Back To The Petal, photo and all text c Irene O’Garden 2012

If you’d like to listen to this post, note that alas, due to file size limits, you’ll have to click again at the end to hear the poem. For the post itself, please click here:A Little Lettering

Poetry has been requesting my attention quite a bit lately. Above you see a fragment of a child’s poem, one of ten I hand-lettered on muslin for an upcoming event this Sunday at Constitution Marsh. If you look near the upper right corner of this page, you’ll find the link to my Calendar page, which goes into more detail about The Hudson Highlands Land Trust River of Words Poetry Trail (as well as the other upcoming poetic events which have buttonholed me.)

A moment of digression before the pith of my post: For the last few years, the Hudson Highlands Land Trust  has sponsored a regional River of Words program. River of Words is an national environmental literacy organization which seeks to connect children with their watersheds via poetry and art, and I am part of a great Land Trust team which offers free workshops in our local schools.

I was asked to choose ten poems from the hundreds generated in our programs and to help find a way to display them throughout  the exquisite landscape of the Marsh. I decided to letter them simply on large pieces of unbleached muslin, which will then be driftwood-weighted, twined and hung along the trail by my teammates.

I’ve had a sense of Christmas all week, knowing that the children who come on Sunday have a happy surprise in store. Seeing their poems floating in the trees and thrusting out of the ground will help them treasure their poetry and their landscape, and remind parents why both are so important.

It’s been a while since I have practiced calligraphy, and I’ve savored it this week. It’s been fun to be so close to fresh poetic imagination, and satisfying to letter the poems I midwived in the classroom. But the best part was this dawning realization: one of the fruits of age is the progressive retirement of the inner critic. In the heavenly silence that ensues, we can go back to enjoying the process, as children do constantly. I relished exploring the letters themselves. As designer Eric Gill said, letters are things, not pictures of things. Making them felt like putting forth little round berries and pointy leaves of my own.

My poem, Nonfiction, describes my earliest pleasure with letters. (This is the poem which recently won a 2012 Willow Review Award.) If you would like the written text of the poem, please contact Willow Review for a copy of the issue in which it appears.  If you would like to hear me read it now, please click here: Nonfiction


Is there a process you particularly enjoy?



May Field photo and text c Irene O'Garden 2012

I took this photo last night here in the Hudson Valley. Very pleased to say that a poem of mine, “Nonfiction,” has just received a Willow Review Award. Am using my prize money for a handsome new fountain pen, thus completing the poetic cycle.


Although I yearn to serve what is important, I am exhausted by Importances. Living that keyed-up, wired, efforty onrush of priorities— Alert! Important! Respond! Flash! Gone. Alert! Important! Respond! Flash! Gone. Alert! Important! Respond! Flash! Gone.  It’s not so much that we can’t hear ourselves think, but that we can’t hear ourselves ask questions.

The synaptic dazzle obscures the humility of questions. To pause seems unresponsive, anti-athletic—when you are tossed the ball, you are not to stand and question. You are to zen-monk it to the next player, to the goal, no thinking, just respond. We know the meaning of Game On!

Assuming questions are important, when exactly is Game Off? The 24/7 circadian jumble, the clamor for attention– I recognize this world. It’s like my urgent childhood as one of seven children, when it was psychic life or death to be noticed, to be valued, to be important. But how important is important now?

What is important? For me, flow. The flow of ink across a page, for one. The ebb of ink, important also.  Have to stay with the ebb to go with the flow. Come to think of it, ebb is still flow, just backwards.

If flow is important, questions are important. They flow more abundantly and frequently than answers. If answers were The Answer, the Internet would be the answer. But while answers are meaningless without questions, unanswered questions still have meaning. The most meaningful questions of all have no answers.

Happily, most answers give rise to more questions, and the image of a grassy blossomy meadow arises. A field of inquiry. A natural landscape of the  mind.

There is abundance in a field. Noticed or not, plants seem happy in their world. Plants do not insist on their importance. They have no doubt of it.

What questions are you asking?



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