Trends in Writing, The Arts, Regional Events, and High Desert Living

Posts in category Poetry

Inspiration for a Poem

bird feeders

Inspired by a Bird Feeder and Bird Seed

How does poetry inspire you? What inspires you to write poetry?

Maybe you get inspired when you sit on a bench in a serene setting outdoors.

Poetry Inspiration

Serene Bench Setting

Or does a hummingbird stir your creativity?


Inspired by a hummingbird

High Desert Blogging occasionally hosts poetry contests and guest posts by writers. Recently hosted by our blog was an incredible writers’ retreat at a desert facility. It was inspiring and motivating. The retreat included mini-workshops to inspire writers by various fun exercises.

Currently, High Desert Blogging is hosting a poetry contest that ends May 25, 2016. Winners will be entered into an anthology published by JoyLife Press. If you are interested, read the contest guidelines on our Events Page. Tell your friends about it, too. You have a great big chance to win. It’s worth writing your poem and emailing it to us as directed in the contest details.

Need a little boost to get you writing? Here is an exercise for you. Go get a pen and notebook. Bring your cell phone with you so you can time yourself. Now read this then go outside (come back to this blog post after the exercise). Sit down and listen to the sounds around you. Observe. Notice colors, flowers, leaves, birds, lizards or whatever comes into your view. Set your timer for 15 minutes. Write until the timer goes off.

How did you do? Did you want to continue writing? I did this exercise today and had to keep writing. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you set a timer. By doing this, you allow yourself the time to do things you think you don’t have time for. You also can use the timer to do those tasks you’ve been putting off.

If you love to write poetry, whether you consider yourself a beginner or advanced, enter our contest. Yes, the poems will be judged. But it’s fun to try. Who knows? You might win. Set the timer if you need to.

Crayon in Hand — Create a Colorful Poem

National  Poetry Month and

Our Poetry Contest Continues

If you’ve ever sat to color with your siblings or your own children, you’ll notice that they usually grasp the brightest color on the table. They start with youthful enthusiasm.

Then, depending on their age, they pull back on the light glowing in their eyes and they

crayon color choices

Does Your Poetry Feel Like Pudgy Fingers Holding a Stubby Crayon?

become more thoughtful, more aware of their choice of color and where they use it. They also become more self-conscious of what they are doing in front of you.

Do they ask what color to use? Do they sort through them to find a better one? Do they find the challenge of getting the crayon to stay inside the lines? Do they give up because it’s too hard?

Simple Structure

These decisions are mostly made by the environmental influences of how others are perceiving them. Freedom of creativity is only free in your mind. We have too many other influences that can redirect us from our poetry goals. Choose your colors wisely and determine what message you are trying to convey. Stay focused and choose the form that works for you. Stay inside the lines but don’t be afraid to experiment, too.

Do you feel awkward and clumsy when trying to write a poem? Maybe it’s because you haven’t felt you could create something  worthy of calling it a poem. Poems come in all shapes and purposes. We place meaningful restrictions on ourselves — for no apparent reason. We demand better of ourselves, even when we don’t know why. It’s no surprise that so many writers don’t become poets. Crafting a poem is different than writing a story — even though they seem so similar.

This reminds me of my favorite Haiku poem in grade school. First, let me explain that Wayne (not his name) was a clown in class and always tried to get everyone to laugh out loud so they would get in trouble — not him. But when it came to the new stuff like Haiku and poetry in general, most boys whined but Wayne hunted for his best victim to taunt into laughter. Wayne was a brat.

Haiku, as an easy Oriental poem structure, has a simple form of three lines with five syllables in the first and third lines, and seven in the middle. It forces young minds to see a form and it offers shortness to adhere to their creativeness without beleaguering it.

Easy and Fast

So with our assignment in hand, we were told to come back the next day with a Haiku poem and the best five would be read in front of the class. Wayne sulked in the back of the room. He didn’t like the assignment or how the students were showing so much interest in a stupid poem. He couldn’t bait anyone to start giggling.

The next day our teacher announced that she had never seen such wonderful Haiku poems in all the classes she ever taught. She told us how much she enjoyed reading them and specifically she wanted to share her favorite right away.

