Dear fellow bloggers who enjoy reading and/or writing poetry,

WOO-HOO!!!  Every now and then, I get a poem or two accepted for publication.

I’m delighted to announce that Main Street Rag Publishing Company has decided to publish Rhyme & Rune, Poets of the Miami Valley, a book of poetry by Dayton area poets in which two of my pieces will appear.  The theme of this volume is poems about writing poetry, a topic of interest for anyone who enjoys poetry or has always wanted to know “how the sausage is made.”  The book is scheduled to be released this fall and will sell for $14 plus shipping, but if you pre-order at the Main Street Rag Online Bookstore before it goes to press, you can get it for $8.50 plus shipping. 

Rhyme & Rune: Poets of the Miami Valley

If you prefer, advance copies can be ordered by mail and paid by check.  The cost to do things the “old-fashioned way” is $12.50 per book, which includes shipping.  Ordering information is available on the link.

The discounted prices are valid for advance orders only.  Pre-ordered copies will be shipped as soon as Rhyme and Rune has gone to press.

Thank you for your interest and support.

Joan Harris



Well, this is it, guys.  As you know, all good things must come to an end, including my friend Muri’s 2023 National Poetry Month challenge.  To be honest, I thought my last post might be it.  But a Zig Zag Sonnet (prompt #13) manifested itself before the deadline.  A Zig Zag Sonnet is just like a regular sonnet—except for the rhyme scheme.  The first word of line 1 rhymes with the last word of line 2, the first word of line 3 rhymes with the last word of line 4, etc, etc.  Also, the 14 lines are divided into three quatrains and a couplet.

I’m a decent cook and prepare dinner for myself and my husband most nights.  I used to enjoy inviting people over for dinner, but I gave it up because it was too difficult to accommodate everyone’s special needs.  How do you whip up a meal that conforms to everybody’s likes and dislikes but is vegan-friendly, gluten-free, dairy-free, MSG-free, and not too spicy?  I don’t know either.  My neighbor is a military veteran, like us, and he lives by himself.  Now and then, if we had extra food at dinner-time, we would take him a plate.  I have never met another diner who was so easy to please.  He is dietarily un-challenged and willing to try whatever I bring him.  Over time, it became a “thing,” and we take him dinner almost every day now.  He has loved everything thus far and his high praise makes me feel like a culinary goddess.  As if that weren’t reason enough to keep feeding him, he’s meticulous about washing and returning my containers.


Labor of love—fixing an extra plate
at dinner, taking it to our neighbor.
Everything is “the best he’s ever had.”
He’s adventurous; he’ll try anything.

Thai curry too spicy for most doesn’t
rattle him, this Clean Plate Club alumni,
keen to expand his palate and broaden
his horizons. But even quite routine

dinners, like meatloaf and mashed potatoes
or macaroni and cheese, are winners.
“Like living aboard a cruise ship,” he says.
“Another splendid surprise every night.”

Fat-headed and flattered, I ask myself,
How do you not cook for a guy like that?


My friend Muri’s National Poetry Month challenge is winding down.  For more information, click on this link: .  My muse has had her knickers in a knot over this American Sentence prompt.  She likes writing sentences but apparently, not ones that are exactly seventeen syllables.  Everything she gave me had to be lengthened or shortened, as if I was some kind of sentence tailor.  The flag never appeared, so my patriotic bonus went out the window.

I had no clue what subject deserved such painstaking attention.  I tried fashioning hysterically complex coffee bar orders into sentences, but seventeen syllables barely covered the basics:  which item, which size, hot or iced, flavors, what kind of milk, etc.  Iced café latte grande made with almond milk and two pumps of vanilla, for instance, is nineteen syllables.  And pretty ordinary.  Whenever I am stumped and feeling like a failure as a writer, I open a new document in Word and start a letter to my sister—the one person who believes in me and treasures every word that comes from my keyboard, no matter how pedestrian.  In this space, a sentence can end abruptly or hijack a whole paragraph.  I sit searching for words more than I used to.  They were once readily accessible; now they play hide-and-seek in my gray matter and my neural circuitry must go all round the mulberry bush trying to find them.  Technology, for all its faults, has been a huge help.  If I plug a similar word into the built-in thesaurus, or Google whatever bizarre clue my brain spits out, I often luck out and the word I want appears.


