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Life on the Deckle Edge

Poetry Friday - Happy Earth Day and a Nod to Mark Nepo


Greetings, Poetry Lovers! I hope you've been able to partake of more Poetry Month goodness than I have this year - still settling in after my big move, but with road trips mixed in. Last week I fetched my folks, who drove halfway up from Florida to rendezvous with me at a Lowcountry VRBO, and then I brought them up here to the the SC "Upcountry" to enjoy several days with our kiddos, their dogs, and of course, the baby grand (10 months old now). Very grateful for the opportunity to be together as four generations. Just got back from the return trip.


Among the wonderful conversations volleying back and forth last weekend, I enjoyed hearing my hubby and son discuss a brand new book of poems by Mark Nepo (cover pictured above).  This wee post is not a review of the book, as I've barely gotten my footing in it.  But I look forward to further explorations, especially because it's a collection of Nepo's poems written in his 50s and 60s. As one who has recently turned 60, the words resonate! Plus, the title intrigued me.


Hubby Jeff and son Seth are far more well read than I in the areas of spirituality and healing and the like. (Jeff's an attending psychiatrist with additional experience in Ayurveda, end-of-life challenges, and energy medicine, and Seth is one of the pastors of an inner city church primarily serving the unhoused community and others in the margins.)


Mark Nepo is a New York Times Bestselling Author, best known for The Book of Awakening. One of the many endorsements in his new book is from Naomi Shihab Nye:  "Mark Nepo is a Great Soul.  His resonant heart - his frank and astonishing voice - befriend us mightily on this mysterious trail."


About The Half-Life of Angels, Nepo says: "Now in my seventies, I am committed to putting my life's journey with poetry in order. The result will be the publication of several volumes of poetry. The Half-Life of Angels is the first of these volumes." You can learn more about Nepo and his life and work here


Since we're celebrating Earth Day, I thought sharing the opening of this poem below from Nepo's website would be timely.  To me it deals more with inner landscapes than outer ones, but the survival of the Earth depends on us to develop our capacity for love, does it not?


Earth Prayer


by Mark Nepo


O Endless Creator, Force of Life, Seat of the Unconscious,
Dharma, Atman, Ra, Qalb, Dear Center of our Love,
Christlight, Yaweh, Allah, Mawu,
Mother of the Universe...


Let us, when swimming with the stream,
become the stream...
Let us, when moving with the music,
become the music...
Let us, when rocking the wounded,
become the suffering...


Let us live deep enough
till there is only one direction...
(Click here to read the poem.)


 Be sure to enjoy all the inspiring Kidlitosphere-ish offerings for Poetry Friday this month - Jama has a handy roundup here!  And for this week's Roundup, visit the lovely Karen Edmisten here.

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Happy Poetry Month!

Greetings, Poetry Lovers!  Happy Poetry Month.  I'm hoping to chime in for the last half, but for now I'm still up to my elbows wrangling order out of the chaos of moving.  (Studio is coming along nicely, though!  Pics soon.) 


There is SO much goodness being generated by my Poetry Friday pals this month, please drop by Jama's Alphabet Soup to partake of the montly events roundup.  (Jama adds to it as she learns of new projects.)  You'll also find links about this year's wonderful poster, pictured above.  It was commissioned to Marc Brown (of "Arthur" fame, among other works) and includes a line from the poem "Carrying" by U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón.


The first Poetry Friday of April this year is hosted by the lovely Margaret at Reflections on the Teche, where you'll also find the Progressive Poem.  (My first year ever not participating!  That's how crazy the last couple of months have been.... I look forward to reading this year's magic!)


The week after that, my good friend Jone Rush MacCulloch will be hosting.  Since I'll be on the road that day and then have company all that weekend, I won't even pretend I'll get a post up for next week.  But HOPEfully - after that.  ;0)


May all the poetry offerings this month bring you solace, light, humor, understanding, quiet, and inspiration - whatever you most need in these challenging days in our country and world. Peace and Poetry Love to you!

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Poetry Friday = Poetry Month Eve; Go See Mary Lee!


Greetings, Poetry Lovers!  I'm still up to my elbows in boxes and trying to wrestle order out of chaos over here, but I appreciate Mary Lee's getting us ready for Poetry Month over at A(nother) Year of Reading.    Enjoy her original poem and her enthusiasm here on the cusp of April - good things will be blooming all over. See you next week!

