Poetry Club

Poetry Club

Poetry Club Bellingham

Hosted by Ron Leatherbarrow, retired poetry professor, 4th Sat, 10-12, at a Bellingham café. Classic poetry discussed, original poetry read.

Facebook Group Site: https://www.facebook.com/Poetryclubbellingham/

After taking Ron’s Intro to Poetry class Spring quarter I fell in love with this kind, intelligent, antidote-filled instructor.  I’m not the only one.  I organized a Saturday morning coffee follow-up with the other students and Ron; just a one day get-together.  Ron suggested, “How about people bring their own poetry to read, we can discuss a classic poem and maybe meet once a month.  Do you think people would like to do that?”  YES.

Poetry Club is now in it’s third month.  This is how easy it is to start a group.  If you are a writer who is looking for people who also suffer the affliction to write, start a group!  Make it open and public, hold it in a cafe, coffee house, book store, some place with nibbles & drinks. Set rules about giving constructive feedback and let participants know straight up that a “bully” will not be tolerated.  Create a “safe space.”  Writing and sharing is intimate.  Don’t underestimate the power of community!  Plant the seed, water it, and let it grow!

Here are the classic poems we will discuss for December:


Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim
Fresh-firecoal chestnut falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change;
Praise him.
–Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-89)

The Waking

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me; so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

The shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.
–Theodore Roethke (1908-1963)


Poem: Lining of My Mind


“Father Time Overcome by Love, Hope and Beauty” by Simon Vouet, 1627


The future comes to me


premonition stands outside the window, framed to be seen

stands politely ‘til the door opens

the right door

at the right time


Tea or coffee?

A blanket for your lap?

It’s cold outside where time weathers

as a pacific swirl over the peninsula,

hooked on peaks.


cold. still.


It rains in my house.

The fire is out.

Wet paper see-throughs to wooden table.

Drips creep across the low areas, finds them all

—both the dark and the hidden.


I’m swept up into this ungraspable moment Future came to visit.


Somewhere close by

another turns the channel,

a person adds soap to the wash,

a cat sighs in the window

all in silent exclamation.


What we desire more than seasons or weather

is the comfort of being a stranger, more so with ourselves.

It’s better to not know.

So I wait.

Wait for something that vanishes as soon as it arrives.

It’s appearance not unlike mowed lawn

—the stalk of the dandelion snapped.

Its there.  We know it.

Whether we walk on it or not.

The merciless motor hums in the distance and every so often

a breeze from the south carries the leaky-green odor of grass.




-by Shannon P. Laws



Poem: Comforter

Soft fog is silent atop Lake Samish

The sleepy water snores against its shore

Glacier waters bounce off rock-face

leaping down into the warm bed like cold feet.

The lake sits as milk on the bottom of the bowl

A ring of jagged evergreens holds it all down

I squint and the view is a painting

with no middle. Canvas unfinished. Brushes rest.

Difficult to capture―the artist saves it for last.


Meet Writer Elizabeth Vignali

Liz Headshots 014
Writer Elizabeth Vignali

Meet Bellingham writer Elizabeth Vignali.  Her new poetry book Object Permanence, published by Finishing Line Pressis ready for it’s November release and quickly receiving high praise.  I first heard Elizabeth share her poetry at an open mic here in town about two years ago.  She approached the mic with an uncommon grace, and read her work as if singing a lullaby.  You notice her work, you remember her voice.

Here is what others are saying about her new book:

“In poems of great tenderness and unflinching honesty, Vignali emerges as a permanent figure among the new American poets.”  -Bruce Beasley, author of Theophobia and Lord Brain

“A struggle for self is at the heart of these poems and yet despite a violent upheaval, there is tenderness. Here at the precipice of the domestic resides a poet whose vision of the world challenges its hurts with mercies.”
-Oliver de la Paz, author of Requiem for the Orchard and Post Subject: A Fable

“This haunting collection will have you looking twice at the things around you, the fragility of fixtures that appear more permanent than they are.”
-Kelly Magee, author of Body Language

Elizabeth, congratulations on your first book of poetry. Tell me more about it.