It used to just aggravate me when I couldn’t remember a word.
Now, I worry it’s the beginning of…   …   that disease old people get.
The Swiss cheese brain disease you can ward off by doing crossword puzzles.
Or those…   …   Japanese-sounding number grid thingies my dad used to do.
You can’t just park yourself by the TV and watch Judge Judy all day.
Do that, you’ll end up in a…   …   place where dessert is always green Jell-O.
Roundabout, the paths my gray matter follows when a word goes missing.
And yet, your gray matter figures it out, deftly filling in the gaps.


My friend Muri’s National Poetry Month challenge continues.  For more information, click on this link:  Well, folks, the days of cherry-picking are over.  I’m down to the prompts I’ve been avoiding since day one.

I didn’t feel like zig-zagging through a sonnet or crafting 17-syllable sentences so I went with #4, Inside Out.  Three quatrains whose only requirement is a syllable count of 12/8/8/12, then 8/12/12/8, then 12/8/8/12.  You just continue the same pattern if you want to make it longer.  Bonus if you use a theme of growth.  

My muse turned her nose up, and when I told her to suck it up and get busy, she ignored the growth theme and proceeded to fill my head with things that made me turn my nose up.  Which reminded me of nursing school.  A few classmates dropped out when they discovered they did not possess the intestinal fortitude for disgusting smells.  The rest of us, after mornings spent in clinicals, would gather in the cafeteria to eat lunch and swap stories.  This often turned into a contest to see who had encountered the grossest thing that day.  (Probably why we think it’s normal to talk about gross things at the dinner table with our families.)  You needn’t be a nurse to encounter nasty smells; everyday life is full of them.  If you have a weak stomach, you might want to skip this one.  For the record, my Inside Out is inside out and out of order:  8/12/12/8, then 12/8/8/12, then 8/12/12/8.  Muses dance to their own tune.  Feel free to “rank” the smells below in a comment or think up some of your own and add a stanza or two. 


Spoiled milk or moldy leftovers?
The morning breath of a cat with an abscessed tooth
or the afternoon breath of a co-worker who
had an onion sandwich for lunch?

Chicken bones in the kitchen trash for a whole week,
the garbage truck in August, or
a rotten-egg fart in the car
when it’s too cold outside to roll the windows down?

Spreading manure on the garden
or washing a nosy dog who got himself skunked?
Armpits after a tense meeting with the boss or
porta-johns at a festival?


I’m getting down to the nitty-gritty on my friend Muri’s National Poetry Month challenge and these last few prompts are making my head spin.  The challenges, involving a variety of “nonce” forms, are listed in her post:

Below is my response to prompt #10, Dizzy, another nonce form à la Muri.  10 lines, 10 syllables per line, rhyme scheme a/b/c/a/b/c/a/b/c/a.  Words of motion must be included in the poem and there’s a bonus for using the word dizzy.

I usually like to work these from an angle but I decided to confront this one head-on.  Dizziness was a common complaint at the doctor’s office where I worked.  Dizziness is caused by a wide variety of ailments.  We depended on the patient’s description to lead us to the right diagnosis.  Some of the ways they described dizziness tickled our funny bones.  I wish now I hadn’t laughed because I understand their plight.  I get dizzy from time to time and when my doc presses me to explain what it feels like, the sensations are hard to put into conventional words.  I keep the unconventional ones to myself, fearing I’ll sound like a screwball whose dizziness is the least of her problems.  But I don’t have to worry about that here on WordPress, so I’m gonna go for broke.  Forgive the extra syllables and gibberish-half-rhyme; my poetic toolbox contains a lot of cheating hacks avant-garde implements.


Describe it please and do not just say dizzy.
Lightheadedness, as if you might pass out?
Motion sickness?  Like the room is spinning?
I’d love to say my head feels jumpy-fuzzy,
no fade-to-black, but worrisome, no doubt.
It might end there, but if it’s just beginning,
brainwaves bzzzt thru slush, a slo-mo-tizzy,
my ears feel like they’re hearing inside-out,
behind my eyes, a disco ball spin-twinning.
But ‘poet-speak’ makes doctors so uneasy.


