Free at Last? dVerse Open Link Night

Image: WikipediaChildren's March in Birmingham.

Image: Wikipedia
Children’s March in Birmingham.

Memories washed clean, hung out to dry,

assume the scents of urban loneliness or Carolina Jasmine.

That summer in the Bronx—the smell of hardwood wax,

humidity and sweat. Of poverty.

Boys cut loose, and girls, to play in fire hydrant bliss.

Mid-60’s turmoil, caged animals at the Zoo.

The smell of fear then siren blasts impinging on

monastic silence. Raucous demonstrations,

steaming asphalt immolating sacrificial offerings.

The smell of blood poured out, torn children’s flesh,

In spring, gunpowder from an assassin’s deadly fire

cut short that dream and yet it still unfolds,

aromatic memories washed clean, hung out to dry,

our dirty laundry—reminding us.


Linked to dVerse Open Link Night. Stop by and bring a poem, or just browse. We’re open on Tuesday, 3PM EST!

Process Note: During the Children’s March for Civil Rights in Birmingham, Alabama, racial hatred hit a climax when the mayor ordered the police to set loose police dogs and the fire department to spray the children with fire hoses, full blast. Images captured by the media heightened the country, including President Kennedy, to the horrors of segregation. (In contrast, in the Bronx heat, poor children released fire hydrants and played in the spray. I was there at the time.)

Outta Here!

Native Americans flee from the allegorical rep...

Image via Wikipedia

Outta Here!

Choctaw, Cherokee,
Chickasaw, Creek
Tears left along the trail
like breadcrumbs, like blood,
but never leading home again.
Outta here!

Westward ho!
This land is our land.
God planned it so,
His gift to us.
This land is our land,
no longer yours.
Outta here!

Land grabs today,
high noon.
First come, first served.
Outta here!

Pearl Harbor changed it all.
No fun for you,
at these camps.
Japanese Americans
Outta here!

This land was your land
but now it’s ours.
Outta here!
Eminent Domain
back to bite you in the butt.

A darker page in the history of the United States–there have been times when, through government intervention, land has been seized from those who had settled or purchased it. In the 1800’s, the tragic event known as Trail of Tears snatched large areas of land in the Southeast of the country. Five tribes were forced to relocate to areas in the midwest, primarily in Oklahoma. Thousands of Native Americans died during the relocation process. During the same era, the westward expansion forced Native tribes from their land under the doctrine termed Manifest Destiny, the belief that it was God’s intention that the western territories should belong European American settlers. In addition, land belonging to American Indians was opened for grabs (known as homesteading).

During World War II, Japanese Americans and immigrants were forced from their homes and relocated to Internment Camps scattered throughout the West. This was in response to fear that Japan was planning to attack the West Coast.

And now, today, homeowners in our country are subject to Eminent Domain. This means that if their property is deemed useful to the greater good, they may be forced to sell it to the government. While they are afforded financial compensation for their loss, they cannot contest the land seizure.

I wrote this in response to the prompt at Poetry Potluck, to write about history. Stop by for a history lesson at

The image (Public Domain) is an allegorical representation of Manifest Destiny

Wordsmith Wednesday–12 Sources of Poetic Inspiration

Illustration from the cover of Christina Rosse...

Image via Wikipedia

Today I’ve been considering the sources we poets turn to for poetic inspiration–so today’s Wordsmith Wednesday is for poets although I’m sure that it can be useful to prose writers as well. I’m going to short-list some of the sources I turn to to be inspired in my writing. I’m hoping that you will add to it in the comments section.

  • Nature–look for details, metaphors, lessons that are present all around us. When stuck, it often helps me to take a walk. I’m blessed to live in a place that is replete with nature’s offerings.
  • Reading–read other poets. Their work often tickles my creative muse. I’ve mentioned some of my favorites in my list of recommended reading.
  • News sources–look for the seeds of story-poems hidden in the newspaper, on the Internet or on TV news broadcast.
  • Poetic Forms–do an Internet search and check out poetic forms. For me, the discipline of a form can jump-start and idea.
  • Spirituality–look to metaphysical/religious ideas and writings such as the Bible or holy books of other spiritual traditions. Look within at your own spiritual experience.
  • Relationships–these evoke emotional reactions that are often begging to be expressed.
  • History–check out historical events as well as your own history. There are stories to tell.
  • Mythology–although this is not an area of expertise for me, I’ve read much poetry that draws on the classical myths, stories that transcend time.
  • Science–a wonderful well-spring of poetic inspiration.
  • Art–Use painting, sculpture, photography and translate your experience into words.
  • Writing Prompts–those of us who participate in writing communities have a wealth of material tossed out at us on a daily or weekly basis. Check out some of the sites on my blogroll. I’d love to see you link up to my own Monday Morning Writing Prompt.
  • Political issues–need I say more? My personal viewpoint is to stay away from personal attacks and stick to the issues.

