If there were no
poetry on any day in the world, poetry would be invented that day. For there would
be an intolerable hunger.
from The Life of Poetry by Muriel Rukeyser
Each year veteran and emerging regional poets are invited by Art on the Prairie to showcase their work in Poet’s Corner. This year we have artists from Ames, Beaver, Chariton, Des Moines, Earlham, Indianola, Johnston, Newton, Perry, West Des Moines and Winterset.
Poet's Corner Reading Schedule
Writing has provided for Jerrold a means of capturing some of the places, people, emotions and events he experienced over the years in his lives as wanderer, nuclear physicist and rocket scientist. Traveling much of the world during his life he now resides near Des Moines in the Iowa heartland. And though yet journeying out when adventure beckons, he finds that increasingly he is content to enjoy the comforts of home and hearth and to spend more of his time in writing and painting.
Time Warp Café
A drab fissure,
dirty steamed windows and a faded name,
between flashy bistros
and pretentious sidewalk restaurants.
A holdout against up-scale development.
Barely space for the long counter,
discordant din, mélange of clients
and film noir décor.
Jammed behind a makeshift partition
a kitchen crouches in clouds of steam.
Breakfast rush in full swing.
Mom and the kids
at the counter.
In back pop's at the grill,
grandma's doing dishes.
Above the cluttered backboard
and forest of curled notes
an ancient billboard sized menu,
streaked, overwritten, proclaims
circa nineteen-forties odd-cent prices.
In gusts of cold air
customers arrive and leave.
Some find a seat,
some leave with coffee
or greasy brown sacks.
Throughout my toast, eggs and coffee
the stool beside me stays empty.
It makes me nervous,
as if it's waiting for Rod Serling.
Wally Moll grew up on a small farm south of Des Moines. He is a lifelong resident of the Midwest and the father of three adult children. He has worked in Information Technology for over 30 years. Wally began writing poetry after meeting his muse in the fall of 2004. He currently resides with his muse in Indianola, Iowa.
She collapses on the couch after
trudging through a tough day at her work.
Her love sits by her, asking, “What’s wrong?”
His loving support not just a quirk.
He puts on his tool belt measuring
with accuracy, making precise cuts
then leveling and squaring the boards
so the doors meet perfectly when shut.
His carpentry has been perfect so
he is confused by her frustrated tears;
his cabinet is the best answer.
Her silent scream, “Open just your ears.”
He defends his perfect carpentry
wondering where his logic went south.
She reaches into his tool belt, finds
the duct tape and covers his mouth.
Mark Widrlechner has lived in Ames for about 30 years where he worked as a horticulturist and is now an affiliate faculty member at Iowa State University. About three years ago, shortly before his retirement, he unexpectedly began to write poetry after a very long hiatus. These verses are often inspired by the natural world, the Iowa landscape and travels further afield. Recently, Mark has assembled two collections of his poetry, "This Wildest Year" and "A Short Geography of Remembrance," which are available as e-books accessible through ISU's Parks Library at http://lib.dr.iastate.edu/ebooks/. Last April, he completed a collection of 145 poems inspired by the Tao Te Ching and the I Ching.
For the Love of Trees
dangle your feet in the warm river
let your soul escape gently through your toes
you will not be alone
feel the white bark in your hands
let your soul escape tingling through your fingertips
you will not be alone
see the fresh glade in your eyes
let your soul escape flying through your gaze
you will not be alone
walk its circumference on the bare ground
let your soul escape earthward through your strides
you will not be alone
for the love of trees
you will not be alone
Rebecca J. Crum
Rebecca Crum was born and raised along the Mississippi River in Wisconsin. She received an Honorable Mention in the 2013 Robert Frost International Poetry Contest for her poem My Children and her poem I was a Skater appeared in Lyrical Iowa 2013. Crum was a featured poet for Art on the Prairie in 2012 and 2013.
When my first son was born
he had his driver’s license
in one hand and
his high school diploma
in the other.
He was battling the
and the stomach flu
while he was flying to Europe
with his father
and visiting Wall Drug
When my daughter was born
she was college educated
and reading a copy of Shakespeare’s
Complete Works at the delivery
while singing in the city choir
just after falling from her
bicycle and cutting her first tooth.
Then my youngest son
was born measuring
over 6’ tall with
his toys needing to be put
away and his
school days behind him
as I caught him as he
crawled to me,
borrowed the car keys,
and jumped off the
porch steps after
They all held
out to me the
moment they were born.
grown into men and women
in one passing second
their mother’s blinking eyes.
