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.


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Poetry Reading

  • The Reader's Loft 2069 Central Court Green Bay, WI USA (map)

Sylvia Cavanaugh, Ed Werstein & Nancy Austin

Originally from Pennsylvania, Sylvia Cavanaugh has an M.S. in Urban Planning from the University of Wisconsin.  She currently teaches high school African and Asian cultural studies.  She is the faculty advisor for break dancers and poets.  A Pushcart Prize nominee, her poems have appeared in An Arial Anthology, The Journal of Creative Geography, Midwest Prairie Review, Peninsula Pulse, Seems, Stoneboat Literary Journal, Verse-Virtual, Verse Wisconsin, and elsewhere.   Her chapbook, Staring Through My Eyes, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press in 2016.


Duped by a rectangle of glass above the door
in the way its light came in
but we could not see out
like the eyeless yellow marigolds between our walks
all fringe with no insight
tough alchemy of the nearly defeated

sometimes a warmed patch of light drifted in
to land on dust mote winter days
we played with paper dolls

our fathers once re-shingled the dilapidated roof
outside our back doors were sets of stairs
they had agreed upon

edgy summers drummed time
the staccato whap whap of screen doors
our lives latched to the people next door
in the jumpy bang bang of summer

I used to dream of a house
I could run all the way around
timed myself over and over

we shared a chimney, devilish bats
would echo their way down its dusty tunnel
and then have to decide

sometimes we heard the neighbors’ shrieks at night
and sometimes they heard ours.

-- Sylvia Cavanaugh
First published in Making it Speak:  Artists and Writers in Cahoots

Ed Werstein, Milwaukee, spent 22 years in manufacturing and union activity before his muse awoke and dragged herself out of bed. He sympathizes with poor and working people. He advocates for peace and against corporate power. His poetry has appeared in Verse Wisconsin, Blue Collar Review, Stoneboat, Gyroscope Review, Mobius: the Journal of Social Change, and several other publications. His first chapbook, Who Are We Then?, was published in 2013 by Partisan Press.

The Way Philanthropy Works

At concerts in Rockefeller Center
sensitive ears can still hear the cries and wails
of the Ludlow miners
and their wives and children
slaughtered on the picket line in Colorado, 1914.

Without opening a book,
keen eyes can read
the lost lives of unschooled steel workers
on the facades of thousands oflibraries,
part of the Carnegie bequest. 

And who remembers
the abandoned artistic ambitions
of the aluminum smelters, the oil riggers,
and the bank tellers who labored
so the Mellon family could endow
the National Gallery of Art?

-- Ed Werstein

Evening Meal

Come, pump blood into my borscht,
heart-shaped beet,
fang-rooted Romanian blood-bulb,
vampire of vegetables.
I sink my teeth into you.
Warm this cold twilight.

-- Ed Werstein

Nancy Austin was born in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, but has lived on both coasts, and points in between.  She received a master’s degree in Psychology from the University of Wisconsin, and worked in Green Bay for many years. She moved to the north woods a few years ago to delve into the poetry of a quieter lifestyle with her husband Mic. She appreciates every moment she has free to kayak a shoreline, bicycle down a wooded lane, sing back to the birds, and eat eggplant parmesan, an interest she has held since childhood. She relishes time to write in between running an unofficial bed and breakfast where she melds with family and friends.

Nancy has been published in various literary journals including Adanna, Midwestern Gothic, Sheepshead Review, Verse WI, and The WI Poets’ Calendars. She is the author of a poetry collection, Remnants of Warmth, forthcoming February, 2016 via Aldrich Press, and available at, or through the Kelsay Books website. 

Old Firewood

The new cord of firewood,
delivered today,
released its musky scent
as it tumbled from the truck bed.
Its dewy, fresh cut,
warm, wheat color,
and earthy aroma
delighted us.
We chuckled, such a discount
for ready to burn,
solidly superior
to the old cord,
that shattered into shards 
when it fell to the ground,
loosening lichen-spotted bark
from tough, twisted cores,
thus, unceremoniously stacked
in the corner.
We lowered three perfect logs
into the cold, cast iron stove,
pulled chairs forward
in smug anticipation,
lit them up, and waited.
They sputtered,
but would not burn.               

-- Nancy Austin
First published in 2014 Wisconsin Poets Calendar

Earlier Event: April 14
Becoming Transparent
Later Event: May 19
Poetry Reading

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