I hope these will be helpful to you, especially if you are feeling stuck right now. There are more–help me expand the list if you will!

Wordsmith Wednesday–Guest Post by Lisa Rivero

Early in my blogging ventures I happened upon an excellent writing site hosted by Lisa Rivero. For this week’s Wordsmith Wednesday, I’m honored that Lisa has agreed to guest-post an article that will inspire those of you who write (or are thinking about writing) Memoir or Family History.

Lisa is a writer of non-fiction in the areas of food, cooking, wellness and parenting. She has written a child’s historical novel which is represented by Bree Ogden of Martin Literary Management. She teaches writing, technical composition, creative thinking and humanities at Milwaukee School of Engineering and lectures around the country on a number of issues including the creative life and parenting gifted children. She also maintains a blog: Everyday Intensity.

Lisa Rivero


Voices Flying Off the Page: The Many Uses of Historical Diaries

Michelle Hoover, whose novel The Quickening is based loosely on a 15-page journal written by her great-grandmother, says that “the voice just flew off the page….When I started to write Enidina based on my great-grandmother, I had it from the beginning.”

Similarly, novelist Rebecca Rasmussen based her novel The Bird Sisters on forty years of her grandmother’s diaries. Rebecca says that after reading and re-reading her grandmother’s words and story, “I came to the determination that I should close the journal and let their voices, which were now fully invested in my heart, speak for themselves.”

Ever since I began a long-term project of reading and transcribing the diaries of my great-aunt Hattie—all 77 volumes and over 37 years of them—I have been amazed and heartened by how many other people also have similar family treasures and hold them close. For writers, the experience of reading another’s life and voice with care offers both inspiration and rich historical details. Consider these two entries by Hattie:

April 22, 1933: A man and wife soliciting for the Salvation Army were here yesterday, and Wm gave them 50 cents and one old hen.

April 21, 1935: Will did a lot of jobs in a.m., emptied ashes, put potatoes and smoked meat in the cellar, and helped me with breakfast dishes, made ice-cream, got in a lot of water. This is Easter Sunday, and the Furrey Family went to O’Kreek, but there was no church, so came back home, ate breakfast, finished chores, came over here for dinner, for I dressed a chicken that Will got me, roasted it, baked a cake, mopped the front room and kitchen floors. Fritz came in p.m., and he will help Lattimores this coming week. Furreys and us to School Picnic and Kitten-ball, then more ice-cream.

Anyone writing about the Midwest in the Great Depression now knows that 50 cents and an old hen were an acceptable donation to the Salvation Army, that potatoes and smoked meat were stored in the cellar, that in the days before cell phones it was common to drive to a country church only to find no priest, and that, in this particular family, the husband was quite the helper around the house. Fritz was one of Hattie’s nephews, and like many young men, he earned money by working at various farms when he could (“he will help Lattimores this coming week”). A little additional research uncovers that kitten ball was an early name for softball, the rules of which were standardized only in 1933.

I’m finding that using dairy entries as prompts for short flash pieces is an excellent writing exercise. Ideas include challenging yourself to capture the diarist’s voice, portray a setting, imagine a dialogue, or write the scene from the perspective of someone else who is mentioned in a particular entry.

Even if you don’t have any family diaries of your own, plenty of digital historical material is available online. Here are just a few examples, and you can find many more by searching state historical societies, university library holdings, and genealogy records and blogs.

• One of the most fun sources is Historical Diaries on Twitter, where you can follow perhaps the most famous diarist of them all, Samuel Pepys.
• The Historic Iowa Children’s Diaries collection features diaries by children of settlers.
• The Mormon Missionary Diaries is a vast, searchable digital collection of diaries kept by over 100 missionaries.
• The Wisconsin Historical Society offers rotating excerpts from diaries in their collection, currently featuring the diaries of Emily Quiner, a 23-year-old school teacher in Madison.
• The Library of Congress’s Nebraska Settlement and Family Letters website offers both photographs and letters from two homesteading families.
• The high-school teaching guides Diary of a Planter and Diary of a Farm Wife from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are annotated diary entries that are informative for adults as well as young students.
• In Diaries on the Web: A Practical Guide, Joanne Riley shares presentation slides about how to find and share diaries online.
• Finally, I was excited to find online the diaries of Martha Ballard, upon which historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich based her excellent book A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785 – 1812.

What is your experience of family diaries? Do you keep a diary of your own?

When you have a few moments, be sure to take the time to pay a visit to Lisa at You will not be disappointed. Thank you, Lisa, for sharing your insights with us.