Friday, January 18, 2019

Poetry Friday: Breakage, by Mary Oliver

Such a short poem, "Breakage," by Mary Oliver, is.

It begins, as so many of her poems do, in the natural world, and ends, as so much of her work does, in the life of the mind, in the midst of reflection.

Here are the final lines:

First you figure out what each one means by itself, 
the jingle, the periwinkle, the scallop 
       full of moonlight. 

Then you begin, slowly, to read the whole story.

(Read the whole poem here, at The Poetry Foundation.) 

And that, dear friends, is a tiny glimpse of the wonder that was Mary Oliver.

May she rest in peace.

Mary Oliver, 1935-2019


Tricia Stohr-Hunt at The Miss Rumphius Effect is hosting the roundup this week.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Poetry Friday: I dwell in possibility

Ah, my Emily!

So appropriate for January —for looking ahead — for being open to interpretation — full of possibility!

I dwell in Possibility
by Emily Dickinson

I dwell in Possibility –
A fairer House than Prose –
More numerous of Windows –
Superior – for Doors –

(Read the entire short poem here, at The Poetry Foundation.)


Thursday, January 10, 2019

Upping My Goodreads Game

What I read in 2018 

Apparently, according to my profile page, I started a Goodreads account in 2009. (Whaaaat?) That's ten years ago. (I know you can do the math. I just needed to emphasize it.) This is so annoyingly typical of me. I started the account, did nothing with it (although I know I added my 2017 books at some point, but they're not there), and now I look like a slacker. ("I've read 54 books in ten years! Woo-hoo!") Well, actually, it was 54-ish in 2018. (I say "-ish" because I abandoned a couple of these books mid-way through, but read enough each time that I wanted to remember them in my tally.) 

I don't always make New Year's resolutions, but this year, I resolve to up my Goodreads game. I'm still not sure exactly what I want to put into it or get out of this. This is a work in progress. 

I haven't rated any of these books; I'm not a fan of the star system. I want to talk about books, ad nauseum, not slap a possibly misleading grade on them. It doesn't do to say, "It's three and a half stars," (or do I mean four stars??) when what I mean is, "The writing was gorgeous. She made me want to steal a sentence every few pages. But the plot was improbable, and a number of incidents seemed too contrived. I'm willing to suspend disbelief, of course, but I wish (fill in plot point) had gone a different way. But I'm so glad I read it. It had heart and charm, humanity, and writing to die for. Or maybe, from my writerly point of view, to kill for." 

I can't talk in stars. 

If you're on Goodreads and want to friend me, please do! I'm not as slacker-y as I appear. 

Here are a few of my favorites (to get us started), in no particular order, from 2018: 

Virgil Wander, by Leif Enger 
The Wednesday Wars, by Gary Schmidt (middle grade) 
My Life in Middlemarch, by Rebecca Mead 
Clock Dance, by Anne Tyler 
Love Walked In, by Marisa de los Santos 
Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel 
The Power and the Glory, by Graham Greene 
Castle of Water, by Dane Huckelbridge
L.M. Montgomery's Pat of Silverbush books 
Beartown, by Fredrik Backman 
I Am, I Am, I Am, by Maggie O'Farrell 
Tell Me More, by Kelly Corrigan 

All of my 2018 books are here. See you on Goodreads? 

Thursday, January 03, 2019

"I learn by going where I have to go."

It's time to shake off 2018 (and 2017 ... and 2016 ... umm, let's face it, it hasn't been the best run here for a couple of years now) and regenerate, much as a Time Lord does every now and then. Things change; they should, they must.

I put the internet on a much-needed snooze for the last couple of months, but I'm back. Taking my waking slow, but I'm here. And I'm hopeful about 2019.

Shall we kick the new year off with a Pulitzer Prize winner? Yes, let's. Can anyone nail a villanelle quite like Roethke? I think not. This is one of my favorites.

The Waking
by Theodore Roethke

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

(Read the rest here, at

And let's compare favorite lines, shall we? (I know, I know ... an impossible task. Let's try anyway.)

I learn by going where I have to go.

