Becoming A Poet

Today I’m on my way to Saskatchewan to participate in a Sage Hill Poetry Colloquium. Anticipating my departure, I recalled several poetry landmark moments in my life, leading up to this one.

An image from the poem "You Are Old Father William"
  • As a child I loved Lewis Carroll’s “You Are Old Father William” so much I memorized it with no one telling me to do it.
  • As a teenager I was so taken with Carl Sandburg’s “Honey and Salt” I typed the poem out. I held onto it and have re-read it many times. (From a very different vantage point more than fifty years later, I still love it.)
  • A poem I wrote in 1968 got published in a newsletter produced by the church where I was a member of its youth group. Sadly I didn’t keep a copy.
  • As a young elementary school teacher, I encouraged my students to write poems (The “Goodbye Winter… Hello Spring” suggestion was a great success), and one year I even ran an after-school poetry club for the keeners.
cover of Honey and Salt - a new volume of poems by Carl Sandburg
cover of Norbert Nipkin
  • When my son was in Junior Kindergarten in 1979 he brought home Norbert Nipkin by G. Robert McConnell and Steve Pilcher. We read it together many many times.
  • In my 40s I belonged to a small poetry writing group that met often and travelled to Ottawa one spring for a Haiku Canada weekend.
  • In 1998 I submitted a handful of my poems to grain. I received lovely, hand-written turn-downs from the editors, J. Jill Robinson and Tim Lilburn — more encouraging of my efforts, I see now, than I recognized at the time.
  • In 2011 I delivered a keynote at CANSCAIP’s Packaging Your Imagination conference, entitled “An Intimate Examination of Sock Fluff.” It was structured around glimpses into my poetry-reading life from preschool to adulthood.
  • In November 2021 I sifted through a thick file of “scribblings,” became interested in focusing more of my attention on the writing of poetry, and wrote about what else was nudging me in that direction in a blog post.

Since then I’ve been doing what I can to develop my craft in this area: learning about different forms, reading lots of different poets, writing new poems of my own, and revising old ones. Writing friends, accomplished poets, and even a friend who happens to have worked as a poetry editor have offered help, ideas, and encouragement, sometimes in exchange for help with projects they’re working on.

Now, for the next ten days at Sage Hill, I’ll be immersed in poetry, learning all I can from Jane Munro and the other poets in the group that I’m thrilled to be part of. Most (if not all but me) are published poets — and not just in a church newsletter back in the 1960s either!

Learning to write well involves reading widely in your area of interest. So if you have a favourite poem, poet, or book of poetry to recommend, please help me out and pass it along as a comment on this post!

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Kathy Stinson is the author of the classic Red Is Best and the award-winning The Man with the Violin. Her wide range of titles includes picture books, non-fiction, young adult fiction, historical fiction, horror, biography, series books, and short stories. She has met with her readers in every province and territory of Canada, in the United States, Britain, Liberia, and Korea. She lives in a small town in Ontario.

Kathy Stinson


  1. Wendy Mason Geoghegan on May 17, 2023 at 12:12 pm

    Wonderful work you are doing. I have 2 favourites to suggest but I am not sure if writing them down is possible. Any suggestions as to how to send you the poetic words?

  2. Kathy Stinson on May 17, 2023 at 11:37 pm

    Thanks Wendy. Maybe, if you can find the poems online, you can Copy them and Paste them as comments here. Or else through the Contact form on my site. Or just tell me the titles an I can look them up? Would love to know what poems you’ve loved.

    • Wendy Mason Geoghegan on May 18, 2023 at 3:32 pm

      Two more of my published poems that might be of interest to you as you embark on your wonderful quest in poetry. They were published by The Cranbrook Review, Spring 1990 edition.
      Sequined stars tarnish when they are worn,
      And fall,
      Autumn leaves lose their lustre when their dance ends,
      And fall,
      Birds soar free amidst startling skies until the hunter’s gun hits,
      And fall,
      Balloons lilt loosely upwards before air leaks,
      And fall,
      People stumble on stairs, steps, curbs, toys,
      And fall,
      Streaming like stars, zooming like birds,
      I fell.

  3. Wendy Mason Geoghegan on May 18, 2023 at 3:09 pm

    Woman With Flower by Naomi Long Madgett, The Good Angel by Rafael Alberti and this one I wrote when I buried my little daughter…For Tamara…On the day you died, my little one, a Maple tree beside the window of the nursery that you never saw, left its gift at our doorstep…watercolours of reds, yellows, oranges and browns. Pine boughs brushed against the windowpanes in the room that was meant for you. Soothingly soft and slow in cadence they sent their spirits to ease my body pain. The night star was a picture of your passing. I lit a candle that was tucked away for your arrival, knowing that you would see the flickering light. “The next time life will be better,” I whispered to you, and as I did the flame’s dance became a slow rhythm beating whispers of sighs that dripped from my breasts.

  4. Wendy Mason Geoghegan on May 18, 2023 at 3:35 pm

    Second poem published.
    Waiting Waters
    Even the tears fall differently,
    Dull, lifeless, slow,
    Rivulets of weighted water,
    Finding the creases of a face,
    Arroyos of despair.

  5. Wendy Mason Geoghegan on May 18, 2023 at 3:38 pm

    Hope my poems got through to you. I look forward to everything you write, always. Wendy

    • Kathy Stinson on May 18, 2023 at 4:18 pm

      Thank you for sharing your recommendations, Wendy, and especially for your moving poems. Good inspiration for me as I embark on the next stage of my poetry journey.

      Thanks also for being such a devoted fan. Every writer should be so lucky.

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