Listen to Me Read

Another in the Style of William Stafford, my poem What's on My Desk

I adore the poem What’s in My Journal by William Stafford because it is deceptively simply and equally deep. You think you are going to read a list of tangible things and yet there is so much more. I want to revisit this poem and try to do the same but for today’s rough draft, I took the easy way out.


What’s on My Desk

Expected things, like pens and pencils. Art
things like crayons, scraps of handmade paper,
a paintbrush I forgot to wash. Stuffing from a
dog toy, stolen from the dog just before she ate
it. A Christmas card I forgot to mail. An empty water
bottle. A dirty coffee cup. Dead batteries and a dead fly.
Evidence of my poor housekeeping skills.
A paper dictionary I never use anymore. A quote
to help me be more focused. A rock I found in the
backyard. The collar from my only cat,
gone 10 years now. Two crumpled pieces of paper
torn from a notebook. My tolerance for clutter is high
yet I rarely work at my desk too surrounded by
things to sidetrack me from creating something new.

Susan Taylor Brown

In the Style of Elizabeth Alexander, My Poem Ars Poetica #1: Learn to See


This was a fun one to model, even if I didn’t follow the idea exactly it was a nice jumping off point for me. Read the original poem Ars Poetica #100: I Believe by Elizabeth Alexander.

Here’s my first draft.

Ars Poetica #1:Learn to See

Let me explain.

Poetry is that first sip of coffee in the morning
a fresh orange
cod liver oil.

Poetry is the exactly right shade of pale yellow
to match the roses that climb the gazebo at the park,
the cinnamon red of my favorite boots
the rusted rims of the old car deserted in the woods.

Poetry is the smell of chopping onions for dinner
wet dog and cotton candy
the garbage can overflowing behind the fish market.

Poetry is my husband’s kiss goodnight
the soft velvet of a hazelnut leaf
A snake. A slug. A snail.

Poetry is my grandson’s giggles
my mother saying “I love you” on the phone
my daughter’s tears.

What do you mean you don’t understand poetry?
It’s all around you.

Susan Taylor Brown

In the Style of Donald Hall, My Poem, The Garden


Today’s mentor poem for me is called The Things by Donald Hall.

As often happens when I pick a mentor poem I don’t try to follow a form or idea exactly but rather use the mentor poem as a jumping off point for something new for me. Instead of looking inside my house, I looked outside my back door to the huge Japanese Maple tree that sits outside my office. It is the only plant growing in my backyard that is not a California native plant but it is such a large tree, that we let it stay. The vines that I planted, are one of the few true vines in California native plants. And the butterflies I wait for are the Pipevine Swallowtails, whose only food are these vines, and who used to be prevalent in my area but whose numbers have dwindled greatly over the years. I have no butterflies, yet.

Here’s my rough draft.


The Garden

When I step outside I see a giant Japanese maple
planted near full grown by another family
lowered by a crane over the top of my tall home
because impatience
was the food they used to fertilize most everything.
A tree, healthy, green, growing tall,
wide enough to shade the patio and my office
and just kiss the edge of the roof,
a beautiful specimen but it’s not mine
even though its roots tunnel throughout my yard,
I did not nurture it through drought and frost
and I curse the tiny seedlings that sprout everywhere
but in spring it fills with birds who nest and sing
so I let it stay and plant pipevines at the base
and encourage the vines
to travel up the trunk and across the branches
like tentacles dripping with funny pipe-shaped blossoms
while I stand in the shade of the massive maple
and wait for butterflies.

Susan Taylor Brown

In the style of e.e. cummings, My Poem, Let it Go


Today’s model poem is let it go by e.e. cummings

In his poem I think cummings is talking about letting go of all the negative things in your life in order to make room for love to find you. For my poem I decided to apply it to my life with Zoey.

Here’s a first draft of my poem


let it go

the clean carpet,
the hairless furniture
unblemished wood
anywhere there stands a door
a single slipper, socks
my favorite jeans
the claw foot of an antique table
they are all just things
and things are not mean to stay

let them go
the young, now leafless manzanita
the irises and the yarrow
too tender to hold their ground
the row of wax myrtles,
green soldiers guarding the fence
the blue-eyed grass
the monkey flowers
the delicate violas
you must let them go
let all of them collapse
into compost
food for future years
when you can plant again

let all go
sleeping late
silent quiet days
walks unfettered
let all go
and embrace

life with a dog


Susan Taylor Brown


In the style of Lucile Clifton, My Poem, Come Celebrate With Me

Today’s model poem is Won’t You Celebrate With Me by Lucile Clifton.  You can click the link to read the original poem.

