The Poet’s Craft Blog

Girl Villanelle, poem by Pauletta Hansel (ME, AT 17 Poetry and Prose Series)

Thank you to Silver Birch Press for including this poem in their cool “Me at 17” Project~

Silver Birch Press

pauletta-with-windy-hair-at-17aGirl Villanelle
by Pauletta Hansel

She’s still there, that girl,
the one I was and hoped to leave behind.
I am forever loosening the ties.

The only life she could imagine for herself
was one she’d heard already in a song.
She’s still there. That girl

took more than her share and left scattered
on the table all that could have fed her.
Hell-bent, she was, on loosening the ties.

I am not ready yet to claim her as my own.
She thought her body was the price of being seen.
She’s still there, that girl,

bound and shivering inside her own smooth skin.
I’ll say for her what she could not; that’s how
I’m loosening the ties

and slipping through the doorway
from the past—I won’t return alive.
Though she’s still there, that girl.
Me, I’m loosening the ties.

SOURCE: “Girl Villanelle” appears  in the author’s collection Tangle (Dos…

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Walnut Hills: And That’s Our Story

Last week I spent time with some amazing people from Walnut Hills–without ever leaving my Paddock Hills home. Cincy Stories is one of our newer local arts treasures. They offer opportunities for folks to tell their stories around Cincinnati, and last summer opened a storefront in Walnut Hills. (I got to visit Shawn Braley, John William and Chris Ashwell there earlier in the month, and sure enough, a guy came in on his way home and said, “Do I have a story for you!”)

Cincy Stories also has a really cool website which not only announces their storytelling events, but includes the audio of many stories they have  collected, both in their home neighborhood of Walnut Hills and from some of their live events.

So, that’s where I come in. Last week, I spent a lovely afternoon on the chaise lounge in my office listening to Walnut Hills stories and writing down quotes that stood out to me. And then (as I am wont to do) I made a poem from those lines. I like the poem well enough, but really, you need to hear the stories.  I encourage you to check out the Street Stories section of their website and listen for yourself. (I don’t like to play favorites, but I cried when I came to the end of Cecil Evans’ story and saw it was dedicated to his memory.)

Cincy Stories has a live event coming up on February 7 at MOTR Pub.  I hope to see you there–and/or telling your own story at a future Cincy Stories event.

Here’s the poem. I hope you enjoy it!

And That’s Our Story

As a little kid I was always planting seeds.
Just to be growing things—
what a miraculous activity to be involved in.
Walnut Hills is a proud neighborhood.
We just want to add to that.
The problem is, we don’t know each other.
It’s harder to say, how can I be here for you,
how can I help lift you up?
When you have a passion for something
it makes it a lot easier to do it.
Your passion should drive you to address the issue,
not walk away from it.
Over time Walnut Hills has become a part of me.
I’m having a good time.
We have a lot of talent here.
My hope is not to see that lost.
People talk about what we don’t have—
but I like to talk about what we do have.
I know a lot about this area, and it’s looking great.
My million dollar question is,
do the people living here feel like the change is for them?
You see, there’s maybe something you can do to help.
Just listen to people, that’s all you can do.

If the earth makes everything, doesn’t it make your character?
My Dad, bless his heart, knew that environment was important to children.
It’s easier to get in trouble; it’s harder to get out.
He gave me a chance.
One of the things a lot of people don’t have growing up
is two parents pouring into them,
telling them what you can do,
what you can achieve.
You have to take a “till death do you part”
vow to your children.
It’s about how to help your children
be the best parents they can be.
My mother is the one who got me off into who I am today.
I don’t deserve it, but for whatever reason, I got it.
I just want to share it with other people.
Don’t ever let no one tell you what you can’t do.

One word I like to use is gritty.
I’m just like a little pebble—big as the world is,
I’m just a little bitty spot.
I know it’s not possible to see the end
of every road you start down.
You never know how life’s gonna go.
But you can make contact with one another
in a way to change a person’s whole life.
We all live in community together
and we all get to do life together,
and that’s what makes it home.
If you stay true to what you love,
it stays there.
You put a seed in the ground
and within that seed is all the information
it needs to grow.

Composed from Cincy Stories’ Walnut Hills Street Stories
by Cincinnati Poet Laureate Pauletta Hansel

Downtown Walking Sonnets

In October 2016 The Mercantile Library graciously hosted a group of us for a Cincinnati Walking Sonnet workshop—a new Poet Laureate project in which I invite poets to take a walk (with or without me) in one of our 52 neighborhoods, drafting a 14 line poem along the way. Seven sonnets were written as a result, and can be read here. From our seven poems I created an additional sonnet, Downtown Walking: A CompoSonnet. I hope you enjoy! And more than that, I hope it inspires you to write your own!

