Archive for August, 2014

Advice for New Poets



The question, perennial I think, is what advice is best for writers just starting out.  Since I consider myself an emerging writer, what follows is advice I follow myself.

Study modern poetry.  One great resource is Coursera’s Mod Po, which starts September 6.  It’s free and worth every minute you spend on it.

Get a book.  I’ve found The Poet’s Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux is one of the best.  There is material on what to write as well as the craft of writing it.

Join a group.  Most states have a poetry organization like the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets (WFOP).   You’ll meet poets who live near you.  The organization will likely hold regional readings, sponsor workshops and conferences and other poetry related activities, and may be able to connect you with a critique group where you can get feedback from fellow writers.

Keep writing.  Remember, it’s the process not the outcome you need to focus on.  Here’s a recent blog post on the Lake Region Writers Network, that drives home that point very nicely.


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War Imagery in Textiles

Bench Overlooking Pond

Here is a review of War Imagery in Women’s Textiles.  I posted it as a Library Thing Early Reviewer.  Library Thing is an on-line cataloging service for readers, authors and librarians.  The Early Reviewer program offers the chance to obtain free books before they are put on the market.   You can read about Early Reviewers at

I first encountered war imagery in textiles when I attended an exhibit called Weavings of War:  Fabrics of Memory at the University of Wisconsin’s Design Gallery.  I was shocked by the images.  Huey helicopters were the focal point of a quilt and bullets formed the borders.  Appliquéd bits of red fabric depicted blood spurting from a woman who was shot on a bridge while appliquéd soldiers marched appliquéd peasants through appliquéd rice paddies and corn crops.  Rifles repeated in brown patterns looked like trees in a forest.

War Imagery in Women’s Textiles: An International Study of Weaving, Knitting, Sewing, Quilting, Rug Making and Other Fabric Arts by Deborah A. Deacon and Paula E. Calvin documents war as subject matter for textiles.  The authors, both art historians, review the Western tradition of depicting war in Europe, the US and Canada.  In Europe the story starts with embroideries such as the Bayeux Tapestry in the Middle Ages, and includes knitting campaigns during World War I and rugs woven by Bosnian women in the 1990’s.

The U.S. story begins with Betsy Ross, sewing flags for the new nation, a product of revolution.  For both the US and Canada, the authors explore the work of Native Americans affected by westward expansion and the 20th century wars.  Subsequent chapters explore the war textiles of women in Latin America, Asia and the Middle East.  In Africa, the authors discovered there is not a tradition of using textiles to express reaction to war.  However, African art does incorporate reactions to colonialism.  In South Africa, apartheid is remembered through memory cloths.  However, neither of these artist traditions contain images of violence.

The pieces I saw on exhibit were made by women from Afghanistan, Kashmir, Pakistan, Somalia, Guatemala, and Peru.  The textiles depicted civil wars, colonial wars and foreign invasions.  There were designs showing men rounding up soldiers, peasants herded off their farms and people shot and left to die, unknown, anonymous pawns in national and international war games.

After the soldiers leave, the women do what they have always done:  they make quilts and other textiles about what they know.  They use the traditional patterns and colors and techniques of their grandmothers to sew planes and bombs and dying peasants.  In making the textiles, in recording the horror, the women remember the dead:  a sister, a husband, a child, a parent.  All people with names and hopes and dreams, who laughed and loved and who were loved, but who have been lost to war.

War Imagery in Textiles is thoroughly researched with detailed notes and a lengthy bibliography.  There is also a helpful glossary of textile terms.  The book necessarily traces the historic development of textiles independent of war imagery.  Most of the historical textile artists are anonymous, but each chapter notes the names and biographies of contemporary textile artists.  There are some black and white photos that illustrate historical subjects and a collection of color prints of contemporary subjects.  An index allows the reader to search for topics of interest.

In cutting and stitching, women re-claim themselves in color and texture and story.  They sew the past so they can live again.


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Grey Headed Coneflowers

Grey-headed Coneflowers


Cones changing to brown,

Grey Headed Coneflower peaks.

Yellow petals droop

as seed heads revert to grey.

Song bird treats in late autumn.


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Turkey Foot




Autumn holds the heat.

Big Blue Stem silhouetted

against chill blue sky.

Turkey Foot seed heads shelter

forage for cranes’ nests in spring.


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Morning Sun Comes Later

Morning Glories 1


Morning Glories at 7 a.m.

will start to sleep late soon.

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Queen Ann's Lace


“All faculties of a great poet are contained in and deriving from the ability to discover relations between things, even the most minimal, and distant, even between things that appear the least analogous, etc. Now this is the philosopher through and through: the faculty of discovering and recognizing relations, of binding particulars together, and of generalizing.”  Giacomo Leopardi



 10 nouns                                                           10 more nouns

firefly                                                                thread

ginko                                                                 wool

cactus                                                               photo

waterfall                                                           leaf

lantern                                                              coat

hosta                                                                 toes

chimes                                                              sand

jade                                                                   robin

feathers                                                            mushrooms

spine                                                                  pond


Mix and Match the Nouns

Toes are chimes

ringing through the body


Cactus is wool

scratching the air


Feathers are mushrooms

sheltering forest birds


Lanterns are threads

lighting the path


Create a Chain of Associations

A rose is an eye, a curtain

opening and closing,

a breeze brushing aside

the dark,

ushering to the stage

brilliant beauty,

scents of sun and summer

colors of the season.

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