How Election 2016 Has Changed Me for the Better

me_vanou "be quiet" (CC BY-ND 2.0)
“be quiet” by me_vanou (CC BY-ND 2.0)

There’s not a lot of joy in this election. keke many other Americans, I sometimes wish I could sleep ala Rip Van Winkle through the next twenty-four days (I’ve already voted, so I could actually sleep for twenty-five days).

However, while watching Michelle Obama’s New Hampshire speech yesterday (video at the end of this post), I was reminded that this election season has changed me—is changing me more each day—and for the better. For the first time in my fifty-two years (the same age as our First Lady), I am realizing just how much I have allowed my own voice and emotions to be hushed.

How is this election season changing me?

Silence no longer feels like an option.

I am expressing my views more readily, regardless of whether those around me will understand or be offended or take me seriously or even listen.

I am examining more carefully what it is inside my mind and heart that holds me back and makes me feel powerless and less than, knowing I have the agency to change.

I am reminding myself that I can be compassionate and giving and supportive while at the same time attending to my own needs and desires and voice, that self-compassion and self-care are not selfish.

I yearn to follow Michelle Obama’s example in learning to honor my own emotions, in refusing to internalize the belief that just because they are a woman’s emotions, they are trivial.

“Maybe we’ve grown accustomed to swallowing these emotions and staying quiet” ~ Michelle Obama

As I am fortunate enough to be able to speak—and to write—I now more than ever feel obligated to do so.


she stopped talking as an anorexic stops eating, slowly at first
forgoing the extra word, skipping the unnecessary reply in
favor of the nod or smile, a simple experiment, really, a
goal to improve oneself, until she got the taste for it
no one noticed as she purged the superfluous, sent
phone calls to voice mail, rationed herself to one
hundred spoken words per day by hoarding
sentences in a notebook and bingeing on
thoughts, saving precious syllables
for public use, bringing them
out only when necessary
speaking less and less
until she was finally
engorged and

The above poem was one I scribbled years ago and recently pulled from a pile of drafts to share with my writing roundtable. Only now am I beginning to understand the depth and breadth of lives and experiences that make up the collective “she.” My understanding will no doubt continue to deepen, and I will continue to grow.

All because of a presidential campaign.

“We simply cannot let that happen. We cannot allow ourselves to be so disgusted that we just shut off the TV and walk away. And we can’t just sit around wringing our hands. Now, we need to recover from our shock and depression and do what women have always done in this country. We need you to roll up your sleeves. We need to get to work.” ~ Michelle Obama (read full transcript)

Post update: Michelle Obama transcript quotations added October 15, 2016.

UK National Poetry Day

Today is National Poetry Day in the UK. Head over to Twitter for poems, links, and news; watch Guardian readers deliver their favorite poems; and be sure to check out and bookmark this list of 12 British Poets sharing their favorite poems and their thoughts on this year’s theme: light.

To celebrate, a found poem from Hattie’s diaries (scroll down to see original diary entry).

Photo credit at end of post
Photo credit at end of post

August 16, 1934: Sharp Lightning and Lovely Rain

Got up before sunrise, cool night
southwest breeze, sharp lightning
and lovely rain. Men to hay field
applied for feed-loan, no beef issued.
Tom took former-issue cow
in the rain. Maggie got meals
made cookies, finished ironing
mopped the floors. I wrote
in diary, made butter
three and one-half hours to churn
sewed buttons that came off in wash
and wiped dishes in evening.

August 16, 1934, part 1
August 16, 1934, part 1
August 16, 1934, part 2
August 16, 1934, part 2

Photo credit: M GleasonLightning storm 2nd shot August 30, 2013(CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Celebrate Shakespeare’s Birthday with Hip-Hop and Klingon

“You have not experienced Shakespeare until you have read him in the original Klingon.” ~ Chancellor Gorkon

To celebrate the day traditionally marked as Shakespeare’s birthday, below are some informative, fun, and unusual websites on the Bard.

Start by enjoying rapper and poet Akala discuss the compelling connections between the Bard and hip-hop, and play the game “Hip-Hop? or Shakespeare?” (see how many you can get right):

Then watch Ian McKellen talk about how to read and perform the famous “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” speech from Macbeth (as one commenter wrote, “Ian McKellen could read Twilight and make it sound good”):

Listen to how the Bard really sounded. Visit the Talk Like Shakespeare page for elocution lessons, a printable poster with ten tips for sounding like Will, and Renaissance recipes.

Grand Avenue

From PBS, In Search of Shakespeare offers detailed information about their series by the same name, lesson plans (such as comparing film adaptations of Hamlet), using primary sources in the classroom, and a choose-your-own-adventure style Playwright Game. Also from PBS is the Which Words Are Will’s Words? Game. More recently, PBS’s series Shakespeare Uncovered is a wealth of online videos and lesson plans. The following excerpt features Jeremy Irons discussing the power of Shakespeare’s language:

If you are a glutton for punishment, take a look at the Shakespeare Insulter. The same site offers a Shakespeare Insult Kit for when you care enough to send the very best insults.

