Poetry Friday : The Payoff

I have a feeling there are quite a few kids out there (and grown ups who were once kids) who will be able to relate to this hilarious poem!

THE PAYOFF – Mary Blakeslee

For seven months I made my bed

And cleaned my room up neat.

I said my prayers, hung up my clothes

And always wiped my feet.

I brushed my teeth three times a day

And slicked my hair with goo.

I even washed behind my ears,

I scrubbed my elbows too.

I ate my liver and my greens

And never made a face.

And when I spilled my milk I cleaned

It up without a trace.

A lot of good it did to be

So perfect every day.

‘Cause Mommy went ahead and had

The baby anyway!

This wonderful poem comes from a collection of children’s poetry that has had a nostalgic home in my personal collection for decades. The poems in Mary Blakeslee’s It’s Still Tough to Be a Kid, first published in 1988, really capture the spirit of childhood in all its craziness, warts and all, and as a child I remember being enthralled by, and connecting with, so many of these little wonders. The illustrations are wonderfully weird, and at times more creepy than cuddly, making them incredibly memorable. Sadly the collection is very hard to find – few libraries carry a copy, and it’s even difficult to find a copy on Amazon, which is a shame, because these illustrated poems are so very memorable! I might share a few more of my favourites from the collection on future Poetry Friday posts, because I really do love them.

Happy Friday, everyone – it’s time to let your inner child out!

Poetry Friday: When You Are Old

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to everyone lucky enough to have a bit of Ireland in them, and to everyone who is Irish just for a day! My grandmother was proudly, fiercely Irish, a Roman Catholic from Northern Ireland – she used to tell my English father that she didn’t hold his heritage against him, since it wasn’t really his fault he was born English! My mum was only half Irish, but she grew up surrounded by her mother’s large Irish immigrant family, which essentially colonised a Toronto suburb in the 1950’s and 1960’s. I’m only 1/4 Irish (though like most Europeans I’m probably far more mixed than that), but on St. Patrick’s Day I’m happy to embrace that quarter for all it’s worth, and to celebrate my Irish heritage.

My Irish grandmother Anne Herbsen (born Anne Devlin), with two of her three daughters (my mum is the taller girl) and her son in their Sunday best. 

The Irish are a poetic people with a long and proud literary tradition, and they have produced some of Europe’s best-known and most beloved poets. In honour of this most Irish of days, here is one of my favourite poems, from the incomparable Irish poet and statesman William Butler Yeats.

When You Are Old

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

Poetry Friday: Lovely Limericks

Oh, limericks. Humorous, sometimes a bit naughty, and far more challenging to craft than they might immediately appear. A limerick:

“is a humorous poem consisting of five lines. The first, second, and fifth lines must have seven to ten syllables while rhyming and having the same verbal rhythm. The third and fourth lines only have to have five to seven syllables, and have to rhyme with each other and have the same rhythm.”

English artist, poet, illustrator, musician and author Edward Lear was a master of the limerick, and made their creation seem effortless.

There was an Old Man of Aôsta,

Who possessed a large Cow, but he lost her;

But they said, ‘Don’t you see,

she has rushed up a tree?

You invidious Old Man of Aôsta!’

I must confess that I lack Lear’s deft hand and talent for word creation, but I thought I might just toss my own hat into the ring, and challenge my bourgeoning poetry skills by attempting to create an original limerick. Being the devout cat lady I am, I of course had to write about a cat (though the fact that cat is a very easy word to rhyme with might have had some influence on my decision).

Have a great week, everyone, and never be afraid to rock those ridiculous hats, or whatever else makes you feel amazing!

Poetry Friday – Winter’s Four-Letter Word


It’s the ultimate winter four-letter word. This has been one of the coldest, snowiest winters in recorded history here in Vancouver, and I for one am absolutely, totally, one-hundred percent over it.

We had a few scattered flurries earlier this week, and I was not thrilled. Not thrilled at all. Vancouver is not a snow-friendly community. A few inches of white stuff on the ground and the entire city shuts down. A few more inches of snow and civilization as we know it grinds to a halt. Any more snow and they have to call in the National Guard to keep us from destroying ourselves and everything we hold dear (OK, I might have made that part up, but you get the picture).


Looking outside my window this week, I was inspired to pen a few words to express my indignation.

Hopefully March will usher in the beginning of spring, and kick this yucky winter out on its backside! Happy Friday, everyone!

