Poet Jane Ulrich

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 Jane Ulrich had to say:

How did you come to being a poet?
I don’t remember not being a poet. But I do remember feeling absolute rage over not being able to use words to express myself.

Do you remember the first poem you ever wrote?
Probably not. But I do remember a poem I wrote in my handmade birthday card for my Dad when I was maybe 5 or 6.

You can look through all the windows
You can open all the doors
But you’ll never find another father
With a head that shines like yours

He was bald. Obviously. And I was a smart ass.

What else do you write besides poetry?
I like essays, mainly because I never have more than twelve pages to say about anything. I also ghost write, which is interesting, trying to be someone else….and have written Department of Education grant proposals for small colleges. I did not like writing them. They demand the use of words that do not belong in the English language. Thankfully I no longer remember any of them. I threw them right into my vault of oblivion.

Do you have other creative pursuits
Yes. Keeping a sane mind.

What has been the defining moment in your life as a poet/writer?
Too many to count. But the simplest one has been the most useful — Ray Nelson, my poetry professor at UVA, once told me to move my last paragraph in the paper to the very beginning. Say what I have to say right off, and get rid of the useless preamble.. It fundamentally changed the way I write, and the way I think about writing. Thank you Prof Nelson!!!

How long have you been a member of the Guilford Poets Guild and what’s that like?
Honestly I do not know. A long time. I love them, they are weird and wonderful. They make me feel at home.

What inspires your writing today?
Usually desperation. I start with that and sometimes it turns into joy. Sometimes I just want to throw the computer against the wall.

Describe your poem-writing process.
I write a long free form stream of consciousness and then ruthlessly edit. Sometimes I get a few lines or group of words or one word that leads me into an actual poem. Sometimes not. It is a crap shoot.

Where do you like to write? With what?
Kitchen table. Computer. Glass of wine/coffee. Mostly coffee. And more coffee.

Who are you favorite poets and authors?
This changes with the wind. But I have always loved T.S. Eliot, One of my favorite lines, which I repeat endlessly. is “But to what purpose/ Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves/ I do not know”. I also love Charles Simic’s line “And I piss in the sink with a feeling of eternity,” and one from a medieval poet I can never remember “As light as the leaf on a linden tree.” BEAUTIFUL. Maybe the most beautiful line in the English language.

What book are you currently reading? (poetry or not)

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?
“Jabberwocky.” So much fun to play with, especially out loud. Very loud. My son Bruno taunts me with the first line, and my poetic OCD forces me to then recite the entire poem. He finds this very funny.

Any last words?
Edit edit edit. Rewrite again. Edit. Rewrite.

Poet Jane Ulrich says “For those of us who do not live on the big stage, change happens in the small moments, and that is what I write about. The larger details of my life are irrelevant.”

Poet Norman Thomas Marshall

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 Norman Thomas Marshall had to say:

How did you come to being a poet?
Who says I am? I write down thoughts and images as they occur. If they are longer than a page, they are prose. Shorter than that, they are either poetry or trash.

Do you remember the first poem you ever wrote?
Seventh grade. Christmas poem. Denounced childhood greed.

What else do you write besides poetry?
Prose. Plays.
Do you have other creative pursuits

What has been the defining moment in your life as a poet/writer?
When my friend Burt, who was reading a bit of my prose, not knowing I had written it, said a nice thing about the writer.

How long have you been a member of the Guilford Poets Guild and what’s that like?
Three years. I am a benefactor of nepotism.

What inspires your writing today?
The hope of being noticed and complimented.

Describe your poem-writing process.
When the breeze blows a verse my way I seize it, suck its blood, disembowel it, devour it and claim divine inspiration.

Where do you like to write?
In my little antic garret where I watch the sun rise and the bluebirds cavort.
With what?
My ‘Word’ program. I cannot write longhand because nobody, including me can read my handwriting.

Who are you favorite poets and authors?
Chaucer, Clemens, Faulkner, Dylan Thomas, Ronald Tavel, Gwen Gunn.

