Links into the Messages
Susan T. Moss
Susan T. Moss
Susan T. Moss, January/February, 2023
Happy, healthy and creative New Year! As we start another passage through the calendar, thoughts drift toward what new approaches and themes we could try in our poetry. What are some topics such as concerns, reminiscences, regrets, hopes, and connections or goals that have not been explored yet? Is there a song that brings back a memory and feeling, an object that invokes a story worth condensing into a poem? The blank pages seem to invite fresh starts, a revitalization of what could come from our inventive imagination. Unexplored ideas and approaches can rejuvenate our writing and open the path to insightful productivity.
Congratulations to the winners of the latest ISPS poetry contest. Seventy-eight poets entered and submitted five hundred and twenty-nine poems. A student contest is presently being planned for the new year.
The ISPS Board is considering programs for the coming year which includes the coming of the promised anthology. The process had a couple of snags but all is well. Efforts to expedite the publication have been taken. Among forthcoming events is "Expressions: Art & Verse Festival 2023" at the Addison Center for the Arts. The exhibit, opening February 15, 2023, features a recital of ISPS poets on Saturday, February 18 from 1-4 pm. Thirty-five members have signed up to participate. Everyone is invited to view the show and hear the poems.
Joy Harjo, the U.S. Poet Laureate, offers the following advice for poets: "Find the language to express yourself and approach your art with deeper motivation. Explore rhythm in art, navigate the world of revisions, and unlock your innate creativity to help you express your unique stories."
Susan T. Moss
Susan T. Moss, November/December, 2022
Members have attended Charlotte Digregorio's Zoom presentation on writing senryu and haiku poems and recently submitted to the annual ISPS contest. Another creative event will be an opportunity to join Addison Center for the Arts artists with another ekphrastic response in February. More details are forthcoming for an early February poetry submission. A new possibility offered by ISPS is a competition for Book of the Year prize. More details can be found in this newsletter. Also, check on the BlackBerry Peach National Poetry competition that member Wesley Frazier-Keys competed in this year. Remember to keep your membership active in order to participate in ongoing and future activities.
Recently, I attended a workshop that was about writing poetry that is personally hard to express and thus, difficult to put down on paper. It could be about any number of different topics such as telling someone we love them, disclosing fears of dying, terror resulting from world events or what has happened in our town or family among many other ideas. The topic is an evocative challenge often difficult to face or describe. It is not necessarily meant to be shared with everyone; although, it might be appreciated by readers who feel the same way and could gain some solace from the poem.
What we poets have is a long reach into not only ourselves but the connection with other poets and nonpoets. We can express what poets have done long before us—a voice that is unafraid to address the human range of emotions from angst to great joy. We can be the bearer of words not only spoken to ourselves but to others who also seek a better understanding of our mortality, as Emily Dickinson expressed in the following excerpt:
I'm Nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody too?
Then there's a pair of us—don't tell!
They'd banish us, you know!
Susan T. Moss
Susan T. Moss, September/October, 2022
The editing of ISPS poets' work for Distilled Lives vol. 6 anthology is nearing
completion and will next be formatted and readied for publication. The
process takes time and planning which will ultimately result in a collection of
sixty-one members' poems.
In September we can concentrate on submitting poems for our annual contest.
The entry timeline is from September 1 to October 31, 2022. Our website has
all the printable information including guidelines. Contact Mary Beth Bretzlauf
at ISPS.firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Another event is the September 24 workshop presented by Charlotte
Digregorio. The program will focus on haiku and senryu with handouts sent in
advance to those who register. More information will be forthcoming about
the 2-4 p.m. Zoom.
With so many sources to read poetry and submit it as well, we often find
ourselves thinking about why we write it and what does it offer us when we
read it. The answers are many and varied. Words, when assembled on a page,
can tell a story of yearning, childhood, observations, and many other concerns
and delights. It's our need to find answers or perhaps guide others, share
hopes or fears that lead to a condensed creation. Our poetry can serve as a
diary of our personal lives with the poems relating some event or phase as
time goes on. It also holds its own energy which we give back to ourselves and
others. Whether it's a poem that urges "Hold fast to dreams" as Langston
Hughes wrote or lines from Louise Gluck: "Language was filling my head, wild
exhilaration/alternated with profound despair," we cradle humanity in our
words and attempt to make sense of our lives.
Susan T. Moss
Susan T. Moss, July/August, 2022
Poems have been submitted for our next anthology. This biennial collection is one
of the benefits of ISPS membership and a popular way to share with each other
and those who have an opportunity to read the poetry. As always, the topics and
styles vary and create optimal insights and reading pleasure.
One of the themes that has occurred more than once is Covid in its various
iterations. The need to express our fears, loneliness, gratitude to the caretakers,
and efforts to cope with a pandemic are some of the common threads that have
Poetry offers this opportunity to share our views of whatever concerns us. We
poets are fortunate to have the ability to express these ideas in a compact and
literary format that focuses on the heart of a subject in an explicit, artistic and
What do nature, politics, familial and friendship ties, among other topics, have to
say to us? What can we learn from daily events and connections and how can we
condense our creativity into the essence of chosen topics? Sometimes it's helpful
to sit or go for a walk and think about ideas. When some thoughts occur, record
them on your phone or carry a little tablet of paper and a pen. Some good ideas
can fly away if not held fast.
While thinking about what to write next, keep in mind that our annual fall contest
will offer opportunities to put your work out for a little competitive word jousting.
