National Poetry Month: Reciprocity

This month I am writing poems in response to the ideas, connections and echoes between All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis, edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson and Rooted: Life at the Crossroads of Science, Nature, and Spirit, by Lyanda Lynn Haupt.

At its heart, reciprocity is the idea that all beings, plant and animal, “facilitate one another in beneficial ways,” Janine Benyus writes in her essay “Reciprocity” (All We Can Save, p. 9). For several years, we have been witnessing reciprocity in action outside our kitchen window. The stump pictured below is all that’s left of a beech tree that died. Worried that it could fall on our house, my husband and son cut it down, but never got around to digging out the stump. I’m glad they left it to finish its natural cycle.


Red-crested pileated woodpeckers
Excavate the stump of an old beech,
Carving cavities, feasting on
Insects who’ve settled inside the
Pitted, pulpy wood, all that
Remains of a towering tree, where a multitude of
Organisms still thrive, a
Inextricably intertwined, supporting,
Tending, nourishing one another for
Years to come.

Draft © Catherine Flynn, 2022

Previous NPM posts:

Day 2: Kith and Kin
Day 1: The Thing Is

National Poetry Month: The Progressive Poem is Here!

The Progressive Poem has become a beloved tradition during National Poetry Month. Irene Latham began this annual event in 2012 and organized its creation until 2020, when Margaret Simon took over.

I confess, I sat on the sidelines for several years. I felt coming up with a line to match the tone and timber of the work of so many talented poets was too much pressure! A few years ago, I decided to join in the fun.

This year, Irene got the ball rolling with a line from Emily Winfield Martin’s magical book, The Imaginaries. Yesterday, Donna added the possibility that this could be a poem for two voices. The invitation to adventure in Irene’s line was too much for me to pass up, so I chose a line from The Wind in the Willows that could be a response to Bilbo’s unwillingness to leave his cozy Hobbit home.

Where they were going, there were no maps; (Irene L.)

“Sorry! I don’t want any adventures, thank you. Not today.” (Donna S.)

“Take the adventure, heed the call, now ere the irrevocable moment passes!” (Catherine F.)

Over to you, Mary Lee.

Here are the sources for the poem’s lines so far:

The Imaginaries: Little Scraps of Larger Stories, by Emily Winfield Martin
The Hobbit, by J. R. R. Tolkien
The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame

Be sure to follow the progress of our poem each day!

1 April 1 Irene at Live Your Poem
2 Donna Smith at Mainly Write
3 Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core
4 Mary Lee at A(nother) Year of Reading
5 Buffy at Buffy Silverman
6 Molly at Nix the Comfort Zone
7 Kim Johnson at Common Threads
8 Rose Cappelli at Imagine the Possibilities
9 Carol Varsalona at Beyond Literacy Link
10 Linda Baie at Teacher Dance
11 Janet Fagel at Reflections on the Teche
12 Jone at Jone Rush MacCulloch
13 Karin Fisher-Golton at Still in Awe
14 Denise Krebs at Dare to Care
15 Carol Labuzzetta @ The Apples in my Orchard
16 Heidi Mordhorst at My Juicy Little Universe
17 Ruth at There is no such thing as a God-forsaken Town
18 Patricia at Reverie
19 Christie at Wondering and Wandering
20 Robyn Hood Black at Life on the Deckle Edge
21 Kevin at Dog Trax
22 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
23 Leigh Anne at A Day in the Life
24 Marcie Atkins
25 Marilyn Garcia
26 JoAnn Early Macken
27 Janice at Salt City Verse
28 Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference
29 Karen Eastlund at Karen’s Got a Blog
30 Michelle Kogan Painting, Illustration, & Writing

National Poetry Month: Kith & Kin

One of the first essays in All We Can Save is “Indigenous Prophecy and Mother Earth,” by Sherri Mitchell. Mitchell writes that “everything is interrelated and recognized for its sacred place within the web of life.” (p. 20) This understanding is central to kincentric awareness, the understanding that “life in any environment is viable only when humans view the life surrounding them as kin.” Lyanda Lynn Haupt includes kith and kin as two of the fundamental tenets of “rootedness” in her book Rooted. She explains “where kin are relations of kind, kith is relationship built on knowledge of place–the close landscape…Kithship enlivens kinship.” (p.26)

Our house is built on land that was once part of my great-grandfather’s farm. I feel deeply connected to this land, although I never knew this was really meant by the word “kith.” I also know that before European settlers lived here, people of the Schaghticoke and Paugussett nations lived on this land. We have tried to be good stewards and remember that we share this land with others.

