Archives for category: HOW TO

Thank you to the 97 authors from 28 states and 9 countries who participated in our HOW TO Poetry and Prose Series, which ran from February 17 to April 18, 2021. We learned so much along the way! It was a great two-month journey! Many thanks to…

Lisa Alletson
Kathryn Almy
Paige L. Austin
Jaya Avendel
Janet Banks
Jane Baston
Laurel Benjamin
Nina Bennett
Robert Bensen
Penny Blackburn
Shelly Blankman
Mark Blickley
Rose Mary Boehm
Steve Bogdaniec
Elya Braden
Steven Bridenbaugh
Ranney Campbell
Jan Chronister
Tricia Marcella Cimera
Sara Clancy
Joe Cottonwood
Barbara Crary
Barbara Crooker
Jonathan Croose
Howard Richard Debs
Rafaella Del Bourgo
Julie A. Dickson
Dakota Donovan
Elizabeth Dunford
Barbara Eknoian
Scott Ferry
Jennifer Finstrom
Yvette Viets Flaten
Sue Mayfield Geiger
Ken Gierke
Laura Glenn
Catherine Gonick
Vince Gotera
Tina Hacker
Oz Hardwick
Stephanie L. Harper
Penny Harter
Jennifer Hernandez
Stephen Howarth
Mathias Jansson
Paul Jones
Allison B. Kelly
Lynne Kemen
Tricia Knoll
Paula J. Lambert
Joan Leotta
Anne Namatsi Lutomia
Marjorie Maddox
Mohini Malhotra
Shahé Mankerian
Betsy Mars
Carolyn Martin
Lindsey Martin-Bowen
Mary McCarthy
Fokkina McDonnell
Beth McDonough
Joan McNerney
Ed Meek
Lawrence Miles
Michael Minassian
Penelope Moffet
Lisa Molina
Leah Mueller
Lowell Murphree
Lylanne Musselman
Lillian Nećakov
Robbi Nester
Maria Nestorides
Cristina M. R. Norcross
Suzanne O’Connell
Robert Okaji
Jay Passer
Jon Pearson
Sara Lynne Puotinen
Patrick T. Reardon
Jeannie E. Roberts
Kerfe Roig
Dorothy O Rombo
Ed Ruzicka
Sheikha A.
Julia Klatt Singer
Massimo Soranzio
Carol A. Stephen
JC Sulzenko
Rebecca Surmont
Alarie Tennille
Richard Vargas
Julene Waffle
Sheila Wellehan
Kelley White
Graham Wood
Jonathan Yungkans

Photo by Chernetskaya, used by permission.

by Joan McNerney

Recipe for Chaos:

begin with winter weather (snowbanks everywhere)
add the never-ending quarantine (must use brand name Corona virus)
beat thoroughly a naturally lazy person (who could that be?)
heat to a simmer over a small apartment (a large closet)

How to Create Chaos:

Whenever I turn around my place
becomes an enemy zone.
The sink clangs with pans as
crumbs line up battle ready
while slimy cucumbers groan.

Drum rolls of toilet paper
terrorize bathroom cabinets.
Masses of unwashed clothing
huddle in the bedroom retreating
past stained, sticky floors.

Camouflaged by dishes…documents…
dental floss…my couch collapses.
Outraged pages of books unbind
themselves in wars of words.

Everything spins ever faster
e x p a n d i n g         increasing
shredding      disintegrating.
Wish I could move into a picture perfect
House & Garden duplex forever
and leave this mess immediately.

PAINTING: Ashes by Jean-Michel Basquiat (1981).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The above recipe is for Chaos, a perennial problem in the Northeast, where the expression “spring cleaning” originates.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joan McNerney’s poetry is found in many literary magazines, such as Seven Circle Press, Dinner with the Muse, Poet Warriors, Blueline, and Halcyon Days, as well as in four Bright Hills Press anthologies, several editions of the Poppy Road Review, and numerous Spectrum Publications. She has four Best of the Net nominations. Her latest title, The Muse In Miniature, is available on and

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Poetry Box Instructions
by Tricia Marcella Cimera

Like the lamppost in Narnia,
the Poetry Box mysteriously
appears before you.
Who put this here, you wonder
but you don’t need to know that,
just walk up to it on this
quiet leafy side street. Stop.
Look, a poem is in the box.
Read that poem. Read it again.
A light turns on in your mind.
Who is Mary Oliver, you wonder.
What do I plan to do with my
“one wild and precious life”,
you wonder too, gazing
at the Poetry Box that holds
Mary’s poem “The Summer Day,”
and Mary’s question,
just for you, all for you,
because —
you stopped.