I'm gonna have to go with this one. As a matter of fact, I might adopt this as the quote for my year. The quote for my life.

I learn by going where I have to go.

I don't always want to go where I have to go. ("Can't I go somewhere else, please?" I often ask or whine.) But I learn by going, I go by learning, and I have to, I have to, I have to, no matter how much I want to go somewhere else. (This shaking keeps me steady. I should know ... Oh, Roethke, stop throwing competing lines my way. I can choose only one.)

Anyway, yes, it's been a difficult couple of years. (What falls away is always. And is near ... Oh, c'mon, stop it, Roethke, I'm choosing only one favorite line!) But I sense that I'll learn by going, as I have to go, into 2019. And the shimmering hope that is a new, uncharted, unlived twelve-months-to-come is whispering to me that sometime in the coming year, I will "I hear my being dance from ear to ear." (Oh, that's a great line, too. But no, I'm not changing my answer.)

I learn by going where I have to go. 

I'm looking forward to finding out where I have to go this year.


The Poetry Friday round up is at Poetry for Children. 

Friday, November 02, 2018

Poetry Friday: Billy Collins, W.B. Yeats, MRIs, and Knowing Poems by Heart

I picked up Light the Dark: Writers on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artistic Process last night and skipped straight to the Billy Collins contribution, "Into the Deep Heart's Core." I decided on the spot that I must (yes, must, because what if I need an MRI someday?) memorize "The Lake Isle of Innisfree."

Don't fret. This isn't a medical post, and I don't need an MRI —you'll get the MRI reference when you read the piece. And, happily, I can send you directly to that piece, because the book grew out of Joe Fassler's "By Heart" series in The Atlantic, and you can find the Billy Collins piece here.

A few shimmering gems:

It’s a powerful, unexpected statement of a simple sentiment: I want to go somewhere better than where I am.

Poetry’s kind of a mixture of the clear and the mysterious. It’s very important to know when to be which: what to be clear about and what to leave mysterious.

And yet I think poetry is as important today as it’s ever been, despite its diminished public stature. Its uses become obvious when you read it. Poetry privileges subjectivity. It foregrounds the interior life of the writer, who is trying to draw in a reader. And it gets readers into contact with their own subjective life. This is valuable, especially now.

And of course, listen to Yeats read "The Lake Isle of Innisfree."

Arise and go now, and read Billy Collins on the joy of memorization.

And memorize something. Because you never know when you're going to be in a "very high-tech coffin," in need of a beautiful and useful distraction.

The Lake Isle of Innisfree
William Butler Yeats

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee;
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.


Thursday, October 25, 2018

Poetry Friday: Evening, by G.K. Chesterton

I couldn't have said it better myself: 

by G.K. Chesterton

Here dies another day
During which I have had eyes, ears, hands
And the great world round me;
And with tomorrow begins another.
Why am I allowed two?


The Poetry Friday round up this week is being hosted by Kay at A Journey Through the Pages

Friday, October 05, 2018

Poetry Friday: James Weldon Johnson's "Sonnet"

After a lot of dispiriting news this week and the feeling that women and their truths don't seem to matter to a great many people, I found James Weldon Johnson's "Sonnet" to be a welcome antidote.

by James Weldon Johnson

My heart be brave, and do not falter so,
Nor utter more that deep, despairing wail.
Thy way is very dark and drear I know,
But do not let thy strength and courage fail;
For certain as the raven-winged night
Is followed by the bright and blushing morn,
Thy coming morrow will be clear and bright;
’Tis darkest when the night is furthest worn.
Look up, and out, beyond, surrounding clouds,
And do not in thine own gross darkness grope,
Rise up, and casting off thy hind’ring shrouds,
Cling thou to this, and ever inspiring hope:
Tho’ thick the battle and tho’ fierce the fight,
There is a power making for the right.


Friday, September 28, 2018

Poetry Friday: Hours

I have known hours of such varying intensity this week ... lovely hours, wrenching hours, calm hours, hours of laughter, anxious hours. Hazel Hall knows.

