A Message from Laura Kalpakian!


RWB Book Club:

Sunday, June 14, 4 p.m. in the lobby at Pickford Theatre

The Red Wheelbarrow Writers Book Club theme choice for June is, not surprisingly, Fathers. For June we’ve added a petite caveat: no one can choose Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. Atticus Finch is the most sterling father in American literature, the father everyone wanted to have. We might as well subtitle our June choice: Beyond Atticus.


Our themes can be genres as well. If you would like to have a writerly discussion on memoir, sci fi, time travel, travel-travel, YA, fantasy, graphic novels and other genres, join us on June 14th [check date] at 4 at the Pickford and make a suggestion for July.


For our May discussion of Mothers, naturally, Mommy Dearest made an appearance among other titles. Mostly the fictional mothers we noted were either comic, symbolic or nasty unto evil. One reader chose books like Jane Eyre where girls who were motherless made their way in the world as successful, if challenged adults. As a group we marveled at the paucity of novels with good mothers. The only one I could think of was Lucia Santa from The Fortunate Pilgrim, Mario Puzo’s first novel. There’s the mother in Little Women, I suppose, a model of loving decorum.   One reader brought the children’s book, Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree in which the maternal tree yields up its everything to and for the demanding child. Is that the good mother?


Atticus Finch aside, are fictional fathers portrayed differently? Think on it, and join us for a lively discussion Sunday June 14th at the Pickford.


Below are some of the titles offered up for the Mothers Theme

Grapes of Wrath

Scarlet Letter

Nicholas Nickleby

The Fortunate Pilgrim (Mario Puzo’s first novel)

Bleak House

Jane Eyre

The Giving Tree

Happy Mother’s Day at Big Rock Garden Park!


If you’re looking for a delightful way to spend Mother’s Day, this might be just the ticket!

In Honor of William Carlos Williams

And in the wake of National Poetry Writing Month.

Here is a poem by our very own Linda Lambert


But first…

The Red Wheelbarrow (1923)

by William Carlos Williams


so much depends



a red wheel



glazed with rain



beside the white




Standing before you:

four couplets

of our namesake poem,

a single declarative


No capital letters,

no punctuation,

except for that annoying

final period.


Then those lines forcing pauses.

and the disparate subjects:

a lonely wheelbarrow,

(a common object)

beautified by rain,

plus a few  chickens,

(social creatures)

next to a farmer’s equipment.


Think about this poem

cinematically,** in which

we readers are prodded

to change perspective.

The wheelbarrow is a close-up.

The rainwater glaze,

an extreme close up.

The wheelbarrow, combined with the chickens, a wide angle view.


I can see the poem as a painting,

as Williams’ painter mother

might have seen it,

a still life with implied action,

and the color red,

a contrast to the color white.


Williams wrote this poem, he said,

because it gave him pleasure.

Laughing, he explained:

“Then I thought about it

and I wondered what it meant.”**


Ninety-two years later,

after explications by many pens,

we continue to think and wonder,

remaining captivated.



* http://www.redwheelbarrowwriters.com/


**an idea suggested by X.J. Kennedy in the Winter 2001 issue of Explicator


***from a radio interview of William Carlos Williams by Mary Margaret McBride in 1950

Book Reviews for Writers: Linda Lambert reviews Linda Pastan



Reviews for Writers

by Linda Lambert


“Finding a new poet/is like finding a new wildflower/out in the woods. You don’t see/its name in the flower books, and/nobody you tell believes in its odd color or the way/its leaves grow in splayed rows/down the whole length of the page. In fact/the very page smells of spilled/red wine and the mustiness of the sea/on a foggy day—the odor of truth/and of lying.”

  –from “A New Poet” in Carnival Evening by Linda Pastan, p. 239


Linda Pastan has been on the PBS News Hour, read at the famous Geraldine Dodge Poetry Festival, and won the Ruth Lily Poetry Prize of $100K—one of the largest prizes for poets. I hadn’t heard of her until Ron Leatherbarrow* came to dinner a few years ago and brought a gift: Carnival Evening by Linda Pastan.

