My poem, “Radio Interview,” published in the anthology The Liberal Media Made Me Do It

I’m honored that my poem, “Radio Interview” has been published in a new anthology,
The Liberal Media Made Me do It, a collection of poems inspired by NPR and PBS interviews, stories, and shows.

Published by Nine Toes Press, a division of Lummox Press out of San Pedro, CA, and edited by Robbie Nester, the anthology’s fifty-five authors hail from both the U.S. and Europe.  The book is divided by five thematic sections, and the inspirations range from All Things Considered, Marketplace, Fresh Air, Science Friday, and others on NPR to American Masters, Freedom Riders, the MacNeil Lehrer News Hour, Radiolab, and others on PBS.

The book is available on

Robbi Nester, editor, says:

“The quiet confiding voice of Public Radio sees us through our commutes, educates, and amuses us. For its part, Public television becomes a trusted sanctuary from crass commercials, laugh tracks, unfunny comedies rising in volume as they grow more empty in content.

“It shouldn’t surprise us then to see that so many have responded in kind, speaking back to the speakers, inspired by what they hear and see. What may be more surprising is that no one seems to have had the idea of gathering these works together into an anthology, though they have appeared here and there, in poetry collections and journals.”

My poem, “Radio Interview,” was inspired by the NPR program “Spouses on the Campaign Trail” that aired on October 17, 2007. The interview was conducted on “All Thing Considered” from Philadelphia’s radio station, WHYY.  The poem centers on Multiple Sclerosis and one person’s experience with it that I compare to my own.

The poem first appeared in Wordgathering, 2010, and is a Pushcart Prize Nomination.

Radio Interview

Her missionary voice beams from some NPR studio across inaccessible stars and blue-black space while I drive on in the coming dark, anxious to arrive home before my vision fades, before my leg brace constricts my calf, before spasms. She crows – I have no MS symptoms and haven’t for years – and credits rest, healthy meals, acupuncture, and reflexology for her symptom-free life. Why, she feels protected from that evil, eating fruit and whole grains and resting with her feet up on a cushion (Sometimes she just HAS to stop and rest), while I grimace and regret the ice cream, rue the wine, lament those missed naps. No daily or weekly shots for her; steroids are hideous and the hope of stem cells? (Stem cells – uttered like a loathsome curse.) Well, she hopes research halts before any more innocent lives are taken in the name of science. I envision her heeled shoes winking as her rose-tipped toes slip in before she launches back home to ride Byron, her show horse. (Riding fights fatigue and stress.) Then I am yelling at the radio, pounding the steering wheel at that nail-driven-home voice so much like the roaring page, the bastard blues – I want to propel Byron through an unlatched gate, his tail a free flag in the wind, push that smiling voice down a flight of stone steps until those fancy shoes fly, and punch my hand through her smug assumption that she knows exactly how to manage MS, never acknowledging that my MS might be a different animal all together. Lights on our cedar trees appear and disappear in the growing wind. I turn onto our gravel driveway, silence the car, clamber awkwardly out, stand supported by my quad cane and leg brace, and admit that I so desperately want, oh how I want, oh, oh, with my heart in my mouth, oh, how I want to be her.

© Marie Kane




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My poem, “Hearing in November of the Arrival” was recenly published in Adanna Journal

The latest issue of Adanna Journal, centered on the theme of Women and Food, has just been released.  I am honored that my poem, “Upon Hearing in November of the Arrival” is included in this prestigious journal.  The poem celebrates the announcement that my daughter, Sarah, and her husband, Steve, are expecting.  It takes place on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving 2012, when Sarah, her sister, Elizabeth, and I bake pies for the holiday.    The poem’s format is different in the printed copy; every other line is indented a tab space.
Here’s the poem:

Upon Hearing in November of the Arrival
                                                         for Sarah

