfert will be leading two student workshops at the Northbrook Public Library on April 16, 2011. The first session will be for 5th and 6th graders and will run from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. A second class will be held for 7th and 8th graders from 1:00 p.m. until 2:30 p.m. It is free for students who register by calling the library at 847-272-6224. This program entitled "Finding Poetry and Painting With Words" is sponsored by ISPS, the Northbrook Arts Council and the Northbrook Public Library. Attendees will receive a writing journal from the local Arts Council.

Richard C. Wilbur, second Poet Laureate of the United States, just celebrated his ninetieth birthday on March 1. He writes in concise, formal verse, but not very quickly. As Wilbur said, "I often don't write more than a couple of lines in a day of, let's say six hours of staring at the sheet of paper." Conversely, Alan Ginsburg wrote rapidly and prolifically but with many false starts that were discarded.

Whatever our work process is, it is useful to write down the thoughts that trickle into our consciousness and need to be addressed before they disappear. Giving ourselves permission to just write the general ideas down is important and then save them for another time when we can fill in the missing pieces. It might be equated with a painter who makes a preliminary sketch and then begins the longer process of layering subtle shades of paint, dabbing and smudging, scratching and highlighting. The end result is a picture greater than its skeletal beginnings that perhaps tells a story or illustrates a place.

Some poets get stuck with making an idea into what is considered poetry. The form or poetic devices elude them, and the initial concept starts to fade into frustration or a lack of confidence. Most poets feel that there could be a little more to improve in any given piece. What is almost always true, on the other hand, is few poems are completed in the first several drafts. Almost anything can be the subject of a poem, but not all poems accomplish what we have in mind. However, some poets have discovered as Wilbur has that writing can "calm my own nerves."

Happy writing,
Susan T. Moss


Susan T. Moss, January, 2011

First, I would like to wish everyone a very happy, healthy and productive new year. The beginning of 2011 finds editors and committee members working to put together our twentieth anniversary anthology. In February the first meeting to discuss selected poetry sent by seventy-four members will take place. Each stage of the process thus far has gone smoothly, and after formatting final entries, the printing could take as long as eight weeks for completion. The goal is to have a finished product by early June if not before.

More news includes the conclusion of two of three steps toward making ISPS a not for profit organization. We have attained an issuance of Articles of Incorporation from the Illinois Secretary of State and also have an EIN (Employer Identification Number). These steps now enable us to pursue a 501 (c) (3) status. This effort requires some further assistance, which I am seeking from a member or members who have experience in filing for this important final stage. With the 501 (c) (3), ISPS would become a tax deduction for any donations by members and outside sources. It would allow us the ability to apply for grants and bring us into the arena many other state societies already profit from and enjoy. Please consider helping with this project that would benefit everyone.

As for poetry, I recently attended an entertaining and informative play with songs called Local Wonders which is about the life and poetry of Ted Kooser, United States Poet Laureate from 2004-06. It was written by Virginia Smith and Paul Amandes and was adapted from Kooser's book by the same title, which came from a belief that "If you can awaken inside the familiar and discover it new, you need never leave home…"

When attempting to "awaken" ideas and overcome moments of writer's block, consider one technique involving what some poets call a "frame" for a poem. At a fall workshop some other members and I attended, we discussed this concept of putting thoughts into a specific organization as a way to guide the poet and reader. For instance, writing in a recipe style: First you… then add… and so forth, extending a metaphor throughout the poem, trying ideas on like clothes, making a comparison and contrast poem, and telling it like a story or fairy tale are some ways that might structure your writing.

W.S. Merwin, present U.S. Poet Laureate, and other poets recognize what his "To the Consolations of Philosophy" states, "I know the design/of the world is beyond/our comprehension." Poets, hope, however, that poetry is a way to gather, sort, analyze and categorize aspects of life. We keep spooning thoughts onto the page in an attempt to make sense of everyday rhythms, to attach a ribbon from one observation to the next and tie all together if just for a moment of illumination and understanding.