What book are you currently reading? (poetry or not)
Eleanor by Gray Jacobik, Gilgamesh.

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?
I am regarded as a very masculine dude. I would not be caught dead with a poem in my pocket.

Any last words?
We’ll find out when I croak.

Norman Thomas Marshall is a veteran of thirty-two years as a professional actor. He has participated in more than three hundred productions — stage, film, television and radio — as actor, producer or director. Marshall has shared the stage and screen with such notable performers as F. Murray Abraham, Raul Julia, Moses Gunn, Bette Midler, Peter Reigert, Burt Reynolds, Telly Savalas, Barbara Streisand and Fritz Weaver. He has also appeared numerous times in a variety of daytime television dramas and is a familiar voice for some of the animated spots shown on the popular children’s TV program Sesame Street. (Photo by Pam Johnson, Guilford Courier)

National Haiku Poetry Day

April 17 is the day the whole world honors haiku. Registered by Sari Grandstaff in 2007 and initiated as a project of The Haiku Foundation in 2012, International Haiku Poetry Day occurs in the heart of the United States’ celebration of National Poetry Month. The Haiku Foundation encourages public events, including readings, exhibitions and competitions. It also sponsors the HaikuLife Haiku Film Festival.

You can click here for more about The Haiku Foundation, Haiku Poetry Day, and the film festival. But here’s a sneak peek at some of their Haiku films.

Poet Jen Payne

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 Jen Payne had to say:

How did you come to being a poet?
My Dad was a salesman and traveled a lot when I was little. We used to write letters to each other — I’d tuck mine in his suitcase, he’d mail his from the road. That’s how I started writing.

Do you remember the first poem you ever wrote?
Unfortunately, yes. I have an old journal full of the sad, sappy things. We’ve all gotta start somewhere, right?

What else do you write besides poetry? Do you have other creative pursuits?
I write essays about creativity, spirituality, wellness, and nature for my blog, Random Acts of Writing. And I’ve been working on some short-form memoir pieces, one of which — Water Under the Bridge: A Sort-of Love Story, is coming out as a book sometime later this spring.

What has been the defining moment in your life as a poet/writer?
I think the first defining moment was when I was 15 — a hand-written note from an editor at Seventeen Magazine thanking me for my submission. They didn’t print the article, but the editor said I showed much talent. I wore that feather in my cap for a long time!

The most recent moment would be getting to read the poems from my book Evidence of Flossing at a Guilford Poets Guild Second Thursday reading a few years ago. Wow!

How long have you been a member of the Guilford Poets Guild and what’s that like?
I was invited to be part of the Guild by Gwen Gunn and Margaret Iacobellis in 2015. We meet twice a month to share and kindly critique our work, and it’s a pretty cool experience. I mean, you’re reading your poems in a circle of award-winning, published poets including a couple of poets laureate, and they read your work and comment liberally. You’re free to take their advice, or not, but either way — I think you’re a better poet for the experience.

What inspires your writing today?
Everything and anything, really, if I let it in. Most days, though, a walk in the woods or on the beach is good for some bit of a poem.

Describe your poem-writing process.

Random muse chatter.
A couple of words buzz around. A first line.
Oh. Hmmm. Better write that down!
Scribble. Jot. Scribble. Jot.
Write. Write. Nope. Write.
Write. Write. Nope. Write.
Write. Write. Nope. Write.
Read to self.
Scribble. Jot. Write. Nope.
Scribble. Jot. Write. Nope.
Read to self.
Read to self.
Yes. Yes. YES!

Something like that. Unless you ignore those first few words. Usually then you get nothing and go on about your day without a poem.

Where do you like to write? With what?
I work from home, and I kinda live on the computer in my office. That’s where I write mostly. Except when I travel. Then I just bring a spiral notebook and some pens. Favorites are old-school blue Bic pens and Gold Fiber spiral-bound Project Planners.