Object Permanence, cover

“Object Permanence” is a collection of poems I wrote during a series of major life transitions: my daughters’ births, my mother’s death, and the trials of love and marriage. As such, many of the poems grapple with the very human tendency to try to keep things the same.

I love examining the conflict between strong, powerful women and the societal roles expected of them. I play with that concept in some poems by transporting women from Greek and Roman mythology to present day and making them do mundane household chores, as in “Artemis Mows the Lawn” and “Medea Does the Laundry.” It sounds sort of silly and fun—and it is!—but it also deals very much with America’s expectations of what a woman should be.

What does your writing process look like?

My writing process is all over the place. When forced to examine my habits, I’m able to pinpoint only one constant: beverages.

Yes, I said beverages. There is a sort of ritualistic spiritual preparation that happens while grinding coffee beans and heating the kettle on the stove, or uncorking wine and pouring it in a favorite glass. An anticipation and then a settling in to work. I write under many circumstances: on a napkin at the Redlight, in my notebook at Boulevard Park, on my laptop at the kitchen counter while the kids are running circles around me. The tie that binds is the mug or glass of something at hand to bring a tangible ceremony to the process.

Your poems are so gentle and graceful. What’s your source of inspiration? Where does your muse live?

I was running down the South Bay trail a few months ago when I passed an unkempt, heavily bearded man rooting around at the edge of the trail. He’d propped his old bicycle against a tree, the bags containing very likely all he owned piled next to it. He was collecting something and putting it in a cardboard box.

On my way back, he’d moved down the trail a ways and was still gathering. I had to stop. I had to know. “Are you gathering mushrooms?” I asked. “No,” he said, and lifted his palm. It was filled with gravel. Regular, ordinary gravel. The same gravel I’d been pounding across for miles.

He picked up one of the pieces and held it toward me. “Isn’t it beautiful?” His voice was joyous. Awestruck. He dropped it in my hand.

And the thing is: it was beautiful. This little fragment of rock was swirled grey and white like a little overcast planet, speckled with quartz and glittering in the sunlight.

As I ran, I thought about the way we’d connected. How what he was doing isn’t too different from what I do. I rarely write “big” poems. I’ve given up envying the people who do. I’ve come to understand that I’m drawn to the small. The obvious and overlooked. I like to take something most people don’t notice and turn a macro lens on it: a cellar spider walking across the wall, the way a bartender holds her hands when she pours a dark ‘n stormy, the crumpled red-and-white food wrappers under the Friday Harbor pier.

I like the idea that once in a while someone running past might stop. They might come back and look closer. And maybe that fragment of life that they’d normally pass right by will stick with them a while and make their life a little more beautiful.

Just as your book inspires authors, what authors have inspired you?

I’m drawn to poets who handle heavy material with a light touch. I love poems that are centered in nature and rich with sensory details. I love Ted Kooser and Mary Oliver. I’m obsessed with Mary Szybist. And we’re blessed with so many brilliant poets here in the Pacific Northwest. I absolutely adore Dorianne Laux and Bruce Beasley. And Samuel Greene’s The Grace of Necessity is a work of perfection. I’ve probably read it a hundred times.

What is your background? Where are you from?

I was born in Los Angeles. We moved up to Bellingham when I was ten. My dad’s side of the family are all Californians, but my mom’s family—the Goodings—have been here in Whatcom County since the late 1880s.

What are you up to when you’re not writing?

