Ekphrastic May: Stairway to the Stars

Members of the Guilford Poets Guild are writing ekphrastic poems this month, poetry inspired by artwork hanging in their home.

by Juliana Harris

All the paintings in my home
have great personal meaning,
either because I know the artist,
or they were gifts for a special occasion.

But one painting in particular
has special importance to me.
The picture of a young child
climbing a ladder to reach for the stars.

This is part of a mural
my then three-year-old grandchild
helped create for a project
at her nursery school.

It makes me smile
each time I look at it.


April is NaPoWriMo, or National Poetry Writing Month. It’s an annual project in which participating poets attempt to write a poem every day in the month of April.

NaPoWriMo was conceive by poet Maureen Thorson and inspired by NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. Maureen started writing a poem a day for the month of April back in 2003, posting the poems on her blog. When other people started writing poems for April, and posting them on their own blogs, Maureen linked to them. After a few years, so many people were doing NaPoWriMo that Maureen decided to launch an independent website for the project: www.napowrimo.net.

Guilford Poets Guild members Jen Payne and Juliana Harris are writing a poem a day for NaPoWriMo.

“I have never had the discipline to write every day,” says Juliana, who posts her poems on her Facebook page. “I‘m finding the concentration to write a poem a day is a lifesaver in this time of self-isolation.”

“I agree with Julie,” says Jen, who posts poems on her blog. “Writing can be very grounding. It’s nice to sink my toes into the daily practice.”

If writing a poem a day feel daunting, how about reading a Poem-a-Day?

The American Academy of Poets hosts Poem-a-Day, a daily digital poetry series featuring over 250 new, previously unpublished poems by today’s talented poets each year. U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo serves as guest editor for April 2020. Click here to visit Poem-a-Day now.

Poet Juliana Harris

In celebration of National Poetry Month, members of the Guilford Poets Guild were invited to share their thoughts about poetry and the life of a poet. Here’s what GPG president and poet Juliana Harris had to say:

How did you come to being a poet?
I think it’s hereditary…my grandmother was a poet, as was my aunt.

Do you remember the first poem you ever wrote?
Yes…the first poem I remember writing was a class assignment when I was a sophomore in high school. The topic was “Spring” and, unbeknownst to me, my teacher submitted it to a state wide literary contest where it won honorable mention. The only award I’ve ever won for a poem!

What else do you write besides poetry? Do you have other creative pursuits?
I have written ad copy, magazine articles, essays, two novels, one chapbook of poems and am about to release my first mystery, Murder at the Tavern: A Guilford Mystery. I am also an actress and a singer/songwriter.

What has been the defining moment in your life as a poet/writer?
When my poem was purchased and published!

How long have you been a member of the Guilford Poets Guild and what’s that like?
I joined the Guild in 2008 after being introduced to the group by my dear friend, Yvonne Scott. I find our meetings a constant source of inspiration and am grateful for the wonderful friendship.

What inspires your writing today?

Describe your poem-writing process.
I will see or hear something and it will start buzzing at the back of my brain, ultimately making it into words to share at a Guild meeting!

Where do you like to write? With what?
I write at my desk on my laptop.

Who are you favorite poets and authors?
Billy Collins is my favorite poet…too many authors to list!

What book are you currently reading? (poetry or not)
Writers & Lovers by Lily King

Poem in Your Pocket Day is celebrated during National Poetry Month in April. What’s your favorite poem to carry about or share with others?
Life Has Loveliness to Sell by Sara Teasdale

Sara Teasdale

Life has loveliness to sell,
All beautiful and splendid things,
Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
Soaring fire that sways and sings,
And children’s faces looking up
Holding wonder like a cup.

Life has loveliness to sell,
Music like a curve of gold,
Scent of pine trees in the rain,
Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
And for your spirit’s still delight,
Holy thoughts that star the night.

Spend all you have for loveliness,
Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace
Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstasy
Give all you have been, or could be.

Guilford Poets Guild President Juliana Harris remembers writing her first poem when she was a freshman in high school for a school assignment. The poem went on to win a prize in a statewide contest and she has been writing poems and essays ever since. Her work has appeared in publications across the country and her two novels are available on Amazon.com: The Fork in the Road and Pacific Heights. Her third novel, Murder at the Tavern: A Guilford Mystery, comes out later this spring. An award-winning professional actress, she is also a singer/songwriter and is currently at work on her third CD. She receives constant artistic stimulation from her participation in the Guilford Poets Guild and has compiling a chapbook of her poems, Portraits, about her family with the help and support of Guild members. She joined forces with guitarist Stephen Roane to form The Harris/Roane Duo in 2008. The Duo has performed concerts across the state and are recording their third CD.

Featured Poet: Juliana Harris

Juliana Harris remembers writing her first poem as a freshman in high school. The poem went on to win a prize in a statewide contest and she has been writing poems and essays ever since. Her work has appeared in publications across the country, and she has published two novels, a chapbook of her poems (Portraits) and is currently at work on her first mystery. An award-winning professional actress, Julie is also a singer/songwriter with two CDs to her credit. She and guitarist, Stephen Roane, tour the state as The Harris/Roane Duo. She currently serves as president of the Guilford Poets Guild, and was a member of the committee that produced the Guild’s third anthology, Our Changing Environment.

Lillian Hellman, Eat Your Heart Out

Mother chose the perfect hat
for her appearance
in front of the HUAC—

a snappy straw boater
trimmed in black
with just a wisp of a veil.

I can see her now,
amid the chaos
of pounding gavels and popping flashbulbs,

demure and brave in black crepe—
the hat adding just the right note
of insouciance.

What a pity
the committee
never summoned her.

On the Train to Manhattan

I have a panoramic view
of the incoming passengers.
A soldier boards at Stratford,
dressed in sage and khaki camouflage,
combat boots the color of desert sand.
He turns and takes a seat
revealing the face of an El Greco saint,
stares straight ahead through sunken eyes
until disembarking at Grand Central
where he is swallowed in the throng.

I pray his tour of duty has come to an end.

Past Glory

Autumn lingers

on this winding lane.

A naked maple,

once splendid,

basks in the radiant carpet

of its fallen leaves.

My Sister Is Afraid

she is losing her mind.
which is not surprising,
considering the strain of madness
which pervades our family
like a dark stream
snaking its way
through an underground cavern.

Our grandmother
began her descent into despair
with blinding migraines
progressing into a darkness
which kept her immobilized.
When I asked her how she could endure shock therapy
she answered, If you felt as I do,
you would do anything to make it stop.

Our aunt,
gifted by vengeful gods
with beauty and talent,
fought the same demon
in a different way.
Her symptoms manifest
in maladies
which literally crippled her,
leaving her helpless on her own bed of pain.

And now the cup has passed
to my sister,
who echoes words
I remember from other lips.
…..I can’t cope.
…..I’ m afraid.
And I wonder
why I have been spared.