As a botanist at Iowa State, Deborah Lewis has studied plants and nature scientifically for a number of decades. Writing poems, encouraged by poets in Third Stanza (a society of Ames area poets), has opened her eyes to seeing plants/nature in a new light, especially in recognizing relationships and patterns that she had long overlooked. This has led to similar observations of humans' activities and dynamic interactions, from family to strangers. Three of her poems have been published in Lyrical Iowa (2011, 2012 and 2013).
Bicyclist Balancing Pomegranate
Biker, beware, balancing the bonsai
pomegranate on narrow handlebars;
so enticingly lovely, small fruit forming,
perched in its blue, rectangular bowl.
This pomegranate was likely in bloom
on the spring equinox; beware! Do not
suffer Persephone’s fate, as she ate
Hades’ pomegranate’s six seeds of death.
Do not invite your own tragedy, tempted
to focus on balancing a pomegranate,
as you merge your bicycle into traffic’s
brisk flow in this season of new life.
Mary Teresa Fallon
Mary Teresa Fallon was a Sister of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary for 20 years. Her order, following the directives of Pope John XXIII to modernize, initiated new practices, including offering Sabbaticals. This opportunity allowed her to earn an MFA from the Writer's Workshop in Iowa City.
Her second book of poems, "Ritual of Waffles," is available at the Ames and Perry Public Libraries.
instruments of salvation:
eyes to see, ears to hear,
and heart, heart,
to give me
Lee Enslow is a founding member of Third Stanza Poets of Ames, Iowa, and a member of the Iowa Poetry Association. He has published 6 chapbooks, so far, through his publishing company, Treedom Press. He lives in Beaver, Iowa, with his wife, Della, and cats, Oreeo and Coco.
A Workday Morning Thought
Heading east, heading for work,
tooling down the highway, rising over a hill,
suddenly the sun dawns on me.
The autumnal equinox hits me right in the eye.
I pull down the shade, reach for my sunglasses,
and narrow my focus to the future.
But every day, a car with a canoe on top
to some river,
where he pushes in the canoe,
then paddles, floats, fishes,
beaches on sandbars,
and deeply inhales the river’s moist air –
all day long.
Meanwhile, the highway’s meridian points
to the exact center of the sun –
a heliotropic hypnosis.
If only I could turn this heap around
and actually use the sun to illuminate
the decisive colors,
the steady free-fall,
the sparkle of water.
Jean Hagert Dow
Jean Hagert Dow, visual artist writing poetry. Twice over to Iowa City Summer Writer's Workshop is the extent of my writing education. When I get started writing, the words just roll off my pen.
a tree can not choose its home
stands where planted
or where the seed falls
what ever nature sends
bend or split
Mary Kay Casey
Mary Kay Casey has been a member of a monthly Des Moines poetry salon for over 10 years. She has been writing poetry since college when everyone was writing poetry. Minimally published, Mary Kay writes for her own pleasure and if her poetry moves a reader, that is their pleasure.
Why set the dirty glass in the sink
for someone else to wash?
Why not rinse it,
sloshing the tap water around
and up the sides of the tumbler,
and then pouring it down the drain?
Or, let it soak on the counter,
until it gets a soapy bath with spoons?
Why not make it easier
than having to push
the edges of the wet dishcloth in hard circles,
deep into the glass with your careful fist,
so as not to be surprised
by the crack you are surely trying to avoid?
Why not do the thing,
that makes the next,
Dennis Maulsby's poems and short stories have appeared in print, on National Public Radio's Themes & Variations, and in online literary journals. His book of Vietnam War poetry, Remembering Willie won silver medal book awards from two national veterans organizations. His second book of poetry, Frissons, a collection of haiku was published in 2012. One of his poems received a 2011 Pushcart Prize nomination. He currently is working on draft manuscripts of a third book of poetry, a book of linked short stories, and a novel.
Isle Royale Hunted
Hidden in undergrowth, curious as death, yellow eyes watch.
Last night surrounded by the wash, wash, wash of lake water,
they loped through the pinewoods, their shadows feather-drifting across mossy ground — owl wings riding on whispers.
Across from the narrow beach, its rocks hot, green-algaed apples,
a boat is laced to the dock. The brown sugar, tung-oiled hull
lifts and tugs against mooring lines. A bare-chested,
blue-jeaned graybeard works on the cambered teak deck.
Muscles knotted, he furls sails dyed crimson
with Chinese ox-blood. The sun wrings bright spots
out of the water to dance over sail and man.
