Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Happy Leap Day Toads

 Lily Pad by ~AstaMarionette

How fun a day about us, Toads ;D  An extra day to leap about, in our beautiful garden.  Have you noticed any new signs in the garden, seasonal pulls that are urging you to go outside and investigate?

Julia Cameron, writer and multi-talented creative being, suggests that artists take a day once a week, for an Art Date.  This is an exercise in her book, "The Artist's Way".  It can be the museum type variety or a walk in your city.  I sometimes go downtown and walk around snapping photos.  It is a way to refill your well of inspiration.

For today, I want you to try this Inner World Date. This is from a book called, "Inner Excavation" by Liz Lamoreux.  Go to your favorite spot in your home, grab something to write with or type on.

"Write a paragraph about what you see asking yourself these questions":

What color is your morning?
What are the shapes of your day?
What are the smells of your evening?
What are the textures of your favorite piece of clothing?
What are the sounds you hear right now?
What nourishes you?
What do you see when you open your eyes and really look?

Answer the question in words, or write a paragraph, or both.  Then pen your answers in a poem. You may notice one question grabs your attention, go with that...  You may leap, I mean skip questions, whatever works for you!  Just try to go with the flow and  see what comes out of your world. You may be surprised :D

I  look forward to seeing what your Inner World Date reveals.  YOU can always tweak this to a specific moment of your day.  Happy Leap Day Toads, hope you get a chance to do something special for yourself on this extra day!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Open Link Monday

Welcome to the Garden...

It's another beautiful day, and the gates have been flung open to the imaginary garden once again.  Please share a poem of your choice, leave a few thoughts behind, and visit the blogs of your fellow poets, in friendship and mutual respect for the art we all hold so essential to our daily lives.  There are no rules guiding the Open Link, so select a piece from your archives, or your latest work.  Anything goes.


Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Sunday Challenge ~ Featuring Ellen Wilson

This weekend will be spent in the company of the multi-talented Ellen Wilson, of Ella's Edge.  
Not only is Ellen a creative genius, she is also a multi-tasker, able to have many projects on the go at once, and I am so grateful that she added this feature to her "Things To Do" list.  

Self-Portrait of the Artist

Edgar Allen Poe said, “Poetry is the rhythmic creation of beauty.”
I discovered this truth, when I captured a mood in a photo.
Photography feels like an open window to the world.
I use light and shadows, instead of words to portray a moment, in time.

Heartword by Ella's Edge

Fragile parchment opened
Imprinted with lampblack ink
Timeless journey continues in a
Pressed rambling rose

Faded fragrance lingers with time’s passage
Boundless whispers of youth arrive
They dance over the gold leaves
Held intact by
Stitched Irish linen threads

Scattered moth wings and kisses
Lie waiting for hope’s promise
Tiny green shoots
Soon will erupt
In gray mattered soul

Bursting forth
Baby buds with notes of Narcissus’ beauty
Spring’s eternal romance


Ellen was given her first camera at the age of eleven, and is always consciously aware that photography means writing with light.


Many of Ellen's images can be found by following this link to the Etsy On-Line Shop, but please do not select an image from that gallery which is more to your liking for this prompt, without asking permission from the artist.


I have long been an admirer of Ellen's photography, and what strikes me most is her attention to detail.  I believe she sees with a poet's eye, and a poet's mind that is able to focus on the parts which make up the whole.  If you missed the Real Toads Interview with Ellen, it is well worth a read.


Ellen has generously offered these beautiful photos for our poetic inspiration. She has also decided to make this a Giveaway Challenge, at her own discretion.
If you add an image to your post, please acknowledge the name of the artist.


The Sunday Challenge is posted on Saturday at noon CST to allow extra time for the creative process, so please do not link up old work which kind of fits the image. Members will only respond to poetry written specifically for this prompt: this is in the spirit of our Real Toads project to create opportunities for poets to be newly inspired.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Mary's Mixed Bag

Mary Oliver

Hi Toads,

Mary here! I have been pretty excited about my relatively simple writing prompt this week. Earlier this week (on the Toads' chatlog) I mentioned that you should take a look at poems by some of your favorite poets and collect a few favorite first lines or couplets. If you have done that, you have a good start.

Now take the beginning line or couplet and let it inspire you to write your own poem. Use the line(s) at the beginning of your poem, and take your poem in whatever direction it goes. You might be surprised. It will undoubtedly bear no resemblance to the original poem. I hope you will enjoy this technique as much as I do. There is no copyright on a few words in succession, but you may want to let us know anyway the poem/poet that inspired you.