Summer can be a relaxing time to open the floodgates of word possibilities. What
good ideas may be hiding among blooms and green leaves, cheerful bird calls,
longer days into shorter nights? What can we learn from living in each precious
moment that offers both the good and bad news of our lives? Naomi Shihab Nye's
poem "A Single Slice Reveals Them" finds deeper meaning in an apple:
An Apple on the table
hides its seeds
under seamless skin.
But we talk and talk and talk
to let somebody
Susan T. Moss
Susan T. Moss, May/June, 2022
It's already May, and birds are up at daybreak to chatter and sing their greetings to the world. With more light, we poets can also observe our surroundings and perhaps
respond with our own verbal expressions, like ekphrastic poetry, where a combination of personal observations reflected in paintings, music, sculpture and any other art form can lead us to interact rhetorically.
This spring of reawakening from the worst of Covid, now hopefully in the past, Illinois State Poetry Society was fortunate to have received three invitations from artist associations to join them in sharing their creative endeavors of collages and paintings and our poetic responses. Addison, Downers Grove and Elk Grove were destinations for reading members' work and immersing ourselves in expressive writing efforts. The concept of ekphrastic poetry has taken an upward turn in popularity and provides an imaginative means of "talking" with or relating to another art form. There is no right or wrong interpretation nor limit to imagination.
Imagine a collage of two geishas and a pagoda, mounted and framed, and a poet
choosing to write a corresponding conversation. All kinds of possibilities await such as
researching the history of geishas and their dying art of entertaining and the pagodas of
the past that didn't allow women to participate in the rituals. The poet can do as little
or as much as desired to find a satisfying way to interact with the art piece and move
into a place that brings new insights to writer, artist and those who view all in totality.
Another way to approach this kind of poetry is to simply converse with our personal artistic belongings such as a hand-carved statue, a photograph, recorded music or like John Keats did, write a poem titled "Ode on a Grecian Urn." There is something energizing about having these "conversations" that provide imaginative awakenings.
We can look around us and see poetry everywhere with other genres of art and build
written bridges to a new way of viewing creativity.
Susan T. Moss
Susan T. Moss, March/April, 2022
Dear ISPS members,
I am writing this in February and happy to report that a few green sprouts pushed
their way through cold earth and revealed themselves along a neighborhood road.
Their greening spread through me and signaled first signs of spring next month.
Many poets have written about such occasions of unexpected joy. These works are
often composed in first or third person as an observation without a more confessional point of view. The difference is worth considering.
It is not as common to write a poem that may serve to talk to ourselves, one that
might be read by someone else but not necessarily. How often do we confess something on our mind that once written starts to clarify, heal, sooth, celebrate or perhaps scold? Poetry can serve as our best listener and scribe, a confidant that feeds back our
yearnings, fears, joys and hopes. We can use the power of poetry to befriend us when
no one else is available or the topic too personal to speak aloud to others. Personal
poems can record moments that serve as reminders of our life journeys whether
shared or not. Sometimes world events, often outside our control, can rattle moments
of tranquility. It's then that a conversation between self and self via succinct language
into the deepest concerns can offer solace, a sorting out and a possible mending meditation. Emily Dickinson's poems are often a conversation with no apparent
audience but rather an exploration of ideas expressed on the pages she mostly kept
Enjoy these days sliding into spring and happy writing.
Susan T. Moss
Susan T. Moss, September, 2021
Dear ISPS members,
The ISPS newsletter has been an important source of communication within
our society, and we on the board are very appreciative of Kathy Robinson's efforts
as editor. Unfortunately, she has had to take a medical leave from this position.
We send good wishes for her better health in the days ahead. We welcome Jennifer
Dotson who has kindly volunteered to take over the job, and you are invited to
contact her with ISPS related news that requires a two-month notice at the following:
Now that trees have dropped their colorful robes and winter is on the way, we poets
might learn something from this annual event and shed what's left of former ideas
and creative motivations that don't add up to initial intentions to capture what we
tried to say but missed the mark. Before the year is over, we have time to weigh,
word for word, what best represents our individual efforts to save what we know
of this year, this life we have observed and experienced.
We can discover a lot from our own poetry and even be surprised by our words.
Sometimes when we are fully absorbed in our writing, we dwell in a place beyond
the moment and are carried by deeper inspiration that seems to magically emerge
on the page. These are the "keepers," the ones that we can learn from and then try
to find that creative place again and again. As we move into winter, we can set new
tracks to follow and trust that they will lead to more insights. The poet William
Stafford also seeks ways to explore deeper connections. In "Bi-Focal" he offers
the following view:
So, the world happens twice—
once what we see it as:
second it legends itself
deep, the way it is.
As we leave the Sturm und Drang of this past year and gather the positives to take
with us into 2022, let's keep our sight on the horizon of possibility, joy and creativity.
Happy writing and a healthy new year,
Susan T. Moss
Susan T. Moss, September, 2021
Dear ISPS members,
Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda, wanted his poems to be of this world—the essence
of all that surrounds us, passions, tastes, observations, among many other inputs.
He said that we should "look closely at the world of objects at rest. The used surfaces
of things, ...the air, ...the reality of the world that should not be underprized."
As fall approaches, we can see the changes in leaves, feel the hints of cooler temperatures and shorter days in a new way. With each season, we have an
opportunity to reinvent ourselves and the poems we create through the lens
of starting over again. Just when we get used to short sleeves and "barefoot days,"
we are challenged to change not only our wardrobe but also to see again in fresh
possibilities what has come our way and often what we can't control. So much is seemingly unimportant to notice, embrace or write about in everyday life; however,
it's from the kernels of corn that the cob is formed just like our poetry.
