Tuesday, December 31, 2019


We have come to the end of an era, my friends, as our Imaginary Garden comes to a close. I remember, in 2011, when Robb Lloyd and Kerry cooked up the idea of Real Toads. Poets United had a large membership then, and the vision for Toads was a smaller site, twenty members maximum, who would work more closely together and strive towards the growth of its poets. It has fulfilled that goal admirably. It has been such a pleasure and privilege to find myself in the Pond, reading the work of such talented poets, and getting to add my “ribbet!” from the wobbly edge of my lily-pad.

Our core members have included some amazing poets: Kerry, Marian, Susie, Shay, Kelli, Joy, and all the others. Everyone wrote with such energy, such joy. It was a glorious ride. Sometimes, we flew! Since then, many Toads have joined us; they swam with us awhile, and some swam on. Each Toad has added something special to the Pond that has enriched us all.

As we get ready to close the curtains on a glorious near-decade, I asked Kerry and Marian for their thoughts and reflections, before we put this tired old toad to bed.

The Rain Has Liberty

The grass bends its back in the stillness of the rain
in its endless falling, the yellow grass

leaning away from the wind in endless yellow rows
like soldiers marching through mud, and dying

but behind the fallen, are ranks and ranks
of the living, golden in youth but dying too.

And the rain has liberty; and the mountains
open their mouths and drink; and the grass

is heavy with seed; and this is the way of things
because the dead are always with us

we march in time in our ranks to the grave
where the yellow grass grows tall in the rain.

Kerry: This is a poem I wrote during NaPoWriMo, April 2019, an example of a poem I would not have written if it were not for a Real Toad prompt.

Marian: Kerry, this poem of yours amazes. I think I might save it in my verse jar (wink).

Sherry: It is beautiful! Kerry, my friend, will you share your thoughts about this expedition we have made? When you look back, did you have any idea of the journey you were embarking on in 2011? What were the joys, and the highlights? What stands out for you?

Kerry: Such questions do not have simple answers, Sherry. When Robb devised Real Toads (the site was his brainchild), his vision was for a closed community of invited poets to work together, behind the scenes of Poets United, but it did not really take off. I asked him for permission to repurpose the site as an open forum, with a core membership, and he handed it over to me lock, stock and barrel, for which I am eternally grateful. We had a very slow start, but over the years I managed to persuade many remarkable poets to join our ranks and, I believe, the blogsite found its niche in the world of online blogging.

To our advantage, Sherry, you were one of the founder members and your passion for writing, as well as ties to the greater poetry community was a great source of energy to get us all up and running. Persuading Marian to partner with me was also instrumental in bringing the vision to fruition. Without your loyalty, love and commitment, I would never have made it this far alone.

Sherry: I found the online poetry community with such joy, back then. It galvanized my writing, which had been flagging for lack of support. I am eternally grateful for the support and encouragement all of you have given to me all these years.

Marian: Kerry, I still remember you reaching out to me with an invitation to join the Imaginary Garden. I was surprised and flattered and right away knew that this opportunity would be special. For a while I had been engaged in greeting new members for Robb at Poets United, which involved sleuthing to determine if folks were real humans who were really writing poetry. That was fine, but the prospect of an intimate group where we all provided support and gentle critique in order to develop and grow our skills? That was amazing. It still is amazing. Thank you, Sister-Poet, for including me in your early vision. I’m extraordinarily grateful.

Kerry: What stands out for me, and what is the most difficult thing to let go of is April Poetry Writing Month in the Imaginary Garden. It was the most work, but also the most rewarding part of every year for me. We have a total of 210 Poems in April prompts – 7 years running! The first time we offered a prompt a day, I thought I had overshot the mark and it would never work but every year, when I asked the toads to contribute, everyone rallied around. Those months were the most magical times spent surrounded by the creative energy of so many writers.

Marian: Agree! April in the Garden is nothing short of magical.

Sherry: I love it, too. I always try to do a poem a day in April, and it has been awesome to have a forum with intriguing prompts to spur us on. How has this community and this site impacted your own work, Kerry?

Kerry: I can honestly say that, before the inception of Real Toads, I was more a scribbler of painfully unoriginal verses, just dabbling in a new found hobby of online blogging, and working very much in a vacuum. This was why I thought it so important to create a network of writers.

My own journey to becoming a poet began back in July 2011. I believe that I have managed to develop my poetic voice and style to a level which would simply not have been possible without the help, guidance and example of all the amazing poets I have met along the way. There are too many to name, but so many people close to my heart who taught me, above all, to believe in myself and to push myself to a higher level of expression than I had thought possible.

Sherry: Wow! That amazes me! When I stumbled upon you back then, I was blown away by your talent. I thought you must have been writing for years!

