Poet Nancy Meneely

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 poet Nan Meneely had to say:

How did you come to being a poet?
I began as a poet 71 years ago, so I’m a little vague on the details.

Do you remember the first poem you ever wrote?
I’m not sure about that (see above) but I know when I saw my first poem in print. That poem, entitled “Big and Small,” was published in my school’s literary journal when I was in first grade. I remember that the first two lines went like this: “Some things are big/some things are small.” The rest is consigned to the mists of history though I’m quite sure an elephant figured in it prominently.

What else do you write besides poetry? Do you have other creative pursuits?
I love writing what I’ve just decided to call Minute Memoirs, short vignettes covering memorable people and moments in my life. During my stint as a bureaucrat, I became adept at writing memoranda which framed problems without giving offense. I am gifted with fewer other kinds of creativity than anyone else I know. Oh, except I helped to create a wonderful child.

What has been the defining moment in your life as a poet/writer?
If I may substitute “most glorious” for “defining”, I’d have to say that moment–or, rather, series of moments–spent listening to my sister’s Oratorio version of my book, Letter from Italy, 1945. I was, of course, very familiar with the words, but hearing them sung in 180 voices changed my reception of them utterly. Though I knew the ending well, I was moved to tears by Sarah’s incredible final measures. So maybe the last moment of that last chord is the moment this question seeks to discover.

How long have you been a member of the Guilford Poets Guild and what’s that like?
I sought out the Guild the minute I moved to Guilford in 2007. It is now, as it has always been, a world apart, a place of deeply mutual trust where I hear caring critiques (as different from each other as are the Guild members) that I scribble furiously on my page and take home to figure out what to do with. In that same place, there is also always humor and irreverence and reverence and love.

What inspires your writing today?
I am lucky to be pushed by a variety of commissions, last year an opera for children (developed in collaboration with my sister) and right now lyrics for a series of songs to be set by an Austrian composer for a Lyme tenor (our Zoom meetings are amazing). But I write mostly out of a need to figure out what is happening today, inside and out, and find the words that get down to the bottom of the questions, even if not the answers.

Describe your poem-writing process.
Some thing, person, creature, notion suggests itself and I let my reasoning mind nap while ideas and pictures and words swim into what’s left. Some get down through the blessed editor and onto a page.

Where do you like to write? With what?
I have come to love writing on my computer. The words are so legible. And that blessed editor makes great use of cutting, pasting, moving, and, most important, erasing.

Who are you favorite poets and authors?
Egads. I’m old! I’ve had at least as many favorite poets as I have years. My first favorite poet, though, was Doctor Seuss. Now that I am a grandmother, he’s my favorite again. Brilliant.

What book are you currently reading? (poetry or not)
Sheltering in place, I find I’m reading (almost exclusively) emails, perfect for my shortening attention span. Lots of those are about poetry and/or actual poems. Others offer articles which engender laughter or tears or simple grinding of teeth. I like granddaughter Lilly’s books — quick, absorbing bits of literature. Yesterday we read Little Gorilla and Walter, the Farting Dog. Seriously.

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?
So many are needed now, the ones that remind us of what’s really important. I’d offer different poems to different people, on different occasions. For pure escape into quiet, though, I love James Wright’s “A Blessing.”

A BLESSING
James Wright

Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom.

Any last words?
There are lots of ways to take pleasure in a long afternoon or evening. One of them is to write and write, for as many hours as your back holds up.


Nancy Meneely has been a member of the GPG since 2007. After retiring from the Federal Emergency Management Agency in 2006, she retired to Connecticut to focus on poetry, helping to administer the work of the Guilford Poets Guild and the Connecticut River Poets to support the writing and appreciation of poetry in Shoreline communities. She has published poetry, book reviews and articles in a variety of literary publications and newspapers. Her book, Letter from Italy, 1944, which provides the libretto for the oratorio of the same name, was noted by the Hartford Courant as one of thirteen important books published by Connecticut writers in 2013. Nan currently lives in Essex, CT.

Together We Rise 2019 Poetry Series

Together We Rise 2019 Poetry Series will host its final reading for this year on Sunday, November 17, from 2:00 to 4:00 PM at Two Wrasslin’ Cats, 374 Town Street, East Haddam. The event will feature a reading by Guilford Poets Guild member Nan Meneely, together with Greg Coleman and Edwina Trentham, as well as a read-in of poems exploring the high costs of war and our abiding desire for peace.

Nan Meneely, who lives in Essex and is a member of Together We Rise, and East Haddam poets Greg Coleman and Edwina Trentham will read from Meneely’s acclaimed book, Letter from Italy, 1944, which is based on letters from her father when he was serving in World War II and was the only book of poetry awarded in the Legacy Non-fiction category of the 2016 Eric Hoffer Book Awards. Letter from Italy, 1944 was also noted by the Hartford Courant as one of thirteen important books published by Connecticut writers in 2013.

Following the reading from Meneely’s book, a selection of poetry about war and peace will be provided. Participants are invited to read from this selection, encouraged to bring poems on this topic to read, or simply come to listen and enjoy. Refreshments will be served. For more information contact Carol Chaput at carol.chaput1@snet.net or Edwina Trentham at trentham@comcast.net

GPG Poet Nan Meneely Featured on National Video Anthology

Guilford Poets Guild member Nancy Fitz-Hugh Meneely has recently been added to the Brainwaves Video Anthology, a collection of more than 1,000 videos with 2 million views in 234 countries.

