Friday, August 30, 2013


Hello and Happy Poetry Friday. Be sure to visit the every-inspiring Tara at A Teaching Life for Roundup.

Today is the final post in my Valerie Worth summer series. Thanks so much for reading! It's been such fun to share her work with all of you. We'll revisit Valerie with a "fall things" post later in the year, but for now I want to focus on some poems that I found unusual in subject matter, which automatically made them stand out. (Good tip for we who like to write poetry... go for the weird!)


Never wondering
What shape to take,
But with a
Slow shrug
Making a start
In any direction,
And then following,
Flowing wholeheartedly
Into the fluid
Mold of the moment.

- Valerie Worth

What to say about amoeba? What an inspiring way to live: "Flowing wholeheartedly/ Into the fluid/ Mold of the moment."


Stuffed away into
An old pillowcase

Dragged forth again
In crumpled clods,

Torn to wash windows
Or tie up tomato plants,

Thrown out at last--
Poor sad gray wads

That once were faithful
                                        Flannel pajamas,

                                        Favorite pink-
                                       Flowered underpants.

                                      - Valerie Worth

As a seamstress, I can attest to the glory and usefulness of rags, otherwise known as "scraps" or a quilter's stash"... love me some rags. :)

telephone poles

Close by,
They're stolid
Stumps, sweating
Black creosote,
Scarred with
Bolts and tin
Numbers, clumsy
Old dolts
Of lumber;

But wandering
Away, they
Lean into
The cloud's
Drift, the
Swallow's slant,
The graceful
Influence of
Grass; and
Lifting up
Their long
Electric lines,
They hand
Them on
And on, in
Gestures of

- Valerie Worth

Most people would say telephone poles are an eyesore, but no, Valerie worth gives them "Exquisite/ Gossamer." I will never look at another telephone pole without thinking of that bit of unexpected wonder.

soap  bubble

The soap bubble's
Great soft sphere
Bends out of shape
On the air,
Leans, round again,
Rises, shivering, heavy,
A planet revolving
Hollow and clear,
Mapped with
Rainbows, streaming,
Curled: seeming
A world too splendid
To snap, dribble,
And disappear.

- Valerie Worth

How great is "Mapped with/ Rainbows" ?? Perfect!

*All photos today courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Do YOU have any  poems about odd things? Tell me!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


For as long as we've been married (22 years!) Paul and I have reserved Saturday night as our date night. Usually this involves supper and a movie, as it did last Saturday night. We ate at P.F. Chang's and walked down the gorgeous outdoor staircase that leads from B&N to the fountain (and Sur la Table!) below.... and we took this picture of the streetlamps just coming alive in the darkening sky.

We mosied along, in no particular hurry, as our movie didn't start until 8 pm. Or so we thought... when we got to the theater lobby, the guy said, no, the paper was WRONG! Sadness. We were not able to see Woody Allen's BLUE JASMINE. Maybe next week! (Why oh why didn't we cross check on Fandango? Sigh.)

Oh! Of course I always check the B&N shelves for my books. No sign of Whit, but I did find LEAVING GEE'S BEND face-out on the "New" shelf. Three and a half years old and still new... gotta love it!

Monday, August 26, 2013


I've just completed an extensive round of edits on my next collection of poems for adults. It's entitled THE SKY BETWEEN US. Rather fitting for my "sky" year, don't you think?!

To give you an idea of what the book is about, here's a word cloud I created from the draft before this one:

Those of you familiar with my work will recognize themes of love, loss and longing... and this collection is strongly rooted in ocean and forest and (yes!) sky. 

The collection actually started in response to photographs from the National Park system archives (originally titled INTO THE WILD CATHEDRAL), but after a number of editors took it to acquisitions meetings only to have it rejected, I took their advice and pulled it away from that photographs, opened it up and let it become what it was always meant to be. 

Don't you love when that happens? 

More on this as the January, 2014 release date approaches!

Friday, August 23, 2013


Hello and happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Betsy at I Think in Poems for Roundup.

