Monday, March 31, 2008

Poem-a-Day: March Ends

March Ends

Last day.
My challenge ends.
No more poems for now. As
Spring appears, we hope for times of
Light and warmth, long walks, cheer, good friends to share
Our memories of winter and
Our plans for future life.
We welcome you,
Last day.

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Poem-a-Day: Seeing the World

Seeing the World

Difficult now,
Yet seductive plans do
Help keep hope and joy alive as
Bags are packed by April, supplies bought, my
Tickets, passport checked with care as
Happily I plan to
Leave home behind,

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Poem-a-Day:The Joys of Walking

The Joys of Walking

Challenge now, with
Creaky knees, stiff movement,
Yet on good days what a joy to
Move, explore, observe the city, see life!
Memories all around me as
I amble on, ponder
All I see while

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Friday, March 28, 2008

Poem-a-Day: My Departed Husband

My Departed Husband

My love.
He died eight years
Ago today, a man
Of action, charming, friend of all.
My husband Jules, thirty years my anchor.
Life goes on, it's harder, duller.
No wonder March is sad.
I remember
My love.

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Poem-a-Day: Growing Older

Growing Older

My age?
"Over the hill" some ways,
Slow body, active mind to delve
Mysteries of aging, life's challenges.
I think, I write, I try to find
A path to happiness,
Despite being
My age.

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Poem-a-Day: Human Rat Race

Human Rat Race

Yes, the world is
Busy, making money,
Working hard to buy new car, new
House, new TV set, new clothes, new things to
Brag about. Are some too busy
To enjoy those things? Yes,
People are too

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Poem-a-Day: Book Reviewing

Book Reviewing

I write reviews
Of many books I read,
Mainly "Elder Lit," although there's
No such thing, I guess. Perhaps there should be.
In these books I find the lives of
Brave survivors who share
Ideas worth

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Monday, March 24, 2008

Poem-a-Day: Brain Exercise?

Brain Exercise?

Waste of time or
Exercise for the brain?
Sudoku, crosswords, Places Please.
Put numbers, words, in place so that they fit
Neat patterns. Boring? Maybe, but
Relaxing sometimes. Yes,
They bring comfort,

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Poem-a-Day: Easter Memory

Easter Memory

Two years ago
In Rome, I joined the crowd,
St. Peter's square, too far away
To see or hear the Pope. Not Catholic,
I still absorbed joy, excitement,
Celebration, hope as
Spring beckoned that

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Poem-a-Day: Cup of Power

Cup of Power

Good or bad for
Health? Who knows? I only
Know it wakes me up, enhances
Life so I can think and read and write to
Start another day, face one more
Challenge. Cup of power?
Yes, I need it,

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Friday, March 21, 2008

Life and Fiction Collide: A Book Review

Susan Breen's novel The Fiction Class (Plume, 2008) is a book that kept my attention from beginning to end. This book interweaves the challenges of writing and teaching writing with the challenges of life itself.

Arabella Hicks, named for the heroine of her mother's favorite romance novel, balances copy editing jobs and weekly visits to her argumentative, hostile mother in a nursing home with teaching fiction writing to a varied adult ed class.

Arabella is 38, single, isolated, unsure of herself, and still grieving for her father, who died after many depressing years in a wheelchair as the result of Multiple Schlerosis. Her mother has advanced Parkinson's Disease.

A further depressing fact is Arabella's inability to conclude the novel she's been working on for seven years, Courting Disaster.

Her Wednesdays form a pattern: teach the class, then visit her mother, Vera Hicks, bringing coveted fast food that may or may not be appreciated. Vera's condition and mood swings are impossible to predict, so Arabella approaches the visits with dread.

Like many writing teachers, Arabella seems to rely on her students' written work to get to know them. Ironically, when her talk about the class inspires Vera to write a story of her own, Arabella learns about her mother as well.

The newly-awakened Arabella learns, in a sense, to believe in miracles as she finally begins to understand her students and her mother and to open her heart to love. and as that happens, she can begin a new novel.

The connections between real life and fiction have always fascinated me. My experiences as a reader, writer, teacher and visitor of my own mother in a nursing home make The Fiction Class ring amazingly true to me. The book also supports my belief in the power of writing for all, something that Arabella and Vera and most of the writing class students seem to discover as well.

Postscript, 3/22: Author Susan Breen has an interesting web site. Visit to find out more about her, and enter her writing exercise contest to win a free copy of The Fiction Class.

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Poem-a-Day: Senior Passion

Senior Passion

Of life to fan the flame,
Find joy in writing, painting, build
Something for the world to share, to keep us
Living, active, learning, loving,
Doing what we do with
All our hearts, with

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Poem-a-Day: First Day of Spring

First Day of Spring

First day
Of spring today.
We wait for flowers, birds.
Warmth will come to Chicago soon
To bring long walks along the lake, in parks,
Wherever seasonal joy is
In our hearts, our minds to
Keep us hoping,
First day.

