Posted in Poetry, Reading

Review: Smallest Leaf

To be honest, I rarely read poetry collections cover to cover. I enjoy too much the freedom of opening a poetry book to any page and receiving a slice of meaning. When I do follow the “rules” and read the poems consecutively, it often takes me a long time to make it to the end. I revel in the ability to close the book for long periods of time and not feel like I have to start over when I pick it up again.

But once in a while, a poetry book grabs me in a different way and makes me sit down and dig in. Smallest Leaf by Lisa Toth Salinas did just that. I opened it to page one last Monday morning and finished it before I went to bed that night. And it was a delight.

My copy of Smallest Leaf, bookmarked with love.

I learned about Lisa’s book when I met her in November at the Poetry Society of Texas’s Annual Awards Banquet. Lisa lives in Texas, and Smallest Leaf, which is her first collection, won the Poetry Society of Texas Eakin Book Award in 2014. It is a gorgeous volume, both inside and out, including images of art (used as the inspiration for some of her ekphrastic poetry) and found poems.

I knew I was going to love this book from the very first piece, titled “How to Read a Poem.” It begins:

“Make yourself the smallest leaf
upon the tree and let the breeze
of gentle words begin to blow,
then loosen from your branch. Let go.”

I followed the poet’s advice. I let her gentle words wash over me and gave in to her voice. Lisa’s work covers topics close to her heart—art, ancestry, faith, family, nature. Some of my favorites were: “She is Not the State Bird of Texas,” “On Solitude,” “A Lesson in Trust at the Feet of Millet,” and “Inheritance.” They spoke to me with their simplicity, their thoughtfulness, their hope. Even the poems that didn’t resonate with me personally are full of the poet’s passion for the subject. I liked all of her work for that, for endearing me to her perspective on life.

However, what I enjoyed most about Smallest Leaf was the variety of interesting forms within its pages. Lisa writes free verse, rhyming poems, found poems, sonnets, and villanelles, but her work also includes less common forms such as pantoum, haibun, terzanelle, and gloss, which is a type of poetry I was not familiar with but am now eager to try.

I will end with a stanza from her poem, “Advice to a Poet,” which is a garland cinquain.

to beautify
an empty page you must
hear what is not being said, then
say it.”

My advice to you is to read Lisa Toth Salina’s book, Smallest Leaf. You can order a copy and find out more about her and her work on her website.



Posted in Poetry, Teaching

Contests, Workshops, and One Very Creepy Poem

Hello and happy Thursday!

I’ve got some POETRY NEWS to share with you. There’s a little something in this post for everybody—adult poets, student poets, teachers, and even lovers of horror.

Student Poetry Contests

pstlogo_paint_05Entries to the Poetry Society of Texas Student Awards are due March 1, 2016. PST offers 82 contests to students in grades 1 through 12 on a variety of subjects and forms. This is a great way for young writers to find out what it’s like to send their work out to the world. There is no fee to enter, and winning poems will be published in the PST anthology. Teachers, please consider sharing this opportunity with your students. The deadline to submit is only 12 days away!

Austin Poetry Society Annual Awards

APSIf you’re an adult looking to submit work, the Austin Poetry Society’s Annual Contests are open right now. The deadline for submitting is April 1, 2016, and you must be an APS member. (See our website for details about the contests and information on how to join the society.) Winners will be announced at our Annual Awards Ceremony on May 28, 2016. First, second, and third place poets will win cash prizes, and first place poems will be published in the Best Austin Poetry anthology for 2016. (You can buy a copy of the current anthology, which includes two of my poems, at

School Visits, Poetry Presentations, & Workshops

SchoolVisits_WellsBranchTeachers in the Austin area, if you’d like a published poet to teach a workshop or presentation to your class, please contact me. I now do school visits and offer five different presentations for grades 3 through 12. Details can be found on my SCHOOL VISITS page. If your students miss the PST contest deadline and are still interested in submitting their work, consider hiring me for the “Path to Publication” presentation. Not only will I teach them proper submission etiquette and help them craft a professional cover letter, but I’ll also provide information about more contests, journals, and organizations who accept work from young poets.

A Little HORROR Poem

377239_origAnd last, but not least, my poem, “Someone,” is published this week at Grievous Angel. If you’re in the mood for something creepy, check it out. And while you’re there, don’t forget to read the other three poems published with it. I’m in good company with Ken Poyner, Herb Kauderer, and John Grey. (Oh, and don’t worry. If you hire me for a school visit, the poems I share with your students will NOT be this scary!)


Have a great day! Sweet dreams.  🙂

Posted in Poetry, Writing

Updates & Announcements


Hello all!

I hope everyone’s having a happy holiday weekend. I’m on vacation too. In fact, I’m not *really* posting this right now. I’m really eating pie(s) and playing games with my family. This blog post is all an illusion. Kinda spooky, huh? (Sorry, I think I’m a little lightheaded from all the sweets.) Anyway, I’m going to keep it short today so that you can get back to your own pie-eating, football-watching, and gift-shopping ASAP.

I just have a few announcements to make.

First, my flash fiction piece “My New Place” was published at MicroHorror earlier this month, and somehow I forgot to share it! Check it out here when you have a minute. It won’t take long to read—all of MicroHorror’s pieces have to be 666 words or less.

I’ve also received some good news regarding my poetry. Sirius Education Solutions asked for permission to reprint my poem “Enchanted Rock in September” in their Grade 7 STAAR Reading Review and Preparation workbook, and I agreed. So if you’re in the seventh grade or if you teach seventh grade reading, be on the lookout for it. I’m interested to see what questions they ask about my poem.

I entered several poems in this year’s Poetry Society of Texas’ annual awards competition, and twelve of them placed in the top ten in their contests, ranging from 2nd to 10th place. I’d like to share one of them with you here. “Old Soul” earned eighth place (out of fifty-two entries) in the Oscar A. Fasel Memorial Award.

Old Soul

Not even two years old,
but already I see your puppy face changing,
taking in the world, gathering knowledge,
new epiphanies every day.

It’s not hard to look down the road a ways,
and see you in your later years—
I can picture your graying muzzle,
and the sigh you will make
as you lower your aging bones to the ground,
the way you’ll ease yourself onto the sofa
or maybe need a little help.

You may be young, but you have an old soul.

Even now,
you look at me with those insightful eyes,
full of answers, of understanding,
full of the simplicity of a life
I make so complex.

There’s no doubt in my mind
you’ll be a wise old dog someday,
a quiet companion, a peaceful protector,
content to rest on the porch
watching the squirrels in the backyard,
thinking of your youth
and the days when you chased
their great-grandparents
up trees.

My inspiration for "Old Soul"
My inspiration for “Old Soul”

And last, but definitely not least, today I have another guest post on the Muffin, the blog of WOW! Women on Writing. Click here to read “The Gifts We Are Given.”

Okay, that’s it! You can go get another piece of pie now. Or take a nap. Or maybe a walk. Whatever you think is best. 🙂

[Note: Comments are turned off for this post, but feel free to share your thoughts on “My New Place” or “The Gifts We Are Given” on the MicroHorror or Muffin websites.]