Poem of the Week–Sanxay Roman Picnic

Sanxay Roman Picnic

Druid rocks dot an outline
viewed by a low-flying airplane;
a cross lies in quiet grass.

I kneel, hands clasped,
pray to Apollo in his ruins,
his chapel stones and hard remains.

The sweet pea twines my finger,
soft and living, pliable; and the white
daisy snaps its tiny yellow eye.

Jeanne DeLarm-Neri
Greenwich Branch, CT

Members, don’t forget to apply for the Vinnie Ream Award competition, see guidelines by clicking here.

See newly posted writing competitions open to all by clicking here.

This is what Pen Women do…

It’s been a long snowy winter in the North, and a frigid, icy one in the South. But that has not deterred the Central New York branch from fulfilling the NLAPW mission to support the Arts in their community (and beyond).

They are currently accepting entries for their 60th annual poetry contest (heads up! Deadline February 27, 2015); they’ve got an art contest coming up as well, and they are sponsoring a “2015 FRIEND OF POETRY/ART/MUSIC AWARD: To honor an individual (or organization) who has creatively, consistently, and collaboratively advanced the cause of art, poetry, or music composition in Central New York, thereby having a significant impact on the quality of life for individuals and groups at organizational, community or regional levels.” Visit their blog site for entry info by clicking here.

From Rachael Ikins, Central New York branch Pen Women, comes this article about a branch activity that, as she puts it, “warmed hearts on a cold night.”

Penwomen Poets Out and About: an Event from CNY that Warmed Hearts on a Cold November Night

by Rachael Z. Ikins, CNY branch 1st vice president

For 13 years, our branch co-president, poet and elementary teacher Janet Fagal has brought poetry alive for her 3rd grade students. Using a positive, no-pressure approach, Janet is leads children to learn and recite poems by heart. And not just nursery rhymes or short little ditties. Her students are as happy reciting fun works such as Mary Ann Hoberman’s “Frog” and Shel Silverstein’s “Sick” as classic poems from Yeats, Frost and Longfellow. Children learn “The Lake Isle of Innisfree”, “The Road Not Taken”, “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” and “Jabberwocky” as part of a 30-40 poem repertoire. They learn the poems eagerly with no test, pressure, homework or requirement to participate. Children look forward to saying poems together at various parts of the day: waiting in line, in front of visiting authors or parents, before snack time or during an English lesson. They learn vocabulary, ideas, content-related knowledge, imagery and the language of poetry.

Janet Fagal Central New York Branch co-president with her poetry students

Janet Fagal Central New York Branch co-president with her poetry students


One night a year, the children celebrate Poetry on Parade Night. Janet has found that this approach helps reading and writing, and brings poetry and the language of poems into children’s everyday lives.

“When Janet arrives in the classroom my students act as if a rock star has entered the room. They say, ‘yay we get to do poetry!'” commented teacher Dannie Taylor from Skaneateles, NY. As an adult poet, I have to concur. In my opinion, all poetry readings are equal and should be looked upon as rock star events.

Through this immersion in poetry, students are able to write their own poems at more sophisticated levels. This is a win-win literacy program which Janet calls the “biggest bang for the literacy buck” she has seen in her long teaching career. Each June at Poetry Night Janet hears the same comment at the end of the program, “This is one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. How do you do it?” Her response?
“It is easy, the children learn the poems eagerly and effortlessly. It takes little class time to accomplish.” Janet speaks around the country at literacy conventions and is writing a book about her practices.

On a cold Wednesday night last November, Janet led a Poetry Night event with several other Pen Women at the Schweinfurth Art Center in Auburn, NY. Surrounded by an exhibit of exquisite quilt art, Mrs. Fagal’s group of students aged 7-13, most of whom had only 15 minutes practice together before the reading were our “opening act.” The passion and joy she shares with her students was evident from the effortless, magical way they recited many of the poems mentioned above with bow ties, purple cowboy boots, finger snapping and proud, smiling faces of the readerr–not to mention all the beaming family members in the audience. The adult category Juror for our 2014 annual branch Poetry Contest, Heidi Nightengale, a children’s author and poet in her own right, was also in the audience.
On a wave of their positive energy Janet shared a few of her poems followed by CNY branch Pen Woman poet, Bobbie Panek who read from her collected works. Next several retired English teachers from her poets’ group share their poems.

I was the last Pen Woman to read. Shortly after we arrived, Janet suggested I introduce our final poet and honored guest. It was my greatest pleasure to present my 8th grade English teacher, Elizabeth Patton and to tell her, in front of the crowd how much she changed my life. Her own passion for poetry, (she has been published multiple times and has at least one chapbook, Late Harvest) had a profound impact on me and I know on several other students who became professional authors in following years. Heidi, too, was a student of Beth’s.

Central New York Branch poet, Vice President Rachael Ikins and her 8th grade English teacher, poet Beth Patton

Central New York Branch poet, Vice President Rachael Ikins and her 8th grade English teacher, poet Beth Patton


Mrs. Patton looked over my 14 year old shoulder one day when it was time to compose our own works as I struggled. She read my words and said, “You are a poet.” That summer, while home alone, I received a phone call from Mrs. Patton’s husband who shared with me the amazing news that at age 14, my first poem ever had been accepted for publication. My chapbook from Foothills Publishing Slide-show in the Woods contains that poem, “9:30 p.m., Sunday”.

People ask me all the time, “Who are the Pen Women and what do they do?” This is one thing we do and part of our mission. We participate in our communities by sharing our own passion for the arts we practice with younger people- students and kids- in the hope and on faith that the love will grow and spread and that one day another child will stand up in front of another crowd to share the fact that their teacher’s love of poetry (or art or music) gave that student a life-altering gift.