Poet Spotlight: Annie Lighthart

This is part of a series highlighting some of the poets anthologized in Poetry of Presence. We thank the poets for providing the material. Today we shine the spotlight on Annie Lighthart.

POP spotlight lighthart

Short bio: I’m a poet and teacher who started writing poetry after my first visit to an Oregon old-growth forest. I’ve taught at Boston College and in writing workshops with students of all ages. Poems from my book Iron String have been read on The Writer’s Almanac, turned into choral music, used in projects in Ireland and New Zealand, and have traveled farther than I have.

Thoughts about mindfulness and poetry: For me, poetry is a way of waking up mindfully to the world. After reading it or writing it, there’s a difference in my awareness and understanding. In a way, it’s like breathing. Yes, I breathe all the time—but I can feel a great difference between my regular usually shallow breathing, and those moments when I take in a slow deep breath. Poetry is that slow deep breath. Because of it, my life opens and is changed.

A favorite quote: The poet Charles Péguy writes, “All life comes from tenderness,” and I am coming to believe that when we live tenderly and mindfully—whether when we’re writing or parenting or simply acting kindly towards one another—a deeper life opens for us, right then, right there.

Fun Fact: I started writing poetry suddenly, right out of the blue at age 30. My first poem came to me all of a sudden, all in one piece. It was such a surprise, and such a joy, that I folded it up and carried it around with me in my pocket for a while as a talisman.

Website: www.annielighthart.com


Poet Spotlight: Mary O’Connor

This is part of a series highlighting some of the poets anthologized in Poetry of Presence. We thank the poets for providing the material. Today we shine the spotlight on Mary O’Connor.

POP spotlight o'connor


Short bio: A native of Ireland, I’ve taught literature and writing to college students and older adults since 1977. My poems and short stories have appeared in Metre, Jacaranda Review, New Irish Writing, Columbia, America, NCR, Briarcliff Review, Contemplative Review and other journals, and my essays in numerous scholarly publications. A chapbook, Windows and Doors, appeared in 2012 from Finishing Line Press. Among my awards are a fiction prize from Listowel, poetry prizes from the Academy of American Poets, and residencies in Ragdale and The MacDowell Colony.  I frequently conduct poetry retreats, and have organized writing sessions in a trafficking shelter. A member of the Mercy community since I was 17, I see poetry as a spiritual practice, one that invites both writer and reader to enter into a deeper awareness of themselves and the world around them.

A favorite quote: “Every single creature is full of God and is a book of God.” —Meister Eckhart

Poet Spotlight: Marianne Murphy Zarzana

This is part of a series highlighting some of the poets anthologized in Poetry of Presence. We thank the poets for providing the material. Today we shine the spotlight on Marianne Murphy Zarzana.


POP zarzana spotlight

Short bio: I teach English and direct the Creative Writing Program at Southwest Minnesota State University. My work has appeared in Notre Dame Magazine, AYearofBeingHere.com, Stoneboat Literary Review, Blue Earth Review, Minnesota River Review, Dust & Fire, UmbrellaJournal.com, and elsewhere. I am married to writer James A. Zarzana, and we have a grown daughter.

A favorite quote: This is from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard:

“The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.”

Fun fact: Our only daughter and only child got married in Sweden this summer outdoors, and I wrote a daily haiku as a way to stay present, mindful and grounded amidst the swirl of wedding preparations. Friends and family traveled from all over the globe. It was an international gathering. We could not have been more joyful. Here’s a sampling of the daily haikus:


Azure sky, clouds scud.
Bus stop, old woman smiles, speaks.
I translate: “Fresh breeze.”

DOG-SITTING   (our daughter and her fiancé left for an overnight teachers’ retreat)

Bed’s edge, shih-tzu begs,
subtle as a jackhammer,
wins, sleeps with new pack.


Father-daughter walk,
Sweden, country road. Through oats,
moose bounds. Majestic.


Sunset, hedge’s edge,
a compact, prickly bundle
eats grass, ignores us.


Daughter, friend, parent,
wife, teacher—many mistakes.
Spring comes. Grow better.


Website: www.mariannezarzana.com

Poet Spotlight: Donna Hilbert

This is part of a series highlighting some of the poets anthologized in Poetry of Presence. We thank the poets for providing the material. Today we shine the spotlight on Donna Hilbert.

Donna Hilbert spotlight

Short Bio: My latest book is The Congress of Luminous Bodies, from Aortic Books. My work is anthologized in Boomer Girls, A New Geography of Poets, Solace in So Many Words, The Widows’ Handbook (Kent State University Press), and The Doll Collection (Terrapin Books), among others. My poems can be found monthly in the online magazine Verse-Virtual.com. I write and lead workshops in Long Beach, California.

Check out this 6/19/17 video interview that I did with Chicon Street Poets in Austin, Texas. The link also includes a video performance of my poem “Credo.” Coincidentally, the emcee for the evening reading there in Austin told me that her favorite of my poems was the one included in Poetry of Presence, so of course, I read it and plugged the book!

Website and social media:


Okay, so we’re blushing a little.

Grace Cavalieri just listed Poetry of Presence: An Anthology of Mindfulness Poems as “The Best Book of Mindfulness Poems” in her November “Exemplars” column for the Washington Independent Review of Books.

Grace produces “The Poet and the Poem” from the Library of Congress. She’s celebrating 40 years on-air. Thank you, Grace, for all you do for poetry!

Poet Spotlight: Pat Schneider

This is part of a series highlighting some of the poets anthologized in Poetry of Presence. We thank the poets for providing the material. Today we shine the spotlight on Pat Schneider.


meme pat schneider

Short Bio: I’m a poet, playwright, librettist, and the author of ten books. My titles include How the Light Gets In: Writing as a Spiritual Practice and Writing Alone & With Others (both from Oxford University Press) and five books of poems. Founder of Amherst Writers & Artists, for thirty years I was adjunct faculty at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California. Forthcoming is a new book of poems, The Weight of Love. 

Thoughts on mindfulness and poetry: Poetry slows us down, brings us into ourselves.  Poetry is of the body.  In my forthcoming book of poems, The Weight of Love, there is a poem titled “It Takes a Long, Deep Listening.” The poem includes these lines: “. . .listen/ between iambs of breath/ to the pentameter of the heart. ” A note at the back of the book says, “This is a reference to the assertion by Peter Viereck, Poet and Nobel Laureate:  ` . . . poetry is your most physical expression. Its basic throb is your body throb.’ He was fond of pointing out that the human heart beats five beats to every breath, and the pattern of iambic pentameter is five beats to every line.”

A fact (not so funny, but I think interesting) about myself: I wrote my first poem at age ten. At eleven, as she was putting me in an orphanage, my mother gave me a little five-year diary with tiny spaces to write in every day. I kept going over the lines, writing in many spaces at once. She gave me my life of writing.

Another (more jolly) fact about myself: I was born in 1934. Around then, rhyme fell out of fashion in poetry, and through almost all of my long life, poetry was not supposed to rhyme. Robert Frost in America, and Patrick Kavanagh in Ireland, who used rhyme, were both looked down upon as “farmer poets.” But a few decades ago, something changed all that: RAP!! And the little White boys and girls who were trying to sound like the little Black boys and girls? All of them, Black and White, are in MFA programs, writing rhyme! And Kay Ryan, whose poems are full of internal rhyme, near rhyme, full rhyme, but not end rhyme—became Poet Laureate of the United States! I have achieved getting to age 83. I grew up in the Missouri Ozarks hearing nursery rhymes, country western songs, hymns—all rhyming. Now I let music back into my poems. I am as happy as a pit in a mud puddle.

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