A Poem a Day




Reading “Poison Ivy” and “Aqua Motion” at the fourth Friday Open Mic at Hula Girl Café in Selma, NC.

Yay! My poem, “Flowers Bruise Too Easily,” and short story, “Saturday Morning Skate,” have been accepted for publication in The Virginia Writers Club Centennial Anthology. Release is targeted for VWC’s annual meeting in November 2017 to kick off the club’s 100th year in 2018. I am so happy!


It’s like plucking a ripe tomato I grew to give to a neighbor. Something I nurtured took flight beyond me. My writing and my tomatoes have wings!

Every April, which is National Poetry Month, I like to write a poem a day. I started in 2014, when Katherine Gotthardt led a poetry workshop in historic Manassas, Virginia. I wrote one with Katherine. Then I wrote another. And another! I filled April with poems. I didn’t realize I had them inside me. Now, April has become like poetry-hatching season.

This month, I’m encouraging everyone I know to join me and write a poem a day. In fact, every Thursday this month (April 6, 13, 20 and 27), from 4 to 6 pm I’ll be hosting a “Coffee with a Poet” at Grapes & Grounds, a coffee shop at 135 S Third Street in Smithfield, North Carolina. Hang out with me over coffee or a glass of wine and we’ll write poetry together or just talk about writing. I’ll have lots of poetry templates and writing prompts on hand, thanks to tips from poet John Dutton, a nominee for Prince William Poet Laureate and facilitator for Spilled Ink, an open mic at Jirani Coffeehouse in Manassas, Virginia.

Then, on Friday, April 28 from 7 to 9 pm, come to the fourth Friday Open Mic at Hula Girl Café, 103 S Raiford Street in Selma, North Carolina and sign up to read your poems! This open mic is hosted by Cornerstone Writers, a new writing group in Selma, facilitated by Susanne Pote of Platform Pounce, Hula Girl’s next door neighbor. Come with an appetite — Hula Girl is famous for their applejacks (fried fruit pies). Jennifer serves them with scoops of ice cream and whipped cream on top.

Meanwhile, here’s a poem I wrote last year. I carried wallet-sized copies of it in my purse and handed them out at one of those business after hours that the Smithfield-Selma Chamber of Commerce sponsored. Taking poetry everywhere!


Drive-thru Poem

As workday morning rises

Cars ring-a-round drive-thru lanes

Of a nearby fast food restaurant.

It doesn’t matter which chain.


They would circle Dante’s Inferno

If the poet advertised

Bacon egg and cheese biscuits

On the way down.


I’m hungry for a poem

But there’s no window for that.

Not even a pizza poem, vegan verse

Or raisin rhyme.


I’m left to bake my own

Jotting it down on the back

Of a Val-u-pak coupon

While waiting at lights for change.


I find it weeks later, squirreled

In the glove compartment

Of a 16-year-old Saturn

In need of two new tires.

A gift, like a coupon

That never expires.


Cindy Brookshire

NaNoWriMo…What Now?

Yay! I’m a winner!

I finished NaNoWriMo by validating that my manuscript has more than 50,000 words.

So did thousands of others.

Now I can file it away – like two previous manuscripts – or I can edit this one, really edit it.
Writer Chuck Wendig sums it up in his own “now that it’s over” blog post:

“If you keep thinking about it even though you know you’re not supposed to? Then maybe you have something there.”

I’m still thinking about it.

I’ve been thinking about it since March; that’s when I participated in the Rising Writers Workshop in Manassas, Virginia. Several Woodbridge Senior High School students, including Rachuel Hanley, challenged me to be “fearless and raw” by writing a spoken word poem and then performing it.

I did. I wrote “Church Donuts,” a poem about binge eating disorder. In April I read it in front of an open mic crowd at Deja Brew Coffeehouse in Haymarket. It was exhilarating.

In August, at a Virginia Writers Club symposium in Charlottesville, Sara Robinson opened a panel discussion on the “modern state of poetry” by asking: “Where are all the activist poets, standing on street corners, shouting about…[change]?”

I shared about my “Church Donuts” poem, and speaking out about binge eating disorder. The reaction – laughter, then nods – told me I had connected with an audience again.

Later, in the hall, I was talking with Rene Ordoobadi, the VWC’s 2014 teen scholarship winner, when a woman interrupted us.

“You’re the one who wrote the church donuts poem. You need to do something with that,” she said. I committed right there to writing a book.

In September, while driving out to Kansas and back to Virginia on vacation, I filled a green notebook with random thoughts and impressions, the bones of what would become my manuscript. Even so, that notebook would have been swallowed up by life events, had I not kept it in my handbag. On that same trip, my husband accepted a job offer to North Carolina. Over the next nine weeks, our entire world was turned upside down as we prepared my home of three decades for sale, downsized after two grown children and prepared to move the rest of our belongings to another state. I could easily have pushed NaNoWriMo aside.

But instead, on November 1, I logged into the national website and started writing on a blank document. The notebook became a GPS to my manuscript, and I used the 30 days of pep talks, camaraderie and tracking stats to not only finish the first draft of the manuscript, but also to transition to a new life in a new house in a new state. I was no longer a freelance writer with clients and a business; I was an author. In the middle of all the chaos, I was able to knock out more than 50,000 words.

And like Chuck Wendig said, in oh so much more colorful language, now, on December 1, it’s up to me. The holidays present a whole new set of excuses not to face up to the hurdle of editing.

But I can’t stop thinking about “Church Donuts.”

I think I have something here.

Open Mic Night at Deja Brew



Last time Poets & Writers went live at Deja Brew

I streamed it from my computer at home

Now I’m in the center of the purple klieg lights

A few white papers heavy in my hand

That Jamaica You Crazy might just stop my heart

In front of all the people in this coffee shop

Waiting to hear my first amplified words.


I’ll tell you where I got the courage.

Last Saturday I was at the Rising Writers Workshop

In Old Town Manassas

And two young women

from Woodbridge Senior High School challenged me.


They said “Don’t ever be afraid to stand up

And say what you want to say. Be raw. Be fearless.

Like Nikki Giovanni.  Like Andrea Gibson.”


Easy to be out there when you’re 17. I’ll be 60 next month.

The middle years have pinched me into a corner

Until the waiter doesn’t even see my hand any more.


So I leaned into the mic and offered up my poems

Fresh as wheat bread turned out of the loaf pans

Thump them. Butter the crust.

Savor them for breakfast when you wake this morning

And remember Deja Brew.


Cindy Brookshire

April 4, 2014