Take the Shakespeare biography quiz and learn Shakespeare in American Sign Language

Whether you teach in a classroom, homeschool, or just want to learn more about Shakespeare, take a look at Surfing with the Bard, “Your Shakespeare Classroom on the Internet.” Serious Shakespeare Geeks will appreciate the Folger Shakespeare Library (as well designed as it is informative). If this doesn’t satisfy your scholarly urges, check out the Horace Howard Furness Shakespeare Library, which houses scanned images of 38 rare Shakespeare texts.

Mel Ryane’s blog, Teaching Will: The Shakespeare Club is subtitled “What school kids give me that Hollywood can’t.” What a treat! As someone who once was co-leader of a Shakespeare group for middle-school children and teens, I was excited to read about Mel’s experience with teaching Shakespeare to even younger children. She writes, “As a volunteer, I created The Shakespeare Club, an after-school program for 3rd, 4th and 5th graders. Together we grapple with the Bard, life and each other. These are the tales.”

TV Tropes shows Shakespeare’s continued influence in and on popular culture. Have you heard of Shakespeare’s lost play, The Tragedie of Frodo Baggins? Read an excerpt here.

And, from Brian Rivera, Klingon Hamlet (‘taH pagh taHbe’—To be or not to be):

You can even follow Will on Twitter. Finally, take a look at my post at Psychology Today, “Shakespeare for Everyone,” on poetry as an avenue to better self-understanding.

Fare thee well! What are your favorite Shakespeare resources?

Comic courtesy of

What Is Found Poetry?

I admit that I was enjoying found poetry long before I knew it had a name. The following definition is from the Academy of American Poets:

“Found poems take existing texts and refashion them, reorder them, and present them as poems. The literary equivalent of a collage, found poetry is often made from newspaper articles, street signs, graffiti, speeches, letters, or even other poems.”

The Guardian article “Poster Poems: Found Poetry” provides a good overview of the history and range of found poetry, including William Carlos Williams’ famous “This is just to say,” which began as a refrigerator note.

Early in my reading of my great aunt Hattie’s Great Plains diaries I was struck by the poetry of many of her entries. Hers is neither a rhyming nor an abstract poetry, but an earthy poetry of candor, concrete words, and lived experience, as this example (a “golden shovel” poem) shows:

April 5, 1934

Another dust storm dark and thick. You
couldn’t see the sun, no weather fit
for even necessary work, continued into
evening after supper. Sophie helped me

dye my faded brown-red dress like
new to black, but it was not a
pretty black so replaced bent hook
at collar, hemmed, and made into

an everyday dress, also used an
old overall for nail apron and extra eye
for clasp. After I lay down for a
nap, Ben brought us sixteen club fish

he caught with just a pole and hook
so fried them up for supper. Will put an
egg in bottle for magic work to cut open
the fistula festering near Mike’s eye.

You can read more found poetry from Hattie’s diaries here, and explore these found poetry resources:

Photo credit: takomabibelot, Poetry, Mosaic Ceiling (Washington, DC), CC BY 2.0

Photo credit: takomabibelot, Poetry, Mosaic Ceiling (Washington, DC), CC BY 2.0

The Hattie Haiku Challenge

For this final post of National Poetry Month, I took inspiration from Marie Howe, state poet of New York, who writes this about the popular poetry form of haiku as she shares her picks from The Times’s Haiku Challenge (thanks to my friend Jane for the link to the article):

“A traditional haiku was attentive to time and place and most often referred to a season of the year. It was rooted in observations of the natural world and demanded an accuracy that refused romantic clichés. The language might be simple, the images taken from common life, but the insistence on time and place was crucial.” [emphases added]

Constraints can be conducive to creativity, so I wanted to see if the entries for April 26-30 from Hattie’s first year of diaries, 1920, would each lend themselves to a series of 17-word haiku. The poems jumped from her pages; I hardly had to change a thing. The exercise was a valuable insight into her writing style.

In 1920 Hattie and Will lived in Nebraska, not far from the town of Spencer. They had been married two years and were still breaking the prairie sod on their farm.

See The Hattie Diaries for a full list of the found poems for this National Poetry Month series.

April 26, 1920

Windy and bright but
chilly all day so mud
is rapidly going

April 27, 1920

Got my work shoes
they are so big, I am tired
as can be carrying them

April 28, 1920

Broke sod in morning
cut and planted potatoes
two settings of eggs

April 29, 1920

Bright morning, noon sprinkle
genuine evening rain
Will’s fistula broke

April 30, 1920

Made jelly, ironed clothes
Will got wire stretcher, fixed fence
Floyd Wood had eight pigs

Home on furlough, Will Whitcher (left) and William Whiting,(Hattie's brother), 1918
Home on furlough, Will Whitcher (left) and William Whiting,(Hattie’s brother), 1918
April 26, 1920
April 26, 1920
April 27-28, 1920
April 27-28, 1920
April 29-30, 1920
April 29-30, 1920