Posted in community outreach, education, news, workshops

Frogpond associate editor, Center for Poetry to start haiku study group

By Kelsey Block

Starting in February, the Center for Poetry is partnering with East Lansing haiku poet Michele Root-Bernstein to create a haiku study group.

The group will meet on the third Saturday of every month from 1 – 3 p.m. in Snyder hall, C302. The first session is on February 20.

The study group is open to anyone at any skill level. While each session will have a different topic, Root-Berstein said all the sessions will be structured similarly. Usually the group will start out reading haiku of their own or written by others, then consider—and play with—some aspect of haiku esthetics or composition, followed by time to write and to share their work (anonymously if they wish).The emphasis is on trying something new, stretching writerly skills and having fun.

“I’m there to learn as much as anyone else and keep getting inspired,” she said.

Root-Bernstein served as the associate editor of Frogpond, the journal of the Haiku Society of America for the last four years. The journal accepts a number of forms of poetry, including renku, senryu, haibun, and rengay, along with reviews and essays.

In selecting poems for publication, she and Frogpond’s lead editor, Francine Banwarth, looked for signs of LIFE; that is, they were looking for poems that incorporated four essential elements of haiku: language rich with meaning, images that are fresh, form that enhances, and elusive evocation of experience. Banwarth and Root-Bernstein also considered what they called “the Goldilocks effect” of a poem—did language, image, form and elusiveness add up to something that was “too much,” “not enough,” or “just right”? (Readers interested in more can check this out.)

Root-Bernstein is especially excited about the haiku study group because haiku poets are reinventing and redefining the form.

“The field is under such ferment that there are so many different directions you could take the art,” she said. Some forms are collaborative, others incorporate prose poetry and still others include drawings or pictures.

“I got so involved I couldn’t give it up,” she said. “The thing is, it never quits. It’s not like all of a sudden I knew; I still don’t know how to write a haiku. There’s always something more to learn, always something that now you understand that you didn’t understand two months ago.”

Root-Bernstein was first drawn to haiku when her children were in elementary school. She worked as an artist in residence at her children’s school, visiting classes and teaching poetry.

Very soon after Root-Bernstein started writing her own haiku, one of her poems was published.  

“But I couldn’t repeat it because I didn’t know what I had done; I didn’t understand why that was a good haiku,” she said. “I had to keep at it, slowly find my way into other haiku journals, and about ten years later, stumble on the opportunity to place a dozen or so of my poems in the 2009 volume of A New Resonance (Red Moon Press).”

Perhaps because of that experience, Root-Bernstein encourages aspiring poets to keep writing and submitting their work.

“It’s not rejected, just returned,” Root-Bernstein said, quoting some advice she received years ago. “It’s not the end of the world. You’re just trying to find the editors who appreciate your stuff. And it’s true; it’s all subjective in some ways.”

She also suggests that early writers read, read, read – read anthologies and especially read the journals you’re interested in submitting to. She suggests reading journals online, like Heron’s Nest or bones, and subscribing to Modern Haiku or Acorn as well as Frogpond to get a feel for contemporary and exploratory haiku.

Posted in poem of the week, Uncategorized

Poem of the Week: The Snow Fairy

By: Claude Mckay

Snow Fairy


Throughout the afternoon I watched them there,
Snow-fairies falling, falling from the sky,
Whirling fantastic in the misty air,
Contending fierce for space supremacy.
And they flew down a mightier force at night,
As though in heaven there was revolt and riot,
And they, frail things had taken panic flight
Down to the calm earth seeking peace and quiet.
I went to bed and rose at early dawn
To see them huddled together in a heap,
Each merged into the other upon the lawn,
Worn out by the sharp struggle, fast asleep.
The sun shone brightly on them half the day,
By night they stealthily had stol’n away.