So, farm animals. I may be live in the suburbs, and I may lovelovelove the energy of big cities, but my heart is and always will be in the country. At the start of our marriage, my husband and I tried on the country life with 40 acres, a garden, a chicken coop and goats. Alas, as soon as the children began to arrive, the country girl gave way to the city comforts. I love where we live now, with all its conveniences and don't have any desire to return to country living full-time. I do, however, love to visit! These Valerie Worth poems gave me an opportunity to do just that:


In the stall's gloom
His back, curved
Like a high sofa,
Turns on unseen
Legs, looms closer,
Until his long
Head forms above
The door, his face
Of thin silk over
Bone: to be stroked
Carefully, like
Fine upholstery
On a hard chair.

- Valerie Worth

scene from the movie
There's never in the history of the world been a more horse-loving girl than I was. I knew everything there was to know about horse. I lived and breathed and dreamed and hoped horses. Some of the best hours of my life have been spent in the company of Daisy, Starfire, Rusty, Honey, Cherry, Cinnamon and her foal, Sugar. I've never met a horse book I didn't like, and if I could have traded places with Alec Ramsey on that deserted island with the Black? Oh, I would have, snake and seaweed and sunburn and all. One of these days I'm going to write (another) horse book. (Pretty much all my childhood writing centered around horses!)


The spotted cat hops
Up to a white radiator-cover
As warm as summer, and there,

Between pots of green leaves growing,
By a window of cold panes showing
Silver of snow thin across the grass,

She settles slight neat muscles
Smoothly down within
Her comfortable fur

Slips in the ends, front paws,
Tail, until she is readied,
Arranged, shaped for sleep.

- Valerie Worth

For the love of cats! I can't remember a time in my life when I didn't have a cat. Our current cat-residents are named Maggie (for my paternal grandmother) and Bobby (for my mother-in-law, whose name was Bobbie). 


When the neat white
Duck walks like a toy
Out of the water
On yellow rubber-skinned feet,

And speaks wet sounds,
Hardly opening
His round-tipped wooden
Yellow-painted beak,

And wags his tail,
Flicking the last
Glass water-drops
From his flat china back,

Then we would like
To pick him up, take
Him home with us, put him
Away, on a shelf, to keep.

- Valerie Worth

I have fed lots of ducks in my day, and geese. I can't think of a better way to use up the last of a loaf of white bread! A book that often comes to mind is David Shannon's DUCK ON A BIKE. Leave it to a duck to start a farmyard trend. :)


The pig is bigger
Than we had thought
And not so pink,
Fringed with white
Hairs that look
Gray, because while
They say a pig is clean,
It is not always; still
We like this huge, cheerful,
Rich, soft-bellied beast --
It wants to be comfortable,
And does not care much
How the thing is managed.

- Valerie Worth

Of course, who can think of a pig without thinking of Wilbur in CHARLOTTE'S WEB? Also, I was born in the Year of the Pig, which is considered good fortune. For a long time I was a bit annoyed that I should get "Pig" when I would have chosen a different animal for myself. But, you know, I've grown to love this about myself.


The cow
Across the grass
Like a mountain
Toward us;
Her hipbones
Like sharp
Of stone,
Her hoofs
Like dropped
Too late
She stops.

- Valerie Worth

I can't think of cows without thinking of my mama. During her childhood she was very involved in 4-H and raised both beef and dairy cattle. Her prize-winning dairy cow was a Jersey cow named Penny. I love this picture of my mom and Penny(with her 4-H sponsor and a slew of awards!):


The tractor rests
In the shed,
Dead or asleep,

But with high
Hind wheels
Held so still

We know
It is only waiting,
Ready to leap--

Like a heavy

- Valerie Worth

Okay, so this isn't a living farm animal, but it's pretty essential to farm life... and it can be something of a beast. My father has taken some amazing photos of old tractors, most recently in North Dakota (where he lives). Here's one I like a lot:

How do YOU feel about farms and farm life and farm animals?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


One of the great things about living in the south is how the growing season is so very long. Just yesterday, my dear friend Pat brought me more bounty:

homemade salsa!


   farm fresh eggs! (don't you just love that teeny tiny one?!)

here it is, a bit closer up:


green beans! (not one, but 3 piles as big as this one!)