Appeared on the Highland Park Poetry website.

PHOTO: The Fox Poetry Box, St. Charles, Illinois, which features poetry from authors around the world. In this photo, the box features two poems by Tricia Marcella Cimera that originally appeared in Anti-Heroin Chic (November 2016). Photo by the author. 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was written for and about my poetry box, The Fox Poetry Box in St. Charles, Illinois (established in 2016 beside the public sidewalk), as an introduction to what a Poetry Box is and how to approach it. My poetry box was created by and purchased from out of Oregon. It is made of cedar and magic. Please visit TFPB’s Facebook page!

Cimera Author Photograph

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tricia Marcella Cimera is a Midwestern poet with a worldview. Published works have appeared in places ranging from the Buddhist Poetry Review to The Ekphrastic Review.  Her micro-chapbook called GO SLOW, LEONARD COHEN was released through the Origami Poems Project.  One of her plum poems was pleased to receive a recent Pushcart Prize and another plum was happy to be awarded a Best of the Net nomination. Tricia lives with her husband and family of animals in Illinois, in a town called St. Charles, by a river named Fox, with a Poetry Box (also named Fox) in her front yard. 

How to Squander a Sunny Day
by Jennifer Lagier

“Spend the afternoon. You can’t take it with you.” ~ Annie Dillard

Sunlight steams away nighttime drizzle,
flings coins of golden poppies
among lavender lupine.
Honeybees flaunt stockings of yellow pollen.
Blue jays spear slugs and snails,
glean pests from awakening garden.

A poet ignores dirty laundry,
abandons vacuuming, mopping.
Surrounded by primroses,
she props feet against oak barrel,
squanders warm afternoon,
scribbles on notepad.

Self-indulgent indolence seduces
hibernating muse from her shelter,
jump-starts imagination held hostage
by months of pandemic winter.
Spring revives taciturn earth
with lyrical hyacinths, cheery daffodil stanzas.

PAINTING: Flower Garden by Gustav Klimt (1907).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This past year has provided a restorative time out within which to appreciate our natural surroundings and has taught me how to put more satisfying routines into place.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Lagier has published 19 books, her work has appeared in a variety of anthologies and literary magazines, she has taught with California Poets in the Schools, edits the Monterey Review, and helps coordinate Monterey Bay Poetry Consortium Second Sunday readings. Her recent books include Meditations on Seascapes and Cypress (Blue Light Press) and COVID Dissonance (CyberWit).

How to build a woodpile
by Jane Baston

Take up your tools —
bucksaw, maul, splitting wedge.

Use wood seasoned and dry —
lapped birch splits, riven white oak.

Choose your pattern —
shaker round, beehive, cone.

Place on level ground —
each cord stacked and ricked.

Avoid over-regularity —
uniformity causes inward collapse.

Beware water from above and below –
rot, decay, decomposition.

Encourage the flow of air —
face prevailing winds, bark up.

Let the occupants be —
Earwigs, pillbugs, beetles do no harm.

Even the brown recluse spider prefers to scuttle off
than give its lethal bite.

Originally published in Lunar Poetry 9 (June 2016).

PHOTO: Woodpile in the Woods by Pixabay, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Some years ago, faced with my first delivery of wood, I needed to build a woodpile. The details of construction were fascinating and gave rise to a poem as well as the woodpile.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jane Baston is a teacher and writer living in Scotland. Her poetry and prose have appeared in a variety of places including StandMslexiaRain Taxi, Places of Poetry, and Ekphrastic Review.