I am on the homestretch now—just four poems away from completing my friend Muri’s National Poetry Month challenge (five if you count the bonus.)  The challenges, involving a variety of “nonce” forms, are laid out in her post: 

Below is my answer to prompt #11, the Silver Shovel.  Essentially it’s a Golden Shovel where you’re allowed to leave out non-essential words.  Muri tacked on a bonus for using a poem by a WordPress poet.  Which she is.  So I borrowed a line I loved from one of her poems, the “center horse” of her Troiku posted April 12.  If you’d like to read it, here’s the link: 

Remember that squirrel I squirrelled away in my brain a few days ago?  It’s still chittering away in there, just like it does when it teases my dog.  Then Muri’s poem got into my head and when I added the Silver Shovel prompt, everything got mixed together and resulted in this:  


The dog lies down, panting, in the shade,
worn out from a morning of unfair races
with a squirrel that moves as if downhill,
always, whizzing around like stormwater
to a drain.  From a high branch, it laughs,
eats a pilfered sunflower seed, then runs
back down for another.  It’s too clever to
catch. The dog knows this but can’t keep
herself from trying as it scurries back up



I’m more than halfway through my friend Muri’s National Poetry Month challenge.  You could still join in, though you’d have some catching up to do.  The challenges, involving a variety of “nonce” forms, are laid out in her post: 

Below is my answer to prompt #7, Running Repetition, a nonce form created by Muri herself.  Two or more seven line stanzas, following this rhyme scheme:  x/a/a/a/b/b/C.  C is a phrase repeated like a refrain at the end of each stanza.  The phrase is broken into two parts which are “separated by a dash to indicate a catch in the breath.”

Running is not really in my nature (the marathon kind or the hurrying-through-life kind), but back in my employed years, it was a necessity.  Work days started early and ended late.  Running errands on my way home was a total non-starter.  I added things to my to-do list each day and spent my Saturdays zooming around town getting them done.  I’d map out the most efficient route.  I’d turn the car radio on and catch snatches of my favorite NPR programs—Car Talk, Wait, Wait Don’t Tell me, This American Life, and The Splendid Table.  My goal was to get home before the show with the Irish folk music came on.  My last stop was always Kroger’s, a grocery a couple miles from my house.  It had a Starbucks inside, so when I’d finished my shopping, I’d treat myself to a frou-frou coffee, which served as both an energy-booster and a reward.  Saturday is the worst day of the week to run errands because everyone else is running them, too.  Parking lots are full, businesses are crowded, and slow-moving lines add minutes and tension to an already long and stressful ordeal.  The most errands I ever ran in a single Saturday was fourteen.  The fewest was three but one of them was the DMV, enough said.  As a retiree, I enjoy running errands because it gets me out of the house.  I do one or two a day.  If I go on the right day at the right time (basically, any weekday, at any time besides lunch hour), chances are good I’ll have the place to myself.



I would love to sleep late,
but I’ve got to run
‘cause I’ve got a ton
of things to get done
Drive downtown in my car and park it
Get some cash and hit the farm market
Home, unload, and  –  on to the next thing

UPS to drop off a package
Isn’t this fun?
Another one done.
Will there ever be none?
Get gas and a car wash, then a quick haircut,
Kroger’s and Starbuck’s completes the circuit
Home, unload, and  –  on to the next thing


Hey!!!  I thought we were finished!  What do you mean, on to the next thing???  We’re done with errands, grasshopper.  We still have chores waiting at home—dailies, weeklies, and whatever monthlies are due.  I did a poem about them last year.  If you need a quick refresher, here’s the link: 


We are well into week two of my friend Muri’s National Poetry Month challenge.  If you’d like to join the party, consider yourself invited.  Bring a plus-one if you want.  The challenges, involving a variety of “nonce” forms, are spelled out in her post: 

Below are my replies to prompt #9, the mouse.  It’s an itty-bitty poem (fewer syllables than a haiku) with tricky rules.  Three lines, written in all lower case.  Line one consists of two monosyllabic words that have the same number of letters.  Line two is two words totaling four syllables.  Line three is four words totaling eight syllables.  The title is the same as the first line.

First lines flooded my brain.  Coming up with them is easy.  Figuring out where to go with them is hard.  (You can’t get too far with a six word, twelve syllable tether.)  But I tried.  And once I got going, I couldn’t stop.  Since the titles and first lines are the same, I just bolded them rather than typing them in twice.  Where do these ideas come from?  Anywhere.  Everywhere.

After reading the prompt, I Googled “longest monosyllabic word.”

per web,
the lengthiest
single-syllable word is squirrelled

I squirrelled that fun little fact away in my gray matter and went to bed.  See what I did there?