The Brainwaves Video Anthology is produced and filmed by Bob Greenberg, and includes thinkers, dreamers and innovators; some of the brightest minds in education. The series is meant to inspire and engage the viewer to dig deeper and learn more. In the words of Georges Melies, (The Invention of Hugo Cabret) “Now sit back, open your eyes and be prepared to dream.”

“Tired”
“Sunday in Park with George”
“Still Life With Grandmother”
Teachers Make a Difference – My Students

Nancy Fitz-Hugh Meneely, Smith College B.A. in hand and nothing at all to suggest she knew how to make a lesson plan, began professional life as an English teacher in Vermont’s Waterbury High School. When, after two happy years, Vermont suggested it was important that she sport a real credential, she acquired a Master of Arts in Teaching from Yale. After discovering her best students were listening to her from inside hallucinations, she moved into the work of training community/school teams in drug abuse prevention at Yale’s Drug Dependence Institute. Later, with a Master’s of Education in Human Relations from the UMass School of Education, she tacked back and forth across a career path in training, counseling and education, finishing paid employment in a twenty-year career with the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Washington, DC, where she worked first in emergency management training and then directly in support of response and recovery operations. She retired north to Guilford, CT, and now devotes much of her time to the Guilford Poets Guild, the Guilford A Better Chance Program, and the town’s Human Services Council.

Nan Meneely to read at TOGETHER WE RISE 2017 Poetry Series

TOGETHER WE RISE 2017 Poetry Series will host its tenth reading on Sunday, November 12, from 2-4 PM at Two Wrasslin’ Cats, 374 Town Street, East Haddam, CT, with a poetry program exploring the high cost of war and our abiding desire for peace.

The featured reader will be Guilford Poets Guild member Nan Meneely, whose acclaimed book, Letter from Italy, 1944, based on letters from her father when he was serving in World War II, was the only book of poetry awarded in the Legacy Non-fiction category of the 2016 Eric Hoffer Book Awards. It was noted by the Hartford Courant as one of thirteen important books published by Connecticut writers in 2013.

In addition to the reading by Nan Meneely, there will be a read-in by audience members of poems exploring the high cost of war and our abiding desire for peace. A selection of poetry about war and peace will be provided. Participants are invited to read from this selection, or bring poems on the current topic to read, or simply come to listen and enjoy. Refreshments will be served. For more information contact Janine Broe at Jrfreeland1@yahoo.com, Edwina Trentham at 860-873-1472, or go to www.togetherwerisect.com.

Second Thursday Poetry Series: Nancy F. Meneely and Jen Payne

Enjoy an evening of poetry with Guilford Poets Guild members Nancy F. Meneely and Jen Payne as part of the Second Thursday Poetry Series presented by the Guild and the Guilford Free Library on Thursday, September 14, from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at the library. The event begins with an Open Mic from 6:30 – 7:00 p.m., and follows with readings from both poets.

Nan Meneely has been a member of the GPG since 2007. She holds a B.A. from Smith College, an M.A.T. in English from Yale and an M.Ed. from UMass/Amherst. She has taught at high school, college and graduate school levels and worked as a trainer in State and Federal government departments. After retiring from the Federal Emergency Management Agency in 2006, she retired to Connecticut to focus on poetry, helping to administer the work of the Guilford Poets Guild and the Connecticut River Poets to support the writing and appreciation of poetry in Shoreline communities. She has published poetry, book reviews and articles in a variety of literary publications and newspapers. Her book, Letter from Italy, 1944, which provides the libretto for the oratorio of the same name, was published by Antrim House in 2013 and was the only book of poetry awarded in the Legacy Non-fiction category of the 2016 Eric Hoffer Book Awards. It was noted by the Hartford Courant as one of thirteen important books published by Connecticut writers in 2013. Nan currently lives in Essex, CT.

One of the GPG’s newest members, Jen Payne is inspired by those life moments that move us most — love and loss, joy and disappointment, milestones and turning points. When she is not exploring our connections with one another, she enjoys writing about our relationships with nature, creativity, and mindfulness, and how these provide balance in our frenetic, spinning world. In 2014, she published LOOK UP! Musings on the Nature of Mindfulness, a collection of essays, poems and original photography. Her new poetry book, Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, will be available in October. (See 3chairspublishing.com for details). Jen is the owner of Words by Jen, a graphic design and creative services company in Branford. She is a member of the Arts Council of Greater New Haven, the Connecticut Poetry Society, Guilford Arts Center, and the Guilford Poets Guild. Her poetry was featured in Inauguration Nation at Kehler Liddel Gallery in New Haven, and Shuffle & Shake at the Arts Council of Greater New Haven. Her writing has been published by The Aurorean, Six Sentences, the Story Circle Network, WOW! Women on Writing, and The Perch, a publication by the Yale Program for Recovery & Community Health.

There will be books for sale at the event, and refreshments will be served. Remember to bring your own poem to share during the Open Mic!

Upcoming Second Thursday Poetry Series events presented by the Guilford Poets Guild and the Guilford Free Library include readings by the several Connecticut Poets Laureate on October 12; Alan Garry, the Connecticut Veteran Poet Laureate on November 8; and a Holiday Roundtable on December 14 featuring Found Poems. Watch the website for more details.

The Guilford Free Library is located at 67 Park Street in Guilford. This program is free and open to all. Please register by phone, in person, or online (203) 453-8282, guilfordfreelibrary.org.


Jen Payne photo by Christine Chiocchio, Branford. Nan Meneely photo courtesy of Guilford Poets Guild