Nathalie sunrise reflection silver sea
Silver soldering
by Beth McDonough

File to sharp brightness on both sides,
then butt each seam hard at its twin.
Exert gentle pressure to make ends meet,
slick a flux brushful all the way down.
Stipple a little on a snipped-off strip,
real silver solder at the meet of the cut.
Bind it up in thin iron wires. Not that tight.

Build mini-firebrick homes in the forge,
set a nest of those same skinny wires.
All so unlike tin soldering…iron and glob;
this whole job must be warmed
to a dulled just-red, with a tad more
torch play of flame, now
roar it up the wait of the join.

There’s a moment of bubbling up borax,
strange colours and stinks.
However often you’ve done this, you think
what if this time nothing floods?
But it does. A glisten turns silvering river,
mercurial, healing. The job stopped,
tongs ready…and quench.

Arguably, it’s all preparation, and perhaps
some still strange realisation,
that sterling solder sheet, marked “easy”
resolutely, is not. Unless there’s no choice,
“hard” always suits much better.
No-one likes sticky “medium.”  Avoid “extra-easy.”
Temperature scales tease with words. Well, so they say.

PHOTO: Sunrise Reflection Silver Sea by Nathalie, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I trained in silversmithing at Glasgow School of Art, and I suspect there are aspects of that way of working which would later be very similar to what drew me into writing poetry.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Beth McDonough’s poetry appears in Magma, Causeway, Gutter, and other publications. Her reviews appear in DURA and elsewhere. Her pamphlet Lamping for pickled fish was published by 4Word, and an earlier pamphlet Handfast was co-written with Ruth Aylett.

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Advice for New Starts
by Penny Blackburn

Firstly, make sure
you have sufficient time,
have not left your new start
until it is too late.

Take your broom — old or new,
it makes no difference.
Sweep away the ashes
from last years’ burnings.

On bare concrete, lay
whatever will be required —
world maps or Spanish grammars,
coloured silks and tacking pins.

Read through any instructions
carefully, at least twice.
Place these securely under a stone
or the fresh wind will take them for itself.

Enlist the help of neighbours if needed.
Leave clear instructions,
emergency contact details,
if necessary a will.

PAINTING: Tree of Life by Norval Morrisseau (XX Century).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was written during a workshop on “new starts.” I wanted to share the idea that a new start can feel very orderly but can actually become something that takes us right out of our comfort zone, and that even the best preparation cannot ready us for the changes that might come.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Penny Blackburn lives in the North East of England. She has appeared in a wide variety of publications, including pieces online in Riggwelter, as well as Ink, Sweat & Tears, and in print with Poetry Society News and Fly on the Wall.  She is the co-host of Cullerpoets poetry stanza and is on Twitter and Facebook. Her pamphlet A Taste for Bread was published by Wild Pressed Books in March 2021.

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How to teach remotely during a pandemic
(an acrostic poem )
by Jennifer Hernandez

Put on lipstick before you start the meet.
Ask students to mute their mics and sign into the chat.
Never assume that random family members aren’t listening to your every word.
Dogs, cats, and younger siblings are welcome visitors to the virtual classroom
except when barking, meowing or screaming while the
mic’s unmuted.
I used to be an old-school teacher, but
Coronavirus has
taught me a thing or two.
Elkin. Aron. Sebastian. Theresa. Jamela.
Axel. Juan Diego. Alina. Arina. Olu.
Chromebooks connect us, let us
hear voices, laughter. Let us see images & when
I’m lucky – even faces.
Newly vaccinated, I am both anxious and apprehensive to
greet students in person for the first time in nearly a year.