Upon news of my grandson’s upcoming
arrival, our Japanese maples
clap in raucous approval, throw the last
of their crimson leaves upon
late-fall grass. We all clap too,
and I hug you, my daughter.
We forget about Thanksgiving pies,
until your husband reminds

us of the one in the oven.
Ochre scent of hot pumpkin
fills the steamy kitchen; your blue
eyes focus on distances out
the window opened by leafless trees.
We speak of cribs and colic,
of flour and its refusal to be rolled
into a perfect circle,

of apples and grandmother Nellie’s
talent of peeling them
in a continuous red and white loop.
I marvel at this layered,
complex being, want to touch the place
of it. But I’m suddenly shy,
not wanting to intrude on your
veiled smile, new knowledge

of woman’s power. Later, Chinese food
cartons unfold like origami
on the oak table. Your chopsticks grasp
sushi’s compact, bright center,
pluck beef, broccoli, and snow
peas out of one package, water
chestnut crunch out of the other.
You eat your way back

to childhood: always Chinese before
Turkey Day. Camera flash
records you, your sister, and me behind
the glass and chrome table
that holds eight pies for cooling.
Your long hands smooth
your white sweater over what is to come
in full-throated July.

© Marie Kane

Published in Adanna Journal, April 2014, Women and Food Issue. Editors: Diane Lockwood, Lynne McEniry  ISBN 978-0-9836463-7-2



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April Is National Poetry Month! ADJECTIVES! Marie Kane Writing Advice–Adjectives

How important is it to your poetry to add the absolutely right, kicker of a word, most specific adjective?  Very.

Adjectives modify nouns–people, places, and things.  They describe, identify, or quantify a noun or a pronoun.  In the phrase, “black cat” the word black is an adjective because it describes the cat.

Their use is vital in poetry when aiming for specifics.

BUT, be careful when using them for three reasons:

1. Don’t ask them to do more work then they should.
2. Your energetic verbs and powerful nouns should handle much of the description.
3. Avoid generic adjectives that are overused and therefore meaningless.
Adjectives such as beautiful, interesting, lovely, exciting, sad, miserable, peaceful, angry or any number of overused adjectives need to be avoided.  Your reader does not see the specific in the word, only the general.  You have to show the reader what you are describing; the use of the general adjective convinces no one that you are.

Use as few adjectives as possible. Only use them when your line needs a punch, a word needs a further description that will exactly inform the reader. Use sparingly.

Check out the second stanza of my poem “Almost” WITHOUT ADJECTIVES, THEN THE FINAL DRAFT WITH THEM.   We looked at the first stanza earlier.

LAST STANZA OF “ALMOST” WITHOUT ADJECTIVES: (‘a’, ‘and’, and ‘the’ are adjectives; I left them in the following.)

week, the thump of an MRI
obscured music and my
nerves lit up like stars. I tried to remember
running—eating up the asphalt, eyes focused
on the runner ahead.  My number
always askew, my arms lifted at the end.
I would lean, mouth slightly open, focus
on a watch.

Here’s the final with adjectives:

Last week, the eight-beat thump of an MRI
obscured 60’s piped-in music and my scarred
nerves lit up like stars. I tried to remember
running—eating up the asphalt, eyes focused
on the swaying runner ahead. My race number
always askew, my arms lifted at the end.
I would lean, mouth slightly open, focus
on a timer’s black and silver watch.

The adjectives not only allow the stanza to make sense, but they add vital description to the action.  While they are sparse in number, they are necessary.  See how words used such as “60’s piped-in” to modify “music,”  “scarred” to modify “nerves,” “swaying” to modify “runner,” and the all-important “timer’s black and silver” for “watch” deepen the meaning of the poem.   These adjectives widen the reference of meaning for the reader and complete the picture in the short poem.

>Well placed adjectives are forceful.  Strong adjectives enliven a poem; be as specific as possible, surprising, and original.

Be judicious in their use!

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April Is National Poetry Month! Quote on Poetry

I am a bit under the weather, so no post yesterday.  Today, a quote to think about; here’s two:

“A writer is someone who pays attention to the world — a writer is a professional observer.”
— From Susan Sontag’s 1992 lecture on the purpose of literature. (via explore-blog)

“Some words build houses in your throat. And they live there, content and on fire.”
— Nayyirah Waheed (via brouhahamagazine)

Paying attention to details, the specific, all that others ignore. makes a writer better.