Happy writing,
Susan T. Moss


Susan T. Moss, November, 2010

There are several exciting topics to share in this Thanksgiving and winter holidays ISPS newsletter. Many creative endeavors are underway and members can continue to contribute to their success.

On November 7, 2010, the first meeting of our newest chapter took place in Anna near Carbondale. Nine of us met at the spacious Anna Art Center and enjoyed lively discussion plus a delicious variety of treats. Jim Lambert is the facilitator who gathered the friendly and talented poets.

Our third chapter, founded a year ago, will celebrate its first anniversary on December 11, 2010, at the Pontiac Public Library. David Alexander hopes many members will join critiquing poetry and sharing food. One more invitation involves a visit to the Evanston Public Library where members' poetry will be displayed through November instead of the initial October time frame. ISPS is always open to sharing our poems in public arenas, and members are welcome to investigate their local libraries and art centers to see if they would be interested. Please let me know of possibilities for the coming months.

An exciting event is further explained in the guide sheet included in this newsletter. The completion of the first ISPS members' anthology is planned for next spring and will rely on your support and best poems. This milestone will help further our goal to put poetry out into the world.

The Illinois State Poetry Society will soon celebrate two decades of its existence. Further history of the organization's earlier years would be useful to create a more detailed picture of where we have been and how we continue to grow. If you have any old newsletters, announcements, programs or related information, it would be very helpful to share them in order to tell our story. Your assistance is greatly appreciated.

Another ISPS goal is to offer youth and adult writing workshops. A member, Gail Goepfert, will present two sessions for students at the Northbrook Public Library in February. This will be one of several kinds of programs we want to offer the public and members in the new year. If you have experience working with either younger or more mature writers, please join the growing outreach to experienced and aspiring poets.

And what of poetry? We are known by the words we write in varying voices which stay true to an inner calling. While some things do change like the seasons, our desire to capture and hone impressions viewed with curiosity and contemplation is the constant that keeps us on course. May the holidays be filled with creativity, peace and joy.

Happy writing,
Susan T. Moss


Susan T. Moss, September, 2010

As summer slowly glides to an end, we look back on the events, travel and hopefully, creative inspiration of the last three months. In past newsletters, I discussed ways to improve our poetry through writing and researching other sources for ideas. During my recent trips, I was aware of how poetry seems to be everywhere. Of course, one has to be open to it and then take in the many surprises.

My first pleasant encounter with a book of verse was at Thomas Cole's house in Catskill, New York. Although an artist and the founder of the Hudson River School, he was also a poet. His early 1800s rhyming verse is as colorful and thoughtful as his paintings, which both serve to emphasize the intimate relationship between literature and visual art.

Another and more obvious location for finding poetry was in the Athenaeum, an historic public library in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. While there viewing murals and architecture of the later 1800s, I found the poetry section tucked upstairs among smooth, dark wood stacks. Walt Whitman to Galway Kinnell were among many representative poets.

When approaching the Billings-Marsh-Rockefeller Mansion in Woodstock, Vermont, the first thing a visitor notices are the many typed placards of Robert Frost's poetry along winding paths. Among large Norway Spruce everywhere, are also reminders of the connections between humans and nature accompanied by a solid, welcoming brick house. Here many good conservation decisions were made over a hundred year span and which are again reflected in Frost's work.

Then there was Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac radio production that followed me from New England to Duluth, Minnesota, and Door County, Wisconsin. His wide-ranging poetry selections bridge the gap between the everyday mundane and expansive horizons of mind and spirit.

The final stop on my summer odyssey was William Caxton's Bookstore in Ellison Bay, Wisconsin. Here, among thousands of used and remainder books, is one of the largest collections of available poetry at reasonable prices. This oasis along Route 42 offers a wonderful chance to turn from lake and shops to a place poets can nurture themselves and often share with others through the written word.

