Posted by: jeannineatkins | June 28, 2016

Socks and Verse Novels

The local strawberries are so very sweet, and buying at a stand this morning, the kind woman gave me some extras, washed, so I could taste in the car. Delphiniums are doing their very blue thing. Neighbors down the road just got one majestic black cow and one ivory cow, both impressive as if a statue had been hauled off the streets of Paris and plunked in the green field. I straightened my sock drawer and feel embarrassingly satisfied. The news from the world has been making me feel speechless in its face, but my social media also shows me that some people are still baking clementine cakes, reading by the water, feeding hummingbirds, going to work, dancing with librarians, making pottery, fretting over first drafts, and other good things. Sometimes I’m glad to take a very short view of what’s around me, and let the wider background fade.


Those short views can be solace. It’s one reason why I’m glad to be teaching a course in verse novels at Simmons at the Carle starting this afternoon. I look forward to meeting ten people who care about the genre, and it’s one that doesn’t skirt news of the world, but also promises beauty. In Love That Dog and Hate That Cat, Sharon Creech shows a boy slowly approaching grief with words. In that first volume, it takes Jack about eighty pages to get to the memory he needs to mark. Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson shows us another boy who lives in a harsher world but also uses language to navigate memory and loss, and finds beauty in his relationship to his sister. Oh, and we’ve got a few essays, also, though they’re crankier re defining poetry than Ms. Stretchberry or Ms. Marcus. Those teachers and Jack and Lonnie are characters I feel enriched for knowing. And when I write, I also choose characters who I love and want to spend a long time with. They make the rest of the world fade for just a while, even while calling me to another complicated world on the page. What a privilege. And truly, even better than matching socks snuggled close.

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FYI to writers: Open spots remain in Writing One in the MFA program at Simmons at the Carle which I’m teaching this fall, a course that can be taken by itself without going for the degree. Anyone around the Amherst, MA area, let me know if you have questions or interest!




  1. I love the way you began this…simple and satisfying joys. And I wish I could take your class, Jeannine – lucky people this afternoon!

    • Thanks for the cheer and shout out! As you know, you learn so much by teaching and these talented students are pure joy to work with. I look forward to hearing about your summer adventures.

  2. This lovely post is a welcome balm to the troubles of the world. Nice to hear about strawberries, sock drawers and a new summer class. Thanks for the gorgeous photos too. Have fun today. 🙂

    • Thanks! I usually feel kind of nervous at the first class, but as this is a shortened/intensive summer class I’m sort of feeling I don’t even have time for anything but diving in. Reminding myself though that there’s only so much that will fit in a class, and also the need to approach poetry with some silence or at least gentleness in addition to a table full of articulate peoples’ responses.

  3. Oh that I could be in Amherst now that strawberries are here! Wish this class could be online. Any chance? I know of no other “verse novel” class anywhere. ruth moose in north carolina

    • Hi, Ruth, thank you for writing. Yes, it’s a good time of year with strawberries and day lilies. I don’t know of any other verse novel classes either, which is too bad as much to be discussed re an evolving genre and the ways lyric and narrative work together. Online classes can be great, but I’m not so interested in teaching one as I already spend so much time at my computer. I have to say I enjoy changing into better clothes and talking with people face to face now and then! But I wish you the best with your work.

  4. Your post sent me to devour a handful of the local strawberries I bought yesterday. Nothing sweeter except the notion of spending time in your classroom. What lucky students.

    • What a sweet thing to say, not to overdo the sweetness concept. But then, why not? Glad you are enjoying the season’s berries!

  5. Oh, I wish I could take your verse novel course, Jeannine! What a fine education that would be!

    • And I’d sit right next to you, Sarah, soaking it all in. 🙂

      • It was a good class with learning, laughter, and a few tears from two writers. But how wonderful if both of you were around that table!

  6. “Delphiniums are dong their very blue thing.” Love! xo

    • Nothing quite like that blue — I just have one plant in the corner — need to remember to plant more at the right time. I hear some gardeners think ahead. xo

  7. To “take a very short view of what’s around me” is such good advice. Thank you for the reminder.

    • This spring I drove past a neighbor who’s close to 90, bending into a magnolia blossom. Later I saw her at the P.O. and told her I was moved. She laughed. “Every single blossom is a joy.” I try not to forget! Hope you’re well at this busy time of year and are looking forward to a summer break!

  8. Jeannine, it’s always a treat to read your words. I appreciate not only what you feel about everything from characters in a book to cows in a pasture, but also your gift of describing how you feel. I’m sure most of us can relate to how you perceive and process the world around you, but few of us can write with such precise skill and luminous beauty. I get all dreamy and think of flute music and birds’ wings and clouds. Thank you.

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