Poem of the Week: Boca Raton Branch Poetry Workshop collection

Boca Raton Branch Connects-Heart-to Heart Stories in Poetry Workshop

In honor of Sheila Firestone, president of the Boca Raton Branch of Pen Women, Vera Ripp Hirschhorn, Poetry Chair, invited members and patrons to her home for the first workshop on poetry and music. Participants were asked to create poetry as they listened to two of Sheila’s original compositions, “The River of Grass, Rhapsody No. 1” and “The Hearing Forest and Seeing Field.” Members were not told the titles of the pieces until the very end. Enjoy the poems.

CORRIDOR by Lea Hope Becker (to Sheila’s first piece)

I’m moving through a long corridor
There’s not a light nor even a glow
I may emerge from eerie space
And find my way to Eden

Is it night, or has the sun come out above the seashore’s edge?
Casting its sunburst effect upon the water
Watching waves and hearing their soothing sounds

I must glide until the watery end
Careless of the boundary
That which seals the day I die
Whilst I cross into the open sea

Merry from the visit
Happy to be free.


A New York Moment by Marlene Klotz (to Sheila’s first piece)

They met by chance
Two strangers afloat at a party
In a Trendy Manhattan apartment
A mutual chemistry occurred
That was instantaneous
Despite a light snowfall

The starry-eyed pair
Left the building and
Headed toward Central Park
As they walked hand in hand
Under the feathery snowflakes
The man in the moon looked down
And winked its approval . . .

Two strangers were now one.


“THE CALL TO JOY “by  Etta Schaeffer (to Sheila’s second piece)

Sing, sing sounds of laughter and light

whispering a call to cheer

smile and feel the building joy within

lightness fills the air building to a melodic ending

over and over hear the call

the sound is haunting.


‘The Sun Glows’ by Vera Ripp Hirschhorn (to Sheila’s second piece)

Where are you?
I’m here.
Play with me!
Not yet.
Skip with me!
Dance with me
Sing with me!

Walk with me
Listen to the birds.
The sun glows over them….
Over us.


Listen by Sheila Firestone (to Sheila’s second piece)

The conversation is carried by the wind
The anime is constant,
Parts of conversations and overheard nuances,
Only partially understood.

Take nothing for granted,
Maybe you heard wrong,
As you create your melody or
poem, it really doesn’t matter.

It’s an interesting tale at any rate.
Tell me it yet once again, please.
I’m always listening
to your wise words.


Poem of the Week: New Year

Dorothy Kamm
Port St. Lucie, Florida


Looking skyward
a massive murmuration
cascades and folds
into shapes blossoming like bruises;
These starlings – augurs offering auspices –
are wanderers sharing wonders,
offer moments of grace
after a grim year

Where truth got twisted
and became toxic,
fed anger, exploited fears
percolating on the edge of fact,
where reality
mirrored myth,
where freezes and diseases
overlapped and converged,
where calcium and potassium
leached from bones
made brittle;

Looking skyward
see if the gods give a sign,
a yea or a nay;
Scrutinize with skepticism,
weigh power and possibility,
meld gold on the edge of glass
and create a fine plate
through which to view
the future.

© Dorothy Kamm


Creative Inspirational Wisdom: Arranging a Personal Work Zone

This week, guest blogger Tricia Pimental explores the merits of a creative garret.


First, I’m glad others will be contributing about the business side of writing (thank you, Kathleen Vermaelen). That’s definitely not my strength, so I look forward to learning from those posts.


As far as creative inspirational wisdom goes, what follows are a few thoughts on arranging a personal work zone. Writer’s Digest editor and author Elizabeth Sims gives plenty of useful tips in her book, You’ve Got a Book in You. They’ve helped me, and perhaps they will do the same for you.


Sims refers to the place where we hopefully will get our brains into gear as our “garret.” Two factors to consider when creating a garret are: 1. it’s a frame of mind, as in “Nothing and no one can distract me from writing,” and 2. it must have usable work space.