Thank you to those members who sent in poetic responses to the Artists' Association
of Elk Grove Village exhibit, Colors in Nature. The exhibition will be next year with
a forthcoming date announcement. Another collaboration is planned with Addison
Center for the Arts in February. This will also be an ekphrastic poetry and art
opportunity. More details will be offered.
Did you recently publish a book? You can list it on our ISPS website along with a
review. You might also want to check your biographical details and update them if
There are still ongoing opportunities to lead a poetry workshop based on some
poetic aspect you are expert in and willing to share. A Zoom session will be provided.
Please let me know. It's not too early to plan workshops and challenges for the winter
In closing, keep in mind two lines from "There's No Forgetting" by Neruda.
"Ask me where have I been/and I'll tell you: Things keep on happening."
Susan T. Moss
Susan T. Moss, June, 2021
Dear ISPS members,
Summer has finally come with warm temperatures and outdoor activities, not to
mention drought and then flooding. Perhaps the last two issues will be one of the next topics poets write about as Covid slows its deadly pace. On the other hand, there is much to celebrate with nature's beauty and an easier lifestyle with new approaches to getting our poems across.
During the National Convention virtually shared earlier in June, techniques for writing about any topic were discussed by various workshop leaders. Looking at different approaches to presenting poetry and experimenting with them can bring fresh energy to our work. One focus was on writing poetry that "brought us here" by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer. Like her suggestions, Eleanor Berry's comments about poetry offering a "deep conversation" and Carol Clark Williams' "Are You Talking to Me?", there is always another approach to present poems in fresh ways. It's in the creating that we often discover ideas and turns that weren't initially present in our thinking. In any piece it's important, however, to write about what we know, as emphasized by Bud Powell Mahan. There is an overall takeaway that poetry can be a conversation between the poet and anything from plants to art or other humans. Transcribing thoughts in a poetic style is a version of this idea of conversing.
ISPS strives to offer opportunities not only to critique each other's work but also
to learn new approaches to writing poetry. If you have a workshop you could share
with other members, a Zoom session would be provided for the event. Let me know
Another topic is the reading of the Strophes sent by NFSPS. Are you happy with receiving the informative publication by email or is hardcopy preferable? Please consider what is better for you and which method is more likely to get your interest. You may let me know if you would prefer a change.
In closing, David Budbill, poet, writer and playwright, said that "All worthwhile writing relies finally upon details, on things seen (and felt) with exactness from an individual
point of view." He also believed that "word music" is what helped make Chaucer such an enduring wordsmith.
Susan T. Moss
Susan T. Moss, April, 2021
Dear ISPS members,
This April is the 25th anniversary of National Poetry Month started by the Academy
of American Poets in 1996. Scilla, daffodils, forsythia and magnolias, among other
beauties, are celebrating with vibrant blooms. These tenacious harbingers of spring birthed by creative forces have much to teach us as we look forward to better times after a long winter with its many challenges.
Surprise of color and greening lawns remind us of our own possibilities to generate new poetry and see the world with fresh insight as our work responds to another beginning. Perhaps it's time to mail out poetry to more journals, do some public readings or share critique sessions with a new group of poets. Consider including a poem in the next birthday card you send. Like spring flowers, we need to reach for the light and respond to the call of engaging ideas waiting to bloom on the page. This could be the year for a first poetry collection or another one, experimenting with a different style of writing and formatting words on a page. Look beneath the petals of ideas and attempt to capture underlying motivations that nourish poetic offspring.
Ted Kooser's "Late Spring" sets a time of year and age with a fresh look at the speaker's
location and ephemeral events of the season. "This April, in good health, I entered my fifty-fourth year./ The perfect porcelain bells of Lily-of-the-Valley/ring into the long, shy ears of ferns,/and the horsefly sits in the sun and twirls his mustache/and brushes the dust from his satin sleeves."
It's all here, the possibilities of renewal and fortitude if we choose to emulate what the tulips already know.
Susan T. Moss
Susan T. Moss, February, 2021
Dear ISPS members,
After a brisk winter walk in lightly falling snow here in Northern Illinois, I am
reminded of how nature holds the power to sooth worry and stress. Sitting here
at my desk and grateful to be distanced from the pandemic, I am also aware of
what a perfect moment can be, one that should not be overlooked or denied.
This gift is what poetry can look to for inspiration—a silent connection with creative
forces and gratitude. Literary history is replete with poetic insight responding to a
moment. Presently, there is a need to call for hope, peace and healing, to offer words
of solace that carry us beyond this time and place toward a oneness with self and the
world. Perhaps we need to look inward and find strength to keep moving forward and respond to the question Amanda Gorman's inaugural poem asks, "...where can we find light in this never-ending shade?" It's in the creativity of our art that we overcome some of the fear and helplessness where we sometimes see ourselves starting to sink. We need to write our own poem to the future and the abundant possibilities of now.
Our society is going strong in spite of limited in-person gatherings. Brewed Awakening
continues to offer featured readers and open mic with virtual monthly events, and
several chapters Zoom critique sessions with great success. We celebrated the end of
2020 with the publication of Distilled Lives, volume 5 and send congratulations to the
ISPS annual contest winners. Also, the website continues to offer opportunities to share
our work. We poets are a wellspring of positive forces that can offer the motivation
to keep moving toward better days ahead. May the new year bring good health, serenity and abundant creativity.
