St. Francis

Basilica of St. Francis, Assisi, Italy


In the month of October we remember Francis of Assisi, the saint who answered Christ’s call to “repair my church.” Above all, St. Francis stands as one who … boldly challenged a world obsessed with power and status, and a church that conformed to such values. Those today who pursue the cause of peace, who stand with the poor, who engage in respectful dialogue with other faiths, or defend the Earth and its creatures, are following in Francis’ path … a way of kindness, gentleness, and humility that could truly repair our world, which is evidently falling into ruin.

This appeared in my inbox this morning from Orbis Books, the publisher of HEAR ME, SEE ME: Incarcerated Women Write which I co-edited in 2013. By coincidence, earlier this week I received a copy of Colere, A Journal of Cultural Exploration published annually by Coe College. They just published my poem, ‘The Tomb of St. Francis.’

Tomb of St. Francis of Assisi at the Basilica

The Tomb of St. Francis
Assisi, Italy

They come, pilgrims of every shade
in bright red-orange prints, with canes
their grayed heads bound in matching cloth
eyes encased in winkled brown.

Dread-locked youth, his lengths spilling
over dirty blond pack as he kneels,
falls to the stone step marking
the edge of adoration for the deceased.

A lanky dark-haired youth
in plain white tee and tattered jeans
pulls the iron grate tight to heaving chest
entwines hand, arm, head bowed in prayer;

then rises, damp-eyed, whispers, croons,
his body speaking anguish, joy
at this momentous meeting
faith and love lived large

as his beloved Saint before him,
example of the living word
that permeates the air, the bones
of ancient-walled Assisi.

‘The Tomb of St. Francis’ by Sarah W. Bartlett, in Colere Journal of Cultural Exploration, Coe College, Cedar Rapids, IA, 2018

heart launch

Today’s Daily Post Prompt: Describe what it feels like to hear a beautiful piece of music or see a stunning piece of art.

On Thursday evening, 250 people packed Burlington, Vermont’s beautiful lake-side Main Street Landing Performing Arts Center to receive and honor the words of previously incarcerated women.

[Their writings are among the unedited prose and poetry of 60 incarcerated women writing for self-understanding and change in the newly released HEAR ME, SEE ME: Incarcerated Women Write (Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY).]

Nine women gathered to read from their book to a riveted audience. The cumulative impact of their stories, their voices, their diverse appearance and their shared sense of community in this somewhat surreal and completely unprecedented reunion was beyond beautiful. Silence was complete. Focus intense. Energy shifted. Understanding prevailed.

Afterwards, the nine clustered around two tables, pens poised to personalize the pages of books just purchased by the many who moments earlier had given them a rousing standing ovation for their courage and their vulnerability. The entire event was a moving collage, a kaleidoscope of fears overcome, challenges shared, connections made in heart time. The air vibrated with compassion on the waves of relieved laughter. Each woman radiated a confidence only hinted at beneath her ‘blues’ inside prison.

It was heart stopping and heart filling. Beautiful and stunning. A true heart launch for all.

the first thing you see …


“The New York Times is going to feature your blog on its home page, and you’ve been asked to publish a new post — it’ll be the first thing tens of thousands of new readers see. Write it.WordPress Daily Post Challenge

As luck would have it, just today I experienced my first taste of post virility. [Really?!] Not five days ago, I emailed an embarrassingly large number of invitations to the book launch of “Hear Me, See Me: Incarcerated Women Write” (Orbis Books), a collection of prose and poetry by Vermont’s imprisoned women produced during our first three years of writinginsideVT. 

Already we are getting enthusiastic responses far beyond the large mailing list. Burlington VT has gone viral. Is it the program? Is it the graphics? Is it the opportunity to celebrate the women who use writing as a tool to pull themselves up and out of the despair and demons that landed them in jail to begin with? Is it the endorsements by such well-known women as Helen Prejean (“Dead Man Walking”), Michelle Alexander (“The New Jim Crow”), Madeleine Kunin (former governor of Vermont) and Ellen Barry (E.D., Insight Prison Project) — among many more?

