Saturday, October 3, 2015

Welcome to the Well-Versed Reader Blog!

Coming Soon:  Call for Submissions!

For quite awhile now, Jane Shlensky and I have been plotting and planning a project that makes sense to both of us. First, I'll give a little background for those of you who don't know us--or our connections.  Jane and I have been friends since we met when serving on the board of the North Carolina English Teachers Association. For several years, the conference was held on our birthday weekend (Oct 4-5), so we celebrated together.

In addition to sharing career interests as teachers of English, we realized that we both loved to read and aspired to write. The first time we presented a conference session together, "How Can You Teach What You Don't Do:  Teachers as Writers," we had to confess that we were hypocrites.  Wanting to write and planning to write are not the same as writing. We started to motivate each other.

In the meantime, we regularly attended the National Council of Teachers of English convention together (even after she retired), often bringing our musical instruments and playing in our hotel room.

I discovered Poetic Asides about eight years ago, and I kept encouraging Jane until she finally joined that community. Since then, we've found plenty of opportunities to collaborate.

The project we are planning, for which we plan to solicit submissions, ties together two of our passions:  reading and poetry. Several years ago, when I was posting on my regular blog, The Discriminating Reader, Kathryn Stripling Byer asked why book clubs didn't read poetry. The question stuck with me.

After I published my chapbook Let the Lady Speak, I had a few invitations to speak to book clubs, whose member had read my book before the meeting.  I found that most of them had always felt uncertain about poetry, but found they enjoyed talking about it when they knew what to discuss.

Jane and I plan to create an anthology of poems with a strong narrative focus, aimed at readers who usually prefer novels--or nonfiction with a narrative structure.  We're thinking of those kinds of poems that we read and then send to non-poetry friends we know would appreciate them.

Cathy  Smith Bowers' poems "Syntax" and "The Napkin" fit those parameters. Miller Williams' "The Curator" is another I share regularly. "Tin Ear" by Peter Schmitt, which appeared on Writers Almanac a few years ago is another I immediately forwarded to a friend who had once confessed that his elementary music teacher had suggested he keep his voice low.

These may not be the poems one would find in The New Yorker. They are the ones you might find in that folder of poems you kept simply because you liked them.

If you're a poet with folders or notebooks of poems in search of a home, sort through and see which might (1. tell a good story and (2. inspire a good discussion.

We will post the specific submission guidelines soon.


  1. Thanks for the start-up page, Nancy. Write on, my sister!

  2. Absolutely fantastic idea - truly thrilling - an excellent idea - Yes !!! Why isn't poetry discussed in book clubs? A gaping gap that was obviously waiting for you both to fill! As a former teacher of English myself I have followed "the dynamic duo" of you both with joyful admiration and appreciation. As with all necessary paradigm shifts your plan brings to mind the question "why hasn't this been done before?" Bravo to you both!
    I will do whatever I can to help promote and certainlly will hope to find and/or create some work that will be worthy of inclusion and discussion. Whether I eventually find myself included count me in as a founding champion of this cause! Bravo!

    1. note to Nsncy - I certainly read your work at PA with the thought that you must certainly be a professional writer. Your chapbook Let The Lady Speak remains a seminal addition and I must say that the title is so good I can never get it out of my head whenever I entertain gathering any collection of my own! It has become the 'gold standard" of titles!! All the best in this latest and enormously important project!