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Poetry Friday - Seth & Holy Chaos

Seth blessing the animals at Haywood Street Congregation, October 2022.


Greetings, Poetry Lovers - I've missed you! The past several weeks have found me criss-crossing South Carolina as we've just moved from Beaufort on the coast to Travelers Rest in the mountains. My husband Jeff moved on ahead to start a new job, while I stayed on in a temporary apartment getting our house there sold and waiting for a basement renovation here to finish up.  To the usual moving stresses, and my sadness at saying goodbye to a place I dearly loved, we had an awful shock last week.  Our wee doggie Rita fell suddenly and critically ill, and she spent a week in and out of the emergency vet near Beaufort. On last Tuesday afternoon, the day before I moved on Wednesday, I had to have her put down in my arms.  My heart is still shattered. 


But life brings us joys as well as sorrows.  Now we are closer to our kids and are celebrating Seth's birthday this weekend. Since today (Friday) is his actual birthday, I'm offering up something a little different.  Seth is one of the pastors at Haywood Street Congregation, a church ministry in downtown Asheville, NC.  He was their first intern in 2017-18.  After graduating from seminary at Candler (Emory), he joined the Haywood Street staff in the fall of 2021.  It's unique place - self-described as "holy chaos." With a heart for those experiencing homelessness and anyone who feels they have no place at the table, Haywood offers a place at the table.  Literally.  Whether it's a dining table with nice linens and homecooked meals, or the Communion table during a service, everyone is welcome.  


Since Jeff and I are now less than an hour away from Asheville, we'll be able to visit Seth and girlfriend Ginnie more often.  [And we're just two hours away from Morgan and Matt and Baby Sawyer in North Georgia. ] A few weeks ago we got to hear Seth preach - always special for us - and I felt compelled to write about the service, for no particular reason.  No two services are ever the same at Haywood Street! I'm sharing that reflection below, if you are interested.  If you're just here for poetry, that's fine too!


Here are two haiku I wrote when visiting Seth during his internship year years ago, followed by my recent thoughts.




bus stop
the hard places
where she sleeps



bottle rockets, No. 38, Feb. 2018






empty street -
she stoops to pocket
a half-cigarette

Acorn, No. 39, Fall 2017



poems ©Robyn Hood Black




To Holy Chaos


by Robyn Hood Black – reflections on Feb. 26, 2023


It's a crisp February Sunday morning, no rain, in downtown Asheville.


Outside the sanctuary of Haywood Street Congregation, people do congregate. Many have come for Sunday's Welcome Table breakfast downstairs, delicious food prepared with love and served on real plates, on real tablecloths, with real meal-time conversations.  Fresh flowers, too.


Around the grounds and in the garden, small groups huddle. Some people have bedrolls and backpacks; most have lines in their faces belying their age. There is quiet talk, and colorful language, and the jolt of a glass jar breaking on concrete. Always, a few folks sleep here and there and everywhere.


This morning, a table is set up offering immunizations for pets.  Dogs are regulars at Haywood Street, and today they receive some extra TLC.


Inside, a few dozen people await the start of the service. The magnificent fresco is a call to worship, its colors echoed in tall stained glass windows - and in the diversity of the congregation. The space is not overly large but big enough, simple but with handcrafted touches whispering, All Are Welcome Here.


Jody invites anyone interested to come up to be "the choir" and help lead the opening songs.  A few people join without hesitation.  At the piano is a beautiful young trans woman, playing with heart and flourish and abundant talent.


Later in the service, that piano will feel the touch of a diminutive fair-skinned, white-haired 85-year-old woman, as she shares one of her favorite traditional hymns. That music, too, moves everyone hearing it.


Today's announcements include one about the award-winning 2021 documentary on the fresco, Theirs is the Kingdom, and about a new group to meet weekly in support of anyone at any stage in their addiction journey.


To say that Haywood Street's services are interactive would be an understatement.  In the "Blessings and Testimonials" time, anyone is invited to share – a spontaneous song, a personal story, some quiet yearning in a heart that needs expression. Today a young woman sings a contemporary Christian song, followed by a man who often shares his vocal talents. Microphones aren't needed here.