Is there anything else you’d like to say, Kerry? Our fellow Toads are all agog, looking at you from their lily-pads, as we always have. Has Real Toads fulfilled the vision you had for it?

Kerry: Real Toads is a place in my mind, not a thing. It began as a dream and became a reality in its own right, far beyond anything I may have planned. The Imaginary Garden contains the intellectual property of some of the finest online poets of the 21st century, true influencers in this esoteric realm. I do want to reassure all contributors that the site itself will remain available as an archive, easily accessible and open to all. My hope is that the collected prompts, challenges and articles of the Toads will continue to inspire writers in the future. The aspect that will no longer be offered in the new year is that of weekly challenges and prompts. In that respect, the Real Toads are vacating their lily pads for a well-deserved retirement.

Sherry: We are very grateful Toads will remain as an archive, Kerry. Thank you for the gift to poets that this site has been right from the beginning. Now, Maid Marian, will you share a poem with us?

Marian: Gosh, I feel like a huge number of my poems were birthed from challenges in the Imaginary Garden. Here is one I wrote prompted by Kerry, who shared a Man Ray photo, “Woman with Long Hair,” a couple years back. It’s an awdl gywydd, a Welsh form introduced by Pirate Grace in our first year, and I have written approximately eleventy billion poems in this lovely form since.

They’ll Catch Up In the End

Lies tucked in a plait of hair
no longer fair but greying
nest of untruths tightly made
a braid that’s meant for staying

Roots like mirrors echoing
ornery knowing strands forced
into submission until
no one will know which is worse

The lie or the lying man
who can simply smile and say
empty prayers for your long hair
let down to air lies today

Sherry: Marian, how gorgeous! What a journey this has been! Tell us what you remember, as you look back. Hasn’t it been amazing?

Marian: It really has been amazing! The prompts and festivities and camaraderie, it’s all really memorable and incredible. I’m thinking of all the different kinds of prompts we’ve shared, and the collaborations and the interviews. It’s all great. But the friendships born in this space, that’s the best part. And I will surely carry the hearts of many of my friends here, and because we are friends we’ll head off together to some new adventure.

Sherry: Yes, the friendships will endure. You have been here from the beginning. How has this site impacted your own work?

Marian: It’s hard to quantify how much I have received from the Garden and its dwellers. We have all grown in our writing so much, it’s easy to observe that. Would we have done so if we had not gathered here? Probably not, at least speaking for myself. It’s been the constant stream of challenges and encouragement that has kept me going and insisted that I always keep improving my work. Working with all of you has helped me to be confident and forthright with my small contribution so that I keep throwing verses out into the world.

Sherry:  Do you have a message for our fellow Toads, my friend?

Marian: Just that I love you all and have been honored to stand up my own work next to all of yours. Thank you.

Sherry: Thank you, my friend. Your contribution has inspired us all.

The other day I wrote a whimsical poem about the Garden, to Kim Russell's prompt, to write a poem in the repetitive style of  Wendy Cope’s “The Uncertainty of the Poet”. It feels like the right one to include here, on this bittersweet day of endings and remembering.


Have you heard the Toads
in the Garden?
They are all sweetly singing.

In the Garden, Toads,
singing sweetly -
how we will miss them!

We will miss the Garden Toads;
their songs gladdened our hearts.
Our gladdened hearts will remember
our Pond years with gratitude.

We Toads sing our gratitude
to Kerry, our Head Toad.
Never has a Toad sung
more sweetly than she.

From our lily pads, we sing
Toad praises forever.
Thank you and thank you
for all the poems in this Garden.
Never has a froggy Pond
sounded so sweet.

The singing grows fainter;
eventide draws near.
Thank you and thank you
for every Toad song.

Sherry: When I first joined the Toads,  I wondered if I could keep up. I was in awe of the very talented Toads. But you were all kind, and told me that every voice was valued, and so I kept on. The result: my poems and I grew, my voice grew stronger. I know Toads is what encouraged that voice.

Soon I will hit “Publish” for the very last time at Toads. Ouch! What I take away is gratitude for the journey we have made. Being a Toad is one of the best gifts I have ever received.

I want to leave the closing words for Kerry. Kerry, it was your words, and your vision, that began this amazing almost-ten year journey.
Take it away! With our deepest gratitude for all you have given to us all these years, the gift of time and hard work behind the scenes that you gave so selflessly and generously to our beloved Pond. No one could have done it better!

Kerry: What is there left for me to say, except a most heartfelt and sincere THANK YOU? Thank you for all the words, the friendship, the support and, most importantly, the trust that everyone placed in me to do my best as Creative Manager of Real Toads. It has been a real honour and achievement.

Monday, December 30, 2019


Dearest friends, poets, minstrels, bards, lovers of words and songs, I greet you as a founder member and Creative Manager of The Imaginary Garden with Real Toads for the last time.