Some of you know that we have a new grandson. I know his parents will help him understand that “each element within creation (including humans) has the right and the responsibility to respectfully coexist as coequals within the larger system of life.” (Mitchell, p. 19) Today’s poem is dedicated to Eamonn.

Kith and kin

On the night you were born,
the moon bathed you in its silvery light,
welcoming you into the world.

Deep in the woods,
a chorus of peepers sang
out in jubilation, celebrating
your arrival.

And sap coursed through
trees and plants
swelling buds,
greening the earth,
greeting you, their brother.

Draft © Catherine Flynn, 2022

National Poetry Month, Day 1

Poetry Friday: Welcome, National Poetry Month!

What a happy coincidence that National Poetry Month begins on a Friday this year! And, because the Inkling challenge is the first Friday of each month, today is a trifecta of poetry goodness. This month, Mary Lee challenged us to “Use “The Thing Is” by Ellen Bass as a mentor text. Keep the title, but choose a theme/message either from your own life or from current events.” Bass’s poem is full of the pain and contradictions of life, asks questions, and reaches a resolution.

Today is also the first day of my month-long poetry project. For the past two years, I’ve explored the natural world through poetry. Two years ago, my poems were about News from the Natural World. Last year’s project was inspired by Kathryn Aalto’s Writing Wild: Women Poets, Ramblers, and Mavericks Who Shape How We See the Natural World. That journey was such an incredible learning experience that I wanted to do something similar this year. My friend and fellow Inkling, Heidi Mordhorst (who is also hosting today’s Roundup), suggested reading All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis, edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson. But I also recently discovered Rooted: Life at the Crossroads of Science, Nature, and Spirit, by Lyanda Lynn Haupt. At the risk of being indecisive, I’m not going to commit to one book or the other. Rather, I envision this month’s writing to be a response to the connections between these two books. Who knows where that will lead?

So, using “The Thing Is” as a starting point, this month’s journey begins with a walk in the woods.

The thing is

I have so many
so many 
things I. Don’t. Understand.

But I know
a walk
in the woods
on a cold day
in late March, 
will hold surprises.

Maybe sharp-lobed hepatica 
are erupting from leaf litter,
scattered beside the trail, 
their pale pink petals
streaked like the morning sky,
each flower with a 
a dazzling supernova
of stamens at the center.

Or a lone antler
rests at the base
of a scarred oak,
or a jumble
of hawk feathers
lay in a heap
by a fallen log.

As I study 
the remains 
of this fierce predator,
my need for answers
becomes urgent.

I realize, though, I don’t know 
who to ask.

Draft © Catherine Flynn, 2022

Please visit my fellow Inklings to read their responses to Mary Lee’s challenge, and the Poetry Friday Round up at Heidi’s blog.

Heidi Mordhorst @ My Juicy Little Universe
Linda Mitchell @ A Word Edgewise
Margaret Simon @ Reflections on the Teche
Mary Lee Hahn @ A(nother) Year of Reading
Molly Hogan @ Nix the Comfort Zone

Poetry Friday: Chasing Rainbows

One of my favorite collections to share with children is Elaine Magliaro‘s Things To Do (Chronicle Books, 2017). Magliaro imagines all sorts of animals, familiar elements of nature (sun, rain, sky), and everyday objects like erasers and scissors. Writing a “things to do” poem is a great way to get children looking at familiar sights in new ways. This can also stretch their vocabulary, as they strive to find that just right word to describe an image.

I was recently inspired to write a few “things to do” poems myself. This is one of my favorites (although the last line still needs work.)

Draft, © Catherine Flynn, 2022

Please be sure to visit Amy Ludwig VanDerwater at The Poem Farm for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: A Riot of Robins

We’re on the cusp of spring, but winter has been reluctant to loosen its grip. In typical New England fashion, the weather has been vacillating between blustery snow and teasing breezes. Last week I was able to sneak in a late afternoon walk. I wasn’t the only one out enjoying the sunshine.

A Riot of Robins

Grace is a leafless maple
ablaze with glowing
amber lanterns:
a riot of robins
welcoming spring.

Draft © Catherine Flynn, 2022

Photo by Trac Vu via Unsplash

Please be sure to visit Ruth at There Is No Such Thing as a God-Forsaken Town for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: Rabbit Holes & Eggs

A few weeks ago I wrote about finding a short article by Jane Yolen about her correspondence with Nancy Willard. That led me to seek out more of Willard’s poetry, which led me to A Nancy Willard Reader, which led me to this magical poem by Linda Pastan.

The Egg

In this kingdom
the sun never sets;
under the pale oval
of the sky
there seems no way in
or out,
and though there is a sea here
there is no tide.