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Poem-a-Day: Yesterday's Weather

Yesterday's Weather

That's the forecast,
Has been for days now. It
May be drizzle, deluge, darkness.
Soon the sun will shine, its brightness cheering,
Bringing spring, then summer days when
Warm and sunny are the
Norm, days dry, not

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Poem-a-Day: Senior Handout

Senior Handout

Free rides:
No such thing? But
Now the bus is free for
Seniors. Do I need this handout?
No, but maybe those in want will have a
Chance to move, explore Chicago.
Will I ride free? Maybe,
But not often.
Free rides?

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Monday, March 17, 2008

Poem-a-Day: New Week

New Week

Check calendar.
Dentist again this week.
Another crown; that means some pain.
Later this week, volunteer, then check with
Financial guru to plan, save.
Not a bad week ahead.
I will survive

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Poem-a-Day: Retired Weekend

Retired Weekend

Not as in the
Time of work, when days off
Meant enjoyment, chance to sleep or
Catch up on those duties we'd long put off.
Now relaxed, well-rested, chores still
There to do, but where's the
Need to act now,

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Poem-a-Day: Mid-March Reflections

Mid-March Reflections

March Ides.
Fateful day for
Caesar, but for me the
Mid-point of my challenge: write a
Poem a day for March, that lion-lamb month of
Contrasts that can bring gloom, hope, joy.
Yes, I will achieve this.
Spring will come now,
March Ides.

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Friday, March 14, 2008

Poem-a-Day: Elder Expectations

Elder Expectations

Human need and
Common quirk that makes us
Dream, expect, look forward to that
Bit of news, that unexpected sign that
Still we live, we matter, someone
Cares, remembers, sends us
Cheer to live on,

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Poem-a-Day: Emily Dickinson's Chariot

Emily Dickinson's Chariot

Door to all of
Life, learning, joy, wonder.
A book can open minds and hearts
To all the world of knowledge, love, hate, fear.
Frigate, frugal chariot to
Take us lands away: a
Fine transporter,

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Poem-a-Day: Latest Scandal

Latest Scandal

Men of power, fame, why
Risk all for thrills in this age when
All you do is splashed across the screen to
Titillate us, destroy your name?
We need integrity,
Not corruption,

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Poem-a-Day: Annual Checkup

Annual Checkup

Approached in fear
That you will find some dread
Disease, some small harbinger of
The coming end we hope to delay for
Many years. We also wait for
Good reports, magic pills,
Hope and comfort,

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Monday, March 10, 2008

Poem-a-Day: Othello, Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Othello, Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Heroes, villains,
Othello, Iago,
Still alive at Navy Pier, you
Bring us love, suspicion, jealosy to
Let us know that times may change, but
Human folly, hatreds
Still infect us,

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Poem-a-Day: Spring Ahead

Spring Ahead

Time change.
Spring ahead, so
Reset all clocks one hour
To be on time for that meeting,
Important date or key appointment, if
Time really matters much these days.
Let's hope this move will bring
Real spring, real warmth,
Time change.

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Poem-a-Day: Annual Dilemma

Annual Dilemma

Tax forms:
Mystery blanks,
Paper, on disk, on line,
Demanding, frustrating, unclear.
Adjusted gross income, deductions, tax,
Terms and payments, unknown details.
Somehow I cope; I must
Master all those
Tax forms.

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Friday, March 7, 2008

Poem-a-Day: Seeking Spring

Seeking Spring

Cheerful, tempting,
Good to see, sign of hope
That ugly winter soon will end
Its hold on all of us who live and work
While dodging ice or staying in.
We need your light, your joy,
Your hope of spring,

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Poem-a-Day: Volunteer Routine


Just volunteer,
But needed, welcome work
To stay connected to the world
Where people walk and talk and do their jobs.
Relaxing and writing are good
But still I need to have
Your discipline,

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Poem-a-Day: Seductive Candy

Is anyone joining me in this experiment? Remember: it's not too late to begin, and you don't have to use the same odd poetic form. The point is self-expression, not poetic art.

Seductive Candy

Tempting. Too good.
Chocolate, caramel,
Peanut butter, almond, raisin.
Bane of teeth, producer of fat, best friend.
How convenient to buy it,
Calling me from each shelf.
Must resist it,

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

It's National Grammar Day!

This sounds like a day of celebration for stodgy old English profs like me, but--not really. I approach so-called Grammar Gurus with caution. I've come to realize that too much emphasis on grammatical correctness can stifle writing efforts completely. I favor a more relaxed, common-sense approach.

