Trying to understand the why
of so much hatred focused on me
as the writer of poems
about the neighborhood where I
grew up. And to have the work
so misconstrued was pain of a kind
and level I’d never known.
I’d seen the subjects of the poems
as living holy lives doing the best
they could with what they had.
May they and she one day
forgive me. I did the best I could
with what I had.
“The Bible is the beginning, the source. But every beginning is also in us, thus you carry in yourself your own Bible, your own Book of Koheleth [Ecclesiastes], and your own Apocalypse.”
Anna Kamienska in Astonishments
What a fortunate frame of reference
with its beginning, middle and end
from creation through growth
and years of work until the last day
a day of revelation of what it all meant––
the purpose in living and now in dying
unless some unforeseen event
has cut the ribbon of life short
as with Thomas Merton shorting out
in an electrical moment. Snap!
But no, let’s go for the fan unplugged
for the lights turned safely on
when we see clearly that we were
called, and to what and why and
how to fill the remaining pages of your
life’s book with text and illustration
of what you have seen and what you
have tasted. Tell it all. Share the wealth
waiting to be written and drawn.
My newly published third collection of poems, To Bury or Burn, sweeps
across the spectrum of life, leaving in its wake moments of joy and
grief, childhood and motherhood, poets and their poems, and the
company and loss of cats, all of it against the backdrop of the
The book is available from Amazon
from the publisher, North Country Press
from Barnes & Noble
and from most bookstores.
The reign of God is like a buried treasure
a man found in a field. Matthew 13: 44
To bury or to burn drafts of poems
stacked two feet high in my writing house––
I have no illusion of them being sought
by academy, library, or even family.
So what’s the point of saving them
and not throwing them in the recycling
bin, onto the town dump, or into the stove?
How quickly those piles of poems
would burn to ash.
I choose not to burn
but to bury, honoring the work by giving
its shaping back to the earth from which it
sprang, a witness to the promise of resurrection.
You have tasted poetry with a silver spoon
but have never been consumed yourself
by the need and will to write first and then
to attend the rest––cleaning, harvesting,
volunteering––seeking the infamous balance.
No. Seek un-balance. Allow the scale’s
weight to drop heavy on the side of writing
not making allowance for all else
but saving pride of place for poetry
ever first in the Muse’s intent for you.
Fly-specked and dusty and perfectly mine
is this space for poetry out of time
where worry troubles not the moted air.
Once over the threshold nary a care
can raise its fleecy bothersome head
demanding attention I’ve already shed
when doffing my coat and winter hat
and lighting a fire, spit-spat.
Done, I assume the writer’s seat
pick up the pen and relish the heat.
Ink on paper, word on tongue …
a chant that can be daily sung
to invoke the Muse in all its glory
and contribute one note to the human story.
Judith Robbins will read from her second collection of poems, The Bookbinder’s Wife, on Sunday, May 27 at 1 p.m. at Barnes & Noble, Augusta.
The Bookbinder’s Wife will be available, as will be her first collection, The North End. There will be time for discussion during and after the reading.
On Sunday, March 18, 2018, Judith Robbins will join poets Claire Hersom and Susann Pelletier for a reading of their poems and conversation about poetry in their lives.
This event, dubbed “Blue Collar Daughters,” is the first in a monthly series of community poetry and conversations sponsored by L/A Arts.The event will take place between 2 and 4 p.m. in the L/A Arts Gallery, 221 Lisbon St., Lewiston.
A donation of $4 is suggested, and there will be light fare offered. The poets’ books will be available for sale.
At least once a year, I re-read Tom Junod’s article on Mr. Rogers in the November 1998 issue of Esquire magazine. The theme of the issue was new American heroes, and Mr. Rogers, wearing a red cardigan, was featured on the cover.
With each year that passes, the truth of the article, its simplicity and profundity, and importantly, the excellence of the writing that does justice to the man, becomes clearer and clearer. Fred Rogers was so concerned about children and what they were watching as pie-in-the-face “children’s programming” on television, that he spent the rest of his life making TV programs that would teach children about themselves, their families and their communities; that would teach them they were lovable and capable of loving.
He accomplished this through interviews with people from the neighborhood; in visits with various professionals at their work sites; through music––he himself was an accomplished musician and composer; through puppetry; and all of this with a small cast of regulars who acted out make-believe from scripts written by Mr. Rogers.
Tom Junod had the courage as a writer to not distance himself from his subject. He was drawn in by the accessibility and sincerity of this American hero, this American saint. In these challenging times, when true heroes are scarce, here is a model that deserves emulation and celebration. Who––man or woman––has the existential courage to embrace it? A measure of humility would help with that.
You can read the entire article at
persevering through war, exile, imprisonment
and the loss of her fortune.” So writes
the translator Wendy Chen of Li Qingzhao
known for her ci––her poems set to music.
The gauntlet thrown down, I pick it up,
not having had to persevere through war,
exile, imprisonment or loss of fortune,
my cup of history and responsibilities
shouldered over many years is what
I have to offer, not that of the Chinese poet,
her life complicated by much beyond her control
but kids, they are what fills the cup
with laundry, cooking, transportation
doctoring, comforting, encouraging
daily emergence into their lives.
Notwithstanding differences––a woman’s
life is a woman’s life––I accept the challenge
of her life, and continue writing mine.