Poetry Friday : Familiar Faces

I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only one who tries to make a point of visiting libraries and bookstores whenever travelling. There’s something so thrilling about surrounding yourself with books wherever in the world you happen to be. While it’s exciting to discover new authors and regional favourites, it’s also a lot of fun to see different versions of familiar books popping up in unlikely places. It’s liking see an old friend with a cool new hair colour – you still recognise your friend, but you’re delighted by their exciting new look!

And so, another haiku with related imagery from my trip to Japan! I do hope you’re not sick of Japan-related posts yet. Life has unfortunately not been particularly nice recently, so I’ve been longing for the free backpacking days of our adventure, and reliving the trip through the 5,000+ (!!!) photos we took.

In a foreign land,

Miles away from home, I see

familiar faces

Happy Friday, everyone! Have a great weekend! Anyone watching the Oscars on Sunday? I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve only seen one of the seven films nominated for Best Picture…oh well, at least I’m a book nerd, and not a film nerd, so I don’t have to feel too embarrassed!

Poetry Friday: Street Cats



My partner and I were looking through the 5,000+ photos we took while traveling through Japan, and as we flicked through, one thing quickly became apparent.

I took a lot of cat photos.

lot of cat photos.

Japan is famous for its stray cats. We encountered cats wandering the streets in every city we visited, from the cities of Hokkaido in the north to the warmer cities of Kyushu in the south. There were cats everywhere, and unlike the stray cats we’d encountered in other countries, these ones generally seemed to be in very good condition, sleek and well fed and very confident. They had some definite swagger, and accepted the attention showered on them by tourists and locals alike with a quiet sense of well-being, as if this was the life they were born into. I often imagined these cats as world-weary celebrities, patiently accepting the attentions of their devoted fans. Japan is a nation of cat lovers, and it was gratifying to discover that I wasn’t the only person who just had to pull out my camera every time I spotted a feline.

In honour of the friendly street cats of Japan, with their curiosity and their confidence and their swagger, here is a little poem I penned. Enjoy!

Oh, paparazzi,

Taking my photo again,

Capture my good side!


Happy Friday, everyone!

Poetry Friday: If You Were the Moon


Friday is absolutely one of the best days of the week – not only does it mark the end of the work week and the start of the weekend, it’s also the day when writers and bloggers come together to share, explore and celebrate poetry!

This week I’m so excited to share with you a beautiful new books that many of you have probably already had the opportunity to enjoy – Laura Purdie Salas‘ If You Were the Moon

Read more

Poetry Friday : Become the Shark


It’s Friday again!

This week has been all about the story times. I have four scheduled story times each week, three for preschoolers and one for toddlers. I visit several inner city YMCA daycares / preschools to bring library story times to children who might not otherwise be able to experience them. It can be…a bit wild, at times – many of the children have other factors that impact their ability to self-regulate their behaviour, so even a half-hour program can sometimes feel like a bit of a marathon!

But, it’s totally worth it. If you ever want to feel like a rockstar, become an outreach librarian. Trust me – it doesn’t matter how absolutely rubbish your last program was (and it probably wasn’t all that rubbish – we’re always our own harshest critics), you will always be greeted with sticky-fingered hugs and enthusiastic cheers when you pop into the room.

And so, a short verse inspired by my very immersive and interactive story time style, as evidenced by these older but still very relevant photos. The image above is my interpretation of a very hungry shark – hence the haiku below!

Open Up a Book

Leave Your Worries at the Door

And Become the Shark!


Happy Friday everyone – I can’t wait to read all your poetry posts!

Poetry Friday : Putting it in Perspective


On New Year’s Eve, 2016, my partner and I found ourselves swept along with a tide of joyous humanity, surging up the steps of a local Shinto shrine to pay our respects and ask for blessings in the coming year. What felt like the entire population of Nagasaki seemed to have gathered in one place at the same time, spilling down the shrine steps and flooding the nearby streets and alleyways, boisterous and jubilant but always orderly and unceasingly polite.


As I stared around me at the quickly-growing crowd of fellow revellers, I was struck by just how many people there are in this colourful old world, and how small a part of the great big sea of humanity any one person really plays. Far from being depressing, this reminder of my own insignificance was strangely comforting. Every person in that sea of citizens, I realised, was a person just like me, muddling through life the best way they could, complete with their own strengths and weaknesses, hopes and dreams, stresses, successes and failures.  It’s all too easy to get wrapped up in ourselves, to see our problems as unique or incredible, and to think of ourselves as islands, cut off from the rest of the world. The reality is that we’re all in this together. This doesn’t in any way negate our problems or invalidate our feelings, but it can perhaps help us feel a little less alone as we struggle through them.

A sea of people,

Living life the best they can,

Muddling along. 


Let’s all just muddle along through life the best we can, together.