A Precious Thing by Nancy Mugele


With all due respect to Easter, and a slight nod to April Fool’s Day, to me the first of April signals the beginning of National Poetry Month. I know I am a literary geek, but as a poet myself, I am inspired by this month dedicated to poets and their craft. National Poetry Month was established by the Academy of American Poets in 1996 to increase awareness and appreciation of poetry.

For me, poetry has always been the vehicle which allows me to observe and comment on my world. I cannot remember a time when I did not read and write poems and I can still recite poems memorized in my childhood. I especially loved reading and writing Haiku as a young girl and later expanded my writing using rhyming techniques. In my early 20s I began to explore free verse or open form poetry which does not follow a specific pattern and that is the style I currently use.

My first published poem appeared in my local hometown newspaper when I was in the 6th Grade. I won a town-wide poetry contest and that was all I needed to throw myself into writing. I have had several poems published in Poetic Voices of America anthologies over the years and they sit on my bookshelf as a reminder to Write On. I wrote a poem to each of my children when they were born – that is another story – but, I have a journal for each of them which I hope one day they will treasure.

In addition to reading and writing poetry this month at Kent School, on April 27 our Middle School students will be inspired by Femi the DriFish, a spoken word artist and slam poet who uses his artistry to encourage others to discover their own unique voices. Slam poetry expresses someone’s personal story usually in an intensely emotional and very powerful way. I am so looking forward to be moved and motivated.

Last May I had the privilege to be a part of the presentation of the Sophie Kerr Prize at Washington College. An incredible endowed prize that is transformational to a young writer. For me, a highlight of the evening was a talk by Baltimore poet Elizabeth Spires whom I know. Elizabeth began her career as a professor at Washington College while she was also writing poetry. Her sixth poetry collection was published last summer and she currently directs the creative writing department at Goucher College. In her address, she asked, “Why do we write?” She detailed many reasons like wanting to tell a story and working through an emotional issue, but her description of the need to write because it is “a precious thing” resonated with me. Writing is truly a precious thing and one that I will always make time for.

Elizabeth taught me the value of writing monosyllable poems – where every word is just one syllable – as an exercise in my writing process. After you have written one there are usually nuggets you can then explore more deeply. Here is an example of a recent morning exercise, my Monosyllable to the Chester River.

I gaze

past my own porch

to the edge of grass,

Where the sand smooths

stones made by time

on its beach.


The tide

in ebb and flow,

bleeds deep blue and grey,

While the sun sets

and geese land on

glass paths for night.

As I write now from my home office (aka kitchen counter) which faces the Chester River, a lone Washington College crew shell is passing my house slicing the water with care and courage. A precious thing is beginning.

Follow me on Twitter @nancymugele for a taste of poetry each day during the month of April and join me on April 17 at 5:30 p.m. when I am honored to emcee Chestertown RiverArt’s Listening to the Earth: The Art of Stewardship juried exhibition of art and poetry.

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown and a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s.

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