According to Nathan Bierma in his article "Don't get carried away on National Grammar Day" in the February 26 Chicago Tribune, the "policewoman" behind the sponsoring group, SPOGG, or the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar, is Martha Brockenbrough of Microsoft's Encarta web site ( She writes a column there entitled "Grumpy Matha's Guide to Grammar and Usage."

Like almost everyone, I laugh at extreme examples of poor writing. Here's one from Courtney Love's blog, as quoted by Brockenbrough:

"ive been nbot working the tightest program and been multi tasking and managing time horribly- so i was on the phone and i said i wanted pretty short bangs- not NO bangs and she cut them when i was on the phone with one of these whakcjob banks that heres some trust and some joint bogus account and some insane mortage in- these f***s for years and years and years=- in anycase anyone know exactly how many records Nirvana has sold all in worldwide since Nirvana started?"

"Grumpy Martha" provides a translation, but I'll let you look it up or do the translating yourself. 'Nuf said. Nobody should write like that. If Love's fans think that's adequate writing, I'm glad I belong to an older generation. Still, it's possible for grammatical criticism to go too far. Martha even takes Elvis to task for singing "I'm all shook up" rather than "I'm all shaken up." It just wouldn't be the same.

Nathan Bierma goes on to quote Mignon Fogarty, whom he describes as "a more level-headed grammatical authority" known as Grammar Girl ( . Fogarty hopes that "participants [in National Grammar Day will] focus on spreading the word about the style points and grammar myths that many people latch on to as truth. For example . . . it's OK to split infinitives, and sometimes it's acceptable--even preferable--to end a sentence with a preposition. It's shocking, but true!"

National Grammar Day is promoted as a chance to flag any violation of standard English usage in any situation, to write notes to storekeepers about misused apostrophes in signs and to set errant newspaper writers straight with "friendly" emails. However, I agree with Mr. Bierma that "Such corrections are seldom friendly, welcome or necessary. They are usually self-righteous, irritating and misinformed."

If you note some personal conflict here, you're right. I believe in good, correct writing, but I also believe in honest self expression. Let's hope that the two can coexist. Let's just be a bit careful!

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Poem-a Day: Dental Dread

Dental Dread

Kindly, busy,
Architect of my smile.
Why does just a simple visit
Fill me with fear and dread of pain, of costs?
The news was good last time I went,
But now dread starts again.
I'll see you soon,

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Monday, March 3, 2008

September University: Worth Checking Out

Like most people with an Internet presence, I Googled my own name recently. There are certainly a lot of references to me, many of them very minor. It's an interesting exercise, however.

This time, I found a new review of my book Seniorwriting on a senior site I've been aware of, but not visited very often. I was reminded that this site is worth checking out. You can find the review of my book (with a mention of Reinventing Myself as well) at Take time to examine the rest of the site as well.

The reviewer mentions the relatively brief length of my books. I'm happy to say that he did not condemn that quality: instead, he wrote, "Ironically short books are much harder to write than long ones and Seniorwriting contains all of the elements you need to begin writing." I guess it's not bad to be a woman of few words!

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Poem-a-Day: Portrait of a Cat

Portrait of a Cat

Neighbor's cat I
Tended yesterday. You're
Mature, determined, mysterious,
Dignified, relaxed, self-confident that
Things will turn out well each day for
All. Do you know something
We should know too,

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Poem-a-Day: Turning Calendar Pages

Turning Calendar Pages

Each month
Another page
To turn, to contemplate.
Rows of number, blanks to fill with
Promising new discoveries, with hope
For peace and joy and love and friends,
For comfort and good health.
We dare to dream
Each month.

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Seniorwriter's Poem-a-Day in March Writing Challenge: The Month Begins

Does anyone dare to accept this crazy challenge? As an extension of "Writing Poetry on a Dreary Winter Day" below, I challenge you to write one short poem (4 to 12 lines) every day in March.

I'm not talking masterpieces here. However, I believe that everyone needs to explore his or her inner poet. Give it a try! The form is up to you. I've chosen the Rictameter again: nine lines of 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 8, 6, 4, and 2 syllables, the first and last lines identical. Free verse and rhymed forms are all right too. Use the same form every day or vary the pattern. Just write.

Post your poems (or some of them) as comments below this post, or post them on your own blog or web site, or keep them to yourself. Let me know how it's going.

Here is my first poem for the month:

The Month Begins

March first.
Spring starts this month.
No flowers, no birds yet,
At least not in Chicago where
Winter lingers long past dreams of new joys.
Still, rays of hope peek through dark clouds.
Through snow or rain or gloom
We write, we dream
March first.

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne