The Law of Corrections

For those of you who felt even the slightest bit of jealousy that I was able to spend the last few days in beautiful Rio de Janeiro, you should know the universe has a way of correcting itself. 🙂

Our car trip home was punctuated by one child vomiting all over the car, one car air conditioner that decided to stop working, and one flat tire. It was a lovely few days in Rio, with a not so lovely trip home. Honestly though, ANY car trip in Brazil in which you make it all the way home alive is a good trip. So I guess I can’t complain.

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Wednesday in the Waiting Room — National Poetry Month

Who else is waiting on news? I find when I am waiting I have wild swings between hope and hopelessness, between expectation and self-protection. It’s not easy to maintain a sense of detachment from the possibilities, is it? I am a dreamer and there is a part of me that wants to let my hope fly free, unclipped by the realities of the publishing industry. And then there is the other more practical, realistic part of me that knows there are some things you just can’t control.

For me, though, hope always wins out. It means that in the end I’m sometimes even more disappointed than I would have been if I hadn’t allowed myself to hope, but I think it’s better for my creativity. I don’t think my muse has a realistic bone in her body and she doesn’t like it much when I try to talk sense into her or try to reason with her about the truths of publishing. When I do, she just shuts up for a while. So, that leaves me vulnerable to disappointment. Can there be any other way?


Hope refuses to perch
as if she had arrived for only a visit,
like so many flitting wings
on the branches of a bloodwood tree,
weaving instead feathers from her breast
into the fabric of my soul.

Her fussing brings pain,
reminding me of a presence I’ve tried
to ignore, preferring instead

a familiar landscape of barren desert,
averting my eyes from the want within,
to grow as if shielded from sun, protected
from possibilities until they would
weigh my branches with promise.

But hope, feathered hope, is already here,
nestled so sweetly for laying,
and I await with the pain
of expectation.

— Kristy Dempsey (all rights reserved)

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For the love of a dog — National Poetry Month

My children would like a dog. Really, really, really much. But, it’s so difficult. We travel a lot and we live in an apartment in the middle of a large city. We’d need a small dog, that doesn’t shed and that is easily housebroken. I keep trying to push the conversation to the background, not because I don’t want a dog, but because we need time to figure out what kind and how much and all that. We can’t just go out and buy the first dog we think looks cute.

But alas, the conversation surged back in full force a couple of days ago when we ran across this poem during reading time. And upon being reminded of what it means to love (and be loved by) a dog, I’m not so sure I want the decision delayed any further. Now, I too want a dog really, really, really much.


He sits and begs; he gives a paw;
He is as you can see,
The finest dog you ever saw,
And he belongs to me.

He follows everywhere I go
And even when I swim.
I laugh because he thinks, you know,
That I belong to him.

—Arthur Guiterman

There’s actually one more verse to this poem but it’s not printed in our edition of Poems to Read to the Very Young selected by Josette Frank. The entire poem can be read here.

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Pictures– Poetry Friday: National Poetry Month

My son is 7 1/2 years old. He’s beginning to make the transition between books that are for babies and books that are for big kids. He can handle a chapter book on his own now and it’s still a recent enough accomplishment that I can see the pride he feels in it. But he also loves art, making his own art, as well as looking at art made by masters of the craft. So he secretly still loves picture books too. More than ever, or maybe still just as much as ever, he pores over the artistic details in the art in a picture book. He notices more and more each time and to be honest, learns more and more about story-telling by studying these books.

I wrote today’s poem a while back, but it perfectly describes how my son feels about his picture books at this phase of his life.


I still like your pictures;
there’s so much to see.
The boy on these pages
reminds me of me.
Your story might be for
a younger aged kid,
but I like your pictures
and I always did.

—Kristy Dempsey (all rights reserved)

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Give me Five –National Poetry Month

Five minutes, that is. Today’s topic is hairbrush. Because it was the first thing I looked up and saw when I needed a topic.

Time starts now.


Prickly stick, stuck
in my long thick mane
I stomp and stamp, steamed
as you scratch my tender scalp
and stretch my sunny tresses
to their breaking point,
like straw snagged
in a pitchfork.

—Kristy Dempsey (all rights reserved, meaning especially that I reserve the right to revise!)