I have chosen this prompt for us because it is one that has often worked for me when I can't think of what to write. For some reason, using a line or two of a poem by a favorite poet works wonders.

Charles Wright

Give it a try, and link it here, making use of Mr. Linky.  I look forward to seeing what each of you comes up with and will visit each  poem that was written specifically for this prompt and links back to Real Toads.  Hope you'll visit some of the poems that others share as well.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Kenia's Wednesday Challenge

It's because sometimes I desperately need to talk to someone that I turned to poetry. Poetry is my voice. Sometimes I scream. Sometimes all I write is silent. Sometimes my poems cry. Sometimes they sing and dance, and twirl around in pure joy. Sometimes I talk to myself. Sometimes I write to imaginary people, sometimes they are real, other times they are ghosts, monsters, creatures under my bed. Sometimes poems are dialogues and I like them best then because they become land for friendship.


Write a poem that keeps a dialogue with another poem, or poet. We'd love it if you picked one from the Real Toads blog list here, but it's fine to choose a blog outside the circle. Choose a poem and converse with it (or the author). Answer a question, ask a question, start a discussion, explain a subject, offer help, ask for help - do whatever it takes to befriend the words and bring them close to your heart. When you're sure to have made a new friend, leave a link to your poem here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


"A Toad's reach should exceed her grasp," says Old Toad(Sherry), to Ella. Old Toad has had her eye on this poet and artist, for some time. Ella's life is a busy one, that of wife, mother and Girl Friday. She struggles to persevere with her art and writing. Her writing is in moments, snatched here and there between the demands of an active family.  Every now and then Ella sings a sad froggy song. She feels the need to make a leap beyond her lily pad, out in the Big World of Art. A frog who longs to fly. Don't ever tell her, it is anything, but possible. "If you can dream it, you can achieve it," is Old Toad's motto. When Old Toad was asked to choose someone in the pond, for a challenge, she thought of Ella. Ella has a blog of beauty, constantly changing it with photos, art, quotes and poetry. Old Toad's challenge was rather all-encompassing: "Ella, " she croaked, "write a poem based on a quote, that is meaningful to you.  It should touch upon your wish to follow your art, as far as it will lead you." Then Old Toad fell over onto her lily pad, for a little snooze.

When Sherry gave me this challenge, I was torn where to begin. The day I received her email I was looking for a quote about the ocean, for my blog. I found this one:

 "Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore."~Andre Gide.

 His words spoke to me, my life. I wanted to look further, for the challenge. I went into my FROG(Furnished Room Over Garage) and grabbed an art book,"The Impressionists" by Corinne Graber and Jean-Francois Guillou.  I opened it at random onto page 152. This part of the book was about the artist Paul Cezanne.

 My eyes popped opened wide: "In 1900, Maurice Denis painted, "Hommage to Cezanne".  The painting was bought by Andre Gide. HUH?! I knew I had to find an Andre Gide quote that fit me. I felt serendipity had played a hand. The next day, I received an email that I had won an online class, it is for painting.

 Andre Gide was French, he grew up living a privileged life. He didn't need to work and ended up being a philanthropist, writer, and poet. Gide's life, like his work embraced many ambiguities. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in 1946; he won it in 1947.  I selected a quote,which I think speaks to the talent in all of us:

 "Be faithful to that which exists within yourself"~Andre Gide

Tonight as I was finishing up this challenge, I decided I needed some fresh air. My beagle, Buster also needed a walk. As he skipped along his favorite path, I kept thinking my poem was too simple. As we approached the STOP sign, I saw a shooting star. It lazily dropped, it's light bright and big cascading downward. I knew when I returned home I had to share what I had wrote. It didn't matter if it was simple, it's message was clear. We all need to listen and have faith in ourselves.

Evening walk 
enveloped in solitude
gray thoughts spiraling
serenaded in blue 
chilled, you look up to heaven's theater
a falling star make her debut
do you listen?

A dove glides her tilted wings
towards spring's silver threaded light
a bleached white feather 
flutters to your feet
do you listen?

Fair eyed daisies sway in meadow's brow
four leaf clover peers at you
 it bows and nods
a brisk shower
washes earth clean
watercolor view rises
do you listen?  

