Posted by: jeannineatkins | May 19, 2016


For most of the springs in my life, I’ve broken lilac branches and brought in bouquets to make a room fragrant while I write. Lilacs don’t bloom for long. Some gardeners don’t want the sort of shapeless shrubs or small trees that may straggle in their yards for the fifty-or-so weeks when they don’t bring purple and fragrance. But why live in New England and not indulge? I also love lilies-of-the-valley, now starting to bloom, which others dislike for the way they spread. Let them.

The month of May is a lovely coming-around to me, but I’m watching my five-month-old puppy see much for the first time. He lifts his nose to smell air or follow bee flight. He stares out the porch window listening to the gaggle of wild turkeys. When I took him for a walk on the first hot day, he flopped on the grass and rolled, momentarily defeated. Then we found a stream, where he nosed into cool ripples. Every dog he smells coming might be his new best friend. He tugs on the leash. Sometimes he’s ignored. Sometimes he gets to touch noses. And every once in a while, yes, here is his new best friend and we humans step back and watch the dogs lunge and twirl into play.


At the table on the porch, I find facts new to me and arrange them in ways that will be new to anyone. I’ve been doing this for much of my life, with the sense of the familiar and fresh blurring. I’m writing now in the wake of some bad writing news to which my husband responded, “Why do you think that manuscript keeps getting turned down?” I felt buoyed by his  hint that something was off in the reading, not my attempts over years to shape the work in various ways. And there was some good writing news: a lovely review for Finding Wonders.

The emotions of a writing life, like much that matters, comes in waves. Life has its tides of dejection and lilacs. Sending out work, getting it back, sending it out again. I can’t hold our puppy in my arms any more, but I’m also buying fewer rolls of paper towels and less dazed from lack of sleep. Often I dare to leave shoes on the floor.

It’s good to be awake to what happens then choose where to set our attention. I’m sticking with my husband’s and friends’ faith in my work and enjoying the lilacs while they last. Poetry is made by letting in then weeding out. I choose historic facts from thick books, set some constraints, then nudge the borders, too. I aim to suggest transience, but also what lasts. Every editor won’t ask of a manuscript: Does this matter? But at this table, I try to keep that question alive.




  1. Beautiful again, Jeannine. And yes to the question, “Does this matter?”

  2. Ah, this…
    “Life has its tides of dejection and lilacs.”
    Such a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing this glimpse of spring.

  3. Lovely. Especially this: “I find facts new to me and arrange them in ways that will be new to anyone.” Yes.

    • Good wishes for your own trim-trim-trimming and arranging!

  4. Another beautiful post that has special meaning to me right now. Love to think that “Poetry is made by letting in, then weeding out.” Love the puppy stuff as well. How big he must be now,

    • HI, so glad this spoke to you. And yes, I can just bend slightly now and my hand touches his big head. It is good to see him turn into a good dog!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: