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Saturday, July 13, 2019

Sunday, May 26, 2019

At Eagle Pond Farm

      On Mother's Day my friend Erine Leigh (the tenth Portsmouth Poet Laureate) and I took a little road trip to attend the closing day of the estate sale at Eagle Pond Farm in Wilmot, New Hampshire, the long time home of Donald Hall and Jane Kenyon. Both of us had wanted to and discussed making this trip before he had passed, but we never got it done. There was a sadness in that, of course, and there was some sadness in being among the hordes of people trodding through his beloved home and ransacking his stuff, but we were both glad we took the trip.
       Oddly enough, there was some reverence to it; imagining them both there, touching the items that the heirs and auction house thought unimportant but that the poets themselves couldn't part with. There were poems at every turn; in the teacups in old pantry cupboards, in the walking stick I found still propped near an old back door, in the cherub tacked over the kitchen sink's window (which came home with me). That is what Eagle Pond Farm was; a farm where the harvest was not so much livestock or vegetables or even flowers, but of poems, and seldom has the harvest been so bountiful at any farm anywhere.
        Below I share some of my photos from our field trip.

I took a minute or two to gaze out every window, so that I might enjoy the views of those who could see so much.

I photographed this before taking it off the wall, and buying it.

And again in my foyer. It is beautiful, made in Florence.

You can see it better in the pic below. The cherub was

hanging over their kitchen sink window. I placed

it above the little window you see on the right.

I love both of these mementos so much.

A single yellow daffodil.

Two pictures I bought. Of course, I have no idea who the people are, but they make an excelllent poetry prompt.

We stole some forsythia branches, and after a week of enjoying them at the table hope to root them
and establish them in the yard.

I found this walking stick propped near a door, and
now it is propped near mine.

from In Several Colors

Every morning, cup of coffee
in hand, I look out at the mountain.
Ordinarily, it's blue, but today
it's the color of an eggplant.


      The shoes above, left by a mudroom door, seemed to have been undisturbed by any of the scavengers.
       Also touching, maybe heart breaking, was this collection of empty valentine chocolate boxes someone couldn't part with. Now strewn across an old mattress and marked for sale.

I sat on the door rock for a spell.
What tales this porch could tell.

from Mud Season

Beside the porch step
the crocus prepares an exaltation
of purple, but for the moment
holds its tongue. . . .

An old rose garden
weathering away
in silence.

Who was the birds' nest collector?

Erine found this precious baby pinafore.
So many poems tucked away with it.

from Falling

This month I was five days late,
but now the blood comes in a rush.
Let everything fall where it will.

from Things

The mouse pulls batting 
from a hundred year old quilt.
She chewed a hole in a blue star
to get it, and now she thrives....
Now is her time to thrive.

      When cleaned and repaired this quilt will color my couch.
It is inscribed on one square,
       "Freeman - Aunt Lucy"

I paid $7.50 for this board. I haven't yet figured
out what I will do with it. Perhaps it should be
a book shelf....

All of Jane's personal possessions were long gone, but I found this bracelet tossed aside as if unimportant. I will wear it to poetry readings.

      Knowing how dear cats were to the Eagle Pond occupants
I couldn't resist bringing this beautiful, well used cat bowl
home for my kitty to drink from.

from Ox Cart Man

"... and in May they planted potatoes, turnips, and cabbages, 
while apple blossoms bloomed and fell,
while bees woke up, starting to make new honey, 
and geese squawked in the barnyard, dropping feathers as soft as clouds."

                                And so we let evening come to the farm.

All excerpts from Jane's poems can be found in 
Jane Kenyon Collected Poems Graywolf Press 2005

Monday, May 20, 2019

Pub Day

      It has been such a whirlwind since publication day, of exciting ups and downs. I feel like I've been for an elephant ride!
     It was fun to have an event, my first official reading as Portsmouth Poet Laureate, on the same day as the book came out, which allowed me to sell and sign books.
     Yet more exciting was waking up the next morning to find For to See the Elephant on a couple of Amazon's lists of bestsellers. The first time I saw it my book was sitting in the #2 position right between Laurie Halse Anderson and Jason Reynolds on a list called Hot New Releases in Poetry for teens and young adults! I was stunned and overjoyed. Pub day far exceeded my wildest expectations. Though the book has slid up and down the list, yesterday almost sliding off when Amazon ran out of books, it rose back up to #5, then 7 today, and has remained on the list these twenty days it has been out.
      I haven't really figured out how to promote the book yet but I am working on it. I hope to get more reviews, but it feels so awkward to ask for them. I'm really not very good at sales, but I am good at PR. My latest idea (tell me what you think) was to buy a batch of little plush elephants to sell with the book when I do events. They are on the way now.
      I'm so happy with the Mother's Day gift my daughter made me; an author's website which you can view at That will certainly help me in my marketing efforts, as soon as I figure out what my marketing efforts should be!