PAINTING: Teaching by Norval Morrisseau (XX Century).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Teaching online has meant learning a plethora of new skills. I have long prided myself on not being a “slides” teacher, rather engaging my students in interactive lessons that include lots of movement, partner and small group work, and often construction paper and markers. Everything changed drastically when my district moved to distance learning in March 2020. We muddled through last spring. Since this fall, I feel that I’ve become quite adept at staying true to my teaching style and embracing the technology that has allowed me to continue the work that I love. In the early days of the pandemic, I was taking a Short Poems class with LouAnn Muhm through North Beach Writers Retreat and was introduced to the idea of the “hidden acrostic.” This form has allowed me to write about the pandemic, something which I’ve needed to do.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Hernandez lives in Minnesota with her husband, three sons, senior black lab, portly tuxedo cat, and pandemic puppy. She has taught immigrant youth for over 20 years and also writes poetry, flash, and creative nonfiction. Recent publications include Ekphrastic Review, Talking Stick, and Verse-Virtual (Pandemic Poems). She has been teaching remotely from her living room since March 2020, but hybrid is looming with concurrent full in-person and distance learning not far behind.

Reverie Alphonse Mucha 1897
How to Piece a Puzzle
by Jan Chronister

Buy one in a box
with a cover you like.
You’re going to be looking at it a lot.
Mine was a birthday gift
after heavy hinting how bored I was,
might try my hand at jigsaw.
I mentioned how enamored
I was with Mucha,
his Art Nouveau style,
lithographs with flowers,
fair maidens, French words.

Open the box,
separate out edge pieces,
fit the outer perimeter together first.
This may require several siftings.
Decide what colors or patterns
to concentrate on, and sort, sort, sort.
Several piles form,
an old muffin tin
helps contain them.
Let your mind focus
on brushstrokes, shadows,
sunlight on leaves.
Drink in every curlicue,
petal, fold of cloth.

Don’t get discouraged—
the pace picks up
as fewer pieces remain.
When the last shape is locked in place,
buy some foam core board, puzzle glue.
Mount your masterpiece.
Hang it to remember
how you pulled through.

PAINTING: Reverie by Alphonse Mucha (1897).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The work of art depicted in my puzzle is Reverie by Alphonse Mucha. I have appreciated his work since college, but when I recently did some further research, I learned he died ten days shy of 79 after being tortured by Nazis. This knowledge was in the back of my mind as I pieced the puzzle, making the experience not only something to pass the time but a reminder of how temporary anything in life really is.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jan Chronister is a retired writing instructor currently serving as president of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets. She has authored two full-length poetry collections and four chapbooks. Visit her at

Jill Wellington grapefruit-3133485_1920
Just Grapefruit
by Penny Harter

Carefully, I place half a grapefruit
into the small white bowl that fits
it perfectly, use the brown-handled
serrated knife to cut around the rim,
separate the sections.

The first bite is neither sweet nor bitter,
but I drag a drop or two of honey around
the top, love how it glazes each pink piece,
then seeps between dividing membranes.

Pale seeds pop up from their snug burial
in the center hole, and when I’m finished,
I squeeze sticky juice from the spent rind
and drink it down.

Each grapefruit is an offering, its bright
flesh startling my fasting tongue. When
bitterness spills from the morning news,
I temper it with grapefruit, savor hidden
gifts as I slice it open, free each glistening
segment, and enter honeyed grapefruit time.

Previously published on Facebook and Blog. Forthcoming in Still-Water Days, Kelsay Books / Aldrich Press, summer 2021.

Photo by Jill Wellington, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “Just Grapefruit” is one of the many poems I began writing last March when the pandemic began, posting them the same or next day on both Facebook and my Blog. I continued this spiritual poem practice hoping to offer oases of calm and hope midst all the Covid (and political) chaos on television and social media. One of the ways to find peace is to pay attention, focus, on the moment. For me, this particular day’s moment was preparing and eating a grapefruit.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Penny Harter’s work has appeared in Persimmon Tree, Rattle, Tiferet, American Life in Poetry, and many other print and online publications. Her more recent collections include Still-Water Days (2021, forthcoming from Kelsay Books), A Prayer the Body Makes (Kelsay Books, 2020), The Resonance Around Us (2013), One Bowl ( 2012), and Recycling Starlight (2010). A featured reader at the 1985 and 2010 Dodge Poetry Festivals, she has won three fellowships from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, the Mary Carolyn Davies Award from the PSA, and two residencies from VCCA. For more information about Harter and her work, please visit