All I know for sure is – post virility happens. Really!!!

writer tell all



One of the things I most love about blogging (which by extension means ‘the blogging community’ both broadly and narrowly defined) is the layers of serendipity that emerge between/among individuals and themes. Take this blog hop, for instance, with its theme of ‘writers tell all.’ I have just been posting a few snippets about why women write – a particular passion of mine and the focus of my work-in-the-world.

And now the questions point squarely at me, thanks to Monica Frazer (who by the way has just joined the incredibly gracious, informative and connected WordPress family – congratulations!!!). According to the template of her invitation to me, I see two responses and a set of nominations in my immediate future:

Question 1: What are you working on? 

Two chapbooks of poetry: Turnings about the many cycles of release and return as inhabitants of the natural world; and Fruit and Seed: Digging in the Mother Garden, a collection decades in the making and finally blossoming forth this summer about mothering and its lack.

Release and launch of Hear Me, See Me: Incarcerated Women Write, an unedited anthology of the raw prose and poetry of Vermont’s incarcerated women with whom my partner and I write weekly. Our Burlington VT launch event is set for October 3; the book is currently available from the publisher, Orbis Books, and Amazon. Continue reading

finally she wrote . . .



“Finally!!!!” she wrote, exhilarated, exhausted and expectant as she pushed the ‘Send’ button. Six weeks of nose-to-the-screen gathering, ordering, cohering three-plus years’ worth of writings from the incarcerated women with whom she writes weekly; gathering permissions from said women now scattered far and wide; photographing, copying, placing their exquisite artwork strategically throughout the manuscript; writing, editing, rewriting introductions, notes, bio’s; flurries of emails between partner Marybeth Redmond and editor Mike Leach at Orbis Books, in impressive volleys of call and response . . . all leading to this ‘finally’ moment. The deed done. The button pushed. The deadline met. “Hear Me, See Me: incarcerated women write” has been birthed.

Finally she wrote!!! After weeks sequestered with screen and syntax, her itchy fingers once more take to the keyboard on her own behalf . . .

Six winter birds at feederweeks of watching singular scenes lined up and waiting for recognition. A winter flock of plump russet-headed otherwise brownish birds circling like a cyclone at the feeder after a 14” snowfall – their visit perhaps 10 minutes of frantic foraging, ten to the narrow thistle seed feeder, clumps along the lighted balsam bows gracing the deck rail and others challenging one another to morsels fallen during the previous evening’s refill.

IMG_2066My dog muzzled against her winter sport of random noshing frozen goods, burrowing beneath rapidly warming snow and coming up the lost unicorn, her curved white profile rising to rhino dogmythic proportions in the bare-branched woods. Me trying to take artsy snow-photos to capture the glint of sun on ice-coated branches, when I couldn’t actually see for the glare.

Moving my home studio from third to first floor, finally consolidating boxes from three different closets on as many floors, my desk, professional and personal files, and all art supplies. Moving around my writing studio to accommodate a Tuesday evening group of 16 women eager to explore their lives and deepest questions through written words.

The holidays, come and gone in a blur of baking deliciousness and still more delightful cuddles with my long-since-grown kids. L-o-n-g car ride down I-89 through blinding snow with zero visibility at 20 mph trying to make the season’s final performance of the Boston driving in blinding snow“Revels.” Driving back up I-89 late, late at night having stopped to visit and share a meal with family; sharing the drive, stories and laughter with my adult son. Intense life-altering conversations about things that cannot be changed while probing the tender edges of those that can.

IMG_2072Receiving Minerva Rising’s winter-themed second issue with three of my poems included. Experiments knitting beaded scarves. Connecting with long-time friends. Homemade dark choc caramelschocolate sea-salt caramels; candles throughout the house, warmly flickering our deep connections and love; the annual linzertorte and stollen.  And did I mention the tamales?!!!

Silent-to-this-page these past six weeks, perhaps. I return, original intention intact: to post three times per week exploring the landscapes of my life. My poetry. Musings on women’s wisdom gleaned from my work in the world. Thought-provoking  forays into the conscious feminine. And finally (!) – as always –  I welcome your engagement in dialogue.