Speakers are open and vulnerable, sharing raw hardships as well as sublime blessings.  There are health concerns mentioned in addition to gratitude that a trailer has become available for one of the singers. A lively discussion bubbles up as well, with a few women sharing how they personally hear God.  Differing views are respected in an invisible web of trust. 


Sermons are dialogical, too, and are called "conversational homilies." Today, after our older piano player volunteers to read verses from Matthew following the church calendar, Seth preaches about Jesus's need to be by himself.  For starters, his baptism was followed by 40 days in the wilderness.  Quiet time alone is not always easy, as the temptation narratives illustrate.


Jesus sought out solitude amidst the demands of his unfolding calling, his heavy understanding of who he was and was becoming.  Seth preaches about the necessity of self-care, which can take many forms. His words resonate with many in the pews in the form of nods and words of agreement. 


True to Haywood Street's motto of "Holy Chaos," the service is peppered with an occasional surprise.  A couple of times, a smiling young man with flapping clothes walks at a fast clip up the center aisle, and out the back of the sanctuary toward the offices.  He is high on something, and waves to a few folks each time, and even to the fresco.


At another moment, Jody opens the door to the narthex for someone.  This happens to occur at the exact time that a cat from the animal table, brought inside because it kept trying to get away, receives its shot – and a hearty, screechy yowl permeates the service.


After the sermon, needs are shared and updates given on situations calling for prayer.  Anyone who wants to speak is heard and affirmed by the lovely and spunky woman guiding this response time.  After every contribution, folks shake a little ring of bells left on the pews or their car keys or otherwise join in to support each need.


The offering comes in the form of music and a volunteer holding a basket up front.  Attendees are welcome to give but also appreciated if they would like to give but aren't in a position to. Communion follows, with one volunteer holding a bowl of pieces of homemade bread, and another holding a cup of juice to dip it in.  Anyone may partake.


Today the service closes with a song, "Blessed Quietness," reflecting the morning's theme. During this last hymn, a man who was stretched out on a pew wakes up and looks around.  Even though the elements of this service and the homily will be repeated on Wednesday, it will not be the same.  This is Haywood Street, and no two days are ever alike.


This holy chaos might not be for everyone, but it's absolutely for anyone.






If you've made it this far in my post and need to find the Poetry Friday Roundup, go "Imagine the Possibilities" with our lovely Rose. And to learn more about Haywood Street Congregation, click here

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Poetry Friday - To my Dear and Loving Husband by Anne Bradstreet

Depiction of Anne Bradstreet by Edmund H. Garrett (19th Century).

Greetings, Poetry Lovers!  As we lean towards celebrating LOVE for Valentine's Day next week, I thought we might hear some words from a few centuries ago in New England, long before the United States was a country.  This one's for you, Husband-of-Mine...


To My Dear and Loving Husband

by Anne Bradstreet (1612-72)


If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were loved by wife, then thee;
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me ye women if you can.
I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold,
Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
My love is such that rivers cannot quench,
Nor ought but love from thee give recompense.
Thy love is such I can no way repay;
The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.
Then while we live, in love let's so persever,
That when we live no more we may live ever.


You can learn more about Anne Bradstreet here.  She was the first poet to be published in colonial North America, an impressive accomplishment, especially for a woman in the 1600s!


Valentine's Day is not an easy day for many - extra love to those for whom it's difficult or bittersweet.


The amazing Carol, who LOVES words and images, not to mention her beautiful family - has our Roundup this week at Beyond Literacy Week

*Note* - Life here is still crazy with a multi-part move in progress; I'll be in and out of town the next two weekends, then back in Beaufort for a week or so, and then making the final move to catch up with the aforementioned husband over in the mountains in mid-March! I'll get back into the swing of weekly posting again as soon as possible. :0) 

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Poetry Friday - Haiku in bottle rockets and a big birthday...


Greetings, Poetry Lovers! Happy February...


Last Friday I was on the road back and forth (again!) to our Upstate SC house, where we are moving permanently in coming weeks. Though life has been chaos for many weeks (Okay, months...) somehow my hubby pulled off a surprise party on Saturday for my 60th birthday (on Monday).  I knew my kids would be visiting, but I didn't know that several dear friends who live in that general region - plus our contactors who are making our basement into a magical living/working space there - would be showing up for lunch & cake! What a treat, and getting to share the surprise and celebration with the  Baby Grand - who enjoyed my gift of a wonderful old Remington typewriter - made it even more special. 