Along a pebbled beach
a rare pink shell glistens in the
 bay's blue tidal pool
it's tangled in seaweed 
and tiny snails
do you listen? 

Maple leaf stretches to bask in glory
red passion reaches for gold
her dismount twirls 
in graceful flair
 she lands
heart shape
do you listen?

Pristine cold lace falls gently
 on your lashes
iridescent geometry
6 sided perfection
no two
do you listen?

Listen to your grace
the strings
 of your heart
 sacred door
divine gifts
When you listen~

Monday, February 20, 2012

Open Link Monday

Calling all toads to the garden...

Welcome, once again, to the place where anything goes on a Monday: no prompts no parameters only poetry.  Select a piece to share with others, be it something new and shiny, or something a little dusty that deserves to be revisited.  Please remember to visit the blogs of other writers who have linked their work alongside yours, and return a review with one of your own.  

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Sunday Challenge ~ Featuring Mary Ann Potter

Mary Ann is certainly no stranger to the imaginary garden, in fact she is one of our very own toads!  I'm sure we have all admired her unique photographic talent when visiting her blog, From the Starcatcher, and thought how great it would be to write to such an image.  You may have read the little note I left for Mary Ann, after her recent interview on RT, promising that I would be knocking on her door shortly to ask permission to feature her work for the Sunday Challenge.

For those who are not familiar with this Indie poet and photographer, she answers the query: Who Am I?

Artist. Photographer. Writer. Reader. Dreamer. Farmer.
Mary Ann Potter, Windy Hollow Farm, Oxford, NC
To get here you have to drive through Stem
and go just a little way past Shoofly.

Mary Ann often uses her photos as inspiration, or visual realization of her own writing.
This poem was written about an abandoned house, much like the one in the photograph, that called back a memory of her grandmother's old house in Michigan.

Old Houses in Summer

They speak eloquently, these old places:
Gram's had a cottonwood tree,
bright white blooms against the sky
now ghostly in memory,
stairs worn smooth by footsteps
     we deemed endless
now hushed by time.
Wood frames creak in the wind,
absently musing to multiplied flowers,
ancestral blooms planted long ago.

Stand on the porch and look over me.
Look beyond me, a trespasser
who sees one bright tiger lily
     against peeling paint,
pink mimosa blossoms on a long-neglected
and magnolias opening their
     white breasts to the sun.

Mary Ann is particularly drawn to old and abandoned homes, and has made several photographic studies of lighthouses, seeming to capture the haunting presence of historic events and human consciousness now fading into the past.

Mary Ann Potter

Mary Ann has generously offered these beautiful photos for our poetic inspiration.  If you add an image to your post, please acknowledge the name of the artist.  

Please note that you may not select another photograph more to your liking directly from Mary Ann's blog or Flickr stream without first asking her permission.  

The Sunday Challenge is posted on Saturday at noon CST to allow extra time for the creative process, so please do not link up old work which kind of fits the image.  Members will only respond to poetry written specifically for this prompt: this is in the spirit of our Real Toads project to create opportunities for poets to be newly inspired.

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Word with Laurie: Ethereal

Photo by L. Kolp

The spacious firmament on high,
And all the blue ethereal sky,
And spangled heavens, a shining frame
Their great Original proclaim

~Joseph Addison

 Hello all you toads out there! Are you ready for some Friday fun? Well, I sure am. It's been one heck of a week with deadlines and book fairs, school fundraisers and Valentine's Day. Everything seems so ethereal (probably because I'm worn out). It's as if I'm an expressionless genie floating around and filling everyone's wishes.

"Yes, master. Whatever your heart desires."

I had to escape into my genie bottle with my computer in order to get this post completed. sigh.

I’d like you to stretch your imagination and go beyond what is normally considered ethereal. Personify it, use it as a metaphor or allegory. Let these pictures inspire you if you'd like.  Or just use the word ethereal in your piece. Open your eyes, heart and mind to new possibilities and different ways of perceiving things. Have fun.

Photo by L. Kolp
Merriam-Webster defines ethereal as~

1. a: of or relating to the regions beyond the earth, b: CELESTIAL, HEAVENLY, c: UNWORLDLY, SPIRITUAL

2. a: lacking material substance : IMMATERIAL, INTANGIBLE, b: marked by unusual delicacy or refinement , c: suggesting the heavens or heaven

3. relating to, containing, or resembling a chemical ether

Photo by L. Kolp

As always link your poem and leave a comment. Then visit others who have done the same. Please don't link a poem unless it goes with the topic. Thank you!