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Let’s look at other quotes about poetry:

“Sometimes there’s no one to listen to what you really might like to say at a certain moment. The paper always listens.” ~ Naomi Shihab Nye

What a true quote about poetry!  The paper does ‘listen.’

American poet Robert Frost had the right idea when he said, “I have never started a poem yet whose end I knew. Writing a poem is discovering.”

I love this Frost quote.  Writing IS discovery.  As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Writing is like ice skating; it takes you where you will not go.”
Guess he wasn’t much of an ice skater. 🙂 )

And remember, “The poet is a liar who always speaks the truth.” ~Jean Cocteau

We writers lie in our interpretations, descriptions, facts.  But underneath all of that, is the truth we need to tell.

You can tear a poem apart to see what makes it tick…. You’re back with the mystery of having been moved by words. The best craftsmanship always leaves holes and gaps… so that something that is not in the poem can creep, crawl, flash or thunder in. ~Dylan Thomas, Poetic Manifesto, 1961

Say no more!

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April is National Poetry Month! Be Concise. Poetry Advice from Marie Kane

 >We don’t have to serve the meaning of the poem to the reader on a silver platter of words; BE CONCISE.

This is hard for me, since I often overwrite, use too many words that bore the reader with my verbage.  Nothing causes a reader to stop reading like blah, blah, blah description that goes on and on but adds little or nothing to the poem.  So, I try to be exact, succinct, and specific in my descriptions.  I mostly succeed, but sometimes I need someone else to read the poem to tell me where I am writing too much. Or, reading the poem out loud is a great way to find overwriting, over describing, saying too much when less does a better job.

Here’s an example of a part of an early draft of a poem, “Almost,” that is overwritten.  The final version appeared in my book, Survivors in the Garden.  It’s a two stanza poem about MS and visiting an eye doctor’s office.

First draft stanza of “Almost”

The eye doctor’s blue-uniformed
assistant watches me struggle to rise
from the stiff chair.  Dilated pupils:
the rug rises to meet my feet,
lights coalesce into brilliant beings,
and everyone brightly moves out of
my way. The assistant’s hesitant hands wave
in my direction—should they touch me?

Here’s the final version of the first stanza:


My eye doctor’s assistant watches me struggle
out of the stiff chair. Dilated pupils: the rug rises
to meet my feet and lights coalesce into brilliant
beings. Her should I touch hands wave in my
direction. The chair purrs, you can’t get up
even if you want to.

Notice what was cut–first, the extra info about the assistant.  We don’t need to know that she is “blue uniformed.  I use ‘rise’ twice in the first few lines, so I change “rise from the stiff chair,” to “struggle out of the stiff chair.”  “Struggle” is more specific–and a verb that carries meaning in the poem.  I don’t need the line “everyone brightly moves out of my way”; the poem concerns me at the Dr’s office and the assistant who doesn’t know how to help me get out of the chair and walk, no one else is important.  I changed the “should they touch me” regarding the assistant’s hands to an adjectival phrase describing her hands which is more economical.  The last info about the chair is part of the second stanza.  I brought it up to even the length of the two stanzas.  I like personifying the chair by allowing it to speak.

There wasn’t much I removed or added, yet the final version is more succinct, concise, and readable.  The poem moves better.

Tomorrow–More Advice!


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April Is National Poetry Month, Writing Advice for Poetry from Marie Kane, Write from Abundance and the Power of Verbs

Writing Poetry

Writing is frustrating and fulfilling, difficult and satisfying–and writing poetry is even more so.  I taught high school English for twenty-right years, and loved it.  Yes, it was often demanding and exhausting with too many bleary-eyed nights grading papers, writing comments that one hoped students would read and use in a revision, but feared they would not.  However, teaching kids how to write–persuasive essays, research based papers, speeches, debate proposals, memoirs, and poetry and fiction–was something marvelous.  Teaching Creative Writing became my favorite.  When I began teaching the class in the 1970′s, I knew absolutely nothing about the craft of teaching it.  My poor early students!  I only knew that I loved to write poetry and short stories; so my students and I carried each other along until I had read enough, written enough, took enough graduate classes, and taught the class enough to know what I was doing.  I hope what I’m saying here aids any writer with this challenging–and marvelous–craft.