Susan T. Moss
Susan T. Moss, October, 2020
Dear ISPS members,
Leaves, mums and frantic squirrels burying acorns fill the yard as we enter the
autumnal season. This would have been the time for the Gala committee to be planning decorations, food and confirming several programs scheduled for our November 14 event at the Park Ridge Country Club. After inviting responses from ISPS members and a discussion among board participants, all had concerns and felt it was better to cancel this year's Gala. It may be possible to revisit this idea next year, however. Although many of the anthologies were distributed at the Gala in the past, they will be dispersed as quickly as possible following completion of publication.
After leading the business portion of July's ISPS board meeting, I asked what the
attendees were doing with their time and whether they were feeling isolated. One of
the repeated takeaways was that poetry writing and sharing are natural ways to use
time in positive and emotionally fulfilling endeavors. It's what poets have always done—
indulge in solitary and creative thought with the possible goal of participating in an
artistic collective whole.
Poetry can be mere entertainment; however, it can also offer powerful antidotes and
consoling possibilities. If we write about our fears and sorrows, there is a patient blank
page waiting to listen, record, help examine and even put out the proverbial fires that burn within. Words and emotions start to pose questions and if allowed to flow freely, can lead to new insights or at least a release of deep concerns. We can meet ourselves
at the edge of despair and come back after creative and freeing words unfold down the page.
At the risk of sounding as though Covid-19 is a positive thing, it does potentially offer
more free time to be in touch with the Muse. In Mary Oliver's A Poetry Handbook, she
states that "the poem requires of the writer not society or instruction, but a patch in the
writer's mind and on paper, can't abide interruption." It awakens "the dreamer from
We don't know when these troubling times will be over and what the future holds, but
we do know that there are ways to choose inspiration and its healing powers. Poetry
is a constant, an ongoing chronicle of our lives with all the vagaries.
Susan T. Moss
Susan T. Moss, July, 2020
Dear ISPS members,
After leading the business portion of a recent ISPS board meeting, I asked what the
attendees were doing with their time and whether they were feeling isolated. One
of the repeated takeaways was that poetry writing and sharing are natural ways to
use time in positive and emotionally fulfilling endeavors. It's what poets have always
done—indulge in solitary and creative thought with the possible goal of participating in
an artistic collective whole.
Poetry can be mere entertainment; however, it can also offer powerful antidotes and
consoling possibilities. If we write about our fears and sorrows, there is a patient
blank page waiting to listen, record, examine and even put out the proverbial fires that
burn within. Words and emotions start to pose questions and if allowed to flow freely, can lead to new insights or at least a release of deep concerns. We can meet ourselves
at the edge of despair and come back after creative and freeing words unfold down
At the risk of sounding as though Covid-19 is a positive event, it does potentially offer
more free time to be in touch with the Muse. In Mary Oliver's A Poetry Handbook,
she states that "the poem requires of the writer not society or instruction, but a patch
of profound and unbroken solitude." She points out that "The poem, as it starts to form in the writer's mind and on paper, can't abide interruption." It awakens "the dreamer
from the dream."
We don't know when these troubling times will be over and what the future holds, but we do know that there are ways to choose inspiration and its healing powers. Poetry is
a constant, an ongoing chronicle of our lives with all its vagaries.
Susan T. Moss
Susan T. Moss, June, 2020
Dear ISPS members,
When I have spoken with other poets these past few months, some say that they are writing lots of poems, many about the pandemic. Others, however, state that they
just can't seem to write much lately. For many reasons, it's hard to find something to say that isn't about virus ground zero. We tend to seek far from our home base
of inspiration. There is often a belief that our poetry has to be rich with metaphor,
worldly experiences or other subjects that we have not experienced or are not in the
right frame of creative insight to explore.
Much can be said of little daily events, observations, tastes, smells, textures and
sights that are often overlooked when we must focus on staying sequestered or
hidden behind a mask. There is nothing too mundane when examined under the microscope of poetic curiosity. The juicy orange at breakfast, its sweet wakeup call
blended with first bite of buttery toast, can be worth exploring, perhaps as a memory
of childhood or breakfast with a long-ago friend. We can imagine and free associate
endlessly if we give ourselves a chance to record our own observations without self-
It can be lonely when we can't meet in person to critique poetry or perhaps discuss an idea for a collection about some pertinent or unusual topic. We seek ways to connect, and poetry is surely one way to be reminded of those who are no longer with us or
to revive memories of our own lives. In an extra section of the ISPS website, our webmaster, Alan Harris, has recently provided some glimpses into members' poems
that appeared in years past and in so doing, remind us that poetry endures and binds
Let's look around and join in celebrating the vernal season that we also share. No matter what is plying us with dark statistics and scary news, our usual pipe dreams and the fragrance of mock orange blossoms, heady lilacs and pungent viburnum, and soon the roses and peonies call us to the "now" of our lives. The scent and shocking pinks of crabapple trees or softer shade of azaleas among other budding beauties can draw us into a place where as Robert Frost wrote in "A Prayer in Spring": "Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;/And give us not to think so far away/As the uncertain harvest; keep us here/All simply in the springing of the year."
We can count on what doesn't change— the creative forces of spring and the moments
that offer us a special invitation to look to such beauty.
Susan T. Moss
Susan T. Moss, March, 2020
Dear ISPS members,
We are all aware of the COVID-19 virus and have to individually face its personal effects.
In response, I am sending this letter sooner than usual as an invitation and reminder.