Poof! I'm off to rest on a cloud for awhile and then I'll float away to paradise. Don't worry, though; I'll return to see what you've come up with.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Old Pond a Frog Leaps In

Ladies and gentlemen, we all knew this day was coming. Gird your loins! Return with your shields, or on them! ...Wait. Wrong empire. Let me start again.

Greetings! Grace here, this week to pull you by the sleeve and chatter excitedly about haiku like a mad old woman on public transit.

The teikei, or fixed-form, haiku is one of my most beloved formats. It is FULL OF RULES and completely hedged about by REGULATIONS...but, when you sneak in among its iron jaws and wicker joints, it can be thrilling, beautiful, and completely unforgettable.

These tiny jewels began their career as the introduction to collaborative poems called renga (you might want to remember that name). In this incarnation, they were known as hokku, and by the 17th century, they had become verses in their own right, renamed haiku by Masaoka Shiki, a man now regarded as one of the four great masters of the format. One of the others, of whom I am certain you have heard, is the great Bashō.

There are many excellent articles on the famous writers of my beloved format, so I'll let you poke around on your own. I don't want to wear you out before we even get to the rules!

The title of today's article is also the first part of a haiku by Bashō:
The translation, by William J. Higginson, has been placed into three lines:
"old pond. . .
a frog leaps in
water's sound"
I stuck this example in to illustrate the different ways of presenting your haiku. In Japanese, they are presented in a single line, but in translation, they are generally in the more familiar three-line group. Please feel free to use either method!

Here we come to the meat of our challenge. In Japanese, the fixed-form haiku has precisely 17 on, or sound units. These are similar but not exactly like our syllables, and the source of our 5-7-5 rule. This is because each kana character (the simpler characters in parentheses above) corresponds to a single on.

You went back and counted, didn't you? I did!

So we have 17 syllables in three lines, in general, to work with, which should be simple. Yet then we move into the rules concerning the content of the verse! Each verse should contain a seasonal word and a cutting word, and attempt the juxtaposition of two images in a harmonious fashion (remember to breathe).

There are many lists of seasonally appropriate words/phrases, or kigo, including a supremely helpful one on Wikipedia. The main thing to remember here is that seasons are just as easily implied as stated flat out. For example, although I love to write about autumn, it gets boring to say, "The autumn wind," or, "The fall leaves." Besides, those are precious syllables I'm wasting! What about, "candy corn," "dying year," or even "red maples"?

Then we add in our cutting word, or kireji. Again, there is a list available from Wikipedia with examples from the Japanese here. There are multitudes of ways to attack the cutting word. It can be a word, a long pause, or a bit of punctuation that really calls out, "Here! This is the turning point in my verse!" Think of it like a volta, if you were writing a sonnet. The cutting word is the moment the trap snaps shut, the mood changes, or the shocking relationship of your two unrelated images is revealed!

Are you still with me? Phew.

The last person I spoke in-depth with about these tiny delights was the wonderful Shawnacy, and I gave her this example of punctuation as kireji:
A pumpkin alight,
then spotted with mildew black--
so, too, my feelings.
And the incredible Marian of runaway sentence. tells me she's been meddling with a group of mad haiku-writers in her spare time! These ladies may have a head start on you, but I know you will all rise to the occasion. You always do.

Honestly, this can be as difficult or as easy as your brain will allow it to be. Love the fixed-form haiku. Do not fear it. Look, you can even write about naps or snacks, if you like! Present it in a single line, or in three lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables each...or:

Translators of Japanese poetry have noted that approximately 12 syllables in English are the same length as the traditional 17 on. So if you like, you can definitely play around (in a limited manner) with the format of even the teikei fixed-form haiku.

This month's challenge is extremely specific, and I appreciate you taking the time and effort to share your entries! So, finally, here is your mission: write a set of haiku. They don't have to be related to each other, but they don't have to be unrelated either, if you'd like to have some underlying thread. Be sure that you adhere to the rules of the fixed-form haiku, and please adjust your sets to be either 3 or 5 verses. Fours, in Japanese tradition, are extremely unlucky!

Please, please email me if you have any questions at all about this format. I could quite seriously talk about haiku for weeks on end, but I promise to contain myself. As always, link up at the bottom, and leave a comment when you're ready. I can't wait to see what you do this month!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Rose Garden ~ For Valentine's Day

Is it possible to write a poem about love without using the word or any of its derivatives?

