Tag Archives: poetry

Teachers Can and Do

I always hated, and never believed,  that old chestnut that teachers are people who cannot actually do what they teach–nonsense! Teachers are those who share with us the technology (so to speak) of the art or craft  they have fallen in love with. They want to share with us what they love, share the how-to and the mystery of it.

They become educators when they draw out of us our desires to pursue a field to the limit of our ability, usually thanks to their support, inspiration, and ministrations of technique and method.

As a working journalist, story performer and more I want to share with others what I have learned and to inspire others to follow their dreams in whatever field they desire–esp in

writing and story performance. Yep, I talk and write for audiences. It’s that simple!

This month I have had the opportunity to be a teacher and to share my love of these two modes of communication on Donna Washington’s Blog, in Ruby for Women Magazine (writing only in that one. March starts a three-part series for those who want to get started in writing) and here, on this blog by reminding you that I have two new publications out this month–My children’s book, Rosa’s Shell and my book of poems, Languid Lusciousness with Lemon.

PS Today the literative.com site has one of my writings up as the prose winner of their winter contest!


Do check it out!

I’m happy to come and and talk to your school or group about writing (for adults, for children, poetry) story performance (or to give a story performance!)

Please do contact me and let me know if you would like me to come! Those who do, if they are fortunate enough also share what they know by teaching!


Good Things Worth Waiting For

Finishing Line Press has informed me that my book will be at least 8 weeks late–today is the day it was supposed to come out.

I just got my galleys on Monday and am sending them back on Tuesday the 17th, checking  and rechecking.

Please be patient!




A Review of my Poetry Book!

This issue of Righter Quarterly, Winter 2016 carries a review of my soon-to-be published poetry chap book, Languid .. with Lemon from Finishing Line Press”


Here is the review, but please do check out the entire magazine–you can purchase it on Amazon. It contains many wonderful articles, recipes, and poems (some by me!)



Languid Luciousness With Lemon.

By Joan Leotta

Reviewed by Elizabeth Silance Ballard

I must admit that I have never read a great deal of poetry. I believe it has something to do with the requirement during my junior year of high school to memorize a minimum of 100 lines of poetry. I chose to memorize some of the works of Emily Dickinson and Edna St. Vincent Millay and loudly declared to anyone who would listen that they were my“favorite poets.” However, when that year was over and the memorization requirement met, I rarely looked at a poem.

When I received Joan Leotta’s latest book of poetry and was asked to review it, I thought of umpteen reasons why almost anyone on the planet was more qualified to review this volume than I but I turned to the first poem anyway. I was hooked. I could not put the book down.

In poetry, there is no story line, no plot, to keep us interested and turning the pages. The poet has to be a master with words, with imagery, with alliteration so that the reader is, at once,captivated with feelings, emotions, and/or memories. Joan Leotta is such a master. Her poems

are of few words but each word is carefully chosen and evokes such nostalgia, such a longing for the simpler times. Yet, she is showing that we can still enjoy and appreciate the simple things in our own lives.

With my first reading of the poem, “Languid Luciousness With Lemon,” I smiled. I,

too, love farmers markets. The food is always so fresh and the combined smells of all the fruits and vegetables make me want to grab a big basket and start filling it to the brim. The poet,however, is in no such rush as she imagines slicing the peaches and how they will look on a pretty plate at home. With this and all her poems in this volume, she pulls us into an appreciation of the simple pleasures of life. I was reminded of my junior literature class and of Mrs. Sandlin telling us that poets look at life differently. “They focus and their work can help us focus and examine the various aspects of life. We don’t have to run helter skelter trying to do so much all the time. Sometimes we can learn more just by focusing.”

Reading this book many decades later, I realize now what Mrs. Sandlin was trying to teach us back then. All of Joan’s poems are about the simple, yet so important, aspects of our lives.In “Apples at Nonna’s,” we can identify her childhood eagerness and anticipation of a family outing, the comfort of family traditions, the joys of possibilities. I believe one of my very favorites is “Back Porch Morning.” For a few minutes, I was sitting on my own grandmother’s back porch basking in the joy of just being with her. This is what good poetry does, I believe. It brings up feelings and memories and helps us to see and feel them in other ways, too.

Much of Joan’s work centers on the family such as in “Sampling Oysters” in which she tells of going to Prince Edward Island with her daughter and sampling oysters in various places.She recognizes in the poem that the real pearl gained from the oyster outing was their togetherness.

Likewise, she speaks of her son who, during spring break of his senior year, they went to Kill Devil Hills on the outer banks of North Carolina where he made his first solo flight in a hang glider. The poem reflects her wistfulness in the realization that this son was making only the first of many solo adventures in his life and would soon be moving into true adulthood, out of the safety of family.

