Poetry Club Talks…Seamus Heaney Part 3


Topic: Seamus Heaney Pt3
Host: Mike
Poem: “St. Kevin and the Blackbird”
Recorded: January 6, 2022

Heaney_St. Kevin and the Blackbird

Mike puts on the host hat in this third discussion on Seamus Heaney’s poetry, using the book “Seamus Heaney” by Helen Vendler as a guide.  The poem this time is “St. Kevin and the Blackbird”.  Heaney documents the folklore of a monk with intense control over body and mind that he held out his arm and opened his hand to be used as a tree branch for a nesting blackbird.

Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995 and Professor of Poetry at Oxford and Harvard universities, Seamus Heaney was perhaps the best known and most celebrated poet of the last fifty years. His death in 2013 prompted tributes from across the world.


“Seamus Heaney’s development as a poet is inextricably connected to the violent struggle that has racked Northern Ireland. Vendler shows how, from one volume to the next, Heaney has maintained vigilant attention toward finding a language for his time—“symbols adequate for our predicament,” as he has said. The worldwide response to those discovered symbols suggests that their relevance extends far beyond this moment.”

Purchase Helen Vendler’s book “Seamus Heaney” here: https://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674002050

Watch/Listen Seamus read the poem on YouTube: https://youtu.be/wKGmQcSFbMc

Poetry Club Talks is produced by Chickadee Productions

Poetry Club Talks…Understanding Poetry, Rita Dove Part 3


Topic: Understanding Poetry, Rita Dove
Host: Shannon
Poem: “Exit”
Recorded: August 20, 2021

Rita Dove Poems


Have you ever read a poem and wondered “What does this mean?”  Do you need to understand a poem to appreciate it?  If it takes too much work to understand do you turn the page or enjoy the challenge?  If you’ve found yourself in these situations then join the club.  Poetry Club discusses how to and should we understand poetry.  The poem we use as an example is the “blushing” Rita Dove poem “Exit”.

This is part three of our talks on Rita Dove’s poetry.  Rita, we have enjoyed exploring each line of your work.  We wish you great success on your new book “Playlist for the Apocalypse.”  We will all buy a copy!playlist_for_the_apocalypse_book_cover.jpg

Please visit Norton Books to order a copy

“In her first volume of new poems in twelve years, Rita Dove investigates the vacillating moral compass guiding America’s, and the world’s, experiments in democracy. Whether depicting the first Jewish ghetto in sixteenth-century Venice or the contemporary efforts of Black Lives Matter, a girls’ night clubbing in the shadow of World War II or the doomed nobility of Muhammad Ali’s conscious objector stance, this extraordinary poet never fails to connect history’s grand exploits to the triumphs and tragedies of individual lives.”

Poetry Club Talks… is produced by Chickadee Productions

Rita Dove photo credit YOLONDA COLES JONES

Poetry Club Talks…Rita Dove Part 2


Topic: Rita Dove
Host: Shannon
Poem: “American Smooth” and “Ludwig Von Beethoven’s Return To Vienna”
Recorded: July 30, 2021

Rita Dove – Poems Discussed


In part two of our discussion on American poet Rita Dove, Poetry Club relishes in her artistry, wonder word choices, and lament over the life portrayed of Beethoven.  We discuss the use of metaphor as a vehicle, the importance of place and time, and timing.  Amazing work we are happy to swim in.  Please join us.

1986 The Pulitzer Prize-winning for her poetry book “Thomas and Beulah”
1996 Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanities
2003 Emily Couric Leadership Award
2006 Common Wealth Award
2007 Chubb Fellowship at Yale University
2008 Library of Virginia Lifetime Achievement Award
2009 Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal
2009 International Capri Award
2014 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Furious Flower Poetry Center at James Madison University
2019 North Star Award from the Hurston/Wright Foundation
Twenty-eight honorary doctorates, among them from Yale University in 2014 and Harvard University in 2018
In 2019, she received the Wallace Stevens Award, given annually by the Academy of American Poets to recognize outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry.

The Los Angeles Times described Dove’s book [American Smooth (2004)] as an “ambitious effort, using multiple distinctive voices and perspectives to chronicle the complex tale ‘of light and shadow, / what we hear and the silence that follows.’” 

All poems copyright by Rita Dove.
Please visit her webpage at the UVA to learn more: https://uva.theopenscholar.com/rita-dove

Poetry Club Talks… is produced by Chickadee Productions

About Poetry Club Talks…

Our NEW podcast logo. Look for it or search “Poetry Club Talks…” wherever you get your podcasts.