What is important to remember is that we hold a deep well of possible ways to soothe
oneself and others. Our poems can be a private source of hope and guidance, and I
invite us to look over our own work and discover the energy, motivations and possible
reassurance we can give back to ourselves at this time of fear and potential isolation.
We need to listen to personal words speaking back and filling us with creative, healing energy. Sometimes I surprise myself when I look at previous work and wonder who wrote it. The poetry came from deep within and remains available to retell the stories, dreams, concerns and soul-searching cures discovered during other times less haunting and scary.
It's a good time to write more work that expresses these longings for better days and
the power of inner peace. There is also the gift we can give to others, both the poets
and nonpoets. For example, we could make a personal video of reading a positive poem to send to family, friends and colleagues. Perhaps make a call and read a poem to someone or mail a copy to those important to us.
Each gesture of creative energy can make a difference in someone's life including our own. It's in the doing that we are able to keep in mind that, as Thornton Wilder stated
in Our Town, "There's something way down deep that's eternal about every human
being." We poets know that and can share our best selves. Good health and well-being
Susan T. Moss
Susan T. Moss, February, 2020
Longer light and more bird chatter bring hope and inspiration surmounting
snowflakes and lingering chill. I am assured that spring can't be too far away.
April is Poetry Month, and it brings opportunities to share poems in many public
libraries throughout Illinois. This year's theme is "water," and the topic offers a
broad spectrum of possible interpretations. Be sure to submit your one or two
poems by the March 1 deadline. Libraries and members' work will be listed after
the poems have been mounted. Also, there will be a poetry reading opportunity
at the Evanston North Branch Library on Monday, April 13. Please let me know
if you are interested in reading some of your poetry at this early evening event: email@example.com.
This year ISPS will once again participate in the Poetry Fest held at the Harold Washington Library in Chicago on April 25 from 11:00 to 4:00. Members will
have an opportunity to sell personal poetry books at a designated table space.
Mark your calendars for the June 11-14th National Federation of State Poetry
Societies convention in Kansas City, Missouri. The keynote speaker will be
the excellent poet Diane Glancy. Next year the rumor is that Ohio will host the
In the first stanza of Leonard Cohen's poem, "There Are Some Men," he states
"There are some men/who should have mountains/to bear their names to time."
Many poets share the desire to have their poetry carved on some metaphorical
mountain—a book, plaque or on history's memory. There are others who feel
that their work isn't good enough to share and submit to journals or other public
outlets. Time passes as do our lives. William Stafford said in "Earth Dweller,"
"The world speaks everything to us./ It is our only friend." Perhaps what we seek is to express our own responses to being human—the desire to shout personal joy, angst, longing and wishes from a private mountain we carry within us and which beckons us to touch its pinnacle. Like the singing spring birds that will soon return, consider
sending your voice into the world.
Susan T. Moss
Susan T. Moss, October, 2019
Green is giving way to autumn orange, red and yellow as I write this message on a rainy day. The inclement weather begs a response to the call of words and ideas while I sit comfortably at my desk and write both this letter and poetry.
There continue to be more and more opportunities to collaborate with artists as we
create ekphrastic poetry. Recently, poets and artists gathered in Wheaton with their
interpretations of archetypes. In keeping with the same approach, not long ago I was contacted by the Director of Communications at the Addison Center for the Arts who invited ISPS to be part of an exhibition with the Elk Grove Arts Guild. Another idea that might come to fruition is a chance to be part of a Wilmette Library event next April. Our collective communities seem to be pursuing more poetry, and the opportunities to join these endeavors are well worth our creative energy. Also watch for reading opportunities at bookstores around the Chicago area and south to Pontiac and beyond.
Not long ago, at a grocery store, I chatted with a poet I met a few years ago at a workshop in Wisconsin. Although living not too far apart, our paths seldom cross, but we quickly took up the topic of writing poetry. Our mutual interest had made a permanent bond between us, and discussion of calling ourselves poets ensued at the shopping cart return. We both decided that every poet has to come to the personal decision to claim "poet" as a comfortable moniker.
After further discussion about crafting poems, it became apparent that there are those
of us who frequently get ideas, phrases, single words and a sense of energy related
to poetry which float into our consciousness at no particular time or place. Clearly, there are also specific moments and locations that evoke a poetic reaction, and these fleeting insights are exciting and often elusive unless written down soon after they come our way. However, these insights can happen while out walking, for example, and you could even miss saying hello to someone or continue past your street while absorbed in a poetic reverie.
It's all quite rewarding when our existence becomes infused with unbidden creative
ideas. Such gifts require that we pay attention when they appear, and they often become more frequent when we spend increased time thinking and writing. Basically, creativity
Susan T. Moss
Susan T. Moss, August, 2019
As we spend our summer days either enjoying the warmth plus garden produce
and colors or longing for cooler climes, there is much to consider and celebrate.
First, Illinois was eloquently represented by many Illinois poetry winners, from
top prizes to honorable mentions in the NFSPS contests. Congratulations to all
our outstanding poets!
I was proud to share this year's national convention with several ISPS members
who added to the excitement of also seeing people met and befriended from past
gatherings. It is always fun to have extended time to share ideas, meals and easy
This year the state of New Mexico chose a new poet laureate who was introduced
to us at the Santa Fe capitol building. Those of us attending the program had an
an opportunity to read our own poetry and share in the special gathering. This
open invitation to help celebrate was one of the outstanding events of the convention.
A Native American theme throughout the Hotel Santa Fe added a serene and
interesting motif which provided the backdrop for workshops and visiting. What
all conventions share, no matter the location, is the opportunity for poets to bond
based on love of poetry, comradeship, new ideas and the desire to improve their
own work as well as their state societies.