Hazel Hall

I have known hours built like cities,
House on grey house, with streets between
That lead to straggling roads and trail off,
Forgotten in a field of green;

Hours made like mountains lifting
White crests out of the fog and rain,
And woven of forbidden music—
Hours eternal in their pain.

Life is a tapestry of hours
Forever mellowing in tone,
Where all things blend, even the longing
For hours I have never known.

(Found here, on


Jone Rush MacCulloch has the roundup today.  

Friday, September 07, 2018

Poetry Friday: Credo, by Alfred Kreymborg

From one of the (new poet to me -- do you know him?) earlier adopters of free verse, Alfred Kreymborg (1883 - 1966). This one really spoke to me this week!

  by Alfred Kreymborg

I sing the will to love:
the will that carves the will to live,
the will that saps the will to hurt,
the will that kills the will to die;
the will that made and keeps you warm,
the will that points your eyes ahead,
the will that makes you give, not get,
a give and get that tell us what you are:
how much a god, how much a human.
I call on you to live the will to love.

(This poem is in the public domain.)


The Poetry Friday roundup is at Carol Varsalona's Beyond LiteracyLink.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Bits and Pieces of Our Days: A Good Rainy Morning


This isn't my actual window (I'm a mediocre photographer so I'm thankful for Pexels) but it could be. This is the drizzle of our day. 

It will be punctuated by the sunshine of hot coffee and breakfast-out somewhere, to kick off the school year for Ramona and me. Anne-with-an-e and Betsy are free from work/school today and can join us, which is a delight. 


Work, as always, is keeping me busy. I'll be teaching two six-week sessions of The Writer's Jungle Online for Brave Writer this fall. (There are still spaces open in the Oct. 29-Dec. 7 class, but the Sept. 10th class is full.) I've also been getting to tinker with just a wee bit of behind-the-scenes writing for Brave Writer, and that's a lot of fun. 

I might have a new book in the works; I'll keep you posted as things develop.


I've mentioned our swallows before and wrote here about our resignation to their stubborn beauty.
And of course, you've heard of swallows returning every year to San Juan Capistrano?
What I may not have mentioned recently is our fear that the Edmisten home is turning into Edmistrano.

I give you Exhibit A:


One night in mid-August, about 11 pm I think, at the height of the Perseid meteor showers, we drove out into the country to get a better look. It was worth the drive, but we actually ended up seeing the most spectacular shooting star after we got home. We were lying on blankets in the backyard when we saw one that looked like an amazing special effect. 

Again, not my photo. Again, thanks,

It was a needed bit of beauty in a rather hard month. 

There are a number of health things happening at Edmistrano, but one that's currently front and center is Betsy's autoimmune disease. 

In December, I shared that she'd been diagnosed with a chronic illness, but I don't think I ever shared the details. Betsy has Crohn's disease (I have her permission to talk about it -- oh, for the days of thinking only about cute kid quotes!) We thought it was being well controlled with a biologic that she's received every 8 weeks, since December, through an IV infusion. Although she'd had to leave school in the fall semester of 2017, she was back at it last semester, and went into the summer feeling good. She was in clinical remission, but testing in early August showed that she's not in endoscopic remission and symptoms were beginning to flare. So, after too much waiting and some stressful phone calls with the insurance company, she started a new biologic, which we hope will work. The girl who a year ago was deathly afraid of needles not only learned to deal with regular IVs, but now will learn to give herself injections. 

My daughters repeatedly teach me what real bravery looks like. 

Which brings me to the kitchen. 

I'm helping Betsy investigate an autoimmune protocol (AIP) diet, and these ladies are fast becoming my new best friends: Mickey and Angie, at Autoimmune Wellness, are a wealth of information and recipes. (Many thanks to my dear friend who steered me their way.) I've been listening to their podcast, too, which is super-helpful. I've been talking about Mickey and Angie so much that Atticus suggested I just refer to them as McAngie. 

For a vegetarian who was leaning toward veganism, learning to cook with high-quality proteins is a challenge, so wish us luck. And if you have any AIP diet stories to share, hit me up. 