I opened the gates of the Garden to all fellow bloggers on July 18, 2011 and after nearly a decade of being part of this amazing community of poets, writers, photographers and artists, who have all been teachers and students together, the time has come to say goodbye to an era of poetry challenges and prompts hosted by the Toads.

However, it would not be true to our Mission Statement if we left without a proper fare thee well, and with one last prompt, a retrospective of all the talent, inspiration and generous sharing of ideas, which made Real Toads a one of a kind creative space.

I invite you all to PLAY IT AGAIN! and AGAIN! and AGAIN!













Please remember to include a link to the post you have chosen. The Linky will remain open and this post will be on the home page for the month of January. I invite you to return to write again and read the poems posted. 

Let us break all records for toad participation!!!

Although this may feel like an ending, let us think of it as a new beginning. The blogsite will not disappear completely, but remain as an archive and online reference site, hopefully to offer inspiration for many years to come. 
Anyone may contact me at theimaginarygarden@gmail.com or via DM on Instagram @skyloverpoetry. 

Please return tomorrow for the grande finale! 

A retrospective chat between Sherry, Marian and me so we can end things off in the fine spirit of togetherness in which this project started.

Friday, December 27, 2019


For my last prompt at Toads, I wanted to share some positive words from Joanna Macy, deep ecologist and activist, who has devoted her life to working for climate justice, and to awakening us to what is happening to the world around us. My distress over collapsing ecosystems has led me to seek out sources of strength and positivity, to help shore us up for the challenges ahead.

Joanna states, "Yes, it looks bleak. But you are still alive now....with all the others, in this present moment. And because the truth is speaking in the work, it unlocks the heart...It's like a trumpet call to a great adventure. In all great adventures there comes a time when the little band of heroes feels totally outnumbered and bleak, like Frodo in Lord of the Rings or Pilgrim in Pilgrim's Progress. You learn to say 'It looks bleak. Big deal, it looks bleak.'"

While I feel too anxious about the state of things to view this as an adventure, exactly, I admire that she is trying to prepare us for what comes next, much as a mother zebra finch sings to her unborn chick inside its egg.

Scientists have observed that this song, unlike the bird's other songs, is preparing her chick for the world she will encounter outside the egg. Chicks sung to in this way emerge smaller than usual, thus are better able to withstand a warming environment.

It is amazing to me that animals are adapting their behaviour to climate change, insofar as they are able, yet we humans remain stubbornly resistant and in denial.

For my last challenge in this Imaginary Garden, let us contemplate these topics.

You might write about staying strong in a distressing world, how you dig deep for hope in the face of collapsing ecosystems and accelerating extinctions. You might write about raising our inner Kali, the Dark Mother, with strength to oppose the forces of greed, patriarchy, oppression and destruction.

You could write about preparing ourselves for “what comes next”. Or you might be that small bird mother, singing a song of hope and resiliency to her chick.

I read that we were chosen to be on the planet at this time, that we have the stamina to rise to the challenge (though what I feel these days is bone-deep battle fatigue). I see great hope in the young rainbow warriors arising across the world to fight for their future.

It is hard to be aware, in a world of climate change deniers. But once we know, we can’t un-know. Maybe our words can help shift the collective consciousness. We can only try.

As usual, I am not strict. Whatever arises in you from reading these words will be perfect.

I have loved writing in this Garden with you, friends. You have helped my poetry – and my person – grow, and I will be forever grateful.

Let us keep on writing, whatever comes next. I pray it is widespread change of political will, wherein lies our best hope for a viable future.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Artistic Interpretations - Over Loved and Stuffed with Toril Fisher

Welcome to the final Artistic Interpretations!  With sincere gratitude, I thank all my dear Toads and fellow poets who have made these past few years an utter joy!  Comfort and security were very important to me when I first started writing and I found it here.   I still, at times, become sensitive sharing my poetry as I'm afraid... of what I don't know!  I feel insecurity through to my fingertips as I quietly mutter the words "I write poetry..."

My earliest memory of "security" (other than my mother) is a flat, rather plain teddy bear, aka Teddy.  He had a soft brown eye (his left glass eye was missing) and a very flat body - probably a hand-me-down.  Middle school came and I put him in the closet and my Mom eventually got rid of him.  I looked for him one day ... and he was gone!  I was so upset.

This prompt is a bit wide open. You may take inspiration from these paintings by my dearest friend, Toril Fisher.  Her website is a JOY to look at - HERE.  Do yourself a huge favor and click on the link.  She has animals, nature, (ocean, woodlands, seaside, etc) florals, boats, Ball jars, and she doesn't shy away from the political.  She can also be found on Facebook HERE and Instagram HERE.

The images we may contemplate are offered here (not her website).  The first is "Lamby" - MY daughter's dear loved one.  I am having Toril paint all six of my children's favorite stuffed animals or dolls.  The set will have a place of honor above my bed until a time I decide to gift them.

