Poet Spotlight: Twyla Hansen

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 Twyla Hansen.


POP spotlight hansen

Short bio:
I’m Nebraska’s State Poet (2013-2018). I co-direct the Poetry from the Plains: A Nebraska Perspective website. My latest poetry book is Rock • Tree • Bird (The Backwaters Press, 2017). Two of my books have won Nebraska Book Awards, including Potato Soup, a Nebraska 150 Notable Book for the 2017 Sesquicentennial. My writing has appeared widely in periodicals, newspapers, anthologies, and many other publications.



Thoughts on mindfulness and poetry:
I have been practicing yoga for five years with a small group of women, and it has made a positive difference in my life. In today’s troubling times, deep breathing and yoga pose stretches are part of my daily routine, calming mind, body, and spirit. Spending time outdoors and writing poems have a similar effect on me. Stepping on to a native tallgrass prairie connects me deeply with Earth, from which all bounty flows. Creative writing also takes me to a place that is timeless. I love to lose myself in the process of writing a poem, and am astonished when I again resurface in the real world. This doesn’t happen every time I sit down to write, of course, but when it does, it gives me hope and the world seems a little brighter.

Fun fact: I’ve been collecting rocks in the shape of Nebraska for years, and by now have well over 100 of all sizes (see photo).


hansen rocks

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Poet Spotlight: Laura Grace Weldon

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 Laura Grace Weldon.

POP spotlight weldon

Short bio: I live on a small farm where I cook weird things, sing to livestock, and stay up late reading library books. I’m the author of a poetry collection titled Tending and a handbook of alternative education, Free Range Learning, with a book of essays due out soon. I also write about mindfulness in prose and poetry. These pieces include welcoming mistakes and celebrating humanity as well as finding meaning in coyote songs and spider webs.

Bonus material:

Look Up

Summer is a perfect time to gaze at clouds.

The traditional spot to indulge in this pleasurable activity is sitting in the grass. Better yet, lying on the grass. Stay there as clouds drift into view over treetops and roofs, slowly changing form. Linger long enough, you might insist you can feel the planet moving.

Looking at clouds is a perfect way to disengage from all the buzzing, ringing distractions that claw our attention to shreds. Those puffs of air vapor seem to invite contemplation. And that’s good. Daydreaming is so rejuvenating that it can boost creativity. It also helps us to relax, review emotion-laden situations calmly, generate new ideas, and get to know ourselves better.

When we let our minds wander, we’re in what neuroscience calls the “default mode network.”  An L.A. Times article titled, “An Idle Brain May Be The Self’s Workshop” notes,

Just as sleep appears to play an important role in learning, memory consolidation and maintaining the body’s metabolic function, some scientists wonder whether unstructured mental time—time to zone out and daydream—might also play a key role in our mental well-being. If so, that’s a cautionary tale for a society that prizes productivity and takes a dim view of mind-wandering.

Even when you don’t have time to lie in the grass, take the time to notice the sky. Really look at a starry sky, overcast sky, rainy sky. You may be getting more than a glimpse of the firmament.

I learned this when I helped conduct a psychology study in college.  We went to urban office buildings and asked people two questions. First, we asked each person to describe his or her mood. Second, we asked them to describe the current appearance of the sky. These people were in offices or hallways when we talked to them and the windows in most buildings were shuttered with horizontal blinds ubiquitous during that decade, so the only way they could have described the sky is if they had paid attention on their way to work or during a break. Here’s the interesting part. People who identified themselves as pessimistic, angry, depressed, or in other negative terms tended to be the ones unable to describe the sky’s appearance. You guessed it. The happiest and most optimistic people either correctly described the sky or came very close.

That study was never published, but research these days now indicates that pausing to experience nature in our daily lives is powerfully positive. Just a few minutes of regular exposure has been shown to improve our emotional and physical health. It leads us to be more generous, to enhance relationships and value community. The effect of nature, even looking out a window at nearby trees, seems to lead us, as one researcher noted, to be “our best selves.”