       Check out this song!

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Accepting the Quill

     On Monday evening, at Portsmouth City Hall I was proclaimed the 12th Poet Laureate of the city. Below is the transcript of the remarks I made after I was introduced by Erine Leigh, the tenth laureate. I had introduced her at the same podium four years earlier. None of the customary photos were taken so I can just share these that I took at home.

      Well,…, here I am, …, on April Fool’s Day ….

     When I noted the date I was asked to come here, I did a little research … and found that some of the earliest references to April Fool’s Day were made by poets.

     In 1508, French poet Eloy d'Amerval referred to a poisson d’avril (April fool, literally "Fish of April").
      In 1539, Flemish poet Eduard de Dene wrote something about a nobleman who sent his servants on foolish errands on April 1.

      I thought that was interesting. And I stand before you tonight as happy as a fool to become keeper of the quill, and I accept this honor with the joy of a jester. - And may I put it on the official record that I also learned that in Europe, where the April Fool’s day tradition originated, it is customary that all pranks must end by noon, so … as the children I work with would say “No take backs!!”

      Please don’t take my levity or my brevity tonight to mean that I will not take the role seriously. I will take it quite seriously. There have been ideas percolating in my mind for years about how I might fulfill this role were it ever to be bestowed on me. I look forward to working with the PPLP board, with city officials who have been so supportive for so long, and the entire community on bringing some of those ideas to fruition, to a poetic journey. I want to take us to places we’ve not yet been. And in accepting this laureateship I know I have miles to go before I sleep.

      While I acknowledge, with gratitude, every poet and board member who has served over the last twenty-two years, all the way back to Nancy and Paula and Esther, I am not willing to say I will stand on the shoulders of anybody.

      I would prefer that we link arms, and walk together, all of us, and see where it takes us ….

      I’d like, also, to acknowledge people going back a bit further. In closing I will leave you with a poem, but not one of my own. This is poem of the Abenaki-Passamoquddy people, the first poets to live on and love this land that we call Portsmouth, and I dedicate it to all of the poetic voices of this town; past, present, and future.
       Date and translator unknown.


We are the stars who sing, we sing with our light;
We are the birds of fire, we fly over the sky.
Our light is a voice.
We make a road for the spirits,
for the spirits to pass over.
Among us are three hunters who chase a bear.
There never was a time when they were not hunting.
We look down on the mountains.
This is the song of the stars. 

Thank you.

TJT 4/1/2019

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Ele word cloud – Word cloud – WordItOut

      I made a word cloud from the first few poems in my forthcoming book For To See the Elephant (Piscataqua Press, April 2019).

Ele word cloud – Word cloud – WordItOut: Generate, customise, save, share, gift, print, browse & love word cloud art with WordItOut, the free word cloud maker online since 2010.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

PORT smith art journal

Monday, February 25, 2019

Meet Sarah Sanchez

      I'd like to introduce my friend Sarah Sanchez from Texas! Like me, she began writing seriously only a few years ago. She has released two series;  The Sunwalker Trilogy is YA and The Keeper Chronicles is middle grade fiction.

Tell us a little about yourself , Sarah.

I am a mother of three, a chocolate addict, and a Texan. Several years ago I found my true passion, writing. Although I love to read and have stories spilling out of my brain, I never really thought about becoming a writer. My grammar is atrocious. But I found a wonderful editor, who can attest to my truthfulness. She fixes all my mistakes and I get to focus on the part I enjoy, writing and creating.

Share a short excerpt from your novel The Portal Keeper.