In short, if I've been really quiet on the blog, it's at least in part because I've been so busy in the kitchen. 😮

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Poetry Friday: The "I Am From" Project

I couldn't decide what to post this week. Yeats? Billy Collins? The always amazing Richard Wilbur?

I was dithering, so I started flitting around the Kidlitosphere and saw that Tabatha had posted a "Where I'm From" poem. (Hey, I remember those! I wrote one ages ago. Thank you, Tabatha, for this week's inspiration! W.B., Billy, and Richard will have to wait. Also? I'm stealing your idea to include a picture, Tabatha. I'm all about stolen ideas this week.)

Tabatha's post led me back to Heidi Mordhorst's blog, and this explanation of George Ella Lyon and Julie Landsman's beautiful project. Be sure to go here to check out the details of the I Am From Project, and consider writing one yourself.

In the meantime, here's where I'm from.

Me, age 7

I Am From 
Karen Edmisten

I am from knee socks,
Hostess cupcakes
and black patent leather shoes
worn home from the store.

I am from coast to coast,
from everywhere
and nowhere,
the child of a pilot and his bride.
I am from Air Force base housing,
plain vanilla walls
and Barbie clothes sewn from Thailand’s silk.

I am from hollyhock dolls and walking to school,
from dandelion bouquets,
from Alaskan glaciers
and from the sun rising on a Florida coast.

I am from summer car trips
to Grandma and Grandpa's,
with stops at Lookout Mountain
and the Truman Museum.
I am from staid New England stock,
from Indiana folks,
from John and Norma,
Madeline and Jim.
I am from lightning bugs in the backyard
and the sleepy scent of Noxzema.

I am from “Be polite” and
“Do your best,”
and “Goodnight, John-boy”
at bedtime,
from “I’m rubber, you’re glue,”
and from “Nuh-uh is not a word.”

I am from a squishy pillow at the drive-in,
and a six-year-old’s delight in the
dark, safe cocoon of the car.

I am from Santa Claus
and Easter eggs,
dinnertime grace,
and prayers
that faded away.

I am from Germany,
from home cooked meals,
doll-cakes on my birthday,
and home-sewn clothes
that made me proud of my mother’s skill.

From Grandma, who thought I loved peas
because I gobbled them up
(to get rid of them),
and from Grandpa, who convinced me
that a signal tower
was his own private Christmas tree.
I am from my grandmother’s way
of smearing butter on a scraped knee,
and taking me to “the groc'ry”
no matter what store it was.

I am from Mom, who decorated
the house for every holiday,
and took us blueberry hunting by the creek;
from Dad, who told me that thunder
was giants bowling in the sky,
and whose hand holding mine
was all I could see at the airport
when he came home from a year in Korea.

I am from Air Force brats bonding
through a shared, strange life,
from a 1960s family who taught me
without words
that “skin color” meant nothing
and “human being” meant everything.

I am from nomads,
from possibilities, and from imagination.

I am from a longing for roots, found finally, and only, in God.


Thursday, July 26, 2018

Poetry Friday: Birthdays in July

Birthdays in July 

One is sixteen. 
Sixty-one is another. 
One is my daughter. 
My husband's the other. 

© Karen Edmisten 

Ramona was, Atticus always says, his 45th birthday present. 
Happy birthday to my old man and my youngest daughter! 


The Poetry Friday round-up is at Reading to the Core.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Poetry Friday and Bits and Pieces of Our Days

Eeeek! Has it really been a month since I posted?

Summertime and the livin' is easy? Or summertime and we're-so-busy-I-don't-have-time-to-post?

That depends on the week.

Ramona did two theater camps in June, so those weeks flew by. Atticus bought our thespian some lovely flowers, and they lasted for ages:

What is the purple flower? Some kind of ornamental cabbage?


Ramona and I experimented with baking vegan chocolate chip cookies and we discovered that aqua faba (translation: chickpea liquid) is an excellent substitute for eggs. (These were as good or better than my usual recipe.) Yum.

