Wednesday, December 21, 2016

the (boyertown) rhoads opera house fire-- memorial service for the 109th anniversary-- sunday, january 15, 2017: a traveling poetry class excursion.

my traveling poetry class will have its first excursion in 2017 in fairview cemetery in boyertown, as we'll be attending a memorial service for the victims of the rhoads opera house fire. the devastating blaze, which prompted legislation to ensure public building doors were able to be opened from inside and out, grew its flames on january 13, 1908.

the memorial service, hosted by margaret and carl harner of the boyertown area historical society, is slated for sunday, january 15 @ 1 p.m. at the grave marker below, which reads as "the unidentified" in larger lettering.

this event, free to all of the public, will not be too long, as it'll be during the cold of winter weather. the service is to honor the victims and this tragedy-rich part of local history, 109 years later.

the closest address across from the entrance of the cemetery is 332 west philadelphia avenue, boyertown, pa 19512. while the cemetery has its own driveway and no official designated parking, street parking is across from the gates.

my current traveling poetry class students and any new students who would like to attend this event can join us afterward. we will be meeting at the other farm brewing company, which is located at 128 east philadelphia avenue, boyertown, pa 19512.

the cost for the class is $20 in genuine dollar bills. students are welcome to bring their own previous poetry or other creative writing for sharing and discussing with the class, as we always aim to give each other open-minded feedback and reflections. reading from your journal, notebook, sheets of paper, or an electronic device is fine, but you are also welcome to bring copies for everyone to read. 

and we'll plan to discuss the memorial service to help stir ideas of poetic writing to craft from this experience.

we usually meet for at least 2 hours and sometimes more, depending on how long students are interested in talking, reading out loud, gaining feedback, writing, etc.

for any questions, email the instructor:

Thursday, December 8, 2016

winter wreath haiku.

carol wozniak arrived at my door yesterday afternoon with the surprise of a beautiful wreath of a not so traditional yet absoultely eye-savvy and heart-hugging kind. each november, she is a wreath-making maven after endeavoring in real estate in most life-minutes. 

she designed several other wreaths as donations from richard a. zuber realty for the second annual festival of wreaths & gift basket raffle to benefit the liberty fire company, which is right down the road from the host location, the keystone steam fire engine company number no. 1. i always figure, since firefighters are the ones who show up if your house is somehow unfortunately set aflame, as awful of a thought as that is, when deciding what nonprofits to support, reminders of this possibility make it all the more a good idea to do what you can for these volunteers so that they always have the resources they need to do their crucial work in communities.

at least one of her other designs involved a similar style as this wreath, which now has a home on my previously boring-looking front door. i didn't know it was boring until i saw how pretty it could be, though. and the ripped out and rolled up pages from a weathered book paired swimmingly with the history-rich wood of my front door.

the door's new appeal based on this elegant yet rustic, hand-made wreath seemed to deserve a freshly seasoned haiku.

apples, pears, leaves that
never fall away―a wreath
tells hearts you are loved

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

the december writers' recital at oley valley elementary school.

last friday, oley valley elementary school hosted its december writers' recital in its library at the hands of jenny albee. this is a special opportunity where teachers are allowed to pick only one student per class to share their writing with an audience of family and friends as a way to showcase their language talents on the page. the library hosted two separate sessions for the recital, and the morning one is featured here.

some of the topics from students' writings were vacationing in ocean city, new jersey, and autumn in pennsylvania. here are a few of the lines from what students wrote and shared.

seagulls flocking for food

i also smell greasy french fries

i taste the lemon-y lemonade on the boardwalk


i feel cool breezes every night

my favorite feeling is gooey pumpkin guts when 
you put your hands in the carved pumpkin

i also hear crows cawing

with thought of apple cider and oley 
fair french fries, my mouth waters


bubble wrap and orange big foot footprints on the floor


a lot of people say, "where did you get that blonde hair"


turkeys have 5,000 to 6,000 feathers on their bodies

female turkeys lay 10 to 18 eggs at a time―that is a lot of eggs

did you know that when turkeys are excited, 
their necks turn red, white and blue

unfortunately, scenes of actual writings and awards from the recital didn't happen with my camera, but lillee grace hetrick's mom kindly took some eye-scenes to pass along as more visuals for this kid-honoring day. 

just eight-years-old, she is a more creative niece than i knew of myself at her age, aside from a poem which i wrote about deer in the woods for my second grade teacher. but this attention to promoting the talents of young kids through their writing abilities is a welcome approach to positives in our often distracting, too rushed world today. and this may just be one of the memories which stays with them and helps them to believe in themselves when they're the adults in charge of our world, once they're grown-ups. hopefully they take this care of thought, observation, and language-crafting with them.