Downtown Walking: A CompoSonnet

Pink. That’s how I remember the windowed
stores with names of Cincinnati now gone,
with their long, tall windows, like a lighthouse.
Large clay pots of yellow marigolds grace
up the wrought iron balconies. Four ashen
Bengal striped soirées stumble through construction,
flirt with me, remind me of girlhood days.
My fountain is flowing thick with intentions.
Turn the corner to find the Renaissance –
the river beyond. My shadow lurks
in a grove of gingkoes along the highway,
their long skeletal fingers beseeching
for spare change. I balk, clam up, walk back past
pink bridge over the arcade – memory.
Composed by Pauletta Hansel with lines by Pauletta Hansel, Nina Knueve, Preeti Parikh and Susan Scardina. Read the full sonnets here.

I look forward to walking and writing with students from Moeller High School and Clark Montessori High School later this year. A full description of the Cincinnati Walking Sonnet Project can be found here, as well links to instructions for the sonnet walk and to an ever-growing group of poems written on these walks.

A New Year of Literary Events (Part 1)

Happy New Year to you, my Writer Friends. There are a number of literary events in January I want to share with you, plus ask you for ideas on Poetry Month activities I might support as Cincinnati’s Poet Laureate.

First the events:

I am thrilled to have been invited back to Tongue and Groove on Sunday, January 22, 5-8 pm at the Clifton House B&B. This quarterly Salon of music, literature, food and other arts is a gem of an event. I encourage you to check it out!


Clifton Salon #2 is Sunset Salons: Authors held the following Wednesday, January 25, at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center.  This Poet Laureate gig has brought me into some pretty interesting company. It will be fun talking about the writing life alongside journalists, novelists, a young adult writer—and even a politician!

Finally, I am always happy to go back to Thomas More College and work with my buddy Dick Hague. (Joined on Friday by our friends Mike Henson and Gerry Grubbs.)17aca_cwvp_dosmadres2

The Saturday, January 28 workshop should be a great time for writing in community with a mix of ages—TMC’s Honors Students will be joining us—hope you can come too! Rgistration info here.

And lastly in January—I’m aiming in 2017 to attend at least two literary events each month as audience/participant only. More if I can! In January, my two events are Chase Public’s The Star Spangled Banner: Chase Public Response Project XVIII on Thursday, January 19, 7 pm and the Master Class with Poet Denise Duhamel on January 25, 2017; 4:00 p.m. at University of Cincinnati’s Elliston Poetry Room, 646 Langsam Library Join me! (As always, these and other events are posted on the Poet Laureate Events Facebook Group page—with your help!)

Looking beyond January, the Thomas More College reading and workshop is part of a series offered by Dos Madres Press in celebration of its new anthology, Realms of the Mothers, supported with funding from the Ohio Arts Council and ArtsWave. I’m also attaching the complete line-up of events. Save the dates! And I do have one opening in my Practice of Poetry workshop (women only). I believe that Memoir is full, but let me know if you are interested as I am confirming the last spot now. And we’ll start promoting From Draft to Craft soon if you want to call dibs.

Now for Poetry Month planning. I’m in the early stages of conversation with a couple of organizations, specifically The Hive in Northside and Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, about how I might support their programming. I know there are a number of other planned events—including the Public Library’s Poetry in the Garden Series. What else would you like to see happen—and how might we work together to, in the words of Jean Luc Picard, “Make it so”? And chime in on this as well: I’d like to post a poem by a Cincinnati area writer each day in April on the Poet Laureate Facebook page. These could be links to published poems or unpublished poems individual poets give permission to post. I would send out a call late February or March as to have enough to work with. What do you think? Please let me hear from you!


Pauletta Hansel (Cincinnati Poet Laureate)


Poems and Drawings by the Young Artists of McKie

Yesterday was the last of my visits to the Cincinnati Rec Centers for 2016. This time I had the joy of working with the little guys, mostly first and second graders in the Afterschool Program at McKie Recreation Center in Northside. The energy bounced from their chairs to the ceiling and back again! Here’s the poem we composed together, along with some samples of their original work. Enjoy!



 by McKie Recreation Center’s Afterschool Program (compiled by Cincinnati Poet Laureate Pauletta Hansel)

All my stuff is there.
I see my Mom cooking.
I like watching TV.
I like my spider.
I was sad because my scorpion died
when he was 10.
I love my hedgehog, my phone
and flying kites.
I love my house.

Our Homes: a Poem of Thanks

I am thankful for the chance to write with the young people of Pleasant Ridge Recreation Center just a day or two before Thanksgiving. May we all appreciate our homes and our families as they do.