Speaking of all things vegan, how did Omaha get so lucky as to be the landing spot for Isa Chandra Moskowitz's incredible vegan restaurant, Modern Love? Atticus and I recently tried it for the first time and the food was crazy-good. I could eat their gnocchi carbonara all day, every day.


In pet news, we decided to try a thunder shirt for our poor, anxious doggo:

"Okay, it's kind of helping. Do you have it in another color?"

And we're all truly, madly, deeply happy that fireworks season has passed.


We did an overnight at our favorite state park. I like to call this kind of getaway "camping" because the trip requires that I pack insect repellent, no make-up, and we must all be on constant alert for ticks. Combine these factors and I can pretend, in casual conversation with other midwesterners, that I enjoy camping. But in reality, I am deeply appreciative of cabins that are equipped with air conditioning and coffee makers. 


And now, for the point of this post -- Poetry Friday! 

I shared this poem a few years back, along with a story about the swallows that nest on our front and back porches. We love them, despite the mess they create. They've made their peace with us (almost no divebombing to speak of these days) and we happily accept their messes in exchange for the joy they provide.

Happy midsummer, and here's to further mash-ups of easy livin' and too-busyness!


by Leonora Speyer

They dip their wings in the sunset,
They dash against the air
As if to break themselves upon its stillness:
In every movement, too swift to count,
Is a revelry of indecision,
A furtive delight in trees they do not desire
And in grasses that shall not know their weight.

They hover and lean toward the meadow
With little edged cries;
And then,
As if frightened at the earth’s nearness,
They seek the high austerity of evening sky
And swirl into its depth.

(This poem is in the public domain.)


The Poetry Friday round up is at Poetry for Children

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Poetry Friday Round-up is Here This Week!

Welcome to Poetry Friday! 

(I'm posting early because I know how you guys are. I'm the same way, so welcome, kindred spirits.) 

I was waffling about what to post today. Atticus gave me a couple of ideas and they were lovely and heady but I was in the mood for something about marriage. ("Sorry, honey, I don't want your ideas. I want something about marriage," I said to my spouse. Hmmm. Perhaps there's something wrong with that but there you have it.)

Then something whispered in my ear: Barbara Crooker.  Crooker's poems are so real and rich. Deep currents run through her deceptively simple work -- currents we all swim and sometimes struggle through: love, nature, grief, food, dreams, marriage. Life.

So, I went wading through Crooker's website and came upon this one, which is lovely and new to me:

by Barbara Crooker

The sky hangs up its starry pictures: a swan,
a crab, a horse. And even though you’re
three hundred miles away, I know you see
them, too. Right now, my side
of the bed is empty, a clear blue lake
of flannel. The distance yawns and stretches.

(Read the whole poem here, at The Poetry Foundation.)


After I chose that one, I remembered a poem I wrote about eight years ago, also titled "Sustenance." I decided to share that one today, too.

by Karen Edmisten 

like marriage,
requires the promise
of leavening.

There is flour and water —
foundation — yes,
but it begs
something more:
fermentation, lather,
and growth.
It must take on life,
risk failure,
swell in size,
though never
sloppily escape
its necessary confines.

My husband
mixes flour
and water,
baking bread for me.
It is nothing,
he says.

It is everything,
I counter,
as I watch him
measure, stir yeast
and add salt,
carefully constructing a promise.


For your weekly poetic sustenance, leave your link below, and then go devour some goodness.

Thanks for stopping by!


Friday, June 08, 2018

Poetry Friday: Driving Lessons

Driving Lessons

Child #1:
My right foot
is pressing
desperately on an
invisible brake pedal.
My voice: tense.
Body: rigid.
Knuckles: white.
Mortality: powerfully aware.

Child #2:
Her tranquilizing
confidence becomes
my confidence.
She says the wheel
in her hands feels
just as it did
in her dreams.
What a second-y second child
this girl is.

Child #3:
Six years younger
than her closest sister.
(A final round, then
I'll retire from this gig.)
She has been watching
road signs, listening,

We are both grateful
for those who
came before, for the girls
who have been
helping both of us
to grow up.

© Karen Edmisten


Poems are being rounded up this week at Whispers on the Ridge