I have a lot of energy wrapped up in this draft and I need to let it set before I rework. This came out in a white, hot heat.   Here’s my first draft of poem modeled in the same style.


Celebrate With Me

won’t you celebrate with me
what I have become
a woman strong and brave
enough to speak her mind,
a wife, a lover
daughter, mother
a friend to few
I hold dear
a non-friend
to some
for reasons I don’t understand
born into confusion
about how to become
how to trust I had
in all my glory
before barreling past
my destination
not knowing
I was enough
I am enough
come celebrate
with me that
I have climbed
my mountains
cheered the sunrise
knowing, knowing
I am stronger
at all the broken places.

—Susan Taylor Brown

Kick the Poetry Can'ts #20, My Poem How to Be a Good Dog


How to poems are a fun way to share your knowledge (if you are writing a truthful poem) or have some fun if you are playing with your imagination.

You can write a how-to-do-it poem about making a sandwich, dancing with your great Aunt Agatha, climbing a tremendous mountain, learning how to drive, or anything else you can dream up.

As usual, I start with a brainstorming list. Sometimes these poems stay as list and sometimes they morph into something else.

Here’s a first draft of my how-to poem.


Learn how to beg
it is the foundation for all future lessons.
Start with the poor pitiful me face
perfect droopy ears
sad eyes (bonus points if you can sigh)
and the art of balancing your head on your outstretched paws
in a way that makes them go “awwww.”

Race around the house like a maniac
when people you know come to visit.
Bark like a monster dog
when strangers knock on the door.
Teach your humans that you know the difference between the two.
(Note: some humans are harder to train than others.)

Learn how to ride in the car without getting sick.
Continually expand your vocabulary of cute noises.
Be willing to do embarrassing tricks
for stinky treats
to make your humans look good.
Practice being aloof
but remember to let them pet you

Ask to go outside
a lot.
Ask to go on walks
a lot.
Ask for treats
a lot.
They might think you’re being difficult
but really you’re giving them important
breaks in their busy day
helping them to relieve stress
and learn how to be in the moment.

They should thank you for this
but they probably won’t.

Don’t chase the birds.
Really, don’t chase the birds.
It only makes them mad
(the humans and the birds.)
Drink out of all the stinky water places
and then give wet kisses
which will gross them out and make them happy
all at the time time.

Don’t dig.
I mean it.
For some reason they really have a problem with that.

At the end of the day
find your place in the room
you share with them
and fall fake asleep
with one eye still open
watching them
until you see their eyes close
until you hear them snore
until you know
for sure,
you’ve done a good day’s work
keeping the family safe.

Good dog.

–Susan Taylor Brown, all rights reserved

Your turn.

Audio guest post!

Hear me read my pantoum poem and get the story behind the poem. I’m guest pod posting at Katie Davis Brain Burps.

Thursday, April 5, 2012|Categories: Listen to Me Read, Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , , |0 Comments

How to Listen

A few months ago, Laura Salas and I read and worked our way through Sage Cohen’s book, Writing the Life Poetic with a little blog-to-blog book club we called, Write After Reading. The idea was that we read a lot of craft books but we don’t often to the exercises. This way we read together shared the exercises that we did.

One of the chapters had an exercise about using the another poem as the jumping off point for a poem of your own. The title I chose to write to was “How to Listen”.

Here’s my version.

How to Listen

Put down that stinky cigarette,
the one you promised to stop smoking.
Quit fiddling with the piano
and no, you don’t need another drink.
You never need another drink.

Pretend if you have to —
you’re at work,
inspection time,
uniform neatly pressed,
just like all those lies you told me.

Eyes straight ahead.
Must. Not. Move.

Look at me, no, really look at me
in the eyes, those windows to my soul
you tried to crush.
I know I’m angry.
I want you to know it too.
I want you to hear what I’m saying
with my entire body.

I may not get this brave again.

Don’t look down
or away with that
“you just kicked a puppy” expression on your face.
It doesn’t work any more.

Focus on me,
the way you used to focus on me,
before vodka became your lover.

That pause between words
isn’t an invitation for you to interrupt and tell me
how the world is against you.
I don’t care.
Not anymore.

You don’t have to listen long.
Just long enough
for me to say goodbye.

© 2011 Susan Taylor Brown.
All rights reserved.

The Poetry Friday Roundup is with Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference.

Friday, July 22, 2011|Categories: Listen to Me Read, Poetry Friday, Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , , |5 Comments

Dinner With Papa

It’s Thankful Thursday and I just want to give a shout-out to all of you have been reading along with my daily poems and who have left supportive comments for me. Also to everyone who read the poem I wrote for Jama’s Poetry Potluck over on her blog yesterday and responded there.