Another fun surprise was the new issue of bottle rockets which came a little early, ahead of upcoming postal rate hikes.  Honored to have a poem in it, which kinda relates to this whole getting older thing.  [I'm grateful for every birthday, and I loved what one friend commented on Facebook:  "Welcome to the next level." Ha!]  


Also, I suppose this haiku relates to moving as well, as I remember composing it during a gentle rain here in the Lowcountry.  I will miss this place.


just beyond

memory's reach

soft rain in the woods



©Robyn Hood Black

bottle rockets, #48, February 2023



Many thanks to the oh-so-talented Laura for hosting us all this week, and for filling February with poetry all month long....

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Poetry Friday - Moving Boxes ....

Quick (huff)  Greetings (puff) from the Land of Perpetual Movers...  The low-down:  We're getting there, whirlwinds and all.  Got moved into a temporary apartment (still in Beaufort) so we could get our house here decluttered and listed to sell.  Met with the realtors Wednesday and are optimistic - almost 1000 views on Zillow in the first day (& seven showings).  Beaufort is still a pretty hot market; I wanted to list our downtown cottage while the inventory is so low right now! 


Still making several quick and crazy across-the-state trips taking things to our Upstate abode, and popping in on the basement renovation there. More than once I've woken up in the middle of the night and looked around in the dimness wondering, where am I?  What city?  What room?! 


My hubby Jeff will be starting his new job at the end of February, and I'll follow with movers and what's left of our stuff in mid-March after the reno is all done.  We're both feeling aches in muscles we didn't know we had, but we are deeply grateful for these adventures and for having a safe place to rest our heads at night, especially in winter.


I've been to Staples and Lowe's a thousand times in recent weeks.  Here's a little ditty of an ode about those handy kraft cardboard wonders by Bankers Box®.




Bankers Boxes



Tear off the lid,


set aside.


Un-flatten the rest and peer inside.


Push (1) on through,


then (2) and (3)


Pull (1) back down - 


Oh - now I see....


A krafty rectangle in three dimensions


ready for all your packing intentions.


Wait!  The lid - fold the edges and notch.


Match the handle slots; ignore your watch,










©Robyn Hood Black



While the smooth cardboard of dozens and dozens of moving boxes might seem monotonous, our friend and my Winter Poem Swap partner Patricia has just returned home to the desert and is thinking about the NEVERMORES group's prompt, texture. And she graciously included my Poem Swap poem and gifties to her, which arrived before Christmas but AFTER she left for her trip.  (Sorry, Patricia!) Here's her post. 


Marcie is kindly hosting the Roundup this week here


Wishing you smooth moves, whether from one home to another this year or just from your computer to the kettle to make a cuppa tea!

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Poetry Friday - My PERFECT Poem Swap Gifts from Patricia J. Franz


Greetings, Poetry Lovers!


I received the most wonderful gift in the mail yesterday – my poem swap goodies from this year's swap partner, Patricia J. Franz.  (The Winter Poem Swap is organized by the amazing Tabatha Yeatts, whose blog is here.  You can learn more about Patricia here.)


Full disclosure – I am so overextended this year that I JUST mailed Patricia her poem and gifties from me yesterday, too. (Insert face-slap emoji here.) No excuses, but an explanation – I/we recently made a crazy decision to put our house on the market sooner rather than later, so we are temporarily moving to an apartment here next week. That way, we can show the house without all – cough-cough – my, um, artistic piles o' stuff, and without having to manage a wee doggie, etc., etc.  Also, if it sells quickly as we hope, then we'll have a place to live while Jeff finishes his job here before starting his new one in the Upstate. I mean, moving is so easy and fun that everyone should do it twice for each move, right? 


So it was an especially perfect treat to open Patricia's package and slow down and savor her gifts.  She included some beautiful, fancy sticky notes – how could she know I LIVE by sticky notes?! – and the most charming tiny replica music box that plays "Hey Jude" when you turn its handle.  She explained in her lovely note that the song came to her while working on my poem, and then she said, "the universe made a house call, as I found this in the gift shop at the Whitney Museum in NYC."  I was floored!  How special, and you bet it will have an honored place in my new studio (being formed as we speak in a basement renovation at our Upstate house that we'll move to in a couple-few months.)