I’m a Luddite, saddened that so many great, old-fashioned things are now obsolete.  That said, I’m gratified whenever I come across analog items that, in spite of technology’s relentless march, are still holding their own.  I have such an item on my nightstand.

clock hands
rogue timekeepers
in this digital universe

Luddite or no, I love my computer and the people it connects me to.  I clicked WP Reader and saw, on a friend’s blog, pics of a gift shop where you had to walk into a shark’s mouth to get to the entrance.  As if that wasn’t gitchy enough, the shark had a “tummy peephole” through which you could see what he had eaten.  What ever happened to peep holes??  I guess they got pushed aside by security cameras and Ring systems.

peep hole
low-tech method
eyeball, answer or disregard

There are some visitors you do not disregard.  Mothers, for instance.  Thanks to our move in 2019, my mother is now just half an hour away.  And my mother-in-law is so close, she could call and literally be on my doorstep in ten minutes.

speed clean
mother coming
stovetop, toilets, uh-oh! doorbell says it’s going to be 77 degrees today.  Which makes me think of summer.  And picnics.  And baked beans!  They are tangy-sweet, bacon-friendly, and can be enjoyed hot, cold, or anywhere in between (unlike their fussy cousin, Potato Salad, who will turn to salmonella if he stays in the sun too long).  I wonder…  do baked beans ever get tired of being just a side?

baked beans
batman’s robin
burger buddy, hotdog sidekick

Both my husband and my cat had tooth extractions last week, so teeth have been on my mind.

loose tooth
intriguing at
five, horrifying at fifty

Last, but not least, a bonus poem brought to you by Dr Mike and the ADA.  (Just kidding.)

brush, floss
dental check-ups
croak with original choppers


Here we are again, conquering another prompt in my friend Muri’s National Poetry Month challenge . If you’d like to join in the fun, the challenges (involving a variety of “nonce” forms) are spelled out in her post:

Below is my poem for prompt #2, Melinda’s Whimsy.  The challenge here is the whimsical rhythm and rhyme coupled with wrangling the same end word into its designated place in each stanza.  My poem is a “Double Whimsy.”  You earn bonus points for including a “whimsical creature.”  Is an ad-bot whimsical?  Whimsical is defined as “playfully quaint or fanciful, especially in an appealing or amusing way” (no) or “acting or behaving in a capricious manner” (definitely yes).  Despite having access to data from scanned UPCs, frequent shopper cards, and online orders, my ad-bot is as inconsistent as they come–laughably hit or miss with regard to the ads he sends me.  As Simply Red (a favorite 80’s singer) used to say, “If you don’t know me by now, you will never, never, never know me at all.”


You track the things I buy,
you sneaky cyber-spy,
yet miss the big bulls-eye
when suggesting what I need.

A package of hair dye
is a thing I’d never buy.
So tell me, Ad-bot, why
is Miss Clairol on my screen?

You ought to know, A-I,
that Laughing Cow won’t fly.
Those Lactaid pills I buy?
Clearly cheese is not my scene.

I’ve long-since waved good-bye
to periods, Wise Guy.
Quit pushing femme supplies,
Tampax Pearl and Thinx panties.

My dog would never try
new kibble, by the by.
She’s what I’d classify
as full-grown and finicky.

Your algorithm’s fried.
Until it’s rectified,
I’d happily abide
playing games commercial-free.


We are now into week two of my friend Muri’s National Poetry Month challenge.  If you would like to join in the fun, there’s still time.  The 13 challenges (which involve a variety of “nonce” forms) are spelled out in her post:

This time, I skipped ahead to prompt #12, The Helipad, a “visual” form that sounded crazy-hard, but intriguing.  Nine equal-length lines, each beginning and ending with the letter H.  With the use of capitalization and bolding to draw an “H” through the poem.  A bonus was tacked on for the use of an animal.  Geez, what do I look like?  Old MacDonald?

I will begin by saying I love the letter H.  It can be huffy or phlegmy or silent.  Pair it with a consonant and it shushes people in church!!  H is worth 4 points in Scrabble and is friendly with every vowel.  I did two Google searches before I got started:  sounds we make when we clear our throats, and words ending in H.  Once I had hem-hem, harrumph, and ambush, the poem practically wrote itself.  Don’t we all know a person like this?  Their “minute” stretches into an hour.  Our throats rumble with subtle hints, but the complainer isn’t able to hear them.  And that’s the real mystery of H, isn’t it?  How it can be phlegmy and silent at the same time.  I call this phenomenon “honomatopoeiah.”