He names her as one of his favorite poets, having heard her speak when she was the Poet Laureate of Maryland (1991-1995). He teaches her poems in Poetry (English 113) at Whatcom Community College where he is also the Vice President for Instruction. Now she’s my go-to poet. I feel lifted by her observations and metaphors that are everyday but transcend the familiar. Her endings, almost always, are unexpected. Her poems are immaculate in concept and concision.

Pastan began writing poems when she was twelve, sending them out to the likes of The New Yorker. Her teachers at Fieldstone School, associated with the Ethical Cultural Society “for free thinking Jews,” encouraged her writing. She graduated with a B.A. in English from Radcliff in 1953 and in her senior year received Mademoiselle’s Dylan Thomas prize. (Sylvia Plath was a runner up!) She continued her education with an MLS from Simmons (though I don’t know if she ever worked as a librarian) and earned an MA in English from Brandeis.

When she married Ira Pastan in 1953, a microbiologist, she stopped writing. “I felt that I couldn’t be the perfect wife and mother that I was expected to be, and commit myself to something as serious as poetry…It was all or nothing…I was very unhappy about it during those years. And my husband finally said he was tired of hearing what a good poet I would have been if I hadn’t gotten married.”[1] A Perfect Circle of Sun—the first of seventeen–was published in 1971.

Writers can relate to the title poem in Waiting for my Life (1979), when she speaks of “collecting scraps/of talk, setting them down like birdsong/in my notebook, where someday I would go/prospecting for my life.” We can also identify with these lines from “Block:” “I place one word slowly/in front of the other,/like learning to walk again/after an illness. But the blank page/with its hospital corners/tempts me.” Don’t you love the linking of a blank page with the precise corners of a hospital bed sheet?

For a generous sampling of Pastan’s work, go to http://www.poetryfoundation.org/ and insert her name in the search box. Poetry Foundation has a great database of poems and poet bios. Then, I suggest purchasing Carnival Evening, available at Village Books for $16.95. Buy it from them because of the exceptional support they give writers.

Linda Lambert, a member of RWB, worked at the Whatcom Community College Library for 15 years and is currently completing a degree in Creative Writing through the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast MFA program.


[1] http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/entertainment-july-dec03-pastan_07-07/

Did somebody say poetry?

images (1)

so much depends

a group of plucky


beside their morning

V. Doerper


Happy spring Red Wheelbarrow Writers!

It’s almost April and here at RWB we’re getting excited as a pair of crows hanging out at a dumpster because National Poetry Writing Month, or NaPoWriMo, is about to begin!

Some of you may have already had the pleasure of participating in this delightful poetic adventure, but for those who haven’t here are some details.

  • NaPoWriMo was the brainchild of Maureen Thorson, a poet from Washington, DC, who was so inspired by NaNoWriMo, November’s National Novel Writing Month, that in 2003 she began writing a poem a day in April for National Poetry Month. Eventually, Maureen created http://www.napowrimo.net/ for the project. And as they say, the rest is herstory.
  • Both Victoria and I participated last year, sharing our daily poems in emails and posting some of them on my blog, http://stilllifewithtortillas.com/. Victoria even went a few steps further and gathered her NaPoWriMo poems into a lovely book titled Every Day a Song: Poems of April.
  • When I announced recently at the RWB Bookclub that April was just around the corner and that Victoria and I would be writing 30 poems again this year, ideas began to snow down like cherry blossoms. Cami Ostman suggested that RWB writers might want to participate. Pam Helberg offered to set up a Facebook group to support participants (RWB NaPoWriMo). Some of us talked about sharing our poems at a Village Books event and possibly even publishing them in an anthology, and that’s why we’re writing to you.

We’d love for you to join us for a month of writing and sharing. You don’t have to be an established poet or to even think of yourself as a poet to be part of the fun. All you need to do is write one poem each day. That’s 30 poems, beginning on April 1, in any form you choose. Haiku, sonnets, free verse, prose poems, short as a heartbeat or long as the Amazon on any topic or theme. It’s your call. If you can’t think of an idea or form, http://www.napowrimo.net/ has daily prompts to inspire you and they’re fantastic!

We’ll be chatting on the RWB NaPoWriMo group page on Facebook, and that’s also a place where you can share your work if you desire. You can join us by simply visiting the page and letting us know you’re on board.

Looking forward to NaPoWriMing with you very soon!

Susan Chase-Foster and Victoria Doerper