A room in your house is nice, but family members will still sense your presence. They’ll feel free to knock on the door, or worse, barge in while you are in the middle of constructing a clever metaphor or the most brilliant plot line ever conceived.


If you’re lucky enough to have access to a real garret—a cozy attic space—try that out. You’ll probably have a window and literally feel “above it all.” Barring that, a corner in your local library or favorite coffee shop might do nicely. Even part of your garage, provided it’s heated and well-lit, could work. Avoid basements if possible, as they can be dark, musty, or chilly.


Next time, the elements in your garret: Music? Snacks? TV or no TV?


Tricia Pimental is the author of three award-winning books. Articles, short stories, and poetry have appeared in The Florida Writer, A Janela (the quarterly magazine of International Women in Portugal), International Living, and anthologies compiled by The Florida Writers Association, NLAPW, and others.  A member of FWA, NLAPW, and SAG-AFTRA, Ms. Pimental is also a former Toastmaster. Follow her on Twitter: @Tricialafille. She blogs on her website: www.triciapimental.com.

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WANTED: GUEST BLOGGERS! Pen Women are invited to submit guest posts for two new series: Creative Inspirational Wisdom and It’s A Creative Business. Please visit this link for more details. We look forward to reading your material!

Poem of the Week: On Wings of Gold

Sarah Byrn Rickman
Pikes Peak, Colorado Branch


Fog shrouds the wings; dawn, but a shard of light.
Twin engines labor, eager to unbridle the horses.
Toes, hard on brakes, check the trembling aircraft.

From the tower, “Cleared for takeoff.”
Brakes off. Throttle to the firewall.
Spine thrust back against the seat.

Rolling, rumbling, reaching,
Wheels eat up runway. Lift.
Ease yoke back. Climb!

Eyes on instruments. Don’t look out!
The Pacific, invisible, lies below.
Altimeter reads seven…eight…nine hundred feet…

A shock of blue—a cloudless sky.

Execute a 180, bearing due east.
Sunrays strike silver wings, turning them gold.
Oh to pull over, stop in mid air, drink it all in!

Below, murky black stuff;
Ahead, two snow-covered peaks,
Sunlight rising through the pass between them.

Above it all, a sleek P-38 flies on wings of gold.


© Sarah Byrn Rickman

This poem is inspired by, and dedicated to, Betty Huyler Gillies (1908-1998), second in command, Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron, 1942-1944. In an oral history recorded in 1996, Betty described her first flight in a P-38 twin-engine pursuit aircraft that she ferried from Long Beach, California to Newark, New Jersey.


Creative Inspirational Wisdom: Shine Your Light

This week, guest blogger Mary Joan Meagher shares “enlightening” advice for creatives.


From time to time, writers are caught in darkness. Shadows obscure choices and chase one down hallways of doubt. A writer sits at her computer and feels blocked, lacking in vision, miserable. How best to find the light and how best to flee the darkness becomes her quest.


Those of us who live in Minnesota and other northern states are very familiar with the experience of living in darkness. During the winter months, our days are shortened day by day, and sunlight retreats to the South, angling itself lower and lower on the horizon. Clouds cover the sky in November, hiding the rim of the sun in gray tatters, bringing cold rain, damp wind, and then the snows of winter.


But look at the artists in our midst who paint with light for films and television. They bring us laughter and joy. Look at the rainbow itself, the spectrum of light arched across the sky, shattering the darkness of the storm that has preceded it by crystallizing the raindrops into prisms. We see light refracted into all its colors, promising hope and happiness to all.


Writing our truths is one way to bring this light to others. Perhaps at one time or another one may be in the pits or lost in the blues. We need someone or something to lead us out.


Writing in a personal journal is always therapeutic. Write your truth freely, sorting out your feelings, examining your perceptions of time, place, and life events. Getting your thoughts and feelings on paper is the best way to unblock your creativity. Reaching out to others, asking for help, and finding a listening ear brings us grace and light to share with others. Once we have been gifted with this light or these insights into life, we too can spread it to those in need.