And suddenly my thoughts then turned to you
Who came to me upon a winter’s night,
When snow-sprites round my attic window flew,
Your hair disheveled, eyes aglow with light.
My heart was like the weather when you came,
The wanton winds were blowing loud and long;
But you, with joy and passion all aflame,
You danced and sang a lilting summer song.
I made room for you in my little bed,
Took covers from the closet fresh and warm,
A downful pillow for your scented head,
And lay down with you resting in my arm.
You went with Dawn. You left me ere the day,
The lonely actor of a dreamy play.


Claude McKay, © Poems are the property of their respective owners.

Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: Won’t You Celebrate With Me, by Lucille Clifton


won’t you celebrate with me

Lucille Clifton

won’t you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.

Lucille Clifton, “won’t you celebrate with me” from Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton. Copyright © 1991 by Lucille Clifton. Via, 1/18/16.

Listen to Lucille Clifton read "won't you celebrate with me" here.
Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: Multiple Choice, by Susan Laughter Meyers


Your chickadee has nested in the wrong house, exposed and unprotected.

a.    You write to it, praising the green

        irony of an open door,

        the breeze that airs the bed.

        Which light, which shadow? you ask.

b.    You listen to what could be song

        but sounds more like scoldings

        of your tap-dancing mind.

c.    You breathe in the feathered smell

       of defeat, wondering why you didn’t hammer

       the yes-yes-yes closed.

d.   At dusk you speak the low syllables of elegy,

       when you can no longer sing.

       You have lost all sight of the tree,

       of whatever trembled its branches.





Posted in news, Uncategorized

Beloved pair steps down from Community Council

By Kelsey Block

Glenn and Sue Stutzky, the longest serving members of the Center for Poetry’s Community Council, have recently retired from their positions. While they still support the Center’s mission, they finished their terms proud of what they’ve been able to accomplish.

The Stutzkys have been involved with the Center for Poetry even before it began. They were first drawn to the Center because of their previous relationship with Center for Poetry Director Anita Skeen, who they met through the One Book, One Community workshops.

“We just need more investment in the arts. People getting involved in the community council, it’s actually a very low-cost way to further the arts,” Glenn Stutzky said.

Sue works as a legislative analyst for the Michigan House of Representatives, and Glenn is a professor in the school of social work at Michigan State University. The two don’t always have the chance to engage with poetry and creative writing in their professions, and they’ve welcomed the opportunities the Center for Poetry has provided.

“We’ve seen people who have had the same experience as us – writing was something that was accessible. We didn’t have to be in a degree program, we could still learn and create,” Glenn Stutzky said.

Since joining the Community Council, the pair has helped bring a number of new events to the Center for Poetry, including a pie and poetry night. They’ve also been instrumental in the Center for Poetry’s mission to establish a poet laureate in the state of Michigan.

The accomplishment they’re most proud of, however, is bringing Appalachian musician Elizabeth LaPrelle to East Lansing in 2012. The Stutzkys attended a music festival where LaPrelle was performing and asked if she would like to visit the Center – for free.

“We thought, ‘Boy, wouldn’t it be great to have a night of Appalachian music and poetry?’” Sue Stutzky said.

The Stutzkys turned LaPrelle’s visit into a fundraiser for the Center.

“She had her following (in Appalachian music) and I thought, ‘Well, wouldn’t this be nice if she drew some people from there?’ Because chances are, there are also people who would enjoy poetry. And that happened, and a number of people got introduced (to the Center for Poetry) that way,” Sue Stutzky said.

Since LaPrelle’s visit , the Center for Poetry has expanded its programming to include not just poets, but musicians and writers in other genres. This past fall, the Center hosted another pair of Appalachian folklorists, Michael and Carrie Kline along with Iowa-native singer-songwriter Nathan Bell.

In the future, the Stutzkys said they would like to see the Center’s reach expand even further into the community, both within Lansing and even statewide. They also hope the Center works to increase its contacts with other arts organizations in the state.

“I think the Community Council could work in trying to be more of a bug whereby poetry enthusiasts around the state can connect with each other and be aware of what’s happening,” Sue Stutzky said. “Slowly, word is getting out. It’s expanding. More poets, both people who have had some poems published and people who just write for their own edification, are getting to know about the Center and are coming to events.”