The theme to contemplate is "comfort".  Do you remember a childhood toy that gave you comfort or your own children's sweet companions - a toy,  a blanket?  A certain memory surrounding comfort?  You may venture into the adult world if you like - is there a certain song, scent, or activity that brings you comfort.  I know how the creative bug is, so let it take you where it takes you.

If you use one of these paintings, please give Toril Fisher credit for the paintings and link her website if you can.  Thank you.  Linky is below and you know what to do.  Please come back and visit the poets that will link later than you.   I look forward to your artistic interpretation!




Yellow Bear

Friday, December 20, 2019

Monday, December 16, 2019

Western Stars

That feeling when you reach the time for your last music prompt--big sigh.

I am certain no one here needs an introduction to Bruce Springsteen. 
I am pleased, however, to refer all of you to Western Stars, 
his newest album and amazing concert film, a gorgeous and lush 
piece of music from start to finish.

I woke up this morning
Just glad my boots are on
 It’s all fantastic, but this song completely knocks my socks off (audio only): STONES
This is the movie version, Bruce singing in duet with his wife Patti Scialfa.
I wish I had written it. Amazing, beautiful, poetic, inspiring.
I woke up this morning with stones in my mouth
You said those are only the lies that you’ve told me
Only the lies you've told me
During this busy time of year, I really encourage you all to take a break 
and listen to this whole record. Trust me. 


I couldn’t post my last music prompt without honoring the late Ric Ocasek, 
who passed away in September. Anyone who knows me in real life 
knows that my favorite band is and always has been The Cars, 
and Ric Ocasek my favorite poet. 

This is a very happy me in 2012 with his book, Lyrics and Prose.

I adore Ric Ocasek’s songwriting and poetry style which has definitely inspired my own.
Here is one of my poems directly inspired by Ocasek, probably my favorite:

“I read a lot of poetry, and that gives me a wide range of permission 
to say anything in a song — they’re more twisted than I’ll ever be.” 
-- Ric Ocasek

Okay, friends, thanks for indulging me. The point of all of this is to inspire poetry! 
So please go forth and write poems inspired by Bruce Springsteen, string sections, 
being glad your boots are on, aging cowboys, stones and lies, New Jersey, 
The Cars, 80s new-wave, lyrics and poetry, trying to hide your disgrace, Boston 
or anything else that comes up as the result of this lengthy and love-filled prompt.

It’s been real.


Friday, December 13, 2019

Weekend Mini-Challenge: 13 Poetic Bits of Kerry

I haven’t always cared for poetry. In fact, a handful of years ago, those of you who have known me for a bit probably had the displeasure of reading my rants about how much I hated poetry (and how Shakespeare was very likely a frilly ruff-wearing sadist). Then illness (and the fact that the idea of not writing on a regular basis was rather painful) not-so-gently nudged me to give poetry writing a try. That’s how I stumbled into the Imaginary Garden with Real Toads, how I ended up falling in love with Kerry O’Connor’s poetry (and with the delight of poetry writing).

So, for my last prompt, before our Garden closes its active doors, I wish you to celebrate Kerry’s poetry with me. Joining the celebration is easy, just select 1 of the 13 lines below (which I harvested out of 13 of Kerry’s poems), and write a new poem. The words in your chosen line must remain exactly as they are—consecutive and unaltered (other than capitalization)—and you must use every word in the line you choose. Line breaks are fine. For example, if you choose the first line, “A nightmare is mere fodder” can be line 1, as long as “for poetry” is (or starts) line 2.

13 poetic bits of Kerry, for today’s prompt (somewhere in your post, maybe at the end, show us the Kerry Bit you chose and give Kerry credit. And if you are feeling extra giving, also let us know why you chose that particular line):  

1. A nightmare is mere fodder for poetry
2. But, oh, how high you fly on the trapeze. No nets
3. Crushing fragments of yesterday
4. Does it burn, my dear? Does it trouble you
5. This flesh is mine, it has bled, and shed
6. The future arrives just as water
7. The nights are not dark enough
8. I am the embodiment of smoke
9. I have been halved and cored
10. I will love you in the darkness of soul
11. Our hearts are naked
12. Permit yourself to pause
13. The (right) words to undo the wrong
* To read the poem a line belongs to, just click the number.

Visit @skyloverpoetry, Skywriter, and Skylover to enjoy more of Kerry’s words.

My sweetest Kerry, thank you so much for letting me offer your poetry as inspiration, and for allowing me some growing space in the Imaginary Garden. You rocketh very mucho… and you are sooo loved.

Dear Toads, add the direct link to your new poem to Mr. Linky. Do visit other pond dwellers. As always, share your thoughts on the ink-flowers blooming in their Imaginary Garden. And please, please, please… be kind.