Who are you favorite poets and authors?
Poets: Mary Oliver, Emily Dickinson. The first poet I ever read was Rod McKuen who still holds a special place in my heart. Shel Silverstein. Authors: Ransom Riggs, Barbara Kingsolver, Amy Tan, May Sarton, Natasha Pulley, Sarah Perry, Roland Merullo. I’ll stop now…

What book are you currently reading? (poetry or not)
The Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan, Devotions by Mary Oliver, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

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?
I memorized Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” in 10th grade and never forgot it. It’s my 38-year-old party trick. I don’t even need a pocket. What fun!

By Lewis Carroll

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand;
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe

Any last words?
Just write. Sit down, open the door and let it in. Then just write.

Jen Payne is inspired by those life moments that move us most — love and loss, joy and disappointment, milestones and turning points. Under the imprint Three Chairs Publishing, Jen has published four books: LOOK UP! Musings on the Nature of Mindfulness, Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, FLOSSING, the poetry chapbook Waiting Out the Storm, and Water Under the Bridge: A Sort-of Love Story. Her writing has been published in numerous publications including the international anthology Coffee Poems: Reflections on Life with Coffee, the Guilford Poets Guild 20th Anniversary Anthology, and in The Perch, a publication by the Yale Program for Recovery & Community Health. Jen is the owner is Words by Jen, a graphic design and creative services company founded in 1993, based in Branford, Connecticut. She is a member of the Arts Council of Greater New Haven, the Connecticut Poetry Society, Guilford Arts Center, and the Guilford Poets Guild. You can find more of her work at www.randomactsofwriting.net or purchase copies of her books online (click here).

Shelter in Poems

For National Poetry Month this year, the Academy of American Poets asked its readers to share a poem that helps to find courage, solace, and actionable energy. Here is a selection of poems that were chosen from Poets.org:

The Days to Come” by Medora C. Addison
Alone” by Maya Angelou
The 19th Amendment & My Mama” by Mahogany L. Browne
Again a Solstice” by Jennifer Chang
Blessing the Boats” by Lucille Clifton
Manhattan is a Lenape Word” by Natalie Diaz
Hope is the thing with feathers (254)” by Emily Dickinson
The Changing Light” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Migration” by Jenny George
This Bridge Across” by Christopher Gilbert
Consider the Hands that Write This Letter” by Aracelis Girmay
Invictus” by William Ernest Henley
Let Evening Come” by Jane Kenyon
The Conditional” by Ada Limón
Thanks” by W. S. Merwin
Shedding Skin” by Harryette Mullen
Octopus Empire” by Marilyn Nelson
The Bronze Legacy” by Effie Lee Newsome
Gate A-4” by Naomi Shihab Nye
Shaking Hands” by Pádraig Ó Tuama
The Psychic” by Victoria Redel
Diving into the Wreck” by Adrienne Rich
Patience” by Kay Ryan
Everyone Sang” by Siegfried Sassoon
Spring Morning” by Marion Strobel
Do not go gentle into that good night” by Dylan Thomas
Danse Russe” by William Carlos Williams

You can share your suggestions with by using the hashtag #ShelterInPoems on your social media or by writing to them at shelter@poets.org. Whether you’re writing in or tagging to them on twitter, facebook, or instagram, Poets.org will select some of your responses to feature on the Shelter in Poems page.


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.

Poetry in the Movies

There’s a long tradition of films made about poets and their work. What better time than National Poetry Month to gather some friends, watch a poetry-related movie, and perhaps discuss some of the poet’s work after the film?

Try one of the suggestions below for the perfect cinematic event.

Films about Poets and Poetry

A Quiet Passion—Cynthia Nixon portrays Emily Dickinson in this biographical drama, which recounts the poet’s life and features some of her famous verses.

The Basketball Diaries—Based on the autobiography by poet and artist Jim Carroll, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, this film depicts Carroll’s reckless youth and the writing that becomes his means of clarity.

Before Night Falls—Javier Bardem plays Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas in this film, adapted from Arenas’s own memoir.

Bright Star—Ben Whishaw and Abbie Cornish play John Keats and Franny Brawne in this biographical romantic drama about the famous couple, which features several of Keats’s poems and takes its title from one of Keats’s famous love sonnets.

