In honor of real words and their ambassador, Ellen Kort

On Sunday, Molly and I took a moment from our chaotic world of tweets and texts and celebrated real words.

Our hosts included some of today’s finest poets, because that’s the way we roll here in Appleton, home of Wisconsin’s first poet laureate Ellen Kort.

We sat in on a poetry reading as part of the Fox Cities Book Festival, brainchild of this prolific and generous poet. While the festival draws authors from all over the world (we heard our favorite author Alice Hoffman speak in 2008), its Sunday morning session featured Wisconsin poets.

Molly’s favorite line from the morning’s readings, “You are not a simile for your own life — you are your own life” came from a charming and timely poem by Chuck Rybak called “Liketown.”

Afterward, we chatted in the parking lot of the Atlas Coffee Mill and Molly received direct encouragement from Ellen, a conversation from which I hope Molly will  draw for the rest of her life.

With her boundless enthusiasm for her craft, Ellen embodies the words of another 2012 Fox Cities Book Festival participant, Bill Strickland, who wrote the inspirational “Making Impossible Possible.” In it, he says “I never saw a life full of passion that wasn’t, in some important way, extraordinary.”
Because you see them everywhere — painted on the walls of the Fox River Mall, etched in stone at the Green Bay Botanical Gardens, displayed prominently in Milwaukee’s Midwest Express Center and inside numerous books — you might be tempted to overlook the impact of Ellen Kort’s words.

But let’s never let her omniscience diminish the power of her words, or the importance of her extraordinary legacy.

In honor of Ellen, we are including a few of our favorite poems and two of our own.

If Death Were a Woman

by Ellen Kort

I’d want her to come for me smelling of cinnamon
wearing bright cotton purple maybe hot pink

a red bandana in her hair She’d bring
good coffee papaya juice bouquet of sea grass

saltine crackers and a lottery ticket We’d dip
our fingers into moist pouches of lady’s slippers

crouch down to see how cabbages feel when wind
bumps against them in the garden We’d walk

through Martin’s woods find the old house
its crumbling foundation strung with honeysuckle vines

and in the front yard a surprise jonquils
turning the air yellow glistening and ripe

still blooming for a gardener long gone
We’d head for the beach wearing strings of shells

around our left ankles laugh at their ticking
sounds the measured beat that comes with dancing

on hard-packed sand the applause of ocean and gulls
She’d play ocarina songs to a moon almost full

and I’d sing off-key We’d glide and swoop
become confetti of leaf fall all wings

floating on small whirlwinds never once dreading
the heart-silenced drop And when it was time

she would not bathe me Instead we’d scrub the porch
pour leftover water on flowers stand a long time

in sun and silence then holding hands
we’d pose for pictures in the last light.

My Mother is Sun, My Father is Moon

By Fabu

My mother is sun

Yellow heated passion

‘sippi hot

Burning illumination.

My father is moon

Bright in still darkness

Glimmering cool

Contrary by day or moonless night.

I am moving water

Reflecting sun and moon

Points of light

While my parents rest before rising.

My Best Friend

By Laura Biskupic

(February 14, 2009)


My best friend Charlie collects movies.

Loyal, earnest, stubborn, witty

Oldest son

My best friend Charlie wears size 16 shoes

and in college he grew taller than his grandfathers.

He’s a deep thinking family man.

My best friend Katherine makes a mean guacamole.

Funny, determined, busy, dramatic

Kind sister

My best friend Katherine wears designer clothes well

and jogs through Madison in mismatched sweats.

She’s a talented story teller, a brave friend.

My best friend Vinnie walks in his sleep.

Friendly, athletic, disorganized, good

Proud brother

My best friend Vinnie wears an easy charm

and winks with his father’s hazel eyes.

He’s a smart, sensitive ally. He’s 16.

My best friend Molly eats squid.

Proud, sweet, funny, wise

The youngest

My best friend Molly plays piano

and cheerfully dissected a pigs heart.

She’s world traveller, Anne of Green Gables fan.

My best friend Vince promotes oral hygiene

Silly, smart, strong, stubborn


My best friend Vince cuts his food like Edward

Scissorhands, loves Hauser stories and family vacations.

He’s a self-deprecating joker, an honorable man.

What a Wonderful Day

by Molly Biskupic


My darling my dear what a wonderful day!
The wind’s blowing fierce ‘cross the town

Have you ever seen a sky that’s so perfectly gray?
Or wondered if clouds would ever break

The snow comes in spirals from every which way
Immersing the world in chilling sheets

With a day so great there’s only one thing to say:
Will the temperature ever reach twenty?

Ellen Kort has written 11 books, won numerous awards and been nominated for a Grammy. On Sunday, she took some time to chat with Molly, a priceless memory for both of us.

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