Poetry Club Talks… costs about $30 a month to produce. Thirty people donating only a dollar a month can keep us talkin’! Please visit our Patreon site to learn how

Poetry Club is here with hopes to increase the understanding and appreciation of poetry and encourage the discussion of poetry in your neighborhood and around the world. Can talking about poetry bring understanding between neighbors? Can understanding bring us closer to living more peacefully together? We are willing to give it a try! Are you?

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It started when the three of us took Ron’s “Introduction to Poetry” class at a local community college. We enjoyed it so much we asked Ron if he would like to continue the discussion in a casual atmosphere. On October 31, 2015, we met for coffee at a local cafe, and we’ve been meeting every month since. Soon, the news got around and we started to grow to about 8-10 people. Then, we got organized. Whether you’re a writer or admirer of poetry, or simply want to learn more about it, you’ll love these feel-good conversations.

Poetry Club discusses classical and contemporary poetry. Members take turns hosting discussions on the work of a different poet each week. Our perspectives are vernacular to academic, and everything in between. Currently, we are about 6-8 people who meet every Saturday online; a retired professor, a retired librarian, active poets, and a guy who just loves poetry, all fans of the written word.
Grab a cup of coffee or tea and join us!

Thank you for listening, participating, and exploring poetry with us.
This podcast is produced by CHICKADEE PRODUCTIONS

Christmas Card 2016

2016 SPL Office photo, Chris Pine, Benedict Cumberbatch, Shannon Laws, Vin Diesel, Robert Downey Jr., on location at the Chickadee Productions “2016 Sucked Lemons” retreat on Mount Baker

CLICK to view the 2016 SPL Staff Christmas Card

Christmas Card 2016

Beyonce performing at the Super Bowl January 2016. She released “Lemonade” in April, her the sixth studio album, was nominated for four Emmys.

Entering the last week of the year I can’t help but get a little reflective.  This year was tough for me personally, and the unrest throughout our nation added more frustrations.
I really wanted to start this letter with the sentence, “What a suck-ass year 2016 was, right?”, but I suppose some people had a good year, we know Beyoncé and “Hamilton” aren’t complaining.

Hip Hop musical “Hamilton” put politics on stage and politicians in the audience

So many stories, headlines, deaths moved me in 2016.  Please allow me to vent a bit and share a few moments that stirred me.   Major news stories from 2016 read like a murder mystery.  There were more unprovoked shootings of Black Americans by police prompting nationwide protest and adding strength to the “Black Lives Matter” campaign.  Meanwhile, a large group of conservative, white ranchers in Oregon had an armed standoff at a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon.  The confrontation lasted over a month.  Only one man was killed and the whole group was acquitted. If the protestors in Oregon were Black, there is no question in my mind that a much different, more violent,  situation would have unfolded.

San Francisco 49ers' Colin Kaepernick (7) and Eric Reid (35) kneel during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)
San Francisco 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick (7) and Eric Reid (35) kneel during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn) Overall, police have killed at least 67 people since Kaepernick’s protest began, according to The Guardian’s database. Roughly 22 percent of the victims have been black. Police have killed more than 780 people so far in 2016, according to The Guardian’s numbers. At least 193 of those people ― or about 25 percent ― were black. Of the 15 black people killed since Kaepernick’s demonstration started, at least 11 were shot, according to The Washington Post’s tracker of fatal police shootings.


Parents protesting in Flint, Michigan

2016 saw the end of “Bradgelina”, Nobel laureate Bob Dylan, #Oscarssowhite, El Chapo, the world’s most sought-after drug lord and commander of a vast narcotics empire that stretches across continents is captured, the lead in Flint Michigan’s water and the fight for clean water in North Dakota and Canada.  The massive surge of refugees, primarily from Syria and Afghanistan, into Europe continued, estimated over 300,000 people, dodging war conflict.  Was it this surge that prompted the “Brexit” vote?

Police from six states have been marshaled by the state of North Dakota to attempt to shut down protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline by tribal members from across the country and their supporters. The pipeline is projected to cross the Missouri River within a half mile of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. TNS, photo credit: Kansas City news

AND if 2016 wasn’t freaking bad enough, we lost David Bowie, Prince and Alan Rickman, and the nation lost it’s ‘effin mind during the presidential election.  Election years are always exhausting but this one proved to be even more so.  My viewpoint of it, in metaphor, of course,  is well illustrated in our animated Christmas card (link at the top of the post) acted out by the SPL Staff, Brad, Vince, Chris, Benedict and myself;

WE built the monster with our own hands.
I can only hope the next four years end as well as the card,
with the large man-made monster embracing it’s maker.