As for the poem Patricia sent, I was moved to tears upon reading it.  First, she tackled a ghazal, though she added, "Truth be told, I'm certain this is not a true ghazal!  In my  mind, I was channeling your artful spirit – letting the poetic form become what it needed to contain the words."


You see, she wrote a poem about… artsyletters! No one has ever written a poem about my art endeavors before, not even me.  Talk about affirmation, and with my favorite kind of writing – poetry!

Not to mention that the presentation – printed to look it's on faded, foxed, glorious old paper, and with some of my items – absolutely speaks my aesthetic language.  What a gift, and to think we've never met in person before.  But that's the magic of Poetry Friday, isn't it?


I'm beyond delighted to share:



artsyletters:  a  ghazal


what sound speaks?  What reaches your ear?

asking to be transformed – the trinket, the trifle


finger a curl of your hair, pause to hear

art unaware, setting free the trinket, the trifle

will you be jeweled? Beheld by a book?

re-membered eternal, no trinket or trifle


work of your hands, heart's possibility

becomes twinkle delightful – the trinket, the trifle


©Patricia J. Franz


This was just what I needed but didn't know I needed, grounding my art adventures as I'm trying to keep them all together during this bit of transition and chaos.  I'm so excited to hang up this poem in my studio space when it's finished, a heart-sent gift from a poet friend. It's just perfect as I reflect on this 10th anniversary year of starting my art business and Etsy shop and anticipating its landing, finally, in a perfect and personal home space.  Thank you, Patricia!


The perfect place for poetry today is with Karen Edmisten, who is rounding up Poetry Friday this week.  Thank you, Karen! And Happy Holiday blessings to all; I'll be taking a wee break as we work on the move stuff and also travel - multiple times - to see family over a stretched-out holiday season.  Extra prayers for those missing loved ones this season, and those who don't have homes to move to or from this winter. See you in January!

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Poetry Friday - Emily Dickinson's "Winter is Good"

New ornament featuring a vintage Emily Dickinson postage stamp- listing is here in my Etsy shop! (I have William Shakespeare, too. ;0) )


Greetings, Poetry Lovers!  I hope you had a good Thanksgiving weekend last week, wherever you were.  Prayers for all with an empty chair at the holidays this year.


Over here  on the South Carolina Coast, Friday morning temps will be in the 40s, which is chilly for us. (Then we'll warm back up.)  But pictures of growing piles of snow from the Northwest to the Plains are something else altogether, like the pictures posted online recently by our own Amy Ludwig VanDerwater up in New York state. 


So here's a little poem by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) for the new season.  (Love the last line... we were happy to say goodbye to the hurricane season, by the way, on Wednesday!)



Winter is good - his Hoar Delights (1316)

Emily Dickinson 

Winter is good - his Hoar Delights
Italic flavor yield -
To Intellects inebriate
With Summer, or the World -

Generic as a Quarry
And hearty - as a Rose -
Invited with asperity
But welcome when he goes.


Happy December! 


Grab your snowshoes and shuffle on over to see our lovely Catherine at Reading to the Core for this week's Roundup!

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Poetry Friday - Vowel Poetry Fun from Jonathan Swift & artsyletters


Greetings, Poetry Lovers!


The poem I'm sharing this week is an offering of levity, with so much going on in the world this month.  From a 19th-Century copy of CROWN JEWELS (or Gems of Literature, Art, and Music ...) compiled by Henry Davenport Norhtrop and published by Pennsylvania Publishing Company in 1887, I plucked this wee riddle poem by Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), then gave it the artsyletters mini collage treatment.


On the Vowels


by Jonathan Swift


We are little airy creatures,

All of different voice and features:

One of us in glass is set,

One of us you'll find in jet;

T'other you may see in tin,

And the fourth a box within;

If the fifth you should pursue,

It can never fly from you.


I thought those "little airy creatures" would pair well with some old lace! Though the blocky midcentury brass letters are anything but airy, I suppose - so here's to a little contrast!


If you are hungry for more vowels, and consonants, then of COURSE you must make your way to Jama's Alphabet Soup, where our beautiful & talented letter-wrangling host has this week's Roundup! 

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