...and that's not even counting the many tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and watermelons (oh LORD, the watermelons this year!) my brother-in-law Carl has given our family. :) 

Eating is SO MUCH MORE FUN this time of year.

Monday, August 19, 2013


Hurray for back-to-school!

While there are a lot of things I will miss about summer -- like waiting around until late afternoon to decide what to eat for supper -- and then dashing to the market for what I need -- fresh starts are always exciting. And this year I had tons of fun clothes shopping with the boys. I took each boy individually... and each picked clothes with lots of color! This is a pleasant departure from the black/white trend long favored by two of the three boys. Here is a sampling:

One great thing about shopping with boys is if they like the shirt/jeans/whatever, they like it! They tend to be pretty decisive, which is not what I hear from my friends who shop with their daughters. :)

I love it that my boys are not all that concerned with labels. We can shop at discount stores and thrift stores -- though this year Urban Outfitters was the store of choice for our college-age son. Also, there's not a lot of time spent in the dressing room. Once we know what size, it's just a matter of picking the colors. Stress-free! Easy! Fun!

I encourage the kids to try things they normally wouldn't, and to choose things that make them feel comfortable and good about themselves. One son came home with a couple of funky bow-ties. Like I said: fun!

Friday, August 16, 2013


Well, hello there. How did it get to be Poetry Friday again?? Lisa has Roundup at Steps and Staircases.

Here, I am continuing my series of Valerie Worth poems, which, could, if I wanted, go on FOREVER. Such wonderful, inspiring work! Alas, I will be winding it up the last Friday of the month and moving on to something new for September. I mean, isn't that what September is for? New and sparkly things? If you're thinking "school," then yes, new and sparkly, indeed. My guys go back next Monday, which means I will once again transform from lazy-morning-pajama-mom to fierce carpool queen. Hey, somebody's gotta do it!

And now, without further ado: simple machines!

magnifying glass

Small grains
In a stone
Grow edges
That twinkle:

The smooth
Moth's wing
Sprouts feathers
Like shingles;

My thumb
is wrapped
In rich
Satin wrinkles.

- Valerie Worth

Are you familiar with The Private Eye inquiry method which utilizes a jeweler's loupe to change perspective and challenge you to go deep into analogies? That's what's happening in this poem... and it's one of my favorite things to do with nature items. I also love to use this method during poetry workshops in the classroom. Wonderful, mind-popping stuff!

This maple leaf photo is one my brother took after I asked him specifically to create some photos that magnified nature items. Pretty brilliant, huh? And gorgeous!
photo by MicaJon Dykes


This small
Flat horseshoe
Is sold for
A toy: we are
Told that it
Will pick up pins
And it does, time
After time; later
It lies about,
Getting its red
Paint chipped, being
Offered pins less
Often, until at
Last we leave it
Alone: then
It leads its own
Life, trading
Secrets with
The North Pole,
Invisible messages
From the sun.

- Valerie Worth

My husband has got to be the sweetest man on the planet. He often sings or emails or texts to me the lyrics of love songs. Lots of times I will pick up the phone and it will be just music as he's driving. One he often sends is an old song by Walter Egan w/ Stevie Nicks called "Magnet and Steel." He'll write: "you are the magnet, and I am steel." SWEET.


The hose
Can squeeze
Water to
A silver rod
That digs
Hard holes
In the mud,

Or, muzzled
Tighter by
The nozzle,
Can rain
Chill diamond
Across the yard,

Or fanned
out fine,
Can hang
A silk
Over soft fog.

- Valerie Worth

It pretty much broke my heart when news reports declared hose water unsafe to drink. I can remember many many MANY times as a kid dashing from the woods or the horses or the trampoline to refresh with the hose pipe. I mean, who wanted to go inside, ever? It would be like breaking the spell to cross the threshold from heat to comfort, adventure to containment...  