The same kinds of mutual interest and fellowship are available at our ISPS chapter
meetings, readings and casual get-togethers. We can support and inspire each
other while improving our poems, way of seeing the world around us, and
experimenting with different styles. That is the power we all have to discover
our best selves and encourage others through the means of, as the Russian poet
Anna Akhmatova said, "Freshness of words, simplicity of emotions."
A last comment is a reminder to submit dues for this next year's membership
renewal. The benefits are abundant and members worth knowing.
Susan T. Moss
Susan T. Moss, June, 2019
Now that summer is blooming its way in, each of us needs to remember to
renew our ISPS membership by the end of June. The next official year begins July 1, 2019. With the new term, Melissa Huff will be leaving the board as a fine secretary, and many thanks to her for an excellent job. A big welcome to two new members, Mike Freveletti and Mary Beth Bretzlauf.
Already under discussion are more poetry programs and member reading
opportunities. June 15 there will be an ekphrastic event at the Downers Grove Library and an open mic planned for September. In keeping with the goal of finding venues to share our work, the April Poetry Month library displays were very successful. This year there were fifteen locations and a members' reading at the North Branch Evanston Library. Several ISPS poets also attended the Poetry Fest at the Harold Washington Library in Chicago where sessions on how to improve poetry writing were offered along with a poetry reading by Poet Laureate, Tracy K. Smith. In later June, some of our members plan to attend the
NFSPS convention in Santa Fe for what promises to be a fun and informative
While not everyone enjoys or feels the need to attend poetry workshops, the experience can renew creative energy and help frame ideas for fresh work. Recently, I attended a seminar on adding metaphor, myth, music and mystery
to poems. Not every piece will contain all these possibilities; however, referring
to a mythological character such as Superwoman or Icarus, for examples, can help add metaphor or even mystery. Repetition of words, sounds, and ideas can add a lyrical flow that smoothly carries the reader. There is always so much to explore within our own writing technique, topics, goals and experiments as well as ongoing searches for new audiences to share our work. Let's take in the message that Li-Young Lee's "One Heart" offers as a metaphor and positive invitation in the following poem:
Look at the birds. Even flying
out of nothing. The first sky
is inside you, open
at either end of day.
The work of wings
was always freedom, fastening
one heart to every falling thing.
Susan T. Moss
Susan T. Moss, April, 2019
With the vernal equinox, signs of spring have begun to bud and bloom here in the northern section of Illinois. Ice mounds have receded to make room for early blooming yellow anemone and white snowdrops. Vibrant songs of robins and redwing black birds fill the chilly air. There is a string of continuity that calls living creatures and plants to start over again.
As we venture into the next season, Illinois State Poetry Society is pleased to welcome Kathy Robinson, present facilitator of the Champaign chapter and recent editor of the fourth volume of Distilled Lives, as our next newsletter editor. After many years of productive efforts, our former editor Kathy Cotton has retired, and we appreciate her years of service.
Another change to the ISPS Board is the historian position. Our gratitude goes
to Frank Hubeny, a transplant to Florida, who added a digital archival system of the work initially documented by Carolyn Jevelian. We look forward to Mike Freveletti as our new historian who will also continue in the role of sending out William Shakespeare announcements.
For some of us, spring seems a good time to declutter and reevaluate what
takes up space both literally and metaphysically in our lives. We may find old poems close to being finished but not quite right, the ripples of a new idea which wait at the corner of consciousness, scraps of paper filled with words and phrases to be either tossed or braided into the next poetic endeavor. With longer daylight, it might be a good time to plant new poems and weed the old.
We celebrate the lives of two fine and well-known poets who have passed away this year. Both Mary Oliver and W.S. Merwin filled their work with observations
of life and efforts to connect with a greater whole.
Oliver noted in The Poet With His Face in His Hands, "the thrush,/puffing out its spotted breast, will sing/of the perfect, stone-hard beauty of everything."
Merwin, in his poem, "To the Tongue," reminds us that "Whatever we say/we know there is another/language under this one."
It's all right here—out the window, under our footsteps, in memories, as far as we can see and beyond. We endeavor to explain what persistently slips just beyond grasp, and yet that is the poet's job, the reason we keep creating.
Susan T. Moss
Susan T. Moss, January, 2019
Happy New Year to all of our ISPS members! We are beginning 2019 after many
positive accomplishments over the past year. Thank you to those who helped
with various projects and to everyone whose membership enriches the collective whole. Let's fill these next twelve months with more poetry and even greater participation in ISPS.
Recently we welcomed Tom Chockley to the board as representative of the haiku chapter. Susan Auld is retiring from her past legacy in this role. Mike Freveletti is the new William Shakespeare email messenger who takes over for Caroline Johnson's many years of service. Also, Kathy Robinson is our next
newsletter editor after several busy years in this role by Kathy Cotton. Thank you
to all of these contributors.
Perhaps you, like many people, are consciously or unconsciously looking for signs
of hope, good cheer and answers to those kinds of questions that can haunt us in
the dark of night especially as the new year begins. On a couple of recent walks, my thoughts took a metaphoric turn. A Common Merganser swam by in the local pond and unraveled ripples of water. This moment held a serenity that quickly disappeared as the feathered swimmer continued on its way toward some un-
On a different outing, a man hop-stepped at a bent right angle along the sidewalk and periodically looked back to see where he had been. Then he continued forward with the same determination. Both these encounters have given me a chance to realign with my surroundings and life.