This is a Haiku from Wayne:

Dum De Dum De Dum

I’m not the creative type.

Dum De Dum De Dum

Even though he thought he was being clever and silly, he accomplished what all of us wish to do — become memorable 50 years later. He fulfilled his assignment, and I love him for that, wherever he is.

Please consider entering our annual poetry contest, (Go to Contest Page above) whether you are a pro at contests, or if this is your first time, half the fun is sharing what you’ve created from within yourself.

And maybe you’ll be memorable 50 years  from now.

Rusty LaGrange

National Poetry Month — Create a Poem

Poem about Trail

Create a Poem From an Experience

A Poem is Not Rocket Science

I thought this might be a good time  to explain some of the creative ways poets bring a new poem to life. Your first experience with poem construction probably came in grade school classes where rhymed poems and maybe Haiku was introduced.

Poetry is foreign to many of our minds at that age — even though children create songs and play rhymes all the time when they’re not in school. Sometimes it’s the teacher that brings the love of poetry to them — other times the dread of “poetry time” is all consuming,  almost like taking a test.

Later you may have been introduced to “free-verse” where you don’t need to rhyme at all. But that doesn’t make it easier. Some poem crafters of free-verse work on it for weeks looking for the right words to convey their deep feelings, intellect, or concept.

Create a Poem From an Emotional Experience

Think about a special situation that brought your feelings into raw perspective. Let’s say you hiked a mountain trail and it was a life changing experience.

Now take those thoughts and write them down. Put them in chronological order or mix them with the level of emotion you felt. Find some strong emotional words with good visual meaning. Try to use your natural senses as motivation to help others understand how you feel: see, smell, touch, taste, hear. Use them all if you can. Make it a free-verse. Have fun with it.

So I thought about my first time I climbed to the cliff top trail of Bright Angel in Grand Canyon. I struggled with the idea of even going. You’ll see how I tried to talk myself out of it. (My excuses are part of the poem) I made plenty of excuses in my head. Everyone has a photo of that point. Millions have been there. Why bother? For me, the weather was growing stormy. I really should have gone back to the car but my sister and I were on the last days of vacation. We just had to go see — take a chance — it might be worth it.

Bright Angel Trail

I struggled to get here.

The parking lot was full.

I heaved thin air, lungs, ached.

I should never have come.

Then I forgot my camera.

Those batteries are so expensive.

My final step transcended magic.

No one will believe I came here.

Clouds billowed like sails below me.

How will I prove it?

Red cliffs rose like layered-cake bluffs.

I can even taste the fresh air.

I cried like an eagle … then soared.

I’ll remember. It’s carved in stone.

I just created this poem (really) and it was a wonderful jump back to 1976. What I didn’t say was the lightning that struck across the point while my sister was holding me steady against the wind so I could get a photo with her camera. I captured the lightning in my photo! We were giddy, hoping the shot would actually show the lightning! We had to wait until the film was processed to find out how awesome it was!

Our annual Poetry Contest begins this month and runs until May 15th.  I wish to personally invite you. Check out the contest rules  and fees on our Contest Page above. Submitting to a regional contest is one of the best ways to get good feedback from a cross-section of readers. I hope you’ll try to break the barrier of seeing poetry as too difficult for you to master. Take a chance. Share it with our judges and be sure to say you were inspired by this poem.

I’ll say it again: Take a chance.


Rusty LaGrange

I will read your poems but I may not be a judge. No decision has been made yet. We’re still working on the prizes for First, Second, and Third.

April is National Poetry Month

April 2016 is the 20th anniversary of National Poetry Month! High Desert Blogging will be hosting a poetry contest later this month. If you’re a poet or interested in poetry, you are invited to participate in our contest. So stay tuned this month as we publish poems, articles about poetry, and features on poets and writers.

Looking for a writers group to learn how to write poetry, fiction, or nonfiction? There is a writers group, the High Desert branch of California Writers Club (HDCWC) that meets from 10:00 am until noon on the second Saturday of every month. Currently, they meet at the Community Church @ Jess Ranch, 11537 Apple Valley Road, Apple Valley, CA.