A new pail,
Straight, tight,
Brushed to a cold
Silver shine,

Soon learns
Other ways:
Once filled with
Oats or ashes,

Grayed by rain,
Its handle
Bent, its
Bottom dented,

Grown peaceful
And plain,
it becomes
A real pail.

- Valerie Worth

Funny thing: I pretty much never say "pail." It's always "bucket." Which of course is a bumpier word, with more dents than a pail. One never thinks of a bucket as new and shiny... always like the second part of this poem. Which term do you prefer?


Only a litter
Of bright bits,
Tipped and tumbled
Over each other
Until they huddle
Untidily all
In one corner,

Where their
Reflections wake
And break into
Crystals, petals,
Stars: only
The tricks of
Mirrors, but

Still miracles,
Like snowflakes
Shaken from jumbled
Clouds, or earth's
Rough muddle
jostled to
jewels and flowers.

- Valerie Worth

I've always been drawn to kaleidoscopes and stained glass and colored glass or jars on the windowsill. What magic, that mad swirl of color and shape! And so personal, too. Private. A secret world. I like that, too.

coat hangers

Open the closet
And there they
Wait, in a
Trim, obedient row:

Stirred by the
Air, they only
Touch wires with
A vacant jangle;

But try to
Remove just one,
And they suddenly
Clash and cling,

And fling them-
Selves to the
Floor in an
Inextricable tangle.

- Valerie Worth

Ever wonder who invented the coat hanger? I sort of can't imagine life without them. Of course their use is not limited simply to clothing. Check out 18 uses for a wire coat hanger. I do love to upcycle....

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


A few weeks ago I took two of my favorite teens to a windchime making workshop at ArtPlay here in Birmingham. The flyer said to bring along whatever household things you'd like to include in your windchime... nuts, bolts, keys, spoons, anything.

I went on a search and turned up all sorts of treasures! ArtPlay also provided beads and tubes from a chainlink fence and various thrift store finds, like pot lids and colanders and even a toy zylophone. (The instructor used a hammer popped off the color pieces.) All you really need is some discards, a drill, some sort of twine or fishing line, and your imagination.

I made one that includes things near and dear to me: glass bottle, spool of tread, tiny book, picture frame, key... it makes me think of my mama. (Obviously for indoor display rather than outdoor.)

And here's what the kids created:

Cool, huh? I'm collecting things now to make a few more, probably for Christmas gifts. :)

Monday, August 12, 2013


A few years ago I helped organize a "Random Acts of Art" series of events in Birmingham. Of course, my contributions revolved around poetry: spontaneous poetry readings, poems left on car windshields, and children's events.

For one of the children's events, I brought a homemade Velcro Poetry board. I printed, laminated and attached velcro to create little word tiles, in the vein of the magnetic poetry kits sold worldwide. But I wanted a BIG board, with words easy for small fingers to manipulate. I loved the result, and the event was loads of fun.

Well. The other day I was doing some cleaning in our basement -- only because it has rained and rained and RAINED in these parts, and all of a sudden we had some puddles -- and I saw that Velcro Poetry board sitting all lonely, its only poems dust and cobwebs. I brought it upstairs and cleaned it up. I mounted it in the hallway between our kitchen and dining room, right in front of the doorway to the laundry room. In other words, I move it to the place where I, on occasion, pop up the ironing board and press the wrinkles out of my favorite little dresses and skirts.

And oh my, what a difference this has made! I rearrange words as I iron. It's brilliant, and I can't believe I didn't think of it years and years ago. Living my poem...

Other inspirations on that wall include a found poem by Robyn Hood Black, a still life of a pair of scissors by middle son, a pen-and-ink drawing of a giraffe by youngest son, an E.B. Lewis print that looks like Ludelphia given to me by Lindsey Leavitt and the very first birthday gift I gave my husband (art with love quotes by moi). It almost makes you want to iron, doesn't it?! :)

Friday, August 9, 2013


Hello and happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit amazing poet-teacher Mary Lee at A Year of Reading for Roundup!