The psychologist Carl Gustav Jung says, “As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.” It is up to each individual to kindle this light for all those who are part of our daily lives.


Life is light, and warmth, and love. We all have plentiful supply of those qualities. Make each twenty-four hours a gift to your associates by living each day with truth, sympathy, and unconditional love, by unblocking your creativity, and by writing the truths you have discovered, passing them on to your readers. Just as you turn your face to the sun to soak up its rays, so turn your face to others to give them the gift of your light. In the dark days of winter, you can bring the light of spring to those who surround you.


As an old African-American spiritual says, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine/This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine/Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!”


Mary Joan Meagher worked as an English and speech teacher at Regina High School in Minneapolis, MN, for 24 years. She has taught journal writing at Bloomington Community Education and wrote scripts for The Time of Our Lives Show there for 20 years. She is a poet, a water-colorist, an essayist, and a member of Minnesota Branch NLAPW.



Poem of the Week: Canvas of Life

Barbara Clarke, Atlanta Chapter

Life’s journey is played out beginning on the upper part of the canvas
bright colors are intermingled at the entrance of a new soul.
Love between us is heightened with hues of a symphony of emotions
when we welcome a new being into our fold.

In times of despair and downtrodden state of affairs
dark cacophony of colors swirl around us and
we strive to live above ordinary circumstances that
drag us down to the bottom of the canvas.

It is the Creator that lives within us that provides
the White Spirit to push on through the grey abyss
of troubles and tribulations that plague us in this canvas life.

When your soul is bleak and the canvas has you stifled
where your creativity seems to have subsided,
you stumble around not being able to bring forth. . . . .

a friend calls with yellow enlightenment and words of promise
encouraging you to pick up your brush and paint pushing through,
you then see the rainbow that shines through friendship
propelling you to move higher up the canvas
breathing life into the continuation of your masterpiece.

The ups and down of canvas life is captured in your journal,
it holds your most heartfelt sentiments and feelings
about this journey you’re treading on. You paint in your journal
expressions and impressions, memoirs as you move on down
the canvas of life. You speak in your journal about the
emotional highs and lows that ebb and flow from living.

When one looks into your journal after you have moved on
into the other realm; gaining insight and a glimpse of the
picture you painted expressing your innermost secrets
and emotions about the canvas of life. They take your memoirs
and hold them in their hearts and keep you alive forevermore
from the picture you created on your journey collage.

It is a way of safekeeping you high up on the canvas
for the picture you painted is held within their view
never forgetting the journey you made
and the love they held for you.


Creative Inspirational Wisdom: A Journey into the Heart of Creativity

For our first guest blogger post in our Creative Inspirational Wisdom series, Dr. Patricia Daly-Lipe reflects on her creative journey.


Maybe I am a late bloomer but, finally, I have arrived at an important juncture in my life. What I used to consider a pastime, I now consider a passion. Two creative arts, painting and writing, have become the focus of my life.


I crept slowly into taking my art seriously. As a child, I watched my father paint. I learned to use watercolors when a woman down the street from my home in California opened her house to the neighborhood children and taught painting. Often we would take our tablets down to the rocks and attempt to paint images of the incoming surf.


Later I attended the local Art Center’s painting classes for children in a little white wooden building with trellises laced with flowering Wisteria vines in front. My work won at some shows, but for me, art was just a pleasant thing to do.


I took art classes in school and later in college, but still it was not enough of a passion to warrant full-time study. As a young adult, I studied figure drawing. My likenesses were quite good, but the paintings lacked depth. They were more like caricatures or illustrations. I came to find between years of learning to draw figures with proper proportions and dimensions, tones and contrasts, and learning to paint with style, my own style, there exists a leap of faith. It takes knowing how to draw things and people as they really are to be able to draw or paint them as they appear to you the artist—and knowing who you are is the center piece of creativity.