Read the rest of the poem here.

Photo by Hanna Balan via Unsplash

The Poetry Friday Roundup is happening at Poetry For Children. Please visit Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong as they lay out a veritable smorgasbord of poetry to help celebrate their latest anthology, Things We Eat.

Poetry Friday: March Inkling Challenge

It’s time for another Inkling challenge. This month, Margaret challenged us to “Choose a quote that speaks to you. Write a poem that responds to the quote. The words can be used as a golden shovel or throughout the poem or as an epigraph.”

Where to begin? I have been collecting quotes for over forty years. They are jotted on legal pads, scribbled in notebooks, carefully copied onto pretty paper. Finally, I opened to a random page in my current notebook. This is what I found:

“In all things of nature, there is something of the marvelous.”

That narrows it right down, doesn’t it? Coincidentally, sitting on my desk is a layer from a wasp nest that fell from a tree during a recent storm.

Amazing, right?

Those perfect little hexagons got me thinking…

How did the humble honeybee
learn Euclidean geometry?

Without blueprints, with nothing drawn,
they build a home of hexagons.

Mixing pollen, resin, oil,
day after day, worker bees toil.

Using their bodies, they mark and measure
every cell to house their treasure,

Liquid treasure, golden and sweet.
Treasure they share, a delectable treat!

Draft, © Catherine Flynn, 2022

Please buzz on over to visit my fellow Inklings to see how they responded to Margaret’s challenge:

Mary Lee Hahn @ A(nother) Year of Reading
Molly Hogan @ Nix the Comfort Zone
Heidi Mordhorst @ My Juicy Little Universe
Linda Mitchell @ A Word Edgewise
Margaret Simon @ Reflections on the Teche

Then stop by Kat Apel’s blog, Kat Whiskers, for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: Poetry Angels

In my never-ending effort to reduce the stacks of New Yorkers and The Horn Book tucked away in various corners of my house, I’ve started purging. It’s a slow process. I can’t just toss these compact containers of wisdom and goodness. So I skim the table of contents, scan a review or two, succumb to Newbery acceptance speeches from years gone by. This is how I stumbled upon a short piece by Jane Yolen recalling her correspondence with Nancy Willard. Their collection of poetry, Among Angels, was the result of this “rather delicious correspondence.” (The Horn Book, March/April 2009, p. 162)

Willard’s Newbery winning book, A Visit to William Blake’s Inn (Harcourt Brace, 1981) was published the year my son was born. And although I read to him from the day we came home from the hospital, William Blake’s Inn didn’t capture my attention until several years later when I went back to school to get my teaching certificate. Of course I loved it immediately and have shared it with students ever since. (My favorite poem, “Two Sunflowers Move Into the Yellow Room,” seems particularly poignant today.) Still, I’m embarrassed to confess that I wasn’t aware of Willard’s poetry for adults until I read Yolen’s piece earlier this week. 

After spending just a few hours reading what Willard poems are available online, I’m in awe of her keen observation, metaphor, and wisdom. My favorite so far is “In the Salt Marsh.” Unfortunately, I can’t find the printed text to share, but here is a video version.

Jane’s reminiscence also inspired me to create this found poem:

send poems
holding light
watching shadows
like cascading rain
a tale
sublime love.

Let’s all send poems of sublime love to the people of Ukraine today. And then be sure to visit Tricia Stohr-Hunt for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: A LaMiPoFri* Golden Shovel

It’s been an interesting week and I don’t really have a good excuse not to have written a poem earlier. Still, here we are on Friday morning and I’m just pulling this together, so please be patient with my very drafty last minute Poetry Friday offering. I found the strike line for this Golden Shovel in The Birmingham Arts Journal, Vol. 17, Issue 2.

“Every one of us is an artist by default, reinventing the world each time we remember something.”

Ben Brantley

Each and every

day, I have at least one

thought that wants to become a poem. Of

course, only a small fraction of them actually make the journey from pen to page. Experts tell us

to write every day, that this is

 the only way to hone our craft, to become an


But I’m not sure. By

letting ideas simmer on a default

setting deep in my brain, ideas are morphing, reinventing

themselves into something new. When the 

time is right, they will alert me they’re ready to go out into the world.

I give each

possibility the time

it deserves. Some are compliant and yielding; others kick my butt. Yet we

always arrive at a solution that pleases us both. Whatever the outcome, I have to remember

this process always teaches me something.

Draft © Catherine Flynn, 2022

Please be sure to visit Laura Purdie Salas for the Poetry Friday Roundup.