#Publication: “Family Reunion”

A Celebration of Poetry Deferred

In January of 2020, my poem “Family Reunion: Newbury, Vermont” was accepted for publication by the Waterford Township Public Library’s annual 2020 Poetry Leaves exhibit. (The Township is located in Michigan.)ย  I was particularly pleased that my poem had been selected because it was inspired by a return to the trees I’d taken for granted in the Newbury woods–after being away for thirty years. You can learn more information about the event here: https://waterfordmi.gov/888/Poetry-Leaves.

Needless to say, the in-person celebration of poetry exhibit was cancelled because of the pandemic.

Sadly, 2021 marks the end of this vibrant community project. I do hope the library is able to rally the community to celebrate National Poetry Month in a sustainable way for the future, particularly given that school children have been involved.

Poetry Leaves: April 1 – April 30, 2021

Click to be taken to the Poetry Leaves Exhibit.

The poems are in alphabetical order by author’s last name. You will need to scroll and click a few times to see mine.

Update November 8, 2021: The Poetry Leaves Exhibit website has been taken down.

The Final Version


The mountains soar higher
Than when we were children

The sky closer now
The air water now

Drink from a spring
Prone on bright moss
Face lowered to meet water
Clear and clean and cold

Carelessly we ran
Through the woods
In bare feet and baggy britches

The Drafts

The occasion for the poem was a family reunion in 2000 in honor of the seventieth birthday of my mother and her twin sister. I was living in Virginia at the time, and I hadn’t been back to my aunt’s cabin in Newbury, Vermont since the 1970s. I wrote the first draft immediately upon our return from the trip. The difference between the early draft and the final poem reflects the direction my poetry has taken in the past several years.

The Early Draft

The Midway Draft

The Fiddly Draft

192 thoughts on “#Publication: “Family Reunion”

    1. Thank you very much, Suzette! What was so remarkable about that experience was how stunning the natural surroundings were in a way they had never been when I first went there when I was in the eighth grade.

      Liked by 2 people

        1. US-5 parallels I-91 along that stretch of the river, and it’s one of my favorite drives in the state. The scenery is breathtaking–as is the fertilizer on the fields, although not in the same way. ๐Ÿ˜‰

          Liked by 2 people

  1. Gorgeous poem, Liz! I like the way you pared it down to its absolute essence. The online exhibition is well done. What a splendid project to be part of. I join you in the hope that something similar can be revived in the future for poetry month.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Congratulations, Liz! A lovely celebration of family and nature both. We definitely see things differently at different stages of our lives. It was interesting to see the various drafts. (“The Fiddly Draft.” ๐Ÿคฃ)

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you, Merril! The remarkable thing about this return to a childhood place was that it was enhanced, not diminished, which is usually what happens. I’m sure you can appreciate “fiddly drafts”!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. That is funny. I don’t have a place like that from my childhood.
        Yes, some works definitely go through fiddly drafts that they never get out of. But I’ve actually written a few poems that have been published that I wrote very quickly and sent out.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Writing a reflection of 30 years in a few lines is a huge task. I’m sure evening looks taller and bigger or different. A great poem, Liz. Too sad the project discontinued. I liked the colorful leaves of your page.

    I also liked the images of the children’s work. I remember doing that with my students. โ˜บ๏ธ

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Seeing how much larger those mountains looked compared to when I was young came as such a surprise. The fact that school children had been involved was what bothered me most about the project’s being discontinued.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I know exactly why it bothered you, Liz. My daughter wrote a Halloween poem when she was in first grade. We entered it into an Anthology and bought a copy when it was published. She was so excited that she wrote 10 or 15 more poems and made her little book. Come to think of it, I would like to see if I still have it.
        It is important for the kids see their works showcased!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. What an interesting collection. I love the presentation–the leaves in the background–and your poetry fits perfectly. On a separate note, I like that the library makes it clear upfront that no one is to download the pictures. So many forget to add those protections.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. This is so interesting, Liz. I never change my poems like this. The final draft is not usually very different from the first draft. I really liked the middle draft, I liked the additional descriptive wording. Congratulations on having your poem included in this lovely event. I read a few of the poems, which are all good, and I loved the children’s contributions.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you, Robbie. I was so pleased to be included in the event. With some of these poems that have gone through major revision, they’re really two different poems, I think, different versions of the same experience.

      Liked by 3 people

  6. I love knowing that background of a poem for it adds meaning the reading experience. I found it interesting that Poetry Leaves Exhibit does not allow downloads or saving of their images, even if someone cites their work. It will be interesting to see how open access that is spreading around the globe (think Louvre/Smithsonian etc) will influence copyright and intellectual property right going forward. Would poets/writers have more exposure in this new world of open access. I do not know the answer. Would not that be a great discussion?!!1

    Liked by 7 people

    1. I’ve seen similar restrictions against downloading images in some online archival repositories. So far, open access still requires citation of images in most cases, even in the case of Creative Commons Four-licensed material. Unfortunately, the downside of access for poets and writers now is having their work plagiarizedand pirated. I think your question really gets at the heart of what it means to be “original” in any of the arts, which is a fascinating topic for discussion!

      Liked by 6 people

      1. I agree – an excellent discussion. There is always a balance between sharing your ideas, photography, poetry, book to a wider audience and the risk of being plagiarized. Another issue is that some may not know how to cite.