Scarred medic’s hands become mottled red, slick again
with wound-flowered flesh and fluids. His topaz eyes remember crawling among the wounded, bodies scattered
in bullet-cut elephant grass, jungle all around.
A ghost soldier’s back arches, flooded lungs and mouth gush.
A short-legged, wirehaired terrier peers over the bow,
wide black eyes curious marbles. He huffs,
nose wrinkles on and off, thinks big dog thoughts.
His jaws open in a yawn of pink tongue, crenellated teeth.
The dog imagines himself hustling down the island’s
dark, paw-soft paths, scents of wild things songs in his nostrils.
Man and dog sense wolves in their dreams. In jungle
and pines, quick gray-black grinning muzzles seek them.
Printed in the The Briarcliff Review, 2010
Nominated for a 2011 Pushcart Prize.
Marilyn Baszczynski, originally from Ontario, Canada, teaches and tutors French in Central Iowa. She has won awards for her poetry in NFSPS and Iowa Poetry Association contests. Gyuri, a work based on the experiences of Hungarian refugees, will appear in 2014 the Geste Series published by Whistling Shade Publications. Her poetry has appeared in The Aurorean, Lyrical Iowa, Tipton Poetry Journal, Midwest Poetry Review, Sweet Annie & Sweet Pea Review and online at Mused --the BellaOnline Literary Review, Loch Raven Review and Poetry.com. Marilyn is currently vice-president of the Iowa Poetry Association.
Visiting the Venusta
Here it is, you call, crouching
beneath a gnarled oak along
the pasture trail.
In the mottled morning light
a minuscule creature poses and
sways on glints of threads; its green
legs glow en pointe, silver and yellow
cigar-abdomen held en ballon
balancing in the breeze.
Venusta orchard spider, you whisper.
Beautiful. I lean in close,
barely breathing, feel
a supplication for grace.
Your eyes widen, search,
anticipate a performance.
A small black fly blunders in—trembles,
prompts the grand jete
sticky pas de deux.
I shudder off this opalescent
trance and start to leave yet
you linger, your view filled with orbs
caught in the last
dew drops of matins,
your silhouette in genuflection.
BellaOnline Literary Review, summer, 2011
Shelly Reed Thieman
Shelly Reed Thieman is a member of the Iowa Poetry Association and Omega poetry group. She studied creative writing at Drake University and is native to Des Moines. Shelly has an innate eye for beauty and as an artist, feels deep responsibility for sharing the exquisite, yet burlesque terrain of observation and emotion through written word. Her poetry has been published extensively nationally and internationally, both online and in print.
I am not gone
like an earring in a lake
or the family Labrador; I am the old tree
with heavy red fists, apple crisp and cobbler,
the glistening orbs my granddaughter
bends and bobs for each September.
I am the breeze rumpling curtains
while children nap and October
piles herself like laundry at the window.
I am the pumpkin candle flame, the table
linen pressed and spread for holiday.
I am lime-green eyes, the pink smile
in a finger painting on the office desk.
I am dandelion tuft floating above the lawn,
the firefly who becomes a glowing ring
on a small hand twirling sparklers in July.
I am white clouds forming over the river,
silver fish caught and held before release.
I am rouge blended on cheeks of the sun;
I rise in the bedroom and set in the kitchen
when the cat returns for milk and a lap.
I am stanzas read by the fire, leather
journals opening in a pair of hands
night after night like moon flower.
I have not passed; I am quiet language
worn like a shawl and spoken.
Maggie Westvold was born in Ames IA, grew up in Story County and has lived in Ames for 40+ years. A wife, mother and grandmother, she retired from state government and writing environmental documents. Maggie is a charter member of Third Stanza Poets, Ames, and her poetry is inspired by Jane Kenyon, Ted Kooser and Michael Carey. Her poems have been published for 12 years in 'Lyrical Iowa' and recently in 50Haikus. Maggie invites you to join TS Poets who meet on the 3rd Wednesday each month at 6pm at City Hall in Ames.
Beyond the window a low rock cluster, a pie pan
perched for rain water, for twittering chickadees to sip. From her portrait in red on the wall,
eyes like dark diamonds shone
as if she’d soon speak.
He shared thirty-four years of shoebox photos,
her poems in praise of his passion for roses, for bass,
seven love letters scripted on soft pink linen
she’d tucked in the folds of the navy dress
he most loved to see her in.
He sang her name for hours,
let the sound of her roll cross his lips,
TommaLou, TommaLou, TommaLou,
lifted strands from her necklace tree,
lapis, pearls and malachite,
his gifts for his precious gem.