Go ahead, look at some clouds right now. You may see a cloud pig sailing a cloud boat. The sailboat may morph into French fries before the whole thing breaks apart into a shape resembling a bongo-playing octopus. Good thing the images we see in clouds aren’t a meteorological Rorschach test.


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Poet Spotlight: Teddy Macker

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 Teddy Macker.

POP spotlight macker

Short bio: My first book of poetry—This World (foreword by Brother David Steindl-Rast)—appeared in March of 2015 through White Cloud Press. A lecturer at University of California-Santa Barbara and orchardist, I live with my wife and daughters on a small farm in the foothills of Carpinteria, California.

Thoughts on mindfulness: Mindfulness helps me with the practice of faith, of living beyond answers, solutions, knowledge, the clamoring demands of mind; encourages me to let the mystery be the mystery.

Poet Spotlight: Judyth Hill

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 Judyth Hill.

POP spotlight Hill

Short Bio: I’m a poet, author, editor and teacher living in the aspen-swept mountains of Colorado. Educated at Sarah Lawrence College, I studied with Robert Bly, Galway Kinnell, and deep ecologist Dolores LaChapelle. A recipient of numerous literary grants, I served as Literary Projects Coordinator for New Mexico State Arts Division, 1994-2000, and am the current President of PEN San Miguel.

I have conducted poetry and memoir workshops at conferences world-round, authored poetry curriculum for the O’Keeffe and Folk Art Museums in Santa Fe, NM, am the Poet-in-Residence at various schools in the U.S., offer classes, manuscript-editing and mentoring online at www.judythhill.com, and lead global WildWriting Culinary Adventures (learn more at www.eat-write-travel.com).

My nine published books of poetry include Dazzling Wobble and Tzimtzum. My poems are widely anthologized. I have co-authored cookbooks and textbooks, and was the Santa Fe, NM, restaurant critic for the Albuquerque Journal. I am also the creator/owner of Santa Fe’s premier bakery, The Chocolate Maven.

I was described by the St. Helena Examiner as “Energy with skin,” and by the Denver Post as “A tigress with a pen.”

Thoughts about mindfulness and poetry:

I’m from the “Everything Matters” school of writing.

My writing, performing and teaching come from my faith in the delicate and intricate connection of our political, emotional, cognitive, spiritual, imaginational bodies, both within the self, and within the social web, to each other.

And all of this connected to our funny bone.

I love the balancing of craft and passion, the work behind the work.  And then, I love to share it with you.

Because that’s what completes the circle of the creative act: it’s not “whole and sole” without your presence.

So, Everything Matters:

Being a force for good in the world, keeping a sense of justice and a sense of humor. Knowing to fall in love with each other, good desserts, red tails in flight. To notice Bear Creek when she is running full, the appearance of mourning doves in June, the line breaks in Williams, the melody in Yeats, the instress in Hopkins and the way the lilacs fill the city with purple blossoms in April.

To use my mother’s good dishes because she never did, and my own gift with language, because if I don’t, who will?

Making love, dinner and connections. Getting the point. Listening deeply to the music of the ordinary, the wisdom of elders and infants, and the night wind moving through. And singing it back, as best my innate talents and acquired skills will grant me.

Making sure my best keeps getting better.

Admiring the plain, astonishing beauty everywhere present, and not losing sight of the fallen, the Middle East, and oil spilling onto our so-vulnerable seacoasts.

Remembering to show gratitude, forgiveness and a little leg.

Remembering that if it’s true that 90% of success is just showing up, 10% of every effort goes for glory.

So, I am here, pen in hand, ready, willing, able: and going for gold.