Gloire de Dijon Rose

Gloire De Dijon by D.H. Lawrence

When she rises in the morning
I linger to watch her;
She spreads the bath-cloth underneath the window
And the sunbeams catch her
Glistening white on the shoulders,
While down her sides the mellow
Golden shadow glows as
She stoops to the sponge, and her swung breasts
Sway like full-blown yellow
Gloire de Dijon roses.

She drips herself with water, and her shoulders
Glisten as silver, they crumple up
Like wet and falling roses, and I listen
For the sluicing of the rain-dishevelled petals.
In the window full of sunlight
Concentrates her golden shadow
Fold on fold, until it glows as
Mellow as the glory roses.

Since this is a special day, and poets' thoughts may turn to perhaps the most extensively explored theme of all-time, I have provided a link for you to share your latest poems.

The only criterion is that the poem be written today: 14 February 2012, but you are welcome to link a poem written for any other hosting site here too.  We would love to see what poems the day has inspired.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Open Link Monday

A Frog he would a wooing go!

Randolph Caldecott
A Frog he would a-wooing go,
Heigho, says ROWLEY!
Whether his Mother would let him or no.
With a rowley-powley, gammon and spinach,
Heigho, says ANTHONY ROWLEY!

Randolph Caldecott

"Pray, Miss MOUSEY, are you within?"
Heigho, says ROWLEY!
"Oh, yes, kind Sirs, I'm sitting to spin."
With a rowley-powley, gammon and spinach,
Heigho, says ANTHONY ROWLEY!

For the original picture book (now an eBook), published by Frederick Warne and Co, click HERE.

So... love abounds even in the imaginary garden, and especially in the world of toads.  Please share a love poem (or an anti-love poem, if you prefer) today, in the spirit of Valentine's Day tomorrow.  The poem may be your latest piece or an oldie, that says just about everything you've ever thought on the subject!
Remember to show the love by visiting and reviewing the work of other poets who also use this link to share their work.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Stripey The Cat Presents: Your Weekend Challenge

Dudes. It's me, Stripey the Cat, with a little help from my mom's friend Fireblossom. You see, my human is Talon, and she has a blog, and it is called Talon, too.  I told her to call it "Fish Skellies", but she didn't take my good advice. My mom mostly walks around with this big gadget that is for I don't know what. Fireblossom says it is a "camera". All I know is, I can't chase it or eat it. Fireblossom says it takes pictures. The picture at the top is of me, natch. Pardon me while I preen.

There are other pictures. Here is a picture of a really big snack.

Here is a picture of a really really large dog. Wait... Fireblossom says it is a "horse." Oh boy, she is going all goofy over it. What a girl. The things I have to put up with.

Here is candles. Up here in Canada, the power in our little log cabins goes off every time they have to light up Maple Leaf Gardens*. Mom says it blows the grid, or something. Then we need the candles, eh? (*the Air Canada Centre, now. But try to get a cat to change! --Fireblossom)

And this one is the moon. I like the moon. Humans can't see at night, and walk into stuff, and then I laugh cos I can see good. By the way, I am a good hunter. If any of you have mice or bugs or something that you want caught, call me on my cell.

Now I'm supposed to show you a pome. People say my mom is very good at them, but I am not sure what they are. I do know that they don't run away when you pounce at them. They just sort of sit there.

"Paraffin Bliss" by Talon

She's coloring outside the lines
feet tucked up on the chair
head bent to the task
golden hair curtain parting
over a vulnerable neck
purple trees with branches red
poke chunky green clouds
blotting a yellow sky
fingers clutch crayons so tight
purple red yellow green residue
stains fingers and masterpiece.

ktn © 2012

Okay. I have stuff to do, so let's wrap this up. Fireblossom wants you to:

1. Choose any of these five pictures of my mom's, and write a poem inspired by it. 

2. Make sure and say that my mom took the photograph!

3. Link back here, to The Imaginary Garden With Real Toads (and, today, a cat!)

4. Sign up, using the Linky, so that everybody can find your poem, cos humans can't smell worth diddly, and would never find it otherwise.

That's it! I have naps to take, and like that. Have fun! Love, Stripey.

5. (added by Fireblossom) This Linky is for posts having to do with Talon's photographs ONLY!!!!  

Friday, February 10, 2012

peace & noise

People have the power! Toads, today we are trampin' with Patti Smith.