        Liked by 4 people

        1. Sometimes it feels like the world is engaged in a giant game of Whispers. The game where one person whispers a sentence to another person. The second person repeats the sentence to a third person and so on throughout the entire group. The last person to get the whisper stands and speaks the sentence. Often it has no resemblance to the original sentence. The writer Austin Kleon talks brilliantly of “original work” … but my take-away is that we’re all whisper game players. Do your best to cite accurately. Do your best to be yourself and as original to your view of the world as possible…and share anyway despite the risks.

          Liked by 3 people

            1. Thank you! It amazes me too. It also amazes me how we can imitate or repeat our own prior works and still come up with something totally different. Thoughts of the whisper game – or telephone game as you call it – helps me to relax and “just create”.

              Liked by 3 people

          1. Yes, I remember the game as Telephone. I attended a conference several years ago when the higher education disruptive innovation movement was just hitting its stride. One of the presenters addressed the question of innovation and originality by playing a series of original, groundbreaking songs on the guitar, then stopping after a few bars to say, no, wait, this lick is from “Maggie May,” no, wait, this is a direct reference to Dylan, etc.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. So true… perhaps what “original” means is to make a unique mixture of things in ones world that reflects ones present feeling/thoughts. Perhaps there’s nothing new in the world just new recombinations. Those can feel “new”. Also something very old can feel new to people who’ve never seen it.
              My view on innovation: Just take a deep breath and make stuff… let the viewers sort out whether they like it, whether it’s “new” etc and while they’re sorting it out get busy and make more stuff.

              Liked by 2 people

  7. What a wonderful project. I enjoyed seeing your editing process and how much you cut back from the early draft. I felt guilty scrolling by to reach yours so I read and enjoyed a few of the others afterwards. Although visually they look lovely some were not easy to read with the leaves behind them – probably down to my eyesight as much as anything.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. What a great project and so honouring to be part of it. I love that the mountains are bigger now – how perspective shifts with age – and how quickly the adults are kids once again. Nicely done.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Mark! I don’t know why s is the last year for the Poetry Leaves event. The announcement on the website didn’t provide any kind of any explanation, and I poked around the website and couldn’t find one. I expect it was pandemic-related in some way.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Reblogged this on Frank Prem Poetry and commented:

    I really enjoyed this post of Liz Gauffreau and especially the idea and the presentation of the work online.

    Such a wonderful way to involve young and old and community in a poetic collaboration.

    Bravo Liz and Newbury, Vermont.

    Liked by 4 people

  10. Lovely, Liz. It was fun to see the evolving versions over time, and you certainly ended up with something to celebrate, no matter how deferred. Thanks for inviting us to enjoy the poetic culmination with you!

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Oh, I can definitely relate to your process here, Liz. We can see that your impressions remained, but how you translated your thoughts back into distilling the images. And your one editing process that really resonates with me is changing the order of the lines. I do that all the time and usually don’t see it’s necessary until the very last second. To finish a poem with a punch, I call it. Beautiful images and call to reverie. Excellent leaf in the collection. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 4 people

  12. Congratulations! I loved seeing your three poems…the one line in the second poem about the cabin seeming smaller resonated with me. When we return to our childhood places, everything does look different in the size dimension. The third poem is wonderful, but, I liked the other versions too! ๐Ÿ™‚ (I feel like I have been out walking in the woods this morning….)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Linda! The fact that the mountains seemed so much larger and the cabin so much smaller was one of the most strking things about that day. I’m glad I could take you on a walk in the the woods. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I found all three poems beautiful and love how you manage to transport me as a reader to the very place and time of your writing. I identify with coming back to a place one once thought was quite big or impressive only to be surprised at how one has outgrown it. Perhaps both physically and mentally. Also very interesting how you gradually distill your writing over time.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Liz, this was delightful to read! Congratulations! I enjoyed reading all three drafts . You truly edited and honed-in on making the poem ‘just right’. It’s quite good. Like you, I hope the Michigan library can find a way to showcase this again, post-Covid. How wonderful that children’s poetry is included.

    I love the photo of your mom and her sister on the stoop of the log cabin. I have a very soft spot for log houses and log cabins, coming from West Virginia. My grandmother’s family home is the oldest two-story log house west of the Appalachian mountains. I stayed there often as a very young child, and will always remember the sound of the trains.

    Your mother and aunt must have many memories, too. And, do you have memories of the log cabin? Is your aunt still living there? She must be 90 now. Of course Vermonters are hardy folks. West Virginians are, too.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Jennie! I’m pleased you enjoyed the three drafts. My aunt and uncle built the log cabin from a kit as a vacation retreat in 1968 when I was in junior high (gravity-fed water faucet in the kitchen, no electricity, primitive outhouse). There is a campground with a lean-to on the property for all the younger folk to stay. My aunt died very unexpectedly in 2009.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Congratulations Liz. Didn’t take me much time to scroll down to your name. Your lovely piece felt like that whiff of fresh air I’m so desperate to take in at the moment. I belong to the hills but life has brought me to so many places and right now I’m in Delhi which is like one of the most polluted cities and I long so much for these breaks.
    I also liked your idea of the picture poem. Great fun there!

    Liked by 2 people

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