On Poetry

Poetry Open Mic at Grounds Central Station in Historic downtown Manassas April 2014
Poetry Open Mic at Grounds Central Station in Historic downtown Manassas April 2014

In April I committed myself to writing a poem a day for National Poetry Month. I made it! Thirty poems. Not only that, I participated in a second open mic at Grounds Central Station in Manassas and read eight of them. One was the result of a poetry workshop I took from Katherine Gotthardt, a published poet in Prince William County.

Now, this Friday night, May 2, I’ll be reading more of my poems as part of the Gallery Walk in Historic downtown Manassas. I’ll be among the members of Write by the Rails members reading our works at The Things I Love, a shop on Center Street.

I don’t presume to be a great writer or poet – I don’t have a book out. But after having the honor of seeing the Poet Laureate of Virginia, Sofia Starnes, read from her work in Woodbridge on Tuesday, I think it’s important to know that anyone should be able to get up in their community and have their voice heard in a creative way.

Sofia’s poems are earthy and honest and real. She stood in the middle of Bistro L’Hermitage on Occoquan Road and read them. I bought her book, The Nearest Poem Anthology, and when I got home I skimmed through it to see that people from all over the Commonwealth had written to her, picked a poem and told her why they thought that poem meant something to them. She selected the ones that ended up in the anthology. Two members of Write by the Rails are in there – Kristy Feltenberger Gillespie, who is a middle school guidance counselor in Bristow, and June Forte, who teaches at Northern Virginia Community College’s Woodbridge campus.

Sofia Starnes, Poet Laureate of Virginia, 2012-2014. Photo by Chris Lehto, Prince William Living magazine
Sofia Starnes, Poet Laureate of Virginia, 2012-2014. Photo by Chris Lehto, Prince William Living magazine

Anyway, Sofia was in Woodbridge to bring attention to the media announcement of the panel that is going to select the first Prince William Poet Laureate. The deadline to apply is May 10 – so if you are a poet in Manassas, Manassas Park or Prince William County, Virginia and you’re interested in applying for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, the deadline is May 10 – go to http://www.pwcartscouncil.org and click on “news” to download the forms.) The Prince William Poet Laureate will be announced on June 14 at Tackett’s Mill Lakeside in Woodbridge, Va.

So here is one of my poems – the result of the workshop with Katherine Gotthardt:

Ridge Walk

Color kicks off the peak leaf season
On the Blue Ridge Parkway
Loosed from gated retirement communities
The ladies with their leisure jackets
The men with their plaid flat-fronts
Barely pause their luxury cars in caravans
at the crowded overlooks
To snap quick iPhone images
In their winding rush to line up for tables
at Milepost 176
Where water pleads over wooden wheel
And the buckwheat stacks and country ham
Call them back to Dan, Virginia
and Mabry Mill.

I think you miss the real mountains
When your feet never leave the asphalt
Don’t they remember boots hugging the trail?
Breaking the first step of morning
with dewy webs against cool skin?
Fighting loose rock to gain foot holds
Avoiding the stinging nettles,
Soaking sweat with bandanas,
Breath hot, straining
Ascending, twisting, pushing on
The lofty vista, and finally, the easy ridge walk
Spotting a deer – shh! – watching
With mutual respect as the wild thing
crunches brown against green
And leaps away
Majestic with muscular power?

I’d rather hike, my love
Pick blueberries, stir up pancakes,
Cook over a small fire
Sleep under the stars
Feel the mountains
Beneath me.

Cindy Brookshire
April 18, 2014


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