Patti Smith, American singer-songwriter, poet, and visual artist.

Patti Smith won the National Book Award for Just Kids, an incredible autobiography. Her book inspired me to write this poem, which barely scratches the surface of her great influence on me. Here is one of Patti's early poems:

the sheep lady from algiers
by Patti Smith 
nodding tho' the lamps lit low
nodding for passers underground
to and fro she's darning and
the yarn is weeping red and pale
marking the train stops from algiers

sleeping tho' the eyes are pale
hums in rhythum w/a bonnet on
lullaby a broken song
the sifting-cloth is bleeding red
weeping yarn from algiers

lullaby tho' baby's gone
the cradle rocks a barren song
she's rocking w/her ribbons on
she's rocking yarn and needles oh
it's long coming from algiers
I am lucky to get to see Patti Smith: Camera Solo this weekend. Whoa.

Why am I trying to do this, to give words to vision and beauty as epic as Patti Smith's? I give up. She can speak for herself.

Toads? Listen, look, read, write what comes. Can't wait to read what you write.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Real Toads Interview with Mary Ann Potter

Well, Kerry reached through cyber space and asked if I could host an interview and I knew exactly who I wanted to interview.  I was delighted to delve deeper into Mary Ann Potter’s fascinating blog From the Starcatcher.  Her recent use of the word “Augery” in a poem, her photos of “Old Salem, NC”, and the clip from “Fried Green Tomatoes” really captured my attention this past week and I am excited to get this chance to get to know her better.  
Margaret:  I see that you are a relatively new blogger with only five months under your belt.  Has blogging been what you expected?  How did you come up with your intriguing blog title, “From the Starcatcher”?
Mary Ann:  I never really expected anything out of blogging except for creating a visually appealing place for some of my ideas and work.  I've tried a couple of different blog types over the last few years; it wasn't until quite recently that I found formats I could use.  I had a wonderful time choosing backgrounds and headers, too!    I have made a couple of happy discoveries about blogging, though - some folks have giveaways!  I've won a digital book, a "real and regular" book, and a gift certificate.  One of the art sites that I frequent has featured my work, so that's pretty cool.  The best (and happiest!) discovery is that there are so many like-minded folks out there who are simply fun to know out there in cyberspace.  I get so much inspiration from seeing the creativity and talent that's out there.
When I was a sophomore in college, the "boy-of-the-moment" once asked me about the stars.  I said something about catching stars, and the idea stuck.  (The boy didn't!)  Now I use the name to refer to bright moments, little remembrances, things that need to be expressed on paper.  Not everything is a lovely, romantic memory, but I consider all my experiences add up to who I am, and I still catch those "stars" in my writing. 
Margaret:  I find your poetry deliciously expressive.  I suppose being an English teacher for 37 years helps tremendously (I’m always struggling over punctuation, spelling, and appropriate use of words!)   How long have you been writing poetry and what style of poetry is your favorite ?
Mary Ann: I wrote a few things while I was still teaching high school English, but retirement has given me lots more time.  It generally doesn't take me long to write a poem once I have the inspiration and the first line in my head. 
What style of poetry is my favorite?  I have a collection of prose writings that work nicely into poems, but I've found here on "Real Toads" that different form poems are just as nice.  When I was in high school, I especially loved Amy Lowell and Alfred Noyes - so image-rich and so emotionally charged.  When I was teaching, I especially liked the poetry from the Harlem Renaissance.

Margaret:  You retired 6 yeas ago.  Where did you live before you became a “transplanted Yankee”?  You mention this in your first blog post of October 14, 2011 and have a very funny list of “facts” of how women should behave when living in the American South”.  This post introduced your readers to "The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature” Can you tell us a little bit about it here?
Mary Ann: I grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the oldest of two children.  My mother was teacher; my father was a bacteriologist.  I graduated from Michigan State University in 1967, married my dear husband Vic in the summer of 1968, and had our son in 1972.  I took just one year maternity leave and then returned to teaching. 

What about the Dead Mule School?  Wasn't it William Faulkner who said that it's not really Southern writing unless there's a dead mule in there somewhere?  That's the premise upon which The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature is based.  We're quirky.  We have pride in our Southern-ness that includes our ancestry, our food, our superstitions, our accents.  It's all very tongue-in-cheek, but it's seriously Southern.  If you've seen the movie "Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood" or "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe," you've seen some of it.  I fell in love with Southern writing while I was still teaching.  My contribution to the Dead Mule School of Southern Literature is just four poems, but I am just as proud of my Southern legitimacy statement.