Il Postino—In this 1994 Italian film, a postman develops a relationship with his only customer, famous poet Pablo Neruda, living in exile in Italy, and through Neruda’s poetry, is better able to express his feelings to his love interest.

Kill Your Darlings—This biographical drama, starring Daniel Radcliffe as Allen Ginsberg, Dane DeHaan as Lucien Carr, Ben Foster as William S. Burroughs, and Jack Huston as Jack Kerouac, takes place in the early days of the Beat Movement when a 1944 murder affects the group of young writers.

Piñero—Benjamin Bratt stars in this biopic about Puerto Rican poet-playwright Miguel Piñero, who cofounded the Nuyorican Poets Café in New York City.

Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle—The Algonquin Round Table comes alive in this film, which features Jennifer Jason Leigh as Dorothy Parker.

Set Fire to the Stars—Elijah Wood stars as poet John M. Brinnin and Celyn Jones stars as Dylan Thomas in this 2014 Welsh film, based on Brinnin’s memoir of the same name.

SylviaThe relationship of Ted Hughes, played by Daniel Craig, and Sylvia Plath, played by Gwyneth Paltrow, is detailed in this film, which begins with the couple’s courtship as young college students.

Tom & Viv—Willem Dafoe and Miranda Richardson star as T. S. Eliot and Vivienne Haigh-Wood in a film that depicts their tumultuous marriage and Eliot’s literary success.

Total Eclipse—This film captures the turbulent, explosive affair between Parisian poets Paul Verlaine, played by David Thewlis, and Arthur Rimbaud, played by Leonardo DiCaprio.

Wilde—Based on Richard Ellmann’s Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of the famous poet, novelist, and playwright, Wilde, starring Jennifer Ehle, Vanessa Redgrave, Jude Law, and Stephen Fry as the eponymous writer, recounts Oscar Wilde’s growing realization and acceptance of his sexuality, leading up to his notorious trial and imprisonment.

Films That Reference Poetry

Big Bad LoveA Vietnam vet keen on writing poetry and prose struggles to improve his personal and his writing life in this film, based on the short stories of Mississippi writer Larry Brown. Brown’s own poems, and those of William Carlos Williams, are in the film.

Dead Poets SocietyRobin Williams plays an English teacher in an East Coast boys’ prep school who inspires his students to love poetry, among other life lessons. The film, which popularized the tradition of carpe diem poems, features verse by Frost, Tennyson, and Shakespeare.

Four Weddings and a Funeral—This romantic comedy starring Hugh Grant and Andie Macdowell features a pivotal scene containing W. H. Auden’s “Funeral Blues.”

Henry FoolThis quirky film features Thomas Jay Ryan as Henry Fool, an ex-convict who encourages a friend, James Urbaniak as sanitation worker Simon Grim, to become a poet. His first work attains public notoriety and chaos ensues. Make it a double feature with the film’s sequel, Fay Grim, starring Parker Posey.

HOWLStarring James Franco as Allen Ginsberg, this film largely revolves around the text of Howl, its composition, initial reading, and the public’s reaction. By the movie’s end, nearly the entire poem has been recited.

Paterson—This subtle, meditative film follows the mundane daily life of a bus driver named Paterson, played by Adam Driver, who lives in Paterson, New Jersey, and writes poems about his everyday life. The film features poems by Ron Padgett.

Poetic JusticeJanet Jackson stars as a young woman struggling to find love and meaning in her life. Maya Angelou‘s poems “Alone” and “Phenomenal Woman” appear in the film, as does Angelou herself.

Shakespeare in LoveThis film is a fictional imagining of the endeavors of a young William Shakespeare, played by Joseph Fiennes, and also starring Gwyneth Paltrow as Shakespeare’s love interest, Viola. The dialogue and subject matter is full of allusions to Shakespeare’s work.

SlamPoetry is a means of redemption in this story about a D.C. youth, his incarceration, and his dedication to the spoken word poetry scene upon release. Slam luminaries such as Saul Williams (whose poetry punctuates the film), Taylor Mali, and Bob Holman have cameos.

The Kindergarten Teacher—In this remake of the 2014 Israeli film of the same name, Maggie Gyllenhaal stars as a New York kindergarten teacher who becomes obsessed with one of her students, who appears to be a literary prodigy. The movie features the poetry of Kaveh Akbar and Ocean Vuong.

Reprinted from the Academy of American Poets website.


Poet Ed Walker

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 Ed Walker had to say:

How did you come to being a poet?
I’ve always written, mostly journals, but I remember a short story I wrote when I was 10 or so. When I was a teenager I began writing songs and poems.

Do you remember the first poem you ever wrote?
I can’t remember any ‘first’ poem, but I do remember letters that I wrote to my girlfriend, now wife for 45 years, from a Colorado mountain top. Those letters were poetic, or at least I thought so. That mountaintop was where I decided to go back to school to pursue an English degree.

What else do you write besides poetry? Do you have other creative pursuits?
I enjoy playing guitar almost daily. I journal, especially during summer months when our kids and grandkids are around. My favorite creative pursuit is surfing. Paddling out into an ocean and riding waves is the ultimate, timeless, creative place. The ocean is so different every day. Every wave is different, a fresh page to create on, a clean slate. What’s the saying ‘you can never step into the same river twice’. Like that.

What has been the defining moment in your life as a poet/writer?
My defining moment as a poet is right now, being a member of the Guilford Poetry Guild. I look forward to our bi-weekly meetups to connect with the other poets and share in the process of critical reading our original poems. I constantly learn new ways of seeing things. This is where I’m most immersed in the craft of poetry. It also spurs me on to write a poem every 2 weeks.

How long have you been a member of the Guilford Poets Guild and what’s that like?
I first joined the group in the late 70s. We weren’t yet a guild. I left the group probably mid 80s, when I started my business in Guilford, but I still had a connection with the other poets. I returned to the group in the ought’s when I retired.

What inspires your writing today?
I find inspiration throughout the day, just going through the day. If I’m lucky I grab a line or 2 that trots through my head, and write it down on my phone.

Describe your poem-writing process.
The process of writing poetry intrigues me. I wonder how other poets write. I guess the good ones have a regular schedule and work at it like any job. I don’t. I’m more of a cobbler than a writer. When I worked I would dictate lines into a Dictaphone, pre-iPhones, to listen to and write down. Now, I gather up my notes every once in a while and see what fits with what. My favorite part of writing though, is editing all my poems regularly and watch how they change, as I do. This seems to be my thing, my process.

Where do you like to write? With what?
During winter months I might find myself in the Guilford Library, or above the garage in a comfy room, or sitting by the fire in our living room typing on my laptop, listening to music, a white dog laying under my outstretched legs. During the summer months I can be found on my deck, after my morning surf session, in a hanging chair with my laptop at hand, music on the stereo, a wet dog at my feet.

Who are you favorite poets and authors?
When I returned to School, after a few year absence, I immersed myself in poetry. The Beats were my jam. Their poetry and novels. Presently I’ve come to enjoy reading modern poets, from Dickinson and Whitman, to John Ashbury and Lorine Niedecker.

What book are you currently reading? (poetry or not)
Currently, I’m reading a Randy Wayne White book, one of my favorite Florida writers, who deals with mystery and mayhem.

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?
My favorite poem is titled Kindness, by Witter Bynner. It’s about a Hawk lifting a fish out of the water and giving it air.

Ed Walker was born in Brooklyn and moved to Guilford, CT in 1977, with his wife Laury, where they raised four children and a few Labrador retrievers. Ed has a degree in English and one in Business and was founder and CEO of East River Energy, Inc. He is an active member of the Guilford Rotary Club, the Guilford Poets Guild and he enjoys surfing, sailing, playing guitar, and writing poetry.

An Appropriate Poem by Pablo Neruda

by Pablo Neruda

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still
for once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for a second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.

Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

Translation of this poem by Pablo Neruda is by Alistair Reed