Words That Burn

April is National Poetry Month, a time to celebrate the awesome things poets can do with 26 letters and some white spaces.   We asked some famous writers how they’d define poetry.  Here are a few of their responses.

“Poetry is thoughts that breathe, and words that burn”. –Thomas Gray.  “Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance”. –Carl Sandburg.  “Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful”. –Rita Dove.  “Poetry is a way of taking life by the throat”. –Robert Frost.

And Carol Ann Duffy said “You can find poetry in your everyday life, your memory, in what people say on the bus, in the news, or just what’s in your heart”.   Which is exactly what some of our own OLLI members have done for us here.


They’re tearing down the house
in the next block.
First the inside goes
tiny rooms disclosed
as on a stage set.
Trampling the front yard
a yellow dragon hungry
articulated neck
dips, swings, rises up
head opening wide jaws
with callous teeth
that clamp shut when its mouth
has its fill of debris.

Next day yellow caution tape
strung between two palm trees;
you can see right through the shell
to the back yard,
see what you’d never seen before,
weren’t meant to see:
falling fence, tottering shed.
Now there are just three walls, no roof;
soon will come the coup de grace – –
house and history gone,
weeds flourishing, vines
creeping over land where
once the house stood;
beetles and palmetto bugs
will have dominion once again
reclaiming, for a while, their land.

–Brenda Tipps

Sunday Morning Meditation

Jogging down the path, I don’t know
my body. My feet hit ground
but they step on clouds. The air
bonds with my breath.

A heady scent follows,
feels like peace. Oaks and pines are
more than trees. My muse
is yellow warmth and the hug of blue
sky, the sigh of music from a solitary dove,
rabbits dashing to find safer space.

As I float, unaware of distance,
I see myself from the inside out
and throw open the doors I always
keep closed.

–Evelyn Ann Romano

Today’s Highways

Highways of smooth black asphalt
with metal guardrail bracelets
wind past slices of hillsides
where the scalloped edges adorn the horizon
invite the explorer, the adventurer,
to come see what’s hidden
in deep green fringe.

Highways of smooth black asphalt
with low white concrete bridges
sail across gleaming waterways
where the watercraft that sail beneath
await future sailors to come aboard
to venture down blue stretches
on the horizon.

Highways of smooth black asphalt
with yellow tape and orange barrels
slow speeding vehicles into a line
that mimics the pace of land tortoises
while huge, belching road graders work
drivers hunker down in their shells
on cell phones.

— B.C. Stephenson


Friends make you feel welcome
even when your paths have gone
away from each other for a while

Friends tell great stories
bake wonderful pies
plan things to make you smile.

Friends share thoughts
and poems and pictures
of adventure across the miles.

Friends help you in a million ways
giving time, advice, a hug,
a warm hello whenever you call.

Friends are your support team
willing and comforting,
they make your lives worthwhile.

— B.C. Stephenson


Retired high school English teacher Brenda Tipps joined OLLI-USF in 2007. Brenda has been a longtime member of the Great Books discussion group, has taught many courses for OLLI including Readers Theater, poetry and drama. During National Poetry Month this year, she’ll be co-teaching Poetry: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly with Joyce Carpenter.  The three-session course starts Thursday, April 18, at the Lake Magdalene United Methodist Church.


Evelyn Ann Romano was a member of the Lifelong Writers at USF for several years and has been a member of OLLI since 2016. She has taken OLLI courses in poetry, writing, technology and laughter yoga.  She is a member of Ten O’Clock Poets, Tampa Writers Alliance, Florida State Poets Association and the National Federation of State Poetry Societies.

Her newest book, Ripe, centers on a woman’s acceptance at mid-life of the challenges life has brought her.  Published by Finishing Line Press, it is available from Amazon.


An OLLI member since 2007, B.C. (Berni) Stephenson has taken many classes including  technology, humanities, science and nature, music, writing, history, Tai Chi, literature, art appreciation, health and wellness and poetry.  Until recently, Berni was co-chair of the Social Committee with Kat Hanscom.




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