Grace Paley (1922-2007)

Yesterday afternoon I met a few of my Artist Way friends for pie in Port Townsend, at Hillbottom Pie, a little cafe on Tyler street. For dessert, I ordered strawberry-rhubarb pie, with ice cream. It was delicious. It made me think of my cousin Joan, who served us strawberry-rhubarb pie, warm from the oven, when I took my mother to visit just before Memorial Day, 2014. It made me think of the Dryad cemetery, which my mother and I also visited that day, and how, when Mom walked across the wet grass to put the flowers on the graves, I worried because she had fallen in the night. It made me think of this poem, by one of my favorite writers, Grace Paley.

What did you do today instead of writing a poem? Could you write a poem about that? 


I was going to write a poem
I made a pie instead    it took
about the same amount of time
of course the pie was a final
draft    a poem would have some
distance to go    days and weeks and
much crumpled paper

the pie already had a talking
tumbling audience among small
trucks and a fire engine on
the kitchen floor

everybody will like this pie
it will have apples and cranberries
dried apricots in it    many friends
will say    why in the world did you
make only one

this does not happen with poems

because of unreportable
sadnesses I decided to
settle this morning for a re-
sponsive eatership    I do not
want to wait a week    a year    a
generation for the right
consumer to come along

Can you write a poem-a-day for 30 days?

If you want to participate in the April poetry writing challenge, there are lots of good ways to go about it. You can start by learning more about the process at, which I found via Chris Jarmick’s blog, Poetry Is Everything. Our Washington State Poet Laureate, Elizabeth Austen, is also blogging a writing prompt per day this month.

Last year I wrote my one-bad-poem per day on the blog (just click on April 2014 in my index, if you want to see the results), but this year I thought rather than sharing my badness with you, I’d share a favorite, short poem each day. My goal is 30 poets in 30 days.

This gem is by Philip Larkin (1922-1985), a poet I always thought was a little too thoroughly modern (read, “pessimistic”) for me. Then, reading Structure & Surprise, I came across “The Mower,” which I fell immediately in love with. “The Mower” reminds me of all the small, beautiful things we should be responsible for, and neglect. It reminds me of things I’ve done–big and small–that can’t be undone. I love how utterly, utterly simple this poem is, just recounting a small chore, a small loss, but then how it lifts out of that loss to make a statement about all loss.

The Mower

The mower stalled, twice; kneeling, I found
A hedgehog jammed up against the blades,
Killed. It had been in the long grass.

I had seen it before, and even fed it, once.
Now I had mauled its unobtrusive world
Unmendably. Burial was no help:

Next morning I got up and it did not.
The first day after a death, the new absence
Is always the same; we should be careful

Of each other, we should be kind
While there is still time.

-Philip Larkin