Relevant quotes:

“My life in new surrounds has graced me with learning to rest in the All-The-Way-Alive center of Right Here; to fall, once and for all, in love with the Way It Is.  It’s a pure practice of awe.  It’s give and let give, it’s touch and know, and better still, it’s right here, the Altar of the Ordinary, a shrine we fill with acacia and adverbs, cappuccino and thick cumulous—a way we find…. by stopping the search, and staying Present.”—Judyth Hill

“Banish the word ‘struggle’ from your attitude and your vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration. We are the ones we have been waiting for.”—Hopi Elders

“You know we have come at last home
because we can’t see anything here
that is not already the Beloved.”
—Judyth Hill

Fun facts about “Wage Peace” (my poem in Poetry of Presence):

“Wage Peace” has been set to music by four different composers, and performed by a full symphony orchestra, a women’s chorus, a college choir, and a lounge performer! And a fifth composer is working on a new version now!

“Wage Peace” has gone around and around the world on the internet, inspiring many amazing activities for peace.

A grassroots group of Palestinian and Israeli women created a peace organization in 2014, naming their efforts in the Middle East after the poem: Women Wage Peace. It currently has over 20,000 members.


The world famous graffiti artist, Banksy, was inspired by “Wage Peace” to create a large mural, “The Flower Thrower,” in Jerusalem.

The University of San Diego Center for Mindfulness teaches “Wage Peace” in their curriculum, as does the International Society of Military Ethics.

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Poet Spotlight: Linda M. Hasselstrom

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 Linda M. Hasselstrom.

POP spotlight hasselstrom

Short bio: With fifteen books in print, I write and conduct writing retreats in person and by email from my South Dakota ranch. My newest book is The Wheel of the Year: A Writer’s Workbook, containing two years’ worth of writing suggestions and examples.

Other Works:

Dirt Songs: A Plains Duet (with Twyla M. Hansen); No Place Like Home: Notes from a Western Life, Between Grass and Sky, Feels Like Far, Bitter Creek Junction, Land Circle, Dakota Bones, Going Over East, Windbreak, Bison: Monarch of the Plains, When a Poet Dies, The Roadside History of South Dakota, Roadkill, Caught By One Wing.

Editor of Leaning into the Wind, Woven on the Wind, Crazy Woman Creek (with Gaydell Collier and Nancy Curtis), and Journal of a Mountain Man (by James Clyman).

Thoughts on mindfulness and poetry: Buddha said, “With our thoughts we make the world.” Pablo Neruda said, “Poetry is an act of peace. Peace goes into the making of a poet as flour goes into the making of bread.” (Memoirs, Ch. 6)

These are among my many favorite quotations centering on the act of writing poetry. When I am deeply engrossed in working on a poem, which means every time I am writing poetry, I am creating my own peaceful world of words—even if the poem is about violence or pain. Making poetry is, thus, an act of utter mindfulness.

Fun fact: I may be the only person in the anthology (or not) to have won a big western belt buckle for poetry. This was called the Elkhorn Prize, and was awarded by the magazine Nebraska Territory in 1991—just as it says on the buckle in the photographs below.

Website and social media:

• Website
• Facebook


Poet Spotlight: Larry Smith

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 Larry Smith.

POP spotlight smith

Short bio: I’m a poet, novelist, biographer, and editor of Bottom Dog Press. A retired professor of Bowling Green State University, I’m a co-founder with my wife Ann of the Converging Paths Meditation Center in Sandusky, Ohio. We celebrated our 10th anniversary this past June. I’ve practiced meditation and mindfulness for 30 years now and share it online and in my many books of poetry and prose, including Each Moment All: Meditations as Poems. I am also a practicing Christian and see no conflict between these spiritual paths unless you get bogged down in “the church.”

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Poet Spotlight: Penny Harter

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 Penny Harter.

POP spotlight harter

Short bio: My recent books include The Resonance Around Us (2013); One Bowl, a prizewinning ebook ( 2012); and Recycling Starlight (2010; reprint 2017). Recent work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in a number of journals and anthologies. I’ve won three fellowships from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and the Mary Carolyn Davies Award from the Poetry Society of America. I live in the southern New Jersey shore area.

Website and social media:

• Website

Poet Spotlight: Julia Fehrenbacher

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 Julia Fehrenbacher.

