New Member Profile of the Month–Calder Lowe

From the editor: As you know, I’m big on experimenting with ways to get the word out about our members, our mission, our benefits–anything that lets people know what Pen Women are all about. Current NLAPW National President Candace Long has talked about the importance of bringing in new members. Word is from the credentials officers that many new member applications are arriving regularly in their mailboxes. (Big shout out to those credentials officers: Nancy Jurka, Letters, Linda Spencer, Art, and Nancy Deussen, Music, for all your hard work!!)

I’m particularly interested in bringing youth into our fold. I joined in my twenties and have benefited ever since from the knowledge and wisdom of our elder Pen Women.

Young women artists, for all the progress that’s been made since 1897, still face hurdles in many arts professions, especially the traditional male domains in music, broadcasting and film, journalism, even fine arts.

Hey, glass ceiling, we’re armed with brushes, pens and batons to break through! Long-time members have paid it forward; new members are our future.

Treanor Baring
Website Editor, Poetry Editor

So why not take advantage of this blog to get to know some of our new members and a (smidgen) of their work? Here, the inaugural profile of California poet and Modesto Branch member, Calder Lowe (scroll down for a new poem).

Calder Lowe Letters Modesto Branch, CA

Calder Lowe
Modesto Branch, CA

In her own words:

I was first introduced to NLAPW by my longtime friend, Mary Lou Taylor who belongs to the Santa Clara County Branch of NLAPW. I joined the Modesto Branch of NLAPW at the invitation of Sally Ruddy. As a writer, initially I composed poetry to support fellow survivors of childhood abuse and poverty. While still bearing witness to the suffering of those our society has marginalized, my writing also addresses other complex issues all poets grapple with in our respective journeys. We seek light and discernment in times of loss and yearn for authenticity and connectedness. We inhabit the Sacred and our offerings hang as prayers on a planet desperate for healing. Holding fast to our highest intentions, may we continue to collectively provide a voice for the disenfranchised, a voice characterized by its passion, urgency and particularity.

My dream is that my work will ignite and capture that epiphanic spark that illuminates the path home where mindfulness ennobles our hearts and awe refashions the very way in which we relate to the world around us. It is my sincerest hope my readers will find within my poems and short stories, a compassionate hand extended, a perception tweaked, a reality reinvented.


This is not who I am,
this decrepit 67-year-old
who finds herself more overburdened
pack mule than vibrant, creative goddess
hardwired by sparks & sass & overweening
passion for the yet unspooled recording of the word.

I look at the parking lot pavement
& see a child’s goldfish cracker, a single
miracle of orange afloat on gray concrete
reminiscent of when I was six, lazily pumping
my legs on a swing set when my whole world
jolted to a standstill at the sight of an infinitesimally

small shred of white paper glowing on a vast expanse
of lawn, when my heart stopped at the sheer wonder
of it all — the solitary shining of the white, the lushness
of the green, the silence of a swing no longer in motion,
merely sedentary molecules of metal. In a nanosecond,
a goldfish & a particle of paper reignited a life.

Calder Lowe
Modesto Branch, CA

Click here to see Calder’s books on

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.

Poem of the Week–Pandora’s Box

Pandora’s Box

It’s time
To find a box
And pack away the past
Stuff it full of every hurtful word, look, or omission
By those who should have loved you
By those who almost loved you
By those who loved you poorly
Leave no room for regrets, what-ifs, why-nots
Jam injustices
Into every crevice and corner
Quick, shut it tight
Tape it closed
Drop it in the deepest sea
Drown the pain and loss forever
Let Pandora’s box be gone
Move on
It’s Time.

Susan Bassler Pickford
Member at Large

Poem of the Week–A Blazing Glimmering Lake

A Blazing Glimmering Lake

The day dawns still and crisp.
A skin of ice covers the water to the east,
A morning stubble of black saplings outlines the mouth of a stream
Where Beaver skinny dips in the frosty water, pattering mud
Over a lumpy lodge to keep his family snug in the coming months.

Tentative rays peek between land and low-hanging sky. The boldest ones are grey,
Then by turns they all appear: violet, purple, puce
Mauve, cimarron, rose, shocking pink,
Orange, tangerine, peach,
Lavender, amber

And finally, Regent appears
At the end of the opulent procession;
Flashing a blindingly brilliant white-gold grin
Before tucking back under the steel velvet cloud cover
For a few more winks

And I realize
That Beaver and I
Have plenty to be thankful for
Without Anyone
Saying a word.

by Angela Hunt
Minnesota Branch

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.

Poem of the Week–A Prompting in Winter (Prince’s Cove)

A Prompting in Winter (Prince’s Cove)

The sand is frozen in the hourglass,
and if this is the day the sailboat is trapped,
moored a hundred yards from shore

and if this is the sign — the ebb tide, ice-bound,
leaning slab by white slab, like dominos,
dry stacked on the boat ramp,

when your dog sniffs a chain
padlocked to the scarred piling, and the
stench of gutted fish clinging to the dock

releases in you a raging sense
of theft         of loss         of the unspent life of a woman —
then this is the time.

The midwives are the blazing sunrise and
the sounds        crack         crack
like a rifle shot, echoing loud in the cove.

Wary of hunters,
you seek your dog, all golden and familiar,
who sits unfazed, intuitive about these things:

it’s the ice that’s causing the commotion,
it’s the ice breaking the rule of winter’s prey
— to lie still, to feign death —

so far out of the realm of possibility
because its essence
is flow.

This is something you aspire to
so you chant your fear
inside a labyrinth of half shells

and before your verve depletes,
before your day is wracked with shoulds
will you emerge out of the frozen —

lit with the dawn and
glinting in silver
when the wild geese call?

Diane McDonough
Cape Cod Branch, MA