Here’s some ideas I have found  to be useful when writing poetry or fiction.  I make every attempt to keep these in mind when I write.  After all these years of writing poetry, they are probably ingrained, anyway.  I’ll have more tomorrow.

>Write from abundance.  I write a lot, more than I need for a poem.  If I’m stuck, (which I often am) I might write continuously for five minutes, then ten, and see what happens.  (SEE DIGGING DEEPER FROM 4/3 AND 4/4 2014 ) I may find a gem or two among the words and lines.  Distill, distill–find the lines that you’re drawn to, and restart.  Soon, a piece of writing begins to form.  Think how a sculpture is fashioned–from a block of solid material, form emerges; the unwanted stone is whittled away to reveal the art within.  Think about poetry this way.  From the hundreds of thousands of words known, some are selected, put together, fashioned, formed, crafted and the result is a poem, short story, novel–or any of the other myriad things we write.  So write A LOT in the beginning–you can toss anything that is not useful to the piece.  Or, do what I do.  Create a document where you save the lines or words you have ejected from a poem, etc.  I have often used a word or a whole line from these ‘rejects’ from other pieces.  (I’ll have a post about this, too.)

>Verbs are the engines of writing.  Well chosen verbs move writing better than anything else.  Avoid forms of the ‘to be’ verb (is, are).  Instead of using a generic verb such as ‘walk’, try for something more accurate, such as “saunter,”  “jog,” “march,”  or ” slouch”–any specific word to describe the action.  Look at your poetry; –is there a strong verb that can take the place of a weak verb and an adverb?  “Walk quickly,” is a two-word descriptive phrase that is more concise as “stride,” or “pace”; the verb and adverb, “look angrily” is better as “glare,” or “scowl.”    Make every word count, especially your verbs.


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April is Natonal Poetry Month–Digging Deeper to boost the language of your poem.

Yesterday, (4 3 14) I spoke of ‘Digging Deeper’ to discover original, startling, unusual, ‘just the right word’ additions to your poetry.
So today, I want to give you some examples from my own work in which I did so.

Here’s an early written part from the fourth stanza of “In Every Life Both” (published in Schuylkill Valley Journal, Spring 2011 and in Wordgathering in September of 2011, Pushcart Prize Nominee.  See the whole poem on my menu of Pushcart Prize nominated poems–Ha! only two.)

Rough Draft:  (words to revise in bold)

Spectacle Island’s loon nest settles
among the thick grass and weeds;
a loon call wavers over water
while the long reply echoes.

Final: (words chosen to make the poem more alive)

Spectacle Island’s loon nest
cocoons amid dense grass
and weeds; one long call
wavers over darkening water,

while the reply—distant, trailing—
stills the heart. 

While the rough draft captures some of the sound and meaning (all the ‘s’ sounds, and the lengthening evening), that I wanted, it is too plain, too ordinary.  I knew this could be more ethereal, more lonely, even.  So I got out paper and pen and wrote this list of words and phrases that could substitute and make the detail in the poem come alive.  Never be afraid to use a thesaurus!

for “settles” I listed: calm, wraps around the brood, sinks into grass, lowers, hides among, is camouflaged, and then I wrote, cocoons — the word that perfectly fits the idea of hidden and safe.

While “among” is what I want to convey, the word is ordinary. So I thought I’d list some alternatives:  between, surrounded by (how terrible is that), amongst, then finally I wrote ‘amid’–the word I ended up using.  I like its short, rather formal sounding nature.

For “thick“: I felt that the word sounded too harsh, too guttural in the poem. So, I wrote the word ‘thick’ down on the paper, and wrote anything I could think of to substitute for ‘thick’: solid, deep, compressed, hard, firm, wide, and then I thought of  ‘dense’–the perfect word here. It has the ‘s’ sound I’m looking for and the heavy connotation without the guttural sound.

I changed “a loon call” to “one long call” because I didn’t want to repeat ‘loon’ again, and I liked the three one word syllable words in this order. Plus, I still used the letter ”L.”  “One” instead of “a” is also important here.  It draws out the line better when read.

