Back to Work


The Tin Woodman as illustrated by William Wallace Denslow (1900) in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum














I’m back after end-of-the-school-year madness, an awful stomach virus, and a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Italy. I hadn’t intended to take such a long break from writing, but one thing after another made it difficult to focus. I don’t know about you, but after breaks like these I find it hard to get back to work. I feel like the Tin Woodman rusted and stranded in the forest. Where’s Dorothy with that can of oil? I was going to write that there is no Dorothy. I have only myself to get these rusty joints in motion. But that’s not entirely true. There are quite a few Dorothy’s out there. The two I turn to most often are Laura Purdie Salas and Miss Rumphius. When I’m stiff and need to get moving, I go to them for a squirt of oil.

This week Miss Rumphius prompted her readers to write a list poem. Her model was a list of all the reasons she hasn’t been able to write lately. Here’s my reply:


Things to do with Poems

Read them.
Read them out loud.
Read them when you should be reading something else.
Read them to remind yourself you’re not alone.
Copy them out, in your own hand, fold them into little squares, and stuff them
in your shoe.
Tape them to the mirror, the wall, the dashboard, your forehead.
Write them when the spring breaks ground.
Write them when you fear your chest will burst with all you stuff there.
Etch them on your brain.
Ink them on your arm following your veins.
Write them on the sidewalk in thick pink chalk.
Watch them dissolve and run off in the rain.
Pick their cotton shreds from your lint screen.
Recite them so the clock on the back wall can hear you.
Hide them in books and backpacks and pillowcases so someone else can find them.
Whisper them in the dark.


Yesterday, Laura Salas posted a mysterious blue image on her 15 words or less blog. Here’s my response:

blue blood flows
through sweeping skies
delivering life
to weary eyes


Ah, much better. I think I can move my arm again.
So, fellow poets, what do you do to get back to work after a break?
For more Poetry Friday visit Keri Recommends.
See you next week.

(c) 2013, Elizabeth Steinglass, all rights reserved

16 replies
  1. Janet F.
    Janet F. says:

    Hi Liz,
    Love, love, love your list poem!! I need to get onto Laura’s site more frequently. Love it, but skipped reading your blue poem as I always like to write mine before I share! Have you tried David Harrison’s W.O.M. poems? That’s a good one, too, I think. Sorry about the stomach thing and happy about the Italy trip! Sooooo jealous about that. Happy writing.

    • lsteinglass
      lsteinglass says:

      You were there when I wrote, sitting right on my shoulder. I could hear you talking about kids and poetry.

      • Janet F.
        Janet F. says:

        Ah…..I was thinking about all that reciting! I like to recite Lake Isle of Innisfree to myself whenever I might be stressed, it just brings me peace! So many poems, so little time!! How nice to think I could fit on your shoulder, ha ha ha!! But nonetheless, it is nice to feel a connection to such a kindred soul! Really, LOVE the poem. I am going to keep it and refer to it, hope you don’t mind!!!

  2. Tara
    Tara says:

    Welcome back! Sometimes, we just need a break from everything at the end of the school year, and lucky that your Dorothys were right there to pull you back into the flow. I loved “Things to do with poems” – a must-share with my kiddos when school begins. Thank you!

    • lsteinglass
      lsteinglass says:

      Hi Tara,
      I must have really needed a break because I felt absolutely no desire to write.
      Happy to hear you’d like to share my poem,

  3. Buffy Silverman
    Buffy Silverman says:

    Now I’m wondering what poems would be best to stuff in my shoes. This line made me laugh, as did the picking shred from the lint filter (but what if I wear sandals today??)
    Your Italy trip sounds wonderful…probably worth taking a poetry break for that!

  4. readingtothecore
    readingtothecore says:

    Your poem makes me want to go out and write a poem in chalk on the driveway! I love your analogy of your writing community providing the oil you needed to get writing again. Thanks for sharing!

  5. margaretsmn
    margaretsmn says:

    Your muscles are in great shape! Loved this list poem. I read it aloud to my writing/ teacher friend and then we discussed how the school system is stifling this type of creative expression. We will continue to fight the good fight. If I have to, I will tape poems to my students’ foreheads and whisper them when no one is looking. Thanks for sharing and welcome back!

  6. Carol
    Carol says:

    So glad you are back! Love, love, love your list poem. It would be perfect to share with kids on an early Poetry Friday! Thanks so much!


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