It was dark all around him as he struggled to catch his breath. He couldn't make out his hand in front of his face and had no idea which direction to swim in. Suddenly he was roughly pulled out of the water and tossed onto a hard surface. He coughed a few more times and tried to sit up. The floor rocked beneath him, and Ajax realized he was on a ship of some sort.
“Well, what have we got ourselves here?” a grizzly voice asked. “Spots, shine a little light over here, will you?”
Something buzzed by Ajax's ear and then a small but exceptionally bright light shined in his face.
He put up his hand, attempting to shield the beam from his eyes.
“It's a man,” someone called out.
Someone prodded him with a stick.
“Hey!” Ajax exclaimed, swatting it away.
“What were you doing out in the middle of Death Lake at this hour?”
Death Lake, that sounds promising, Ajax thought to himself.
“I'm looking for my friend,” Ajax answered. “Have you seen anyone else? Did anyone else fall?”
“Shut him up,” another voice called. “Get him down below.”
Something covered Ajax's face and then he was grabbed forcefully and carried to another location. He felt as if he were going down stairs. He was flung unceremoniously into a chair, and the hood was yanked off his head. He rubbed the back of his arm, where he had been gripped too tightly. It was dark in this new place too.
Slowly a lamp was lit, giving a little light to the area.
A rhinoceros stood at the head of a table, wearing a pair of striped trousers and suspenders without a shirt. He leaned forward. “How did you come here?”
Ajax scooted back in his chair, looking around the table. He must have really experienced a lot in the past week because the talking rhinoceros didn't amaze him as much as he felt it should.

What brought about the idea for this book?

This is my second series. The first is a YA vampire trilogy. It is a little to intense for my younger children. So I wanted to write something they would enjoy. I asked for suggestions, and was told, “I want a book with a dragon in it.” I had been toying with the idea of writing a story with a portal and came up with The Portal Keeper. This is the first book in The Keeper Chronicles.

Currently, what are you working on?

At the moment I am getting The Secret of the Realms, the sequel to the Portal Keeper, ready to send to my editor. I have a few beta readers that give me their feedback first, so I am just waiting to hear back from them.
I am also working on Darkwalker, the third and final book in my vampire trilogy.

What have you struggled with since you began a career in writing?

Balancing my time. Between family, my day job, writing books and promoting them; there never seems to be enough hours in the day. I try and do a little bit each day, but that doesn’t always occur. I try not to be too hard on myself. As long as I am making progress I call it a win.

What kind of research do you do before you start a story?

Typically most of my research is done as I am writing and not beforehand. As the story unfolds sometimes I stray into unfamiliar areas, and so I pause and do some research. Luckily I have the Internet at my fingertips. You just have to be careful you are looking at reliable sites as people can post anything they want online.

Do you have people read your work before you publish?  

I don’t understand how anyone can write and not people read their drafts first. I look for ruthless beta readers. I don’t want someone to tell me how great my book is, I have parents for that. I want my flaws and inconsistencies found before we go to print. It can be a little hard to read the comments sometimes. But I love that I have found honest beta readers who want my books to be great even if getting them to that point may sting a little bit. Now after my book is published - praise away.

What did you learn from writing your first book?

There are so many lessons I have learned on this journey. The first is never give up. Don’t expect overnight success, and authors are some of the kindest people out there. 

How many times do you think you read your book before going to print?

At least a dozen. I feel like I have the worst memory. So I read it half a dozen times before I even send it to beta readers, and then I go through a few after I get it back and a few more after my editor does her work.

Any last words?

Thank you again for taking the time to interview me. Whether you pick up my book or another author’s, don’t forget to write a review. They mean the world to us. Check out free sample chapters of all my novels on Amazon or read them for free with Kindle Unlimited. Happy Reading!!

The Portal Keeper

Thursday, February 21, 2019

"We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices"

     I don't usually review books on my blog but I want to give a special extra-loud shout-out for this newly released antholgy. The Hudsons have done a remarkable job and it is a beautiful book that belongs in all middle and high school libraries. Children need this book; as a source of comfort, as a source of wisdom, as a source of answers. Please be sure it gets into their hands.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Writing for WriteOnCon

Sunday, December 16, 2018

His name was William

     So much excitement at my house this weekend! I had been doing final edits to a manuscript soon to be published. My first traditionally published book, a YA historical novel in verse. That is exciting, but not what I have been carrying on about. When I get like this, so excited I can barely function, the only thing I can do is write. So please let me explain...

     The book is the final culmination of what began as a NaNoWriMo project several years ago. It is the story of the first two elephants to come to America (in succession), and while I did extensive research there was remarkably little material to work with. What is known for certain is that the first elephant came here in 1796 by way of a ship called the America owned by Captain Crowninshield of Salem, Massachusetts and then the elephant went on a walking tour of the infant nation.