He listened to my sadness and my joy,
let a sister-friend lament, in harmony,
with the one who knew her best,
loved her most.
Carolyn S. Briggs
Carolyn S. Briggs holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arkansas. Her 2002 memoir This Dark World: A Memoir of Salvation Found and Lost (BloomsburyUSA, 2002) has been reissued as Higher Ground: A Memoir of Salvation Found and Lost (Rowman & Littlefield, 2011). She wrote the screenplay adaptation of the film Higher Ground (Sony Pictures Classics, 2011). She has published work in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Religion Dispatches, and Salon. Carolyn is an associate professor of English at Marshalltown Community College in Iowa.
Lazarus: Concerning Etiquette
For every funeral he attended afterwards;
he felt himself the main attraction
and grew to accept the gentle tracking
of mourners targeting his presence.
Invariably, faces of ash trained on his
with no apology for naked scrutiny.
He never knew quite what to do;
his features seemed to take on life
of their own; his eyelids slid lushly
closed and opened in slow motion winks.
His mouth kept twisting back into a half grin
he had to fight to pull back down.
He gave his best shot at lamentation,
wailing with his brothers on either side,
but his cry would hold no pain The sorrow
beaded up like water on a hot rock
and skittered away.
I am a poet, a dreamer, and a stargazer. Mamam, Farm Wife, Writer, Dreamer, and Adjunct History and English Professor. Apprentice Beekeeper, Kitchen Scientist/Inventor, and Orchardist (I can make up words, see above profession). I'm learning to play fiddle, though slowly and with much difficulty. I write about landscapes and rural living, motherhood and cooking.
Honor of Thieves
The woods and rural prairies
are full of thieves, predators, and vampires.
The mink tears off the chicken’s head and sucks the blood out,
tossing aside the unwanted carcass in the chicken coop.
The fox, winter hungry and manged,
attacked our lambing ewe,
tearing the baby in half before it was
even out of the birth canal,
my children watching not thirty feet away.
Feral cats roam and take down anything they please,
the blue jays, robins, and red cardinals
left as gifts on our doorstep.
Great Horned owls ate three of our farm cats and puppies.
Feral dogs, coyotes, making buffet of our flocks,
right before we planned to harvest and feast ourselves.
Each new bloodshed and violence, each turning of the moon,
bringing something else to the prairie soil.
Walking back to the farm house,
my body torn from hauling thawed water
in broken buckets,
I glance back at the pasture and timber.
I make our home here
in the tall rustling silk of the prairie
and the darkness of the timber
and moonless prairies
and the devastating winds.
This is the landscape of my heart.
Having studied architecture, and now teaching at Iowa State University in the Department of Architecture and Bachelor of Design program, poetry is a hobby for James Spiller. For James, poetry attempts to engage what cannot be visualized from his day job. Poetry engages very similar issues to architecture - measure, rhythm, emotion, narrative, and space – only with words instead of material.
drops slash the windshield
topping twice the limit
to be rotated again
flats turn rough
families pass backwards
but we fly on
seeing streaks of eyes
memories of past roads
none as arid as this
scouring for a place to piss
Elaine Dailey Mattingly was born and raised in east central Iowa's Grant Wood country, moved to Chicago, came back, then settled in Newton, Iowa in 1997. She holds degrees in French Literature and Business from Cornell College with additional coursework from the Universities of Iowa and Iowa State in English and Education, emphasis creative writing. Her poetry is published in Lyrical Iowa, Wapsipinicon Almanac, Spoilage, 50 Haikus, and University of Iowa's Daily Palette. Elaine also wrote and co-produced Sugar Grove Presents dinner entertainment series in central Iowa from 2005-2010. She received Iowa Arts Council funding to produce a full-length original musical (book/libretto) with music by her composer/pianist husband John Mattingly. The public education documentary Trees In Any Language (a project of the nonprofit Trees Forever) was nominated for three Iowa Film awards (including Elaine as writer/producer). She continues to write for page and stage and enjoys performing in the lively central Iowa spoken word and slam poetry scenes.
Couldn’t drive fifty-five:
points to make, lists to
tame, so much play in that
steering wheel, enough
to spiral a body away
from gravel roads and corn
Who really yields when
merging onto the fast
lane? Fifty-five felt
One New Yorker,
an Escort and two
Taurus’ later, too
much to savor. Can’t
and hear the cry of
cicadas come autumn,
the rise and emptying of
rivers, the cosmos
disclosing the arc of
all things, nor the
revelation that I am
to drive no faster
just to spend the
rest of this life