Slice of Life: Things to Do If You’re a Cabin


Last year, a friend gave me a bracelet engraved with these words:

“You only fail if you stop writing”

Although I haven’t been posting too much recently, I have been writing drafts and snippets of poems for Laura Shovan’s Found Word Poetry project. These words, from “34 Books by Women of Color to Read This Year,” were last Thursday’s  prompt: unicorn, cabin, glut, cousin, fever, sing, kitchen, flee, perch, & sour. Refuge was the bonus word.

When I first read these words, I thought how easy it would be to write a poem using them. After all, my in-laws had a cabin on a lake in Maine where we spent many happy summers when my children were young. I was confident the poem would write itself.

Loons on the lake.
Loons on the lake.


Sometimes it seems that if I have too many ideas, it’s hard to wrangle them into some sort of shape. When this happens, I usually set the piece aside, move on to other ideas, and let the tangled mess percolate for a few days. Sometimes the idea is ready, but not always. Other times, I have to find the right form for my words. That’s what happened with this poem. After reading Elaine Magliaro’s gorgeous new book, Things to Do (Chronicle Books, 2017), I knew how to write this poem.

Things to do if you’re a cabin:

Perch on the edge of a fish-filled lake.
Wrap yourself in weathered red siding
and dream of summer,
when a glut of cousins
flee the heat and seek refuge
in the shade of soaring pines.

Remember the
mouth-watering aromas
floating out of the kitchen
as Grandma bakes her famous
sour cream peach pie.
Strain to hear whispered stories
of knights and unicorns at bedtime,
then listen to loons sing
their haunting lullaby.

© Catherine Flynn, 2017

A glut of cousins, not quite ready for their bedtime story.
A glut of cousins, not quite ready for their bedtime story.

Thank you, Laura, for once again being so generous with your time and talents.  Thank you also to StaceyBetsyBeth, KathleenDeb, MelanieLisa and Lanny for creating this community and providing this space for teachers and others to share their stories each Tuesday. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

Poetry Friday: Words


I couldn’t keep up with life, work, and Laura Shovan’s Found Poetry Project, “10 Words Found in the News” this week. A few drafts are hiding in my notebook, and for now, that’s where they’ll stay. Thursday’s words, rural, warm, digester, dumps, compost, hanging, cartel, burial, peels, scraps, were culled by Ruth Lehrer from “The Compost King of New York” in the New York Times. They appealed to me immediately. My grandmother had a compost heap in her back yard for fertilizing her garden, and I initially went down that path. But, as often happens, another possibility presented itself.

bubble up,
seeking my attention.
Some form a cartel,
hanging together
to demand a high
price for their use.

One or two peel away,
shimmering with possibility.

The rest are buried,
dumped along with
scraps of stories
and lines of abandoned poems
to a compost heap in some
rural part of my brain.

In the warmth and darkness
of my unconscious,
as if in a digester,
they ferment,
waiting their turn
to bubble up
to the surface
and bloom.

© Catherine Flynn, 2017


Please be sure to visit Jone MacCulloch at Check it Out for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: Truth, the Last Word


Once again, I am sharing a poem written in response to Laura Shovan’s Found Poetry Project. This year’s theme is “10 Words Found in the News.” For Thursday’s inspiration, Mary Lee Hahn chose Elizabeth Warren’s words from a CNN interview after she was banned from speaking on the Senate floor by Mitch McConnell. “They can shut me up, but they can’t change the truth,” Warren proclaimed.

As soon as I saw these words, Mary Lee’s post on Nikki Grimes’s amazing new poetry collection, One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance (Bloomsbury, 2017) came to mind. Using the Golden Shovel form, Grimes uses lines from and/or entire poems written by giants of the Harlem Renaissance to create new verses.  Each line in the new poem ends with a word from the original verse. (Be sure to read Mary Lee’s post for a much clearer explanation. Better yet, get yourself a copy of One Last Word and read Grimes’s note about the form. The poetry, both the original poems and the new poems they inspired, is breathtaking. Warren’s statement seemed to be tailor made for a Golden Shovel poem. Here is my attempt at the form.


For more information about climate change, watch this video from Yale Climate Connections.

Please be sure to visit Katie at The Logonauts for the Poetry Friday Roundup.


Poetry Friday: “Worldview”


This poem was written in response to Laura Shovan’s Found Poetry Project. This year’s theme is “10 Words Found in the News.” Laura’s goal is to “encourage everyone to look at that language as a poet. We can create found poems and word art to reflect what’s happening in our country and world.” Today’s words, worldview, help, shareholders, safer, protections, dishonest, media, replace, business, and Messiah, are from NPR’s February 1st story about Rex Tillerson’s approval as Secretary of State.

"Earthrise" Image Credit: NASA
“Earthrise” by the astronauts of Apollo 8. Image Credit: NASA

Let the worldview
we carry within us
be this:

We are all shareholders,
caretakers of the abundance
of our planet.

We owe her our protection,
to keep our water safe,
to help our neighbors in need.

This is the business of living.

Don’t dwell on the media’s howls
of dishonest, troubled souls.
Replace fear with love,
and find the power of your Messiah within,
in the light of your heart.

© Catherine Flynn, 2017

Please be sure to visit Penny Parker Klosterman here for the Poetry Friday Roundup.