House of the Tomato

If a woman wants to be a poet, she must dwell in the house of the tomato. -- Erica Jong

Regional website for the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets, in partnership with the Reader's Loft.


Celebrating, sharing and inspiring poetry throughout Wisconsin.

New Poet Laureate

Wisconsin has a new Poet Laureate, Kimberly Blaeser. Read more about her.

Also read a departing article by Max Garland, departing Laureate.

Max Garland

Max Garland

We encounter poetry long before we know it’s poetry – it flourished in Wisconsin long before there was a Wisconsin. More of us have poetry stashed way in our heads and hearts than readily admit it.
— Max Garland

End of Day

One of the WFOP members in my region Christine hosts an exhibit every spring, pairing paintings with poems. Christine is also a wonderfully talented painter herself with a unique, abstract, evocative style all her own. 

As she's developing her exhibit she emails her "pool" of poets -- anybody want to write a poem about eagles? clothes on the line? fishing?

It is especially fun, inspirational, creative juice-sluicing when she sends snapshots of the paintings themselves. For me, responding to a work of art through poetry has always been a resonant kind of prompt. The origin of ekphrasis means to "speak out" and (according to Wikipedia) dates back to Plato's time.

When writing ekphrasis the goal is not only letting the piece take you to a new place in your imagination but also -- somehow -- staying true to the artist's intention. A definite leap in empathy.

Here's Christine's painting she calls "End of Day":


Here's the poem I wrote in response:

End of Day

Pull the ripcord,
tamp the fuse on this period of light.

Morning’s tall column leans cumbrous
under the weight of parsing minutes, false starts.
I laugh pink occasionally.

The ceiling slants over my concentration,
budding elegance like twin spiders in cream.

I persist with my tentacles, my arms of energy.

An office chair can travel up to eight miles in a day
if it weren’t for gasbags parachuting in jellyfish.

Distraction is a dangerous beauty.

The lilt of floating color, trees secreting,
resinous with blue amber, honeyed.

The interval between sunrise and sunset
leaves a residue,

carries a charge.

I see effervescence everywhere.

* * *

I hope she picks it.

Christine's gallery website is: 


Internal Rhyme

The beauty of internal rhyme from today's poem at

Beautifully mind-melding: "Unicorn, my little porn."

The mysterious weighty-awe-fulness of choice.

Failure to Thrive

Carol Muske-Dukes, 1945

O the body’s much ballyhoo’d right to be born!
Aligning with her right to shine & die, a star!
They all know her name but not her age
A doctor our daughters shared, opined.

Her name, he said, was failure to—
(Thrived onscreen, you’ve seen her.)
My daughter towered above her in real
Life. Born on the same day, they

might notice you at the edge of the field
with your banners and bottled cells? A
managed tot, from the womb unstoppered,

Brained-up for the stupids. Don’t grow!
Don’t rise into big citizenship! Soul underling,
soul malingering at the gate! Till the end of  the

body’s time: Unicorn, my little porn. Wanted
To unhunger her too, I. But she filled the screen
in that field of dying flowers. Famous-eyed,
turned away from the gift of sustenance, brave: no
semblance of a future beyond everyone’s fake-maternal mind.

Liars’ banners. Then the unicorn’s  passage: lightfoot.

And so loved, lightfoot, so apparently loved:
Some of us must starve in order to be seen.

Word Choice

"Empurpled" is a really ugly word and does nothing for the color purple. 

The etymology is so rich:

[before 1000; Middle English purpel (n. and adj.), Old English purple (adj.), variant of purpure < Latin purpura kind of shellfish yielding purple dye, the dye, cloth so dyed < Greek porphýra; compare porphyry]


The magic of falling in love is one of those topics that can be written about again and again. Here's a version by Mark Doty. My favorite line: Some things/wear their beginning.



Mark Doty1953

A month at least before the bloom
and already five bare-limbed cherries
by the highway ringed in a haze
of incipient fire
                      —middle of the afternoon,
a faint pink-bronze glow. Some things
wear their becoming:
                                the night we walked,
nearly strangers, from a fevered party
to the corner where you’d left your motorcycle,
afraid some rough wind might knock it to the curb,
you stood on the other side
of the upright machine, other side
of what would be us, and tilted your head
toward me over the wet leather seat
while you strapped your helmet on,
engineer boots firm on the black pavement.

Did we guess we’d taken the party’s fire with us,
somewhere behind us that dim apartment
cooling around its core like a stone?
Can you know, when you’re not even a bud
but a possibility poised at some brink?

Of course we couldn’t see ourselves,
though love’s the template and rehearsal
of all being, something coming to happen
where nothing was…
                                    But just now
I thought of a troubled corona of new color,
visible echo, and wondered if anyone
driving in the departing gust and spatter
on Seventh Avenue might have seen
the cloud breathed out around us
as if we were a pair
of—could it be?—soon-to-flower trees.

© 2019 House of the Tomato