I read what I had written aloud with the changes, and something was missing.  I fooled round with changing line breaks (more on that in another post), word order, etc. While adjectives can fill up your poem with unnecessary palaver, if used with judiciousness, they can hit the mark.  When I added “darkening” to describe “water” that deepened the tone of the poem and got to what I was trying to do.  While the poem ends with light–as I meant it to–I wanted the opening to be a bit surreal, somewhat foreboding.  So it takes place at night, with an “almost full moon” and loons calling.

The end of this stanza is lengthened.  When I read it aloud (I encourage reading what you’ve written aloud–your ear often knows what your eyes don’t), it felt stunted, skimpy.  “While the long reply echoes” hits the mark in some way for sound and meaning, I played with it and thought the syntax of “While the reply–distant, trailing” captured more of what the poem encapsulated–that a night on the lake with the moon, one boat, two people, and the sound of loons, can be magical, revealing.

I shortened the lines over many rewrites, and added at the very end of the process the phrase, “stills the heart.”  Don’t know why that came to me, but I’m glad it did.  The heart is vital to this poem about two people looking out over a lake at night.

Digging Deeper is something I do all the time during my writing.  It has saved me from leaving something alone that needed tweaking, needed uplifting, or absolutely had to change to add more punch to the poem.

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April is National Poetry Month–Kane Comment on Digging Deeper in Your Poetry

Revision, the hard work poets do to bring a poem to as close to a final state as it can be (is there ever a ‘final’ state? 🙂  ) is often frustrating.  How many times have you heard from a reader who is critiquing your work say, “I don’t know what you need to do here, but this phrase, or word, or line, needs something.”  Here’s a ‘something’ to help you in the revision process. I call this ‘digging deeper.’

On another sheet of paper, or new computer screen, write/type the phrase that needs to be expanded, ‘seen again’, to revise, to probe, to reflect what you really want to see and say, to crack it open, in other words.
Then, start write anything you can think of that expands that phrase.
Think simile, metaphor, personification, color, sound, taste, touch, scent.  What treasures are buried inside your phrases?

You’re not continuing the action of the poem, but are instead expanding the particular line or phrase in as many ways as you can.

Tomorrow, I’ll have some examples of how this works.

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Writing a Poem Backwards: Herb Perkins-Frederick revision for poetry

My dear friend, Herb Perkins Frederick, passed away two years ago; his poetry was startling, often humorous, detailed, and well-put.  He said important things in all of his poems.

His ideas regarding revision brightened many of my poems–and others.  So we’re at a Sunday workshop attended by mostly Bucks County (Pa) poets.  There were about 15 there.  Someone read her poem, and another person read it again, so we can have a better feel for it.  We all said our revision comments–what we were pulled to, what we felt needed more work, and Herb interjects–“What if we read the poem backwards?”  Backwards, really?  What can that do but confuse the reader?  When we did, the poem surprised.

Here’s an example.  The first draft is how the poet first wrote the poem; the second is the poem backwards.

Smart White Stars

She waits for stars
to break and muffled
light to flood the snow.

She waits for the pond
to solidify, then ventures
onto ice the color of drizzle’s

gray screen. An age,
it seems, passes before
her head tilts back

and snowflakes melt
on her tongue and the
andiron color of her hair.

Her breath bursts the cold
like smoke. She looks,
she always looks, then turns

to the house and gathers
sudden light that spills
from smart white stars.

Now, the poem, backwards:

Smart White Stars

She gathers sudden light
that spills from smart white
stars. She turns to the house

and looks, she always looks.
Like smoke, her breath bursts
the cold. On the andiron

color of her hair and on her
tongue, snowflakes melt.
She tilts her head back

and an age, it seems, passes.
She waits for the pond
to solidify, she waits

for muffled light to flood
the snow, she waits
for stars to break.

The second version of the poem is marvelous with its connections; the images take on newer significance.  While this doesn’t work for all poems, if a poem is giving you trouble, try Herb’s revision idea.  ‘Re-vision’, after all, means ‘re-seeing.”  This is a very useful way to ‘resee’ your poetry.


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