And, y'all, here are those Southern "facts":

1.  You absolutely MUST learn a Southern accent right away.  I resumed my high school teaching career when we moved here, and I had to be understood.  I pronounced a vocabulary word and saw quizzical looks on the kids' faces.  When I repeated it with a then unaccustomed accent, they understood it.  Really.
2.  If you have the proverbial skeletons in the closet, say an odd relative or two, take them out and shake off the dust once in awhile.  Wear your heritage like a badge of honor.  
3.  When you're waiting in line at the grocery store, the movies, almost anywhere, it's expected that you strike up a friendly conversation.  It's a slight exaggeration to say that you end up knowing the life stories of the folks you meet this way but not much.
4.  Learn what the history books won't tell you about The War of Northern Aggression. (Political correctness is unnecessary!) 
5.  Ladies, be sure to wear pearls.  You can sometimes identify graduates of some women's colleges this way.
6.  Gentlemen, own and occasionally wear at least one bow tie.
7. Remember that it's not the heat, it's the humidity. Horses sweat, men perspire, and women glow.

Margaret:  I found your prose-like poem Music from the Rail - A Memory rather intriguing.  You mentioned you have a series of writings concerning this old Shinnecock Lighthouse.  Why this fascination with this particular place, are the other writings posted on your blog (I didn’t see any labels at the bottom of  your post), and is there a real possibility of a book?

Mary Ann:  I have a few lighthouse books, and one of my favorites has stories and old photos of lost lighthouses.  The story of the Shinnecock Light became the foundation for some of my fiction.  I've read quite a bit about lighthouse keepers as well, and I frequently use their histories for inspiration.  I like digging behind and around a character.  These keepers were brave souls who were hired to do difficult, tedious, and often boring work.  Part of the inspiration for my Shinnecock writings comes from folks I met years ago.  Although they had no real connection to that lighthouse, or to any other lighthouse for that matter, there were elements of their characters that I admired.  Most of the people in my prose works are based on real people, but I doubt they'd ever recognize themselves!  There's still a book inside me.  I just haven't gotten beyond the prose sketches yet.
"Music from the Rail: a Memory"
by Mary Ann Potter

     I used to play the cello.  It was too awkward to carry up and down the narrow staircase, so I kept it propped against the topmost wall, safely encased, kept by yellow lamp at night and blue ocean by day.

     Deep as the undercurrent and dense as the clouds, music vibrated inside the instrument, inside me.  Sometimes I played with a delicate touch, pressureless and precise, and other times I strode over the strings strongly with the bow.  The cello's supremacy allowed such ease and interpretation.

     The day the lighthouse closed ("decommissioned," the paperwork said), I spent the morning at the rail.  Perhaps if I played strongly enough, the music would soak into the clouds, drop into the ocean, and roll endlessly on shore in a continual, watery concert.  Instead its notes fell by degrees in small, dissolving bits.  I suppose the packet boat's captain heard the sharp-sawn chords as he approached the lighthouse.  My hands flinched ---even at high tide I could see treachery from the tower.

     Deescending, I ran my hand over the cool-tiled walls, taking care to steer the cello case ahead of me, but it bumped a few times.  The strings vibrated in surprisingly dissonant chords, little protests of their own.

     I didn't say much on the short sail up the coast.  Remaining resident ghosts in the old tower watched from a distance their former keeper, enclosed in a watery mist, instrument and player melded together beyond their limited view.  "We'll play you home," they said.

For another beautiful poem, Aubade "The Writer and Lime Rock", about Ida Lewis, a woman credited for being the most famous light keeper in American history, click HERE.

Margaret:  I am fascinated by barns and old homes.  Are lighthouses your favorite topic?  

Mary Ann:  Yes, but I don't get to the Outer Banks regularly.   I love taking pictures of abandoned farmhouses, old barns, old neighborhoods.  We live in a primarily rural county, and I always have a camera with me when we drive around here.  I try to capture the beauty, the history, and the memory of old places.  It makes me sad to see them abandoned.  In our quest for the new and improved, we tend to ignore the tried and true.

