Word Cloud: EMPATHY (Black History Month Redux)


I’ve read a lot of statements by writers about writing, and they are all true, but many of them are only true for that one writer and their particular ‘process.’

I like this comment by Nikki Giovanni (1943 – ), because I think it’s about the writers you keep coming back to, the ones who can still give you something at 50 that you never saw when you first read them at 18:

“I want to be clear about this. If you wrote from experience, you’d get maybe one book, maybe three poems. Writers write from empathy.” 

It’s rare to find a young writer who writes from empathy. Most people, including writers, start out pretty self-obsessed, and English teachers have been reinforcing that for decades by telling their students to “write what you know.” It’s as good place as any to start, but most of us don’t know all that much in our teens and twenties, so many promising writers quickly run out of material, and go dry.

Nikki Giovanni was a kid in the 1950s, and “came of age” in the 1960s, which shifted from the uptight clothing and button-down minds of the 1950s to the idealism worn like a mantle by the Kennedys’ Best and Brightest, to voter registration and civil rights, the anti-war protests and the women’s movement. Ideas and emotions exploded.


In this poem, she looks back at the happy little girl she was, exploring the worlds in the books she eagerly checks out from the library:

My First Memory (of Librarians)

This is my first memory:
A big room with heavy wooden tables that sat on a creaky
wood floor
A line of green shades—bankers’ lights—down the center
Heavy oak chairs that were too low or maybe I was simply
too short
For me to sit in and read
So my first book was always big

In the foyer up four steps a semi-circle desk presided
To the left side the card catalogue
On the right newspapers draped over what looked like
a quilt rackmontana-public-library-childrens-section
Magazines face out from the wall

The welcoming smile of my librarian
The anticipation in my heart
All those books—another world—just waiting
At my fingertips.


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Two Poems for Valentine’s Day 2019

William Shakespeare has been a very important part of my life, especially my married life. My husband proposed on April 23, Shakespeare’s birthday, and we were married a year later on April 23.

We decided, instead of the traditional vows, to each choose a Shakespeare sonnet that would best express what we felt for each other.

My husband chose Sonnet 29, one of the most famous and best-loved of all Shakespeare’s sonnets. I am still immensely flattered and humbled by his choice. This year, on April 23rd, we will celebrate our 36th wedding anniversary, and I absolutely believe that William Shakespeare’s words are very much a part of why our marriage has endured.


Click here for Sonnet 29:

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ON THIS DAY: February 14, 2019

February 14th is

Valentine’s Day

National Donor Day *

Ferris Wheel Day

California Oranges Day *

Pet Theft Awareness Day *

Cream-Filled Chocolates Day

International Book Giving Day *


MORE! Richard Allen, Charlotta Spears Bass and Aretha Franklin, click

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ON THIS DAY: February 13, 2019

February 13th is

Galentine’s Day *

Italian Food Day

International Condom Day *

Tortellini Day

World Radio Day *


MORE! Absalom Jones, Malcolm X and Rita Dove, click

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What the UN Red Hand Day is All About

There were all kinds of stories told about the war that made it sound as if it was happening in a faraway and different land. It wasn’t until refugees started passing through our town that we began to see that it was actually taking place in our country. Families who had walked hundreds of miles told how relatives had been killed and their houses burned. Some people felt sorry for them and offered them places to stay, but most of the refugees refused, because they said the war would eventually reach our town. The children of these families wouldn’t look at us, and they jumped at the sound of chopping wood or as stones landed on the tin roofs, flung by children hunting birds with slingshots.

Ishmael Beah
A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier


I was struck reading the opening lines of Ishmael Beah’s memoir by the same feeling I often have when reading science fiction about some dystopian future. The difference, of course, is that his story is real and very much part of our present day.


To see more, click here

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ON THIS DAY: February 12, 2019

February 12th is

International Darwin Day *

Abe Lincoln’s Birthday *

Biscotti Day

Freedom to Marry Day

Lost Penny Day *


UN Red Hand Day *


MORE! Henry Garnet, Olivia Hooker and Isaac Woodard, click

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ON THIS DAY: February 11, 2019

February 11th is

Get Out Your Guitar Day

Make a Friend Day

National Inventors’ Day

Peppermint Patty Day

Shut-In Visitation Day

White Shirt Day *

International Day of Women and Girls in Science


MORE!  Josh White, Hazel Johnson and Cliff Alexander, click

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