My suitcase is back in the basement, and the roses insist on one last pink blush. I am counting on more poetry everywhere and often when least expected. It's a little like the first soft snow or first spring blossom. When we are alert and open, we are ready to share in their many gifts.

Happy writing,
Susan T. Moss


Susan T. Moss, July, 2010

Now that we are in the thick of summer and the National Federation of State Poetry Societies convention is over, I would like to share some thoughts about

my time in Memphis, Tennessee, where it was held. The first noteworthy point is that ISPS received four awards for participation in various events including National Poetry Day and Poetry Month, serving as an example of Order and Method in our organization, Award of Merit for Outstanding Youth Activities plus state participation in the 2010 Manningham Poetry Contest. We were among the highest recognized states due to members' interest and efforts to grow our society.

An enduring impression I have is how poetry is a natural icebreaker. The poets were on equal footing and eager to share their work at morning and evening open mics and to discuss the operating procedures of their state societies. There were also several presentations about poetry and related areas plus a book room to sell our own work. Although state groups vary in organization styles, the goals are the same—share ideas and words that create a poetic environment.

Some of those ideas were more formally offered by invited poets and speakers during the morning and afternoon sessions. For example, Cathy Moran from

Arkansas stated that poems should have "an angle" or specific "view" and could start with something like "I knew the minute I walked in the door..." or "I didn't mean to tell you...." She also suggested avoiding common word use and to write with active verbs and vivid description. In related but more philosophical points shared by Mississippian Randy Smith, "We write about what we know to discover and understand what we don't know." Creating metaphors can help do the search and say so much more than explaining in straight narrative or conversation. Smith also quoted Robert Frost who said, "If the poem doesn't offer surprises to the poet then there won't be a surprise for the reader."

From a historical view, Jonathan Randle, also from Mississippi, pointed out that the paradigm of poetry spans four thousand years and continues to "privilege the scope of emotions, immaterial, and intimacy poetry embraces." As in Aristotle's "mean between two extremes," a good poem captures rather than strains content and style. Dr. Randle finished with the concept that we poets share a community of exchange to hold something in common which can change our culture and stop "the mud slide."

An added attraction was the keynote speaker and poet Lola Haskins who shared some of her poetry relating to the 1860s in Florida where she lives. Her writing, energy and performance were part of the highlights of the convention.

I would like to mention that the next NFSPS convention will be June 16-19, 2011, in Dearborn, Michigan, at the Dearborn Inn. A feeling of esprit de corps with poets including from Illinois, learning first hand that three ISPS members won something in various contest categories, hearing views that might be new or worth revisiting, laughter and experiencing Southern hospitality are some of the things that I enjoyed. It would be worthwhile for members to consider attending next year.

On another note, Bonnie Matheis, from the Illinois Center for the Book, has asked me to request members who have book and biographical information on the Illinois Authors website to update their profiles. This would be very helpful for all concerned.

Finally, members should be aware of future events in October. We have been invited for a second month-long display of our poetry in the Evanston Public Library where we had a show in April. The other invitation is from the Northbrook Public Library for their annual arts night on October 1, 2010. We have been asked to read our poetry again and share in the reception beforehand. Further details will be forthcoming for both these opportunities.

Happy writing,
Susan T. Moss


Susan T. Moss, May, 2010

We read and write poetry for many personal reasons as well as those that motivate in a larger shared sphere. Annie Dillard states in The Writing Life the notion of writing is a way to "magnify and dramatize our days, illuminate and inspire us with wisdom" while at times opening "our minds" to life's "deepest mysteries." Once our work takes its course and evolves, for more and more ISPS members into a published poetry collection, the questions mount regarding outlets for these illuminations in the form of a full length poetry book or chapbook.

Most of us don't have agents to spread the word about our creations. It becomes a valuable service, to ourselves and others, therefore, to find ways to publicize it. There are many ways we can do this, and the easiest one as I have mentioned in a past message, is to put the book title and your contact information on our ISPS website. Other outlets require a little more effort but can be very beneficial.