Margaret:  I see some very intriguing photography on your blog.  One post in particular caught my attention, “Silver”.  This post had it all for me, prose like poetry that sinks in to one’s soul, an obvious understanding of nature, and your own stunning photography!   Do you spend a lot of time outside, with your camera?  And does your photography reflect your poetry or your Poetry reflect your Photography.  I guess what I mean is, which usually comes first?

Mary Ann:  I'm a very outdoorsy person, but here on the farm work comes first.  My dog and I walk 3 or 4 miles every morning,though, and sometimes I have my camera with me. 

What comes first, the photo or the poem?  Almost always the photo is first.  I have hundreds of photos on my Flickr site, but only a few of them are used for poems. 

(The following is from Mary Ann Potter's blog post of December 20, 2011, the one I mention above)

During the day we sometimes wish for remote roadlessness, and we wonder if visitors even allow themselves to listen when this place speaks.  But this night we make our private way.  The wood paths are planked with the softness of pine needles, a flow of forest-words.  The punctuation of scattered fallen branches, small interruptions, is lit by moonlight strong enough to cast shadows.  We have walked here before.

     Some days, in late afternoon, we are suspended between sunset layers - blue, indigo, violet, and the surprise of orange.  Then day's end speaks, and we head home.

     Tonight, though, the way is slow and rich.  We see of secreted worth the jewelry of night as moonlight bracelets circle the trees.

                                           Under the salmon sky,
                                           pairs of ravens
                                           turning and wheeling
                                           toward night,
                                           we wait until moon-paled leaves
                                           turn silver underfoot
                                           and mark our path home.

Margaret:  Ah, yes!  I went back and looked and the photos are poetry without words!  Old barns, cemetery statuary, the Outerbanks of NC, nature.  You have a wonderful way with the camera. I see you have been on Flickr for four years.  Have you ever taken a photography classes?

Mary Ann:  Nope.  I've learned some techniques from a few of my Flickr contacts, and one of my nephews bought me a huge book to help me with my new Nikon D90.  I've picked my way through various photo editing programs like Photoshop and am now completely comfortable with them.  My father was quite a photographer; I've studied some of his work to pick up some pointers as well. 
Margaret:  I see we are practically neighbors here in North Carolina.  I live a bit more centered in the state.  You state you live one must “drive through Stem and go just a little past Shoofly” to arrive at your farm.  Well, one must drive past “Highpoint & Climax” before arriving at my door!   Do you have a dilemma when deciding whether to visit the mountains or ocean or do you strongly prefer one over the other?

Mary Ann:  I love them both!  Vic's older brother and his family live in the mountains, and we visit them frequently.  I've been to Biltmore Estate several times; that's such a special place.  The historic Outer Banks, though, is probably my favorite place.  My best beach seasons are fall and winter; I'm not one to lie around getting tan, and I don't like crowds.  The North Carolina beaches are beautifully quiet most of the year.

Margaret:  Currently, what published poet are you reading, if any?
Mary Ann:  No, and I suppose that 37 years of teaching literature might be the reason.  I am a voracious reader but don't read published poetry much.  I do have one poetry book, though, and folks who grew up in the '50's like I did might relate to its importance.  When I was ten years old in 1955, I fell in love with tv's original "Mickey Mouse Club."  I especially liked Mouseketeer Lonnie Burr.  Several years ago I found his website where I enjoyed reading his Disney memories and bought a copy of his poetry book, "The Gravity of Finity."  Much to my delight it was signed "For Mary Ann, my Mouse-ka Pal."  I still think that's pretty cool.  After all, it's never too late to have a happy childhood!
Margaret:  You mention in your “Who Am I” tab that you play the mountain dulcimer.  Have you always been interested in Folk music?  Is this something you took up after retirement and how good are you?  
Mary Ann:  I fell in love with Appalachian music and simply had to have this instrument!  I had 10 years of piano lessons when I was younger but haven't touched a piano since I was 16.  The dulcimer is easy to play - all you need is an ear for the chords and a lap on which to place it! 
Margaret:  One last question.  Do you have other blogs?

Mary Ann:  Oh, yes.  I have one dedicated to the farm and my other artistic pursuits: This Country Life There's always something going on here at Windy Hollow Farm, and I share pictures and news.  I have a few other pages there as well, clickable right under the blog header.  I share some of my mixed media pieces as well as a few of my miniature building creations. 

Thank you, MaryAnn, for letting us get to know you better.  I know I am looking forward to swinging through your archives this next week.
So, there you go Fellow Toads... my first interview.  I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.  What amazing talent I am sharing space with here.