POP spotlight fehrenbacher

Short bio: I’m an author, a poet and a painter who is always looking for ways to spread a little good around in this world. I’m the author of two books of poetry, On the Other Side of Fear and an e-book entitled She Will Not Be Quiet. I live in Corvallis, Oregon, with my husband and two girls.

Thoughts on mindfulness and poetry: Mindful poetry is poetry that takes the reader beneath and beyond the worried, afraid, resistant chatterbox that is the mind, and drops us right in the center of a quiet stillness. Inside this quiet stillness, hearts can’t help but soften and open. It is from this connected and receptive place that we can move through the world in a way that serves, rather than hurts. Mindful poetry is medicine to a world that so needs healing.

A favorite quote: “Poetry is a life-cherishing force. For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry.”  —Mary Oliver

Website and social media:

• Website
• Facebook

Poet Spotlight: Barbara Crooker

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 Barbara Crooker.

POP spotlight crooker

Short bio: My work has appeared in a variety of literary journals, including Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania and The Bedford Introduction to Literature. I’m the author of eight books of poetry; Les Fauves is the most recent. I’ve received a number of awards, including the 2004 W.B. Yeats Society of New York Award, the 2003 Thomas Merton Poetry of the Sacred Award, and three Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Creative Writing Fellowships.

Thoughts on mindfulness and poetry: The practice of poetry and the practice of mindfulness are, for me, intertwined.  I can’t imagine one without the other.

A favorite quote (from my own work):


Make us stop, in our harried multi-tasking modern
(or post-modern) lives, away from the ambient light
of electricity and all that follows, and look up,
into the great glass eye of night, gazing in dumb
struck wonder at the coded messages of the stars.

Fun fact: So far this summer, I’ve picked seven pounds of strawberries, a whole tree full of sour pie cherries (with my husband)(and granddaughter), enough red and black raspberries for jam, and am about to pick blueberries next week.

Current work: I’ve been doing readings from my new book, Les Fauves, which features poems about France and ekphrastic poems on Fauve and Post-Impressionist paintings. (Ekphrastic poems have a conversation about paintings.)

Website and social media:

• Website
• Facebook


Poet Spotlight: Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

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 Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer.

POP spotlight trommer

Short bio: I served as Colorado’s Western Slope Poet Laureate (2015-17). My work has appeared in O Magazine, Rattle.com, TEDx, in back alleys, on A Prairie Home Companion, and on river rocks around town. I have taught poetry for Think 360, Craig Hospital, Ah Haa School for the Arts, Camp Coca Cola, meditation retreats, 12-step recovery programs, hospice, and many other organizations. I earned my M.A. in English Language & Linguistics at University of Wisconsin-Madison. One word-mantra: Adjust.

Thoughts about mindfulness and poetry: A couple years ago, I began leading meditation/poetry retreats with dharma teacher Susie Harrington. It’s a curious pairing, the silence of meditation and engagement with words. What we discovered is that although they are very different paths, they help us arrive in the same place—a place of deeper connection with the world around us, with spirit, with our bodies and with each other.

For me, poetry is very much a practice. Writing poems changes the way I meet the world—it allows me to be more receptive, more attentive, more open. And reading poems helps me identify where I have gotten stuck in my own ways of thinking and helps me newly see the world—to find new metaphors, new lenses, new frameworks. Sometimes, after reading a poem, I have a full-body “yes!” What a gift to ourselves, reading poems that allow us to explore new possibilities for ourselves and the world.

Fun Fact: I have written a poem a day for over 10 years. The poems from the last six years or so are at my blog, A Hundred Falling Veils. I also write short poems on river rocks and leave them around town (and when I am travelling, too). I’ve left hundreds of poem rocks (and they always get picked up!). Here’s a photo for you:

Displaying IMG_2133.jpg

Another fun fact: I did a TEDx talk on finding and changing the metaphors that frame our thinking—part poetry, part neuroscience….

Website and social media:

Website: www.wordwoman.com
Blog: http://ahundredfallingveils.com/