And now, for more Valerie Worth! (See sidebar for previous posts in this series.) Today's theme is the beach, because who doesn't love the beach? Actually I can think of a few people... and I have my own peculiarities about the beach. Read on!


With sparks,
With flames,

The dark
To cling
And shine

Until the
Slow tide

Not even
What stars

Even so,

- Valerie Worth

I find starfish so inspiring. Their ability to regenerate -- I mean, what a great metaphor for all the ways we can grow and change and rebuild our lives after hardship.


The dead crab
Lies still,
Limp on dry sand,

All strength to crawl
Gone from his
Hard shell--

But he keeps a shape
Of old anger
Curved along his claws.

- Valerie Worth

One of my favorite memories from taking kids to the beach is going out after dark with flashlights to spot crabs. 

And THAT reminds me of a date I went on in high school: the boy went to a more rural school than I did, and he picked me up in a pick-up truck. We went to a dance at his high school, and afterwards we went spotting for deer. That's right: spotting for deer. This involved driving into a pasture and shining the high beams toward the edge of the woods. Sure enough, before long, we saw red eyes and deer leaping along the treeline. The boy I was with was pretty excited. It was a neat experience -- kind of like fishing, with all the waiting -- but that boy wasn't the boy for me.


The kite, kept
Indoors, wears
Dread paper
On tight-
Boned wood,
Pulls at the tied
Cord only
By its weight –

But held
To the wind,
It is another thing,
Turned strong,
Struck alive,
Wild to be torn
Away from the hand
Into high air:

Where it rides
A small, clear
Wing, having
Nothing at all
To do
With string.

- Valerie Worth

There's something about a kite, isn't there? Here's a pic of the kite we flew earlier this year in Destin, Florida.


After that tight
Choke of sock
And blunt
Weight of shoe,

The foot can feel
Clover's green

And the fine
Of gentle grass,

And the cool
Of the earth

- Valerie Worth

One of my kids hates the feel of sand between his toes (or on his skin anywhere). And while this poem is about bare feet in grass, when I think about being barefooted, I think about the beach. I mean, shoes are pointless on the beach! And me personally? I love the feel of sand. Especially wet sand or cool night sand.


My father's mother
Picked up the shell
And turned it about
In her hand that was
Crinkled, glossy and
Twined with veins,
The fingers rumpled
Into soft roses
At the knuckles, and
She said, “Why did
That little creature
Take so much trouble
To be beautiful?”

- Valerie Worth

That question at the end is one that we could ask of so many things in the world... so much beauty for no reason at all except to be beautiful. And don't we need beauty?! It reminds me of the great John Muir quote:

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.”


The sun
Is a leaping fire
Too hot
To go near,

But it will still
Lie down
In warm, yellow squares
On the floor

Like a flat
Quilt, where
The cat can curl
And purr.

- Valerie Worth

Again, a poem not set at the beach but one I can't separate from the beach. While I prefer shade any day and love the beach at night far better than during the day, the is sun something, isn't it? I recently enjoyed this article about a large coronal hole near the sun's north pole. And who can resist the "warm, yellow squares" in this poem?

Wishing all of you warm yellow squares... summer vacation will be over in these parts in a week and a half. Too fast, I say. Too fast!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


fishy quilt

butterfly quilt

"dog" side of  cat/dog quilt

"cat" side of cat/dog quilt

Two of these were gifts, but I decided to keep the cat/dog quilt. :) If I were to make a quilt for you, what theme would you want it to be??

Monday, August 5, 2013



You can walk all around this great big world
or climb up mountains to tread on high.
But never, in a ga-zillion steps,
can you walk out from under
the big blue

- Kelly Bills

Kelly Bills writes poetry for children and the kid inside us all. While attending the MTSU Writer's Loft Program, she stumbled upon concrete/visual poetry and has been working to build a collection of her own. Her most recent project is adapting famous classic verse into a concrete format for children– a visual translation of sorts to reintroduce the classics with a twist! Her website is

Thank you, Kelly, for sharing your wonderful poem with us today! Do you have a sky poem or pic? I would love to feature it here. Email me at irene at irenelatham dot com.