Monday, December 5, 2016

cemetery poetry at bear's den cafe in boyertown since rain kept us inside.

last wednesday, my traveling poetry class hoped to visit fairview cemetery along route 73 at the edge of the borough in boyertown, but alas, rainy weather diagreed with our goal.

so instead, we met at the bear's den café a few blocks away, notebooks in-hand, around some dirty chai, the regular kind, cinnamon bread swirled toast, and a grilled sticky bun.

and fortunately, sam traten ventured to the cemetery even in the mist of mid-morning to get some photographs of the graves, december's green grass, and the quiet history making its way up this particular hillside. he shared the pictures with us as we sat inside while it rained outdoors.

there are a lot of angles to potentially work from with cemetery poetry, and not necesarily expected ones are all the more welcome, next to ones which might seem more typical or anticipated.

one of the poems which we read to get ideas brewing served as ''willie metcalf'' by edgar lee masters from his book spoon river anthology, published first in 1915. despite being written so long ago, his writing is easily accessible and more akin to modern poetry.

his son, novelist hilary masters, once visited my college campus to speak and read in the early 2000s. upon a quick google search, i learned that he died last year at the age of 87.

below is sam's photography followed by what he wrote after his cemetery walk and then one of my own cemetery poems from a few years ago.

The Birds Will Sing Tomorrow
By Sam Traten

I walk here alone in existential funk
while friends await to meet in a small-town coffee shop.
My ancestors call to me in peace, away from economic and
geopolitical concerns they thought they struggled
with in life, now free to dance with their gods
and saviors.

Fathers, Mothers, Sisters, Brothers sing to me in silence, without even the hum 
of worldly traffic intruding. There isn't any.

Even the birds are hushed, quite unusually for them.
This late November day, awash in mist, rain, and
with no sound, none, has few defining characters:

Grey first. Quiet second. Tasteless, scentless follow.

In music it's the rest between beats that determines excellence.
Let's call this adventure in the cemetery a rest, a pause.

The birds will resume song tomorrow.


realizing this niece of mine is part fae
by jennifer hetrick

with a friday night of burger mania in our bellies,
i let my brother scott's family know i have to leave 
soon so i can get to the top of fairview cemetery 

in time to watch the sun go down. at six, lillee grace 
squeals that she wants to watch the sunset with me. 
she announces with zeal that running up the steep hill

will give her energy, begging her
request to tag alongside her aunt.
given permission, once in my car,

she puts on my floppy straw hat
and waves goodbye to her parents
through the backseat window.

making our way up to those final graves where we'll perch 
and sprawl in the grass, she bolts between tombstones 
and tells me to run with her. once we find just the right

spot, we pull the poetry books and journals out of my bag. 
she finds a package of butterfly cards with orange envelopes 
and begins to write me a letter. soon, she stops, bumps up 

from the green blades and chases 
lightning bugs. she tells me 
how big the moon will be 

tomorrow night, a supermoon 
in the sky. we notice it moving up 
into the trees, out of sight. 

her red dress flails as she skitters, and when i tell her 
how the people up here are so much better at peace 
than those down below, in my town, and in all towns, 

i can tell she understands—she nods her head that 
there is no fighting, nobody upset, nobody being mean 
to anyone up here. she writes a letter to her sister, sydney, 

who is studying frogs in wallops 
island, virginia, drawing her view 
of the cemetery in blue ink 

on the back. she gets up and chases 
more lightning bugs, jumping 
in the air to reach them. as she whirls 

around between these graves, saying she doesn't want 
to leave even though we're in the dark, i suddenly grasp
that she is part fae, too. only a few months ago, i learned 

that my mother's middle name meant fairy, of the fae people
lillee grace & i have conversations about what it is to be 
an old soul. we have talks about always being close to art. 

she glitters 

around these graves like she is home, 
where i know i am home. eventually,

i will tell her we are from the trees.