Vincent Van Gogh said it best. In 1879, he wrote: “I know of no better definition of the word ‘art’ than this: ‘Art is man added to nature,’ nature, reality, truth, but with a significance, a conception, with a character which the artist makes evolve, and to which he expresses, that he frees up, illuminates.” I believe deep down within our very being lives the creative muse, and she is yearning to find expression. It is she who connects to the primal rhythms of the universe. Watching a sunset, looking at the snow-covered bare limbs of a tree, peering into the opened petals of a rose, all these scenes are captured by our creative muse, who stores them in our memory. Someday, she will find release. That is, if we allow it.


But creativity is not confined to art. The writer, be he or she a novelist or historian, a biographer or a reporter, also allows creativity to find expression. For the writer the words paint the picture. Consider poetry. Poetry celebrates feelings. “No tears in the writer; no tears in the reader,” Robert Frost said. This is true of the poem and equally true of literature. Just as “a poem begins with a lump in the throat,” so too a good book should entice the soul, draw upon the emotions and require reflection.


The artist considers the media to use; the writer chooses the words. There is an affinity between musical rhythm and literary rhythm: repetition/meter/movement/harmony. One of the most powerful mimes defining life is sound. Take the ‘motion’ out of ‘emotion.’ Music is motion. Life is motion. For some, the creative muse finds her expression in music. Words are not necessary. The visual is not necessary. Music takes us beyond the external world and draws upon our inner selves, our emotions.


So be it writing, art or music. “Within each of us is a creative core that actively creates the universe,” Robert Hand said.


Man is both creature and creator. Creative energy creates. The journey never ends, and it is the journey, not its destination, and the creating, not the created, that opens our minds and hearts to more than logic, science, or technology can ever know.


Dr. Lipe is a past president of La Jolla Branch NLAPW and DC Branch NLAPW. She is the author of eight books with the ninth—Historic Tales of La Jolla, published by The History Press—due to come out in January. Patricia is the recipient of numerous awards. An artist as well as a rescuer of thoroughbred horses, Patricia shares her love of nature and animals with her husband, Dr. Steele Lipe, at their farm in Virginia. Please visit www.literarylady.com.


Poem of the Week: Autumn Dance

Patricia Dennis
Santa Clara, N. California Branch

A gust of wind

The soft swirl of leaves
Autumn red and gold




So gracefully through the air

Thoughts of landing

But knowing not where

Then one special moment

Upon the earth they have fallen

A few seconds of time
And then

A gust of wind

The soft swirl of leaves

Continually floating


Poem of the Week: Thanksgiving

Calder Lowe
Modesto California Branch


Hurling himself against the confines
of the picket fence, the chained dog yelps,
its cry piercing my car windows at the stop light.

The house is in disrepair and I already know
that dog is beaten, that woman slumped
in the chair on the deck is beaten.

The peeling wooden planks on the exterior
are no fortress against the drunken man
stumbling up the rotting stairs to the door,

his lined face long stamped with resignation,
his fists already clenched in rage.
I beseech the incoming fog to blanket them all

with a modicum of grace, a respite from the despair
of circumstance, imminent storms.
Mostly, I want the dog to curl up in front of a fire,

his paws outstretched in thanksgiving
for one day unmarred by kicks to his spine,
one day of a full belly, one day of impenetrable calm.


Poem of the Week: Granite Battalion

Barb Whitmarsh, Bayou City II Texas Branch
(Happy Veterans Day – and God Bless America)


It was late
and there was a nip in the air
when he went down to stand awhile
with the granite battalion.

They had run out of ammo
twenty years ago
but held the high ground
below the knoll.

They welcomed any support
but words were cheap by now
old medals were appreciated
———melted down————
for potential bullets
but hell they’d done without fire power
all these years

He lingered in the sulphuric air
of his own cigarettes
left them the pack
told them he was coming back
and together they’d crush the enemy
so they could all go home at last