The exploration, interpretation and writing about individual experiences often form the context and content of our poetry. We carry the messages that influence the work, build bridges to sharing thoughts with others and foment moments of satisfaction and oneness with self and the greater whole. We poets see through a special lens, one that can light pathways to guide our lives and those who wish to share the journey. May this next year be filled with inspiration and new ways of seeing the world around us.
Susan T. Moss
Susan T. Moss, September, 2018
With summer soon ending, editors are busy getting ready for publication of our anthology, Distilled Lives volume four. The third Gala plans are also underway for this fall.
As I write this regular President's Message, I am missing the usual accompanying
newsletter that offers insights into new members who have recently joined, their views and poetry, events around the state, and other pertinent information. Mostly, I miss a sense of camaraderie that our newsletter builds and shares with our poets all over the country. I am constantly reminded that each of us brings something new and creative to our society. As we build an ever-increasing membership with various opportunities to share poetry and friendship, the need
for a newsletter editor is very important. Please let me know if you are interested.
Welcome and thank you to our new Manningham Contest Chair, Ida Kotyuk. Two past chairs, Caroline Johnson and Tom Moran, are mentoring Ida. They are off to a wonderful start getting out contest information to junior and senior high schools throughout the state.
As noted earlier, there will be a fall Gala. Save Saturday, November 3, 2018,
for a day, starting at 9:00 and ending at 3:00, that will include a continental breakfast, hot lunch, three presenters and poets reading their work from our new anthology. We are pleased to offer two programs related to writing, the first on haibun and second about poetry as memoir. The third event will be a Robert Frost interpreter and performer. We shall again meet at the Park Ridge Country Club. The cost of $35 will be the same as two years ago, and ordered anthologies can be picked up then or at a chapter meeting unless prepaid for mailing.
Often we think of our poems as outlets for impressions, longings, creative ideas,
among other subjects, and they are seen on the written page or heard at readings like cafés or bookstores. Other opportunities, however, can include birthdays, funerals, anniversaries and at the bedside of the sick or dying. Poetry can be a way of communicating joy, sorrow, hope and a recognition of something greater than just words. When the grandnieces and nephews were born into my family, I started the tradition of writing a poem about each child and gave it as a gift. At funeral and memorial services, I have read a poem about the deceased loved one. Clearly, sharing our work can also be for less eventful situations as well. Poetry is an adaptable venue and a way of making the world a better place. Let's harvest more poetry in preparation for the next season.
Susan T. Moss
Susan T. Moss, June, 2018
Summer has fully revealed itself. It feels like we are living in an aviary with all the bird talk of nests, chicks and what seems to be a shear joy of life blossoming everywhere. Our society also made a wonderful showing with eleven members who attended the NFSPS convention in Denver. Congratulations to all those ISPS poets who were successful in the national contest!
Beside the enthusiasm of so many attendees this year in Colorado, our society has reached a new high in membership of 167 poets, many of whom will have poems in the forthcoming anthology, Distilled Lives Volume 4. With more members comes the possibility of new interest and energy to help guide and serve ISPS.
A group like ours is a collective organization that relies on shared responsibility and collaboration of volunteers. Within a little over a decade, our society has grown from one to seven chapters with greater geographic diversity, improved coordinated communication to all members, and expanded interest in sharing ideas, events and members' accomplishments. It's individual commitment that drives an organization like ISPS and helps us stay connected.
Beside email messages from "William Shakespeare" and written notes, our newsletter has always been a vital method of reaching out to members in hard-copy, email and on the website. Each editor has brought different
formats and emphasis to what has become a very popular and efficient method of reaching our members. Kathy Cotton is no longer able to produce an ongoing letter but is happy to mentor a new volunteer who can bring his or her style and energy to this endeavor. We need a new editor, and it could be you.
We are also seeking a Manningham Contest Chair to manage and coordinate this student contest, which involves state winners who have the opportunity to be part of the national contest. Over the years we have had several winners who are acknowledged at the NFSPS convention. The position is another important part of what ISPS offers to celebrate and support poetry. Guidance and details are available to keep this outreach program alive and to maintain our state participation at both the local and national level.
Plans for the November 3 Gala are underway with volunteers helping to make this another exciting event. Mark your calendars and con- sider what you could do to help. Many of the needs are small but important to the success of this statewide gathering in Park Ridge.
When all is said and done, it's the poetry that we carry within and what needs to be record- ed that drives our society and brings together so many wonderful and talented people. I look forward to hearing from you as we continue our efforts to make ISPS all that it can be. Thank you, Kathy, for all your good work.
Susan T. Moss
Susan T. Moss, March, 2018
First, happy and healthy 2018. This new year seems to be going fast, and the board has been planning some exciting future events. April's Poetry Month will once again be celebrated with displays in several libraries which will be updated closer to the time poems are mounted. As of this writing, they include: Aurora, Bloomington (May), Carbondale, Evanston North Branch, Glencoe, Highland Park, Hinsdale, Indian Prairie, Lake Forest, Northbrook, Wilmette, Pontiac, and
more to come. The theme is "garden(s)," and the deadline is March 4.
Further events include a reading by members at the Evanston North Branch Library on April 16 from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. If interested, you must contact Susan Moss at firstname.lastname@example.org to be placed on the reader list. There will also be an event at the Lemont Art Center on April 6 from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. Poets will share their poems with artists at this reception. The annual Poetry Fest will be at the Harold Washington Library on April 28. ISPS will share a table with Poets and Patrons, and members' books can be sold at the table. Other possible occasions will be announced as April gets closer.