On a humorous note, anyone who grew up with biscuits on the table will readily identifywith the poem, “In Rhapsodic Praise of Biscuits.” Oh, the sheer near-ecstasy of a hot biscuitwith soft butter, or jelly or honey! She brought back the memory of my own mother’s biscuits—hard, crusty and perfectly brown on the outside with a warm softness on the inside—and Daddy’s frequent comment, “Good eatin’, Honeybunch!”

No doubt, this little book of poetry will arouse memories of your own special moments inlife and will be on our bookshelves for a long time to come.

National Poetry Month and Gardening


So, this post is doing dual duty. I hope it will keep you in mind for gardening. Yesterday I turned in the first deliverable on my book, Summer in a Bowl. Picture books are a sort of long form narrative poetry. Thus the connection.

Also, gardening and story or poem prompts–obvious connection there. Prompts are like seeds for a story or poem. Plant one on a page and they can give your mind a jump start. Apply the hard work of writing around this (akin to weeding and watering) to harvest a finished poem or story! Voila!

My usual monthly post on Suzanne Lurience’s working writer blog will go up  in a few days.

Here is the bonus prompt for Poetry Month–seven one word prompts for poems–of course if you can squeeze an entire story out of one of these–huzzah to you!

Seven April Poem Prompts


2. Roses

3. Redbud

4. Iris

5. Late


7. Walk













A Peek into the Creative Process

So, I am participating in the Tupelo Press 30/30 again this February.

Each day I will be posting a new poem–obviously these fresh creations have not gone through the usual agonizing revisions that characterize most of my work.

These are raw–amazing what some others do at even the raw stage of art, but for me, this process is a great challenge, a time to have , albeit virtual an increased friendship with other poets. There are nine of us doing this each month and I have bonded with my group of nine already…well some.. and hope to connect with the others as the month goes on.

You can learn all about the project and how to support the work of poets in general by making a contribution to Tupelo Press–in my name if you do it this month, please!

Here is the site!





Late, so late, white rabbit cries!

I will be a bit late, still doing the poems for Tupelo, have other deadlines , but I do have my topic–inspired by my work with Tupelo Press


then hit on the 3030 project’
My poems are on each day, listed in alphabetical order

Form and Technique

Warning–this is a longish entry

Find the Right Form, Then Make it Look Easy with your Technique

That’s really what good writing and good performing are all about. Finding the right form for the expression of your ideas and then making it as if it were completed with ease.

This is how I often feel--life is like meeting waves.

This is how I often feel–life is like meeting waves.

In performance the right form can mean, using puppets, props, degree of audience involvement, length of performance, using the fourth wall, interacting with the audience, live, film, music, and more. In writing form runs the gamut from poem to flash fiction to short stories, novels, essays , creative non-fiction, standard non-fiction and then there is the whole genre thing—literary, mystery, humor, and more. Often, the creative thought chooses its own form somewhat like the Harry Potter concept of the wand choosing the wizard.

Which brings me to what I am going to share with you today. I am not sharing the work itself because it will be produced in February but has not yet been published.

The name of the work, now a ten-minute play, is “Pinpoint Wisdom” It first saw the light of page about five years ago as a short story. I wrote it as a challenge to myself, to those in the creative world who were slamming my entries to various short story contests, rejecting them out of hand because they were not “literary” fiction. I decided to try my pen in this genre. The saying/ question, “How many angels are on the head of a pin?” came to mind. I like this because it seems deep but in working out my tale

The story came into being as a dialogue heavy work in which I determine that the wrong question is being asked by th echaracters. My critique group liked it. Using their comments, I polished my story and sent it off, waiting to be embraced by the literary journal world. A few “reading fees” later, I determined that my cost was exceeding any benefit of seeing the tale published and put the story away for a while.

Various contests challenged me to remake it,–as an all-dialogue short, a poem, and more.. Still failed. Finally I saw the Ft. Point Channel contest. 10-minute play involving dance.
Hmmm, my characters dance in the story. I groaned. The discipline of play writing is not for the lazy or faint of heart. Because I ‘m a performer, I can shift focus to staging easily. But when I do it for myself, I don’t have to meet the conventions of stage formatting which is a pain in the neck to write for those not used to it.

Sigh. I researched the form, and doubled down . Hours later it was done—first draft that is. Then I polished and polished again. At last, I sent it in. Then, I forgot about it.

Amazement! My play was accepted and will now be produced! The right format for this thought was stage. But it took me five years to find the right format.

