Poetry Friday: Featuring Michelle H. Barnes


Terrific poetry can be found at Lisa at Steps and Staircases.  She has a neat visual project with poems invitation.


Today, I have Michelle H. Barnes visiting me to answer a few questions regarding THE BEST OF TODAY’S LITTLE DITTY: 2016 (Volume 2).

JRM: What inspired you to create your Best of TLD volumes?

MHB: Over the years, I’ve received a number of comments about how this or that wrap-up celebration would make a great published collection. I, too, felt that many of the poems deserved to be published, so I took those comments to heart! More than anything, I am inspired by the TLD community. These “best of” anthologies are my way of saying thank you.

JRM: What is the most difficult of the artistic process in creating the volumes?

MHB: If you ask anyone on the ditty committee (yourself included, I imagine), they might say that the most difficult part of the process is deciding which poems should make it into these collections. The same goes for me. I relish my role as a cheerleader on the blog, but once I put on my editor’s hat I need to think about practical considerations like poem length, space available, and the best mix of poems to represent each challenge. These choices are never easy, but even more difficult when it means that someone will be left out of the book who I would have loved to include.

JRM: What surprised you about publishing these volumes?

MHB: What surprised me most was the willingness of people to get involved in the process and grant me permission to publish their work. This includes Michelle Kogan’s and Teresa Robeson’s custom artwork. I’m very sensitive to writers and artists not being appropriately compensated, but the reality is that I don’t make a lot of money from these volumes. I feel grateful just to break even after contributor copies, so the generosity of my creative colleagues is very much appreciated!

JRM: It takes time and organization to serve as publisher and designer of these volumes.  How does your family help support you in the endeavors?  Plus, you teach, correct?  

MHB: It does take a lot of time and organization. Thankfully organization comes naturally to me. Time, unfortunately, does not. It takes six months to put a Best of Today’s Little Ditty volume together, and that includes the support of many people helping me along the way—my ditty committee, cover artist, and Renée LaTulippe who functions as my proofreader and go-to for editorial advice and assistance. If I didn’t have all that help, clearly the process would take longer. While my family doesn’t help directly, they certainly put up with a lot of extra work hours and a fair share of complaining about feeling overwhelmed. They’ve also become quite good at fending for themselves for dinner! I don’t teach full time, so teaching falls into the same category as personal writing, parenting obligations, and family time. When it comes to fitting everything in, we make time for the things we care about. I don’t know of any other way.

JRM:  You’ve shepherded many of our poems to be published in the Best of TLD.  When might we see your own book of poetry published?

MHB:  Ha! I sure hope one day, Jone. I established Today’s Little Ditty in 2013 to dedicate myself to the writing profession, find a support community, and make career connections. Ironically, other than blog posts, sometimes the only writing I find time for during the course of a month is one poem in response to my own DMC challenge!  Don’t get me wrong, TLD has been a marvelous investment of love, time, and effort, but I’d like to find a way to focus more attention on my own writing again. It’s taking me awhile to figure out the correct balance, but I think I’m getting close. In the meantime, you can find my poems in magazines, journals, and anthologies, including One Minute till Bedtime (Little, Brown), Here We Go and The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations (Pomelo Books), and forthcoming collections from National Geographic and Charlesbridge. (For a more complete listing, visit my webpage: MichelleHBarnes.com.)


French Twist

Mom wore her hair in a French twist.
A practical carefree style for a nurse
who put patients first and fashion last
with her family sandwiched in between.

A practical carefree style for a nurse.
She worked nights while dad worked days
with her family sandwiched in between.
She slept during the day with everyone at school.

She worked nights while dad worked days.
Mom found time for a weekly ritual.
She slept during the day with everyone at school,
then drove to the beauty parlor on Main Street.

Mom found time for a weekly ritual,
a tiny treat she afforded herself,
a drive to the beauty parlor on Main Street
to get her hair washed, dried, and set.

A tiny treat she afforded herself,
she who put patients first and fashion last,
to get her hair washed, dried, and set.
Mom wore her hair in a French twist.

                    © Jone Rush MacCulloch


17 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: Featuring Michelle H. Barnes

  1. Applause for this heartbeat poem about your favorite Nurse (pantoum, I think?) Michelle. I can tell she must have been crucial to healing for many many people in her community nurturing role. Your labor of love at TLD & for the two collections are appreciated more than you can know & my Christmas wish upon a star for you is a magical method to measure out more moments of Poet Michelle time.

    • I agree, Jan. Jone’s pantoum is a beauty! Her mother must have been very special indeed. I loved the “Poems for our Mothers” challenge because it was so personal and the contributions that month had so much heart. Magical wishes to you, too, and all the important writing that you’ve been doing on your novel!

  2. Love hearing from Michelle here about her time with TLD, a creation that has been wonderful for Poetry Friday and all of us who feel challenged. We owe a lot to Michelle’s work. Your mother’s one small gift to herself connects to Michelle’s “sometimes” one personal poem by her each month. Gratitude abounds for Today’s Little Ditty. Thanks, Jone!

  3. Thanks Jone for this interview with Michelle, I always enjoy hearing what’s happening behind the scenes on book projects. Here’s for the writing balance tipping more in your favor Michelle. I’m tremendously greatful for the wealth of Ditty Spotlight individuals you have shared with us Michelle!

    Jone what a lovely twist flows through your “French Twist” pantomime, thanks for your poem and again, for the moving interview.

  4. Thanks for the nice interview. Wonderful to hear more from Michelle about putting the anthologies together. Truly a labor of love and a gift to the PF community. 🙂

  5. What a great interview! Thanks Jone!
    I loved hearing from Michelle. Her blog is truly wonderful. It’s educational and inspiring. In fact, it has inspired me to write quite a few poems. And even when I don’t write to the challenge I thoroughly enjoy reading the poems others write. I’m amazed at the talent and it’s very special that Michelle and her team take the time to collect them for the anthology!

  6. Where can I start with the wows? First, what a great idea to interview Michelle. She’s done so much for me as a writer and for our community of writers. I really enjoyed her answers — especially about finding balance. I too am constantly searching for time/ways to support my own writing when invitations/opportunities to use my time and talent for others arise. And oh….there is my family and my day job. So, Michelle’s generosity and creative WAYS of being generous are so appreciated. I wish I could think of a great way to say thank you back to her!
    And, wow to the pantoum. Jone the words about your mother are tender and practical and beautiful like how she must have been as your mom with a job as a nurse. This one is a keeper, for sure. I think I am going to make it a goal to interview a writer in 2018. I just love the idea so much.

  7. Congratulations again to Michelle for her dedication and hard work – I know how difficult it is to find writing time, so I understand the conflict she feels in how best to utilize her time! Jone, I recall your poem being one of the best ones that month, so congrats to you on being included!

  8. A post full of goodness! I loved the interview with Michelle and learning more about the behind the scenes of TLD–and I have so appreciated the inspiration Michelle has provided with these monthly challenges. And Jone, your poem is breathtaking!

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