Friday, August 2, 2013


Hello and happy Poetry Friday! Margaret has Roundup at Reflections on the Teche. I'm back with more Valerie Worth poems. For other posts in the series, please see left side-bar. I'll be continuing this series through the end of August. So much Valerie to love!

Today I want to share poems about wild critters. Not zoo animals, not pets and not birds. Animals you might find hiding in the woods or in the backyard or garden.


sometimes, around
Moonrise, a wraith
Drifts in through
The open window:
A vague cold taint
Of rank weeds
And phosphorescent
Mold, a hint
Of obscure dank
Root hollows and
Mist-woven paths,
Pale toadstools and
Dark-reveling works:
As the skunk walks
by, half vapor half
Shade, diffusing
The night's uncanny
Essence and atmosphere.

- Valerie Worth

At a library summer reading program presented by Auburn University's raptor experts, I learned that owls -- which don't have a sense of smell (who needs it when you've got those eyes?!) -- are not opposed to eating skunk. Interestingly, they leave uneaten the part of the skunk that produces and stores their awful odor.

One of my favorite Gary Paulsen stories is from his book WINTERDANCE when he talks about when he first was training for the Iditarod, he was advised to run the dogs at night. What he didn't anticipate was how often the team would run up on a (nocturnal) skunk! After he and his team were blasted by a few skunks in one night, he came home and his wife said he better go sleep in the kennel with the dogs. :) It was that night that he realized that in order to become one with his team, he actually did need to sleep with them. So, yay for skunks and the lessons they bring!


Find places
In places,

A dark
Hall behind
The hall,

Odd rooms
That other
Rooms hide:

A world
The wide world,

And space enough,
Even in
Small spaces.

- Valerie Worth

I've never been one to jump up on a chair because of a mouse. They aren't exactly sanitary, but they don't freak me out. A few years ago I was at a writing retreat that was located at a rustic mountain resort, and the writer in the room beside me had a mouse scurrying along the floorboards. She came to my room for help. I grabbed a towel and intended to throw it over the little vagrant and carry it outside. Well, as is often the case with a mouse, there was more than one vagrant. That writer ended up staying the night in my room.


The turtle
Does little
But sleep
On a stone,
In his glass

is he bored
By it all?
Does he hope
Will happen,
After a hundred

Or is it enough
To wake
In the shade
Of his

- Valerie Worth

Mmmmm, naps. I am one happy gal when the day affords me a nap. I don't need a lot -- just half an hour. Preferably right after lunch. Then I am refreshed and happy and ready to tackle the rest of the day. Alas, not all days are nap days.

Who else loves "shawled" in this poem??


The feet of the
Do no patter
As he passes
Like the clever
Quick paws
Of the squirrel,
But they ripple,
Stepping one pair
After another
And another,
And they travel
With his whole
Long caravan
Of bristles
Down the brown
Twig, to a
Greener midsummer

- Valerie Worth

One of my favorite childhood memories is sitting in the grass with my sister, caterpillars crawling around on our arms or legs. Such a lovely little tickle those soft bristles bring!


The slug
Slides sly
By night,

To nibble
The new
Green shoot,

To riddle
The weak
White root --

By all
But the moon,

Who smiles
On his scenes
Of crime,

And silvers
His trails
Of slime.

- Valerie Worth

Slugs always bring to mind Sarah Campbell's wonderful book WOLFSNAIL


There is more
To a mosquito
Than her sting
Or the way she sings
In the ear:

There are her wings
As clear
As windows,
There are the sleek
Velvets on her back;

She bends six
Slender knees,
And her eye, that
Sees the swatter,

- Valerie Worth

There is more to a mosquito, indeed! I really love it when a poem approaches a pest from a non-pest direction. I mean, I detest mosquitoes. They thrive here in humid Alabama, and can absolutely ruin outdoor activities. But this poem! It makes me see the mosquito as wondrous and beautiful. (You still won't find me without a can of bug spray, though!)