Okay, now let’s get to work revising. The above is just an example of ideas put down on paper in a five minute limit. I’m not sure there’s anything there of use, though when I thought of hairbrush, I immediately thought of my four-year old daughter’s contentious relationship with the hairbrush. So while I may not have captured that relationship in her true four-year old voice, it’s a start. And that’s what these five minute COP exercises are for. The true poem comes later when there is time for what I’ve written in the first five minutes to gel and grow and change into something that sings.

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Can’t stop with just one — National Poetry Month

Like Sara Lewis Holmes, I enjoyed Kelly Fineman’s post yesterday on revising poetry and couldn’t pass up the chance to try my hand at her challenge to revise her sample sentence into something more poetry-like. With my brain in haiku mode yesterday, I took her sentence:

“Today I walked through the woods as the light faded, heedless of nature until a rustling noise drew my attention to a litter of raccoons near the stream.”

And I came up with a haiku that almost manages to incorporate each of Kelly’s details. I can’t wait to see what Kelly came up with. I think she’ll be posting it today if she hasn’t yet. Sara posted her own here. And I hope a few more of you join in on the fun too. Here’s my try:

Wandering creek side
Shadows swell between quiet pines
Raccoons surprise my thoughts

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Today is Sleepy — National Poetry month

Barely four hours since I awoke and I’m already wishing for a nap. Lots happening here today and over the next few days, so the anticipation and worry and details have been keeping me up at night. So for all who didn’t get a good night’s sleep last night…


I cannot sleep.
I know I won’t.
Whenever I lay down,
I don’t.

A million thoughts
Dance in my head
And keep me tossing
In my bed.

Purple sheep
And racing cars
Rocket ships
That orbit Mars.

Pirate boats
And air balloons
Dishes running
off with spoons.

And spelling tests
plot to rob me
of my rest.

Bedtime would not
be a pain
If I could just
Turn off my brain.

—Kristy Dempsey (all rights reserved)

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Haiku — National Poetry month

I’ve always been scared of haiku. Wait. That’s not true. As a child, I loved haiku. They were easy. Count the syllables, write three lines and Bam! You’re done. It’s only been more recently that I’ve become afraid of haiku. It used to be 5 syllables/7 syllables/5 syllables and then there was the whole debate over how haiku can’t really be written well in English because it’s a Japanese art, so the syllable thing is just a guideline and in fact you could do 3/5/3 if you want…or even 4/6/3 or any approximation would work if you wanted, and it all became too wide open for me! If there was no set structure to ensure I was writing a haiku, then I felt more pressure to make sure there was deeper meaning behind my simple observation of the world. And what if that deeper meaning didn’t come across? And then my haiku didn’t even fit the syllabic format the reader expected? What if my haiku was crap?

But recently, I’ve decided that I like haiku again. There’s nothing like it for capturing a single image, and for me, nothing like it for evoking the emotion of a memory I’d like to hold onto.

Here’s one for today:

Small one sleeps,
sweat of dreams on brow,
laughter on lips.

—Kristy Dempsey (all rights reserved)

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5 minute madness — a National Poetry Month post

I’ve told you before that my critique group plays a little five minute game every so often called Crap on Paper, or more commonly known as COP. Set the timer. You have five minutes to draft a poem on the topic of the day. Topics can be generated by choosing the first thing that comes to your mind, by opening a book and pointing to a word, or by randomly dialing a telephone number and asking the person who answers for a suggestion. Sometimes that last one doesn’t go over so well.

Today’s COP topic was chosen using the book option. (Randomly pulled Susan Taylor Brown’s HUGGING THE ROCK off my newly organized bookshelf, randomly opened to page 113 and pointed to the word “pictures”.) Five minutes starts now:

School Pictures

No matter how much
I plan for this day,
my hair always ends up
in wild disarray.
My shirt’s always stained
with that afternoon’s lunch.
My smile’s always crooked.
My back’s always hunched.
It looks like on purpose
I tried for my worst.
It’s always this way.
I think that I’m cursed.

So, there you have it. Not exactly the best poem you’ve ever read. But if you look, you’ll find a couple of places I can make better word choices or rephrase to make the meter a little smoother. Especially that next to last line.

Five minute poems aren’t about perfection. It’s the fastest way to get a quick draft down on paper without ANY pressure. You can always revise after the five minutes are up!

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