Another fairly effortless way to promote your work is to bring it to chapter meetings and display it or make an announcement that it is for sale. Several books have been sold with this approach.

Some investigation could start with your hometown public library. Most of them don't have readily available purchasing funds for unsolicited books, but they often accept donations of local patrons' written works. This does require a library of Congress number and a spine with the title printed on it. Your book becomes a part of a large poetry section, and anyone can read it.

A little more proverbial footwork includes making visits to independent bookstores and asking if they would be willing to carry your poems. This has been another successful venture for some poets who mostly are offered a consignment deal with a specific percentage set by the store. In some rare instances, the poet can sell several copies outright. In these commercial situations, an ISBN number and spine with title on it are necessary. Having a Library of Congress registration is also useful and provides an official aspect and safeguard.

Participating as a featured poet and signing up for open mics at places like Westmont's Brewed Awakening, The Café on Lincoln in Chicago, various local groups and library events are other venues to showcase your books. Another possible place to have a sponsored reading is at a bookstore that will then sell the specific poetry. This also takes some effort but can be highly rewarding. Members of ISPS have done this at The Book Stall At Chestnut Court in Winnetka and Women and Children First in Chicago, but there are many other places that could offer this type of venue.

One of the more obvious ways to initiate interest is to mention that you are a poet and see where the conversation leads. That approach has prompted sales on more than one occasion. When possible keep some copies handy—you never know!

Happy writing,
Susan T. Moss


Susan T. Moss, March, 2010

Spring is surely coming if one is to believe what the birds are saying in the backyard. So much chatter is an indication, according to an ornithologist I know, that they talk more when they have a reason. That is not so different from poets.

We write poetry for many reasons, and like our desire to find signs of renewal in early buds and bird talk, poets need some sustenance. Sometimes we feel alone and dejected because of too many hours working solo or another "thanks but no thanks" from a journal. However, seeing a bigger picture and making connections can help build a positive outcome.

Uniting self with what moves us beyond words produces a harmonious oneness and can affirm the creative process. In some ways it is like a religious or mystical experience when we allow vulnerability and thus, an open heart and mind to find that fertile space which Walt Whitman understood in his Leaves of Grass.

It can also be useful to talk with other poets and share these moments of uncertainty. This unity can move us to be in touch with similar and different views, strengths and even disappointments. For example, recently I had coffee with two local ISPS members, and it was rewarding to discuss our work and get feedback on individual ideas and concerns.

Another way to have someone to talk to is to try writing an objective review of your own work. Not long ago I had the privilege of reviewing a forthcoming joint collection of two members. This process helped me in new ways to objectively read and analyze in terms of subject, style and voice.

Further interaction can be achieved through ekphrastic writing. This is poetic story telling about a specific piece of art. A poem becomes a dramatic description and interpretation in a call and response between the poet and the artist's visual form. The end result is two different kinds of art conversing about art.

With this greening and sprouting season, we can awaken and listen to our own voices. Talking to ourselves and others keeps us in touch with shared yearnings, goals, challenges and the creative spirit.

Happy writing,
Susan T. Moss


Susan T. Moss, January, 2010

I would like to start by wishing everyone a happy and healthy new year filled with inspiration and peace. The beginning of another year usually brings hope and a list of resolutions, and for poets, often a goal of writing more and getting their poetry out to the world. In keeping with new starts, the first meeting of the Central Illinois ISPS chapter had a successful gathering in December led by David Alexander at the Pontiac Public Library. This location enables us to further expand our society with poets who live in the region close to Bloomington. Members are invited to join any and all of the three chapters for friendly and helpful critiquing of their work.

One way to continue growing as a poet is to try writing in other styles. Many of us tend to use free verse, but form poems can be interesting and offer different challenges. A genre seemingly less explored is haiku. Recently, I received two e-mails about this abbreviated poetry which might be a fresh way to help tighten ideas and see things from an alternative perspective. A haiku program will begin on Saturday, February 20, 2010, at the Winnetka Public Library from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Charlotte Degregorio, Midwest Regional Coordinator for the Haiku Society of America, will lead the gathering. A related event is a contest sponsored by the Haiku Foundation.