Our Homes

by Pleasant Ridge Recreation Center’s Afterschool Program
(compiled by Cincinnati Poet Laureate Pauletta Hansel)

My home.
When I step one foot on the floor,
I feel happy.
I feel the air on my face
and the coolness.
Home is where I hear my dog bark.
It’s where my tablet is.
I also like books.
I can see my very messy room,
with clothes and leggos.
I smell hot dogs
and the fall leaves
and the steam of the water in the shower.
When I get home
I take a long, hot shower.
I feel good. I love home.
Home is my little sister drawing on my face.
When I picture home,
I see me, my mom and my family.
Home is the best.
There’s nothing like it.
If we moved, I’d really miss it.
I can sometimes feel our cat who has died
watching over my family and me.
Home is my bro watching TV.
My favorite thing at home is dinner.
When I think of home I taste tacos.
I like food!
When I think about home,
I think about my brilliant mom,
my loving dad and my tricky brother
and I picture what I’ll look like
leaving the house when I’m older.
I see home in the sunset.
I feel my family’s warm hug.
I touch my dog’s head.
This is why I love my home.
Home is like smelling your favorite food,
or like dreaming that your house is made of candy.
Sometimes it smells like people (good or bad.)
Home is my favorite place in the world.
No matter what.
No matter where.
Home is the place you find your heart.
When I think of my home,
I smell hot popcorn popping.
When my family cooks,
it smells like I’m at home.
Home. It is where I live, and love.
Home smells like pumpkin pie.
Home feels like a feather.
Home feels like love,
especially when my family is with me.
When I am at home,
I tell myself that if it weren’t for my Mom,
I wouldn’t be here.
Home makes me feel safe,
because I know my family is protecting me
and that I have a roof over my head.
And I hope everyone has a place to call home.


Write Me, I’m Yours

What I like best about being Cincinnati Poet Laureate is connecting with other writers, so how could I resist the invitation on the Facebook page of Write Me, I’m yours!: Write with us!

Write Me, I’m yours! is a community-based effort founded by writer Michelle Dunford, who seeks to unite writers within various communities through the use of poetry, writing prompts and journal entries, and a wider audience of read-arounds and blogs. Michelle’s original project, developed as her Capstone Project for her graduation from Starfire University was to bring together writers and their words, through the placement of communal journals in a variety of locations in Cincinnati (schools, coffee shops, churches, senior citizens, libraries,) with the hope of inspiring creative responses to all the big questions in the universe (and maybe some small ones, too). An offspring of this is a bi-monthly writing circle held every other Tuesday at the Rohs Café in Clifton Heights. I had the honor of writing with Michelle and her group of writers this month, including Eva Lewandowski who helps guide the group. The poem that follows includes writing from each of us. You can connect with these fine writers on their community Facebook page at

Being Home

I feel most myself
putting one step after another,
the same two feet
measuring out thousands of footsteps.
I lift my feet to the crazy change itself,
to the sound of music.
I hear the river,
a pack of coyotes having a howl.
Overhead a turkey buzzard
lazily swirls on an updraft
in a cerulean blue sky—
absolutely clear—no puffs, whatsoever.
I shuffle up the stone steps,
like climbing out of a dark cave.
As I meander along there are
crashes in the crisp fallen leaves,
two black squirrels
hopscotching one another
over the tree, and all
that seems to exist
is one step after another.
I love the flat places best.

I do not feel whole unless I feel safe.
When sharing space and struggles
with my best friend,
her empathy pantomimes my heart,
pushes through the turnstile of ancient iron bars,
refilling it from that drought between visits.
My baby and my best friend, my sister.
We sang every night;
we sang ourselves to sleep;
we sang on the swing set;
we sang in whispers and giggles,
and I feel giddy listening.
We breathed each other in,
the person who was used to being
the only one in the room,
working its way to two.
It’s a strange mystical time.
In my twilight state,
I hear my dad whisper,
“You are Beautiful.”
But Mom, seeing mom—
this is home.

The places that are sacred to me
are places of reflection—water and sky,
past and present,
mirrored glass and pen in hand.
My important places.
The feel of the page
as I turn one—crisp and thick.
One syllable following the next.
The places that are sacred to me
are those where we come together
to go inward.
A real place is inside of us,
our partial-particle-becoming-whole self.
Listen! Listen!
We are not alone.

Composed by Cincinnati Poet Laureate Pauletta Hansel with lines by Ellen Austin-Li, Michelle Dunford, Pauletta Hansel, Daveen Knue, Nat Kutcher, Paula Kutcher, Eva Lewandowski, Preeti Parikh, Claudia Reilly, Susan Scardina, Annette Januzzi Wick and Deidra Wiley—Write Me I’m Yours, November 15, 2016.