I’ve sometimes had people say to me that writing poems must be fun. Fun is not exactly the right way to describe it. At times it can feel inspired, at other times excruciating. When I manage to convey in writing the thoughts and feelings that I intended to, I feel great satisfaction. More often, I can see the limitations of what I’ve written. At times, I just feel despair when I read over a poem and wonder why I am wasting my time doing this.

What keeps me going is other poets — their work and their support. In the years when I’ve been writing most actively, I’ve belonged to a local writers group. The aim of such a group is not just to share the work done, but to look at it with a critical eye, to notice what’s effective and what needs work and to support the writer, to constantly renew their sense of the worth in what they are doing.

In 2009 I joined a writing group called “The Poets Table,” which was founded by Montville poet Karie Friedman. Karie was an excellent poet and even better at critiquing poems. She would write lengthy comments in response to a poem, often referencing other poems by famous poets. Her memory for such things and ability to make connections was amazing. I learned a lot from her. Sadly she died in 2017. My first chapbook, “Renaming the Seasons,” contains poems written in response to this loss.

Currently, I facilitate a group called “The Wheelbarrow School of Poetry,” started by Tom Moore when he was poet laureate of Belfast. It’s a lively, supportive group and varied in taste and the type of poems written. We meet weekly and the door is always open to new members.

In this week’s poem, Ellen Sander considers the difficulty of writing poetry. She says, “Like most artists, I’ve struggled with futility. I think it was my friendship with Bob Creeley, a neighbor in Bolinas and a correspondent while he was teaching at Buffalo, that made me realize how that particular struggle is sacred.”

In this poem she uses the poetic device of metaphor to define the experience. She notes, “This poem is a reflection…of the journey from resistance to embracing, Amelia being the metaphor for futility, having coffee together being the metaphor for detente.”

Ellen Sander, a rock and roll heart, is a past Belfast Poet Laureate, by way of New York, California, and Beijing. This poem is from her latest chapbook, “Aquifer,” published by Red Bird Chapbooks, 2022. Her other work includes “Trips: Rock Life in the Sixties,” a recollection of her time as a rock journalist; “Hawthorne,” a poetic memoir of her years in Bolinas; and “Dreamwalk.”

If you enjoy this column and the poems I feature, please consider visiting the “Locally Grown Books” booth at the Art Mart at Waterfall Arts, held every Friday during the summer from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. You’ll find several of my books as well as books by many of the poets I’ve featured, plus memoirs, novels, calendars and more!

Cappuccino with Amelia

It’s been 9:44 for 3 hours,

I sit here grounded in so-called time,

not even a tick, not even so-called


Robert Creeley, introducing a poem

from an older book, once said

“I’ll start with

For Love and

then bring it forward in so-

called time”


There was a time

when anything seemed possible

in so-called time

when anything seemed possible

given so-called odds


Elms and alders green each spring

at their time, never hesitating.

The branch wobbles when the skylark

alights. She counts on that, her

inborn expectations

of the safe landings

Judy Kaber is Belfast’s poet laureate.