Another possible way to open doors to creative thinking is to read a variety of books, poetry of course, but also fiction and nonfiction. As most of us have discovered, ideas can come from anywhere and often do. The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker offers an often humorous book about a fictitious poet and anthologist who expounds on many real poets and their work. The protagonist also discusses several ways to get ideas for poetry and how to improve them. For example, listen to other people's stories and let some aspect of them form the bases for a poem. After you take a scene, incident or idea and describe it to your best ability, let it go and allow others to see if the result can "breathe in its own world." Picking the best moment that happened to you in a day can be a further source for a poem according to the narrator, who recommends jotting down your thoughts as soon as they percolate in order to capture their poignancy.

A nonfiction selection entitled Proust Was a Neuroscientist, by Jonah Lehrer, offers a different approach to insights and works that are reflected in essays about past imaginative people such as Walt Whitman, Virginia Woolf, Paul Cézanne, Igor Stravinsky and Gertrude Stein, to name a few. You may not always agree with the author's views, but details of avant-garde endeavors offer topics for potential poetic material. Lehrer states, "Both art and science can be useful, and both can be true.... This is the artist's purpose: to keep our reality, with all its frailties and question marks, on the agenda."

While reading anything, it's good to be conscious of word usage and its rhythms, nuances and what make or do not make for good images on the page. So much of what we write is directly related to and dependent upon the process. It's in the doing which includes gathering ideas, forming new phraseology, falling in love with your words and then deleting some of them, that enlightens and fortifies the incorruptible joy of creating poetry.

Happy writing,
Susan T. Moss


Susan T. Moss, November, 2009

Fall not only brings changes from green to gold, russet, orange and red foliage but also more indoor time to write poetry and research outlets for our work. Over the last couple of months, I have had conversations with members who want to know about how to get out their poems into print and places where they can read their material and hear other poets. More chances to critique each other is another point that has been mentioned.

First, I am happy to introduce the newest source for a workshop opportunity where members can share their poems and get helpful feedback. Under the facilitation of David Alexander, ISPS is starting a third chapter in Central Illinois at the Pontiac Public Library. The first meeting will be on Saturday, December 12, 2009, at 1:00 p.m. This group will meet on alternating second Saturdays in the same months as the Southwest suburban chapter in Lisle, which meets on the first Sunday. This allows another chance to meet at the North Suburban chapter in Northbrook on Sundays in alternating months. Therefore, we have two chapter meetings in December and one in January.

Beside the three ISPS chapters, Rhino Poetry Forum on the fourth Sunday of each month offers critique workshops at the Evanston Public Library. Please share other suggestions if you know of similar events. Another way to get feedback is to start an e-mail round robin where participating poets can write comments on each other's work and send new creations from the comfort of home.

As for open mic reading opportunities and perhaps presenting as the featured reader, there are more possibilities than can be listed here. Coffee houses, pubs and bookstores often have regular events where a poet can just walk in and signup to read a few of his or her poems. The Chicago area venues include places such as Brewed Awakening, The Café, Jaks Tap, Brothers K Café, Myopic Books, Brighton Park Branch Library and many more. We shall learn of other places in Central Illinois as ISPS builds membership there.

Getting work into print is also a conversation many have had and want to pursue. There will be a couple of workshops on this topic in the new year, but an easy place to get our poems out to the world is our website. Six opportunities exist each year to build an accumulative file of poetry that anyone who accesses illinoispoets.org can read. Also, there is often room in the newsletter for a poem contribution. If you already have a poetry collection, consider using the ISPS website to help publicize it. Send the title, your name and optional contact information for purchasing to our webmaster who is creating a page for this new marketing location.

What is most important is to stay alert to all the things that could become the next source of a poem. An idea from an overheard conversation in the grocery store, a fragment of a song, something happening in the news, lunch in a Chinese restaurant, climbing a mountain, seasonal changes or visiting with an aging parent form just a minute list of what calls to our imagination and insists that we capture in our unique voices.