Here are the highlights of my personal 2016.

graphic designed by Daniel Laws

In January I got the fever to start a new radio show.  After leaving KMRE a few months prior, I looked to a new station starting up just a few blocks over, broadcasting out of the Make.Shift Art Space on Flora in downtown Bellingham.  Bellingham Art Beat was born!  Featuring a half hour format, two interviews and music, the goal of the program is to inspire and inform the listener. The first season I interviewed 36 people for 18 shows.  The second season started December 19th.


makeshift radio bus logo
KZAX LP FM 94.9 Make.Shift Radio

February featured at Kings Book Store in Tacoma, Washington.  Felt good.  Made a goal to read outside of Whatcom County in ’16, so goal accomplished.  The folks at the reading were very kind, buying my dinner. My mom and her friend were able to attend.Mother's Day Poster 2016

In May I coordinated and hosted the Mother’s Day Big Rock Garden poetry reading.  The sun was out and the podium brilliant.

peace-arts-workshopsJuly and August World Peace Poets collaborated with the Whatcom Peace & Justice Center sponsoring writing workshops by local teachers.

September included two events. The 4th annual “World Peace Poets Read-In for Peace” was held on September 24th.  A great event, always fresh new poetry shared, good food, good company. 2016 poetsforpeace 8x11 poster

Then on the September 30th, I performed fifteen minutes worth sea feastof Sea inspired poetry for the first annual Bellingham SeaFeast.  Two stages were active with “Fisherpoets” throughout the day at Boundary Bay Brewery off Railroad Avenue in Bellingham.

“Fallen” working cover

By October I had the makings for my third poetry book “Fallen”.  It’s set to release spring 2017.  I am very excited to work with “Clover: a Literary Rag” coordinator/editor Mary Gillilan. The theme for my new book is loss.  This year,2016, marks the 25th birthday of my daughter Meaghan.  Meaghan passed away at the age of three. It was a tragic and sudden death.  Although the entire collection is not about death and loss, it is a thought-provoking assortment.  I hope the words may comfort others and create the space necessary for healing.

Team Poem Booth

November was Poem Booth Kickstarter month!  Back in September Christen Mattix contacted Summer Star and me to help transform a derelict phone booth into a POEM  BOOTH.  Probably the most ambitious project, next to the new radio show, for me this year.  Thanks to 20 backers we met the $300 goal, above and beyond! You can learn more about this project at the TAB “Poem Booth”

This year was not too productive for poetry or projects, but the ones I was involved with were stimulating.  One item that hampered much artist work was a temporary job in aerospace for nine months.  Working 40-50 hour weeks on the night shift puts a big dent in the social life.  I expect to work many long hours again in 2017 to stabilize my finances and rebuild what was lost over the last year and a half.  I had to stop working on my transfer degree, sell my car, and borrow from Peter to pay Paul.  Where’s my Trump Money? –don’t worry, I won’t hold my breath.

2016 was such a burnout.  I still have hope, hope and a sense of humor, toss in a good red from Spain and NOW we got something.  However, I am determined to be more flamboyant than ever with my projects, radio show, book release and poetry readings going forward.  I’m marching and making signs for the Woman March on Bellingham in January 2017, joining millions of others across the nation, marching for equal rights and justice for ALL.  What the hell can I do besides that?  I’m so frustrated.  We need art and voice now more than ever!

Thank you for supporting the arts, being artistic, standing up for what you believe in, encouraging others, inspiring who you can, those people in your circle of influence, your home, your neighborhood, your city.

Best wishes to you and yours this holiday and a Happy New Year.



Poetry: River Ink

River Ink
Went to the river looking for a poem
I found my familiar trail
Winding woods that hug the bank
Whatcom Creek in August
Bushes high and
Full of berries,
Birds and spider’s webs.
Grass sways underwater
Moving in sync with the river
This what peace looks like,
Melted into movement
Tree branch dips over the drink
Desiring more of plenty
Is water from the root not good enough
Do you cool your leaves in the noon sun
Down by the edge there’s a place to sit
Two dead trees have slumped across
I dip a stick into the stream
Like pen into ink
To write my name on the
sun bleached wood.
The sun grabs my letters
Throws them in the air
Birds ride the upward current
Did I just disappear?
This poem and others by Shannon P Laws
are available in a paperback book
Madrona Grove: Poems Written Under the Canopy
published by Chickadee Productions