This year also includes the fourth volume of Distilled Lives, our anthology of members' poetry. Submissions and order forms should be sent to Judith Tullis. Two to four poems may be sent, and one or two will be selected for the book. There are separate directions for haiku-related poems. See page 2 of our newsletter for details. A book launch and gala is potentially going to be held in the fall.
We receive fragments of insights, glimmers of hope and despair, also surges of compelling ideas. When we have these calls to possible creativity, it's our duty to ourselves to answer and not put off the words and inspiration that will pass us by if not engaged. With another beginning on the calendar, perhaps our poetry would benefit from some new topics we haven't explored yet.
So many choices to consider include the topic of aging, a wish not yet realized, a nightmare, the stunning beauty of a full moon beaming light across a lake, reactions in a rearview mirror or a time when you realized that your memories are as creative as the way you choose to reformat them on the page. Let's gather the many precious gifts we can give ourselves and then share them with each other.
Susan T. Moss
Susan T. Moss, October, 2017
The first thing I would like to do is welcome Kathy Robinson who will be the facilitator of a new ISPS chapter starting in Champaign, Illinois. This is our seventh one, and as always members can attend any or all critique groups.
The first meeting will be December 3, 2017, at the Champaign Library. The group will meet from 1:30 until 4:00 p.m. Thank you to Kathy for leading this chapter that will gather every month.
Writing poems sometimes includes words, quotes and phrases from other sources. This approach plus many other potential legal issues were addressed recently by Barry Irwin, vice president of Lawyers for the Creative Arts and adjunct professor at Notre Dame Law School. The informative program, held at the Indian Prairie Public Library, spawned many questions and lively discussions about such topics as what content can be copyrighted, how to register a copyright, cases of copyright infringement and legal defenses, and issues of fair use of copyrighted material, among several other topics. Of special interest to poets who are considering self-publishing, Barry described the key provisions of publishing contracts and self-publishing services. For details on the total presentation, go to his website www.irwinip.com/presentations and scroll down the page to "Legal Issues in Poetry".
As leaves begin to turn in my neighborhood and cooler evenings play havoc
with porch time, I can feel myself draw a little more inward. Creativity starts to
shed summer lethargy and begins to percolate fresh poetic ideas. Maybe it's the
crisp air that awakens new energy or seeing things in a different light, but each
of these fresh points of view offers further conversations with myself leading to the potential for another poem. It's in the writing and rewriting that we can find voices not heard from before and other insights to ourselves and the world.
Susan T. Moss
Susan T. Moss, August, 2017
Summer is well underway, and this year’s National Federation of State Poetry
Societies convention in Fort Worth, Texas, has come and gone. As always, various presentations and workshops plus opportunities to meet new and returning NFSPS members offered a rich experience that feeds my appreciation for ISPS and our wonderful poets as well as those from across the country.
One of the program presenters discussed “poetic effects through sounds” and how various music-like patterns help take a poem beyond mere words and meter. Use of alliteration, assonance, consonance, onomatopoeia and rhyme were the tools. “Meaning and metaphor” was another workshop, again focusing on how to make poetry more musical with its sonority and images, flow and turns. On the last evening, the takeaway from keynote speaker, Carmen Tafolla, was that “poetry is looking at something with new eyes; that is poetry’s challenge.” She stressed that we need to write “from who you are—the authenticity of self.”
Next year’s convention will be in Denver from May 31-June 3. Consider attending and joining other ISPS members who have discovered the camaraderie and insights offered at these gatherings.
On the subject of ISPS members, the new ISPS Board is complete with the
following people: Susan T. Moss, president; Jim Lambert, vice president;
Melissa Huff, secretary; Judith Tullis, treasurer; Susan Auld, chapter facilitator; Kathy Cotton, chapter facilitator and newsletter editor; Barbara Eaton, chapter facilitator; Frank Hubeny, at-large member; Carolyn Jevelian, historian; Caroline Johnson, chapter facilitator; Sheila Kirscher, at-large member; and Kathleen Murphy, chapter facilitator. We are looking forward to continuing to offer more events and venues for our poetry in both spoken and written forms. If you have some thoughts about programs, please let one of us know. I often hear from our affiliates who suggest poetic opportunities that become realities.
It has been a privilege to share so many plans, discussions, ideas and talent with those committed people who have been or are still on the board. I am also looking forward to working with our new members and our expert and accommodating webmaster, Alan Harris, as well as those poets who continue to help organize art gallery, library and bookstore events among other opportunities to bring our poetry into the world.
Susan T. Moss
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.”
Susan T. Moss
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.
Susan T. Moss
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 email@example.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.”
Susan T. Moss
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
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!
Susan T. Moss
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
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.
Susan T. Moss
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.
Susan T. Moss
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.
Susan T. Moss
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
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.
Susan T. Moss
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.
Susan T. Moss
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.
Susan T. Moss
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."
Susan T. Moss
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."
Susan T. Moss
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
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-
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."
Susan T. Moss
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.
Susan T. Moss
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.
Susan T. Moss
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.
Susan T. Moss
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.
Susan T. Moss
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.
Susan T. Moss
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.
Susan T. Moss
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
Susan T. Moss
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.
Susan T. Moss
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.
Susan T. Moss
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.
Susan T. Moss
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.
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.
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.
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 website (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 website 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!
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; firstname.lastname@example.org). 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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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."
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."
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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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, July, 2007
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.