And in shaping it, each time I had to submit a program that was well crafted enough for technique to promote the tale.. Technique should never be in the way/ It should be your box of tools. The house or finished piece should be smooth and lovely. All of those times you hit your finger with the hammer, that’s all forgotten,. The crooked nails you had to pull out and replace, the changes of size, color, etc—none of that should show in the finished product. Of course you have to know what kind of house (format) you are building. Each time I switched, I had to re-think technique, so the constant reshaping of my work was a graduate course in creative writing.
Persistence, attention to craft and to the demands of each form. Now my work will live in a different way, as a play! My first. A director and actors will interpret my work for an audience. As a performer, it makes me rethink how I shape and present the words of others when I am on stage. Humbling. Exciting!

So, don’t give up on a piece that is languishing in your computer. Maybe it should be presented in another form. Don’t skimp on the craft of that other form and format. No matter what, rethinking and reshaping will give your mind a creative boost.

See below for the playbill with my name in it as playwright—Mine is one of six ten-minute plays being offered on the Valentine’s weekend in Boston.

So, I just found the playbill in my email(draft). So exciting!
I cannot thank Ft. Point Theatre Channel enough for selecting my show, Pinpoint Wisdom!.
The play is being produced on Feb 13 and 14, contact for tickets(free) is below)
https://www.facebook.com/events/328361430684525/ is the FB page to find out more about everything…

Tickets for Channel/Dance are free. You can reserve a seat below or just show up and take a seat until we are full! Half the seats will be available at the door on a first-come, first-served basis.

Winston Salem Here I Come!

This is how I often feel--life is like meeting waves. Only by God's strength can I meet them with hope and love and strength

This is how I often feel–life is like meeting waves. Only by God’s strength can I meet them with hope and love and strength

Perhaps you haven’t heard of the Winston Salem, NC Poetry in Plain Sight Campaign. Let me tell you about it. Stores in that fine town have agreed, each month to display, on a poster, a POEM! Ordinary folks will be the audience for these poems, in an ordinary setting. To me this is the essence of poetry, sharing hearts and experiences with other people, other ordinary people like myself, elevating their day, touching their hearts. What an opportunity for a poet to have a wide audience! WOW! And this month, they accepted one of mine! (I tried four times before being accepted–or was it five?)

Needless to say, I am thrilled and humbled at the same time. For me this is quite an honor. One of my poetry heroines, Alice Osborn has had a poem in this–that I would also be considered is humbling and exciting. That so many people will see my work is also humbling and exciting. As many of you who follow this blog know, I’m also a performer, so getting to read my poem, to see reactions will be an over the top part of the experience and I hope all of you can come next week–see details of the occasion on my FB page. Because of where we live there are very few opportunities to go and hear poetry read and to read. I try to take advantage of what I can but let me tell you, I am very much looking forward to hearing the other winning poems (3 others) for this month read –as much as I am chuffed to read my own.

Thanks to the Brunswick County Poetry Group, to the North Carolina Writers Network, to the North Carolina Poetry Society, to my Writers Block Group, beloved husband, daughter and son, and to Sister Anne from Ursuline Academy and Sister Leonora at Our Lady of Mercy Academy for the encouragement and to my dearest Dad who loved to read and write poetry.


A Poem to Honor Joe

Recently I learned that the grief talk I give on how to recover your own life after a major life loss–The Day I learned to Fly, has been accepted by a grief anthology. Our loss (heaven; gin) was our son, Joseph Gabriel Leotta

Today I got the news that Tigershark, a British publication is live with my poem, Shenandoah, Valley of the Stars that I wrote to honor Joey, our son, who died in 2002. He loved those mountains and his time at Virginia Tech in the heart of the Shenandoah.

The poem is an adaptation of the Native American myth of the formation of the valley.

Tigershark #5 is now available to download from the site.

DS Davidson, Editor

Visit our site and download the ezine at


Secrets of the Brain–apply in raising children

Read an article today that said scientists studying the brain of Einstein have concluded that the two hemispheres of his brain were very well connected. I think this means thoughts flowed easily between his creative side and his logical side. This makes sense. Great discoveries come from prepared minds seasoned by and sparked by imagination. Maybe we cannot raise Einsteins but don’t forget to give your children a good dose of activities that feed the imagination–art, creative , music, dance, theater, and sports.

Don’t forget to add unstructured quiet time where they have no activities but plenty of books, and plain paper and art supplies. Take time for walks in the woods, the park, even the city where they see others, see trees and flowers and beauty there. Make time for volunteer activities where they learn to give. Musical instruments are good for these times as well. They can learn to sing and play for others

Getting those right and left brains together might not make them outstanding thinkers but it will help them to be better people, to understand others, to be compassionate, and maybe even to appreciate the creative work of God.