I’m a licensed optician, who covers all sorts of eye-related activities, but in my case I specialize in glasses: dispensing them, adjusting them, repairing them, etc. I like that I use a different part of my brain when I’m converting prescriptions or calculating pantoscopic tilt than I do when I’m writing; I feel like it stretches me out a little, makes me whole.

laughingI’m also busy with my daughters, of course. They’re seven and nine and the best thing that ever happened to me. We read a lot together—we just finished The Tale of Despereaux, which I recommend whether you’re a child or not—and do plenty of silly things like hold freeze-dance parties in the kitchen or see how many slides we can go down in one day. Our record is 72.

Other random things I enjoy: hiking and camping in our glorious little jeweled corner of the world, pinning laundry on the clothesline with the sun on my back, getting drunk and playing Neil Diamond songs on the piano very badly, running in the rain, reading in the chair swing on the patio, and digging out dandelions from my front yard.

What are you working on now? What is your next project?

I’m almost finished with the first draft of a novel. My first love always will be poetry, but it’s no secret that it’s nearly impossible to make a living from it!

While I made the decision from a purely practical standpoint, I’ve actually been having a lot of fun writing it. It’s basically the opposite of writing a poem: I throw whatever the heck I want in there without worrying about it too much. It doesn’t have to be subtle. I get to take side roads and see where they lead. I get to be over the top, I get to be unabashedly romantic. It’s based on a fictional version of Bellingham in 1885, which is also really fun to research.

This spring I was lucky enough to win a contest that got the attention of an editor at Avon, a division of Harper-Collins and the number one seller of romances in the United States, and she’s waiting for me to finish it and send it to her. If that doesn’t light a fire under me, I don’t know what will!

You can reserve a copy at the publishers web site.
Learn more here:


Book: Odd Little Things

So happy to announce that my book is out, and ready for purchase!

“Odd Little Things”
Released June 2014

Purchase your copy here:


The 2013 Mayor’s Arts Award recipient, poet, author and community radio personality, Shannon P. Laws, celebrates glory in the little things, the odd little things to be exact.
“Odd Little Things” is a familiar ride full of piercing moments and wishes. In this, her second book of poetry, Shannon bares all making you feel like best friends at a café sharing secrets. The cycles of life seem to spin like an unforgiving stellar system for this poet. However large or small, everything matters, especially the moments you only share with yourself. Shannon says about her new book, “If ‘Madrona Grove’ is my lover, then ‘Odd Little Things’ is my child.”

About the Author

Bellingham poet, Shannon P. Laws, is a regular at open mics, sharing poems and excerpts from her work of literary fiction. She can be found at such venues as Chuckanut Sandstone Writers Theater, Village Books Open Mic, Poetry Night and Kitchen Sessions. She is a founding member of World Peace Poets, who encourage harmony through words for international writers at various public readings. In her spare time she hosts the Village Books Poetry Group, and is a volunteer producer at a non-profit community radio station.
Product Details
ISBN-10: 0692222359
ISBN-13: 9780692222355
Published: Chickadee Productions, 06/24/2014
Pages: 44 , $7.99

Message from the Author

“Synchronicity shows up in the oddest places.  It  waves at us, at just the right moment, from the living rings of our spiraling universe. It is our choice to recognize it. Miss it once, well that’s OK, perhaps you’ll catch it next time around. Years later a lightning bolt of déjà vu runs down your spine, awakens the bumps on your skin, jerks your elbow to perform a respectful wave back toward your connection to it all.
Thank you for the visit, spending some time with me in my mind’s garden.”  
~Shannon P. Laws


Poetry: September Bellingham

Down the hill my city sits
Waves nip at its hair
Freeway scratches the belly
Mountains hold down its hip
Low mist rolled in early,
refuses to leave this cove
Down into the clouds I walk,
floating up into a subdued world
Here exhales are marked,
Talk can be seen
Sun baths buildings
in a peach-warm glow
as it fights the floating moisture
that crowns my
September Bellingham
visibility still only four blocks.
The sun burns while seagulls
dance in the sky

Photo by Matthew Anderson/WWU
Bellingham in morning fog, September 2012