      There exists no real information about how that went down; and I often asked
who was the elephant's keeper?
     When a person was referenced it was always the relatively wealthy white male owner, but knowing the history of our country at that time I decided that the correct thing to do was imagine the keeper as an enslaved man. Though my story is fictional I felt that imagining an enslaved keeper was important to accuracy and authenticity. The contributions, often the existance, of black people in America at that time was largely omitted from the historical record. I had no proof, so I knew I was going out on a limb, but I was committed to it. Walking on limbs is what much of my writing requires of me.

     This weekend I discovered, just before the book is to be sent to press, that there is proof. I was right. The elephant keeper was indeed an enslaved man and his name was William. I happened upon a scholarly work called For a Short Time Only: Itinerants and the Resurgence of Popular Culture in America (University of Massachusetts Press, 2016) by Peter Benes who is affiliated with Historic Deerfield. He found mention, in one Providence paper in 1797 to "...William, the black man attending the elephant." (page 147)

     That may seem like a little thing, but to me it is elephantine. The name William means "determined protector". That could not be more perfect for my character. Today I will delete the name I made up for the elephant keeper. His name was, and always shall be, William.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

What Was Supposed To Be

         This afternoon I was supposed to be in New Hartford, Connecticut being officially named the Maine Beat Poet Laureate for 2018-2020. I really wanted to be there, mostly to meet the many others traveling from all over the world for the National Beat Poetry Festival. As is so often the case for me, life just didn't cooperate with my plans.

         Had I made it to the festival I was going to read a poem I wrote just for the event. I knew it would be accepted there, that the content would not be questioned.  It won't come off well in print. It is a poem meant to be read aloud. A poem that took decades to come out. A poem that had been hidden in the dark. I'll post it below, if only so that it is finally in the light.

220 Myrtle Street
Manchester, New Hampshire

It appeared on my Facebook feed.
A photo and a writeup of things
I didn’t know.
It is an Italianate villa, circa 1867.
It is selling for just under one mill.
It has had only four owners.

And one of them was 
my first molester.
There was a virtual tour
of some 27 pictures
of gorgeous rooms
impeccably decorated
with expertly curated antiques.

But no photos of the attic where
the pedophile music teacher
brought me
and stood me
in a sea of empty violin cases
and lay upon me his big ugly hands
with nails grown long for plucking.

And I thought since I had not yet even
breast buds it could not be sexual
having never been taught
such monsters are among us
or that
my body is my own
or that
I could say no to an adult, a man.
So I let him play me like a violin.
And set me up for decades
of letting my defiled self
be mistreated repeatedly.

And as with that rich white man
I would protect each and every one
from the consequences they deserved.
Until at last, my last,
one was elected to defile my democracy.
And I said at last
               fuck silence
and I climbed down from the attic
screaming Me Too and Times Up
and vote like the God damned lives
of your daughters depend on it.

Because they do.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Easy Lynching ...

     A few days ago I attended a talk given by Presidential inaugural poet Richard Blanco and contemporary landscape photographer Jacob Bond Hessler discussing their collaborative exhibition, “Boundaries,” which is on view at #OMAA the Ogunquit Museum of American Art through October 31, 2018.

    We made our way to Ogunquit in such a dangerous downpour that made the normally beautiful drive downright scary. I took off my shoes to wade though the pop-up rivulets in my bare feet, and shook off inside like a wet dog.  

   wet dog. 
     As I tried to see and read the exhibit in the crowded gallery the skies cleared. I saw Richard Blanco step outside to have a smoke wondering if that habit contributes to his deep and resonant reading voice. He soon took his seat with his exhibition partner in front of a glass wall that overlooks the Atlantic. Throughout the talk a rainbow dazzled high over the sea, but he held my attention more than that rare sight.

     Both men explore the idea of what boundaries are and many of the results have historical significance. Of the photo / poem pairings in the exhibit / book I was most moved by Easy Lynching on Herndon Ave. Here is a photo of the photo.

              Look hard and deep and long at it....
1333458_523205-EASY-LYNCHING-ON-HER.jpg (1200×801)

     And here is the link to the poem and Blanco discussing it.

      I couldn't resist buying his children's book (above) and here is a link to the art book which I had to resist buying at $350.

July 2018

      I had a truly wonderful time teaching a STEAM summer camp at my elementary school. I called it Learning Like Leonardo. Here are a few pics:

Vitruvian girls!

We made paint from natural substances and learned all about the Mona Lisa.

          Created (and munched on) our own