May this Thanksgiving be bountiful and the holiday season joyous.

Happy writing,
Susan T. Moss


Susan T. Moss, September, 2009

With new and changing technology possibly resulting in more isolation, plus a downturn of the economy and loss of work, poets have much to contribute. Perhaps now more than in prosperous times and face-to-face communication, we need to help create a world beyond individual views and make greater, healing connections.

E.O. Wilson, a biologist and prolific nature writer who filters much of his observations through philosophical eyes, mentions the Eremozoic Era—the

Age of Loneliness, thought to be so labeled by poets and scientists. Extinction of many things we know in the present Mesozoic Era would perhaps happen by the end of this century. We as poets have something to say about this percolating and future state of possible existence.

Whatever the style, poetry seems to have a calling to promote and influence our thinking and relationship with life around us. One might wonder how newer types of poetry, such as Language poetry, in their postmodern deconstruction of classical form and content can transcend what some feel to be an increasing sense of loss and alienation. The answer might lie in the larger context of poetics which incorporates many forms and intent to function, like the broad-wing hawks described by Sigurd F. Olson in his book, Listening Point, "Within those little hawks was hidden speed and audacity, beauty and grace, and, above all, sheer poetry of motion."

Happy writing,
Susan T. Moss


Susan T. Moss, July, 2009

I am honored to serve as the next President of ISPS and wish to thank the former board members: John Quinn, President; Wilda Morris, Vice President; John Gordon, Treasurer; and Barbara Eaton, Secretary.

It's not too late to submit poetry for our first opportunity to display at the Evanston Public Library. The content should relate in some way to summer.

Although it is only mid-summer, you are invited to start thinking about our poetry contest this September and consider submitting some new or well-cured work.

Another event to keep in mind is all the way to November when ISPS members are invited to read their poems at an arts night hosted by the Northbrook Public Library. The theme for artists and poets is "What's The Big Idea."

On the topic of writing poetry, Robert Frost in his essay, "The Figure A Poem Makes," points out that "We need the help of context-meaning-subject matter." Sound by itself is not enough but is very important to making a group of words into a poem. However, simply creating wild and discordant thoughts plus sound is still not enough and often leads to confusion by the reader and a solo romp in the park by the poet.

The challenge then is to keep the "wildness" of the poem while still beginning in "delight" and "ending in wisdom." It should take its own path and be allowed to carry the poet along while still remaining loosely reined and monitored for logic, clear images, mood, theme, surprise and revelation. Once the words nestle into place, it can be worked over but not to the point of loosing its original creative force or freshness.

According to one school of thought then, when we look at our own poetry and that of others, part of the experience is consciously and unconsciously discovering, in a different sense, what Frost's "Hyla Brook" states as "Sought for much after that, it will be found."

Happy writing,
Susan T. Moss


John Quinn, June, 2009

One more lecture on poetry, then I'll shut up. As I step down as president, I want to thank you for abiding by an old man's rants.

Poetry‘s roots are in music. Poetry should be pleasant to read — and to hear. Remember that, next time you are at a reading. Good poetry, like good music, depends on image, sound and meter. Too many times at poetry readings I listen to what the poet thinks is great because of content or personal experience, but the presentation comes across as arid, remote and incomprehensible.

Wallace Stevens said, "The poet should find the words that will speak to the delicatest ear of its modern listeners, echoing what it wants to hear but cannot articulate for itself. The poet, in the act of the poem, finds the sufficing words and for the audience and they allow the listeners to hear what is in their ear, their mind. As a result, the emotions of speaking and listening, of poet as actor and listeners as audience, should become one."

In other words, the poem should mean something to the audience, not just the poet. The poet uses image, sound and meter to transit to the listener's reality. Some poets articulate in esoteric vocabulary, obscure phrases and arcane allusions. (The previous sentence is a good example of this.) Their presentation is a sing-song monotone, a gentle hum from the front of the room. The audience is lost — and extremely bored.