So often many of us (myself included) read a post and think we don’t need to comment, or someone else already said it, or we just don’t know what to say. And sometimes we just don’t have the time. I know. Been there, done that.

But for those of you have commented this month, thank you. What you have helped me remember is something reminded me of recently when she said that I was at my best when I was open, honest and vulnerable. The comments you’ve left me have helped me remember that truth.

Not everything I write is happy, pretty writing and my kind of writing isn’t everyone’s kind of writing and that’s okay. I write to make sense of my world.

Thank you for reading along.

I’ve decided to add the poem here in case Jama closes off her old blog.


by Susan Taylor Brown

I follow Papa everywhere,
copying his walking, stomping across the wooden porch,
sliding behind him into the space beneath the house,
pushing away cobwebs and nosy spiders to hand him a monkey wrench,
standing beside him at the kitchen sink while we wash
(up to our elbows) for dinner.

Papa eats what Papa wants.
Meat and potatoes (every meal)
with one slice of white bread, lathered thick with butter.
Vegetables (sometimes but not always)
and something sweet to finish every meal.

My mother (and Nana too)
eat like they are never hungry.
Grapefruit for breakfast, cottage cheese for lunch,
small helpings at dinner, and sometimes, no dessert at all.

Most of the time,
our meat comes from Mayfair Market down on Salvio Street.
Chicken. Pork Chops. A pot roast for Sundays.
But the best meat comes from Papa himself, after a day of fishing or hunting.
Catfish. Pheasant. Sometimes deer.
And my very favorite, duck, baked in the oven until the skin is cracker crisp.

My mother (and Nana too) peel off the skin, cut the duck into tiny pieces
then say they are full after just a few bites.
I mimic Papa and pick the duck up in my hands,
gnawing it like the wild thing he claims I am
until the juice from the greasy skin dribbles down my chin.
Papa says it’s good luck to get the piece with the BBs left inside the meat
but every time, luck favors my mother most of all.

After dinner, Nana and my mother pile dishes in the sink
then wash them all by hand, chattering like the best friends they are.
Papa grabs the evening paper and sets himself in the easy chair.
I listen to them but watch him,
waiting, waiting, waiting,
until he looks up and pats the space left on his lap,
the space that is just the right size,
for lucky me.

© 2011 Susan Taylor Brown. All rights reserved.


Thursday, April 28, 2011|Categories: Listen to Me Read, Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , , , |4 Comments

Poetry Power on BlogTalkRadio

Huge thank you to Katie Davis for having me on her BlogTalk Radio show to talk about the poems I wrote (about the father I’ve never known) for National Poetry Month.

For those of you who missed the live event, you can listen to the archive version here on BlogTalkRadio or in iTunes .


Tuesday, June 15, 2010|Categories: Events, Listen to Me Read, Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , , |1 Comment

Listen to Me Read – Doctor Dan From Hugging the Rock

In addition to my native garden inspired Haiku for every day in April I am also happy to be able to share permission to do a few audio recordings of some poems from Hugging the Rock to help celebrate National Poetry Month.

CREDIT LINE: Posted with permission from Hugging the Rock by Susan Taylor Brown. Copyright © 2006 by Susan Taylor Brown, Tricycle Press, Berkeley, CA.

The Poetry Friday roundup today is at Becky’s Book Reviews.

Today’s poem is Doctor Dan.

Listen to Me Read – The Rock From Hugging the Rock

In addition to my native garden inspired Haiku for every day in April I am also happy to be able to share a few audio recordings of some poems from Hugging the Rock to help celebrate National Poetry Month.
Today’s poem is THE ROCK.

CREDIT LINE: Posted with permission from Hugging the Rock by Susan Taylor Brown. Copyright © 2006 by Susan Taylor Brown, Tricycle Press, Berkeley, CA.

Carol’s Corner has the full Poetry Friday round-up


Friday, April 10, 2009|Categories: Listen to Me Read, Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , |0 Comments

Listen to Me Read – No Room From Hugging the Rock

When I was thinking about Poetry Month for this year I knew I really wanted to find something different for me to do in order to feel more involved. So in addition to my native garden inspired Haiku per day I asked my publisher if I could have permission to do a few audio recordings of some poems from Hugging the Rock.

And they said YES!

I have permission for do one audio recording for each Poetry Friday in April. I knew which poem I wanted to do first but I’m still trying to pick out the other three. If you have a favorite, let me know.So here, for the very first time, is an audio of the first poem in the book. It’s called, NO ROOM. I hope you like it.

CREDIT LINE: Posted with permission from Hugging the Rock by Susan Taylor Brown. Copyright © 2006 by Susan Taylor Brown, Tricycle Press, Berkeley, CA.