T. S. Eliot's "Love Song of Alfred J Prufrock" is an example of esoteric vocabulary, obscure phrases and arcane allusions — but because of the music (image, sound and meter) it is ready for prime time. Reading it sends the reader scrambling for the dictionary (think: estaminet) and a Latin text — but it resonates with most audiences because it uses sound, meter and common images (Let us go then you and I through half deserted streets, muttering retreats) to form a great poem, to take his audience on a great journey.

So in closing all I want to say is, "think music!" and thanks.

john quinn


John Quinn, January, 2009

Winter never has been so sharp.

It may be my age or it may be my attitude, but there is a good chance that this is just a rotten winter.

Use the winter as an opportunity to find a new poet or revisit an old favorite. Then, while winds gust and the windows rattle with that gusto, we can curl up with cocoa, coffee or a soft glass of wine and think about spring, summer and fall; lost loves and found loves; lost chances or chances that turned out just right.

We may not be able to get out and about as often as we would in a more human-friendly clime, but, what the heck, we have to make the best of it.

Poets have a set of skills that use the senses and the imagination to craft something that is totally original and if we don't use those skills, we lose those skills. Poetry is like any other skill, the more we practice the better we get. The better we get, the more fun it is.

So winter be damned! There is a clump of syllables out there somewhere, frozen and buried vowel-deep in the snow. It is waiting for us to sweep the slush away and sort the syllables into iambs and the iambs into beauty.

john quinn


John Quinn, September, 2008

Have you read this month's poems on the website?

Did you contribute a poem to the website?

Twenty-four of your fellow poets did contribute. Their offerings ran the gamut in the use of poetical devices. They use their skill to wax nostalgic, talk about social issues, tell a story, describe specific scenes or persons or (of course) lovelovelove.

Some poets used rhyme, some used refrains, some used meter. There were many original metaphors and similes (a few not so fresh, but appropriate). A number of allusions were used to enhance the points that the poem was making. There was no one style or theme or purpose. Reading our poems was/is a really neat way to spend an hour or two.

If you haven't read your fellow Illinois poets lately you are missing a great opportunity. You can get a lot of ideas out of some pretty good poetry. It may be someone else's words, but ideas belong to everyone.

Heck, you may even be able to find a poem in there someplace.

john quinn


John Quinn, July, 2008

George Carlin just recently died.

George was a comic, a social critic and a linguistic. He once said "... there are no bad words; bad actions and bad intentions, but no bad words." Only he said it a lot funnier than I write it.

Comics and poets have a lot in common. Both twist and taunt language. They find similarities between diverse subjects; connections, where no prior connections existed.

The poet and the comic will put unusual subjects in ordinary circumstance or ordinary subjects in unusual circumstance — then describe the interaction. That is what makes art: the ability to find universal or at least, mutual meaning in what we do or what we are surrounded by, be it a garden or a cesspool.

From Wallace Stevens' "poignancies of a peignoir" to George Carlin's "Napalm & Silly Putty" there are meanings and pictures that just never existed before. They give us joy and feelings that are unique.

Some of what George Carlin did is labeled "ADULTS ONLY" and that is okay. He expressed his thoughts in the language he was comfortable with, even if others might not approve. He was original and fresh. Good poets are like that. I am not going to read Charles Bukowski or Alan Ginsberg at a nursery school picnic. Remember, there are no bad words.

So next time you hear a comic, listen for the similes, the metaphors, the rhythm of the language and realize that in every joke is the kernel of a poem (and vice-versa, too).

john quinn


John Quinn, May, 2008

Gabriel Garcia Marquez said, in his classic book Love in the Time of Cholera, "...there was no one with more common sense, no stonecutter more obstinate, no manager more lucid or dangerous, than a poet."

I think he is right. A poet has a way of looking at the world that is different from most. He or she is a lot like stand-up comedians or preachers, in that they see "things" and are able to move "things" to different contexts: a tiger becomes the spirit of death; an etherized patient is unable to make the decisions that life demands.

Summer is an opportunity to find these similes and metaphors in nature. The physics of a bumblebee's flight is different than the poetry of that flight. The physics dictates that the bumblebee flies from point "A" to point "B". The scientist is encumbered by time, place and the limitations found in "things".

That is not true of poetry. The flight of the bumblebee does not need a starting point or a destination in the imagination of the poet. It needs only a meaning. The poet needs to examine the "things" he or she can see or hear or smell to find a truth that may be uncomfortable or unattainable about the world around us. And new truths make the poet "dangerous."

john quinn


John Quinn, March, 2008

Spring and April are upon us.

After winter's blows and beatings Spring is sorely needed, if not for inspiration, then for respite. Spring brings not only potholes and lawns that look like straw, but awakening life, itself. Everything seems to come alive — birds, buds and bees. Old men will sit in the sun and kids can finally play outside in the extended daylight hours. We hope it wakes your muse and makes old men and children think of elves and pink pearls.

Listen for the mating robins and the migrating cranes. Watch the green spread across your world. Stop, and take a little time out to smell the pungency of Spring. And by the way, watch out for the doe and her fawn—they are out there crossing roads as you read this.

April is not only the cruelest month, it is also National Poetry Month. I just hope that the connection between cruelty and our addiction is purely semantic. Attend a poetry event or better yet create a poetry event. Support not only your personal delight in writing, reading or listening to sprigs of iamb, but spread the word. You spread it by public readings and cheering your fellow poets on as they recite.

Just think, it may be your poem that stops a war or starts a love. You better sit down and write it before Spring is gone.

john quinn


John Quinn, January, 2008

Winter gives us all a chance to muse upon the wonders of unshoveled snow and slippery streets. It is the season to sit by a window with a hot drink and enjoy quiet.

People in the coffee shops and book stores in winter are not in a great hurry to go outside and do things, as if reading a book, or scribbling in a cheap-lined notebook, is not doing things.

Some of us take great pleasure in doing nothing — with a book or a number 2 lead pencil in hand. There are any number of productive activities that you could be doing, but a writer loves sitting around putting his or her thoughts on paper and, more, a poet loves to put his or her feelings on paper. To us that is doing something.

So, enjoy the winter and if you find yourself with nothing to do, that's the way it should be.

john quinn


John Quinn, November, 2007

Recently, at a public reading, a member was criticized for the content of an anti-war poem. Any form of censorship in dealing with an adult audience is inappropriate. Some content embarrasses or offends me; some poetry stinks; some people I choose not to deal with. However, they have every right to voice their opinions and I can boo their message, but I have no right to shut them up.

You may not believe this but, some of my stuff embarrasses or offends others; some of my poetry stinks; and, yes, some people would rather not deal with me.

I am, however, going to proceed to write about the things I want to write about and in the manner I want to write it.

Have a Merry Christmas (and before you say anything about the non-secular content of the message, remember my screed on censorship!).

john quinn


John Quinn, July, 2007

Happy summer!

Summer provides us with an outdoors which is bursting with life and substance. Winter is beautiful, spring exciting and autumn rewarding, but it is summer that provides the chance to water tomato plants, sit in the shade (and not feel guilty) and talk to neighbors as they, too, water their tomatoes, sit in the shade and talk to us of butterflies and barbeques.

There should be a poem there somewhere, but it's summer and who has the time?

The first thing I would like to do as president is thank Wilda Morris for the leadership she has given us the last two years. Everybody stand and applaud as they read this. She is a wonderful poet, a great leader and an extraordinary human being. Thanks Wendy!

I am looking for help. As president of ISPS, I would like to see growth in membership, active chapters and activities, such as workshops, readings and displays. That is not going to be possible without your participation. If you have any ideas at all to make this a better organization for yourselves and your fellow poets let me know.

john quinn