Poem in Your Pocket Day

Daily, in April, Poem in Your Pocket Day is celebrated by selecting a poem and sharing it various places you frequent like bookstores, coffee shops, writers clubs, blogs, and Twitter, etc. READ MORE »

Art Appreciation Through a Poem — Ekphrastically

A poetry workshop, focusing on Ekphrasis poem form, was recently held at Hi-Desert Oasis Used Bookstore in Apple Valley. Mary Langer Thompson led the workshop and helped those attending to understand how this poem form was an extension of the art world as early as the 1700s.

Retired educator Mary Langer Thompson lead the workshop on Ekphrastic

Retired educator Mary Langer Thompson lead the workshop on Ekphrastic poetry

Mary is California’s state senior poet laureate of 2012, a member of High Desert branch, and a retired school teacher and administrator.

Members from High Desert California Writers Club enjoyed learning how the arts can influence poetry

Members from High Desert California Writers Club enjoyed learning how the arts can influence poetry

An Ekphrastic poem is a vivid description of a scene or, more commonly, a work of art. Through the imaginative act of narrating and reflecting on the “action” of a painting or sculpture, the poet may amplify and expand its meaning.

In this session color cards of Pierre-Auguste Renoir acted as our close-up gallery so each poet could study a portrait to glean the details and tones of the works of art. Then poets analyzed and wrote key feelings that each portrait emitted. Then followed the task of writing an Ekphrastic-styled poem to exhibit how the painting reached them.

Others in our workshop created poignant visions of Renoir’s portraits. We shared our concepts and how the artist is able to capture so much nuance from subtle colors, body language of his subjects, and details in jewelry and clothing of the time period that all add to the experience of the poem.

A Renoir painting helped poets envision their feelings

A Renoir painting helped poets envision their feelings

And, as an example, here’s just the first few lines of my poem based on a daughter standing and mother sitting in a somber room:

            “Her Daughter Julie”

We walked slowly from the hilltop monuments.

The Reverend held my mother’s hand until

the sounds of the small brook brought a sigh.

It was too cold, too sad, too early to be

Lain to rest in our countryside.

The Renoir that inspired my poem

The Renoir that inspired my poem

Anyone can be inspired to share how they feel — and how the painting, sculpture, or other form of art made them feel. A poem of this style can be written in free-verse or rhymed, loose or structured. In any account, the act of sharing and speaking out about the art is just as important as looking at it on a wall or in a museum gallery.

Rusty LaGrange

Regional High Desert Victor Valley Poetry Contest

High Desert Blogging launches regional poetry contest 

Writer/Poet Mary Langer Thompson

Learn how to write poetry from
Mary Langer Thompson, Poet/Writer

Poet Mary Langer Thompson, author of Poems in Water, is co-hosting a poetry contest with beginning today, August 1, 2015, and ending at midnight on August 31, 2015.

Mary, a graduate of California State University Northridge and University of California at Los Angeles, has been a principal, high school English teacher, and adjunct professor. She is a phenomenal writer and poet and has received multiple awards for her publications. She is a member of High Desert California Writers Club (HDCWC). It is an honor to have Mary join our blog in hosting the contest.

Poetry workshops, taught by Mary Langer Thompson, will also be held between August 2015 and November 2015. The workshops will be hosted by High Desert Blogging, Hi Desert Book Oasis Used Bookstore, and High Desert Entrepreneurs (a Meetup group). Anyone who is interested in attending may join the Meetup group and RSVP.

Used bookstore in Apple Valley, CA

Hi Desert Book Oasis, Apple Valley, CA

Choose from nine categories to enter:

  1. Haiku
  2. Villanelle
  3. Sonnet
  4. Theme
  5. Curiosity
  6. Free Verse
  7. High Desert Nature or Place
  8. Rhyming
  9. Ekphrastic

Lines are limited to 40. The decision of the judges is final.

One winner per category. Winners will be announced by December 2015.

Prize: $25 to winner of each category

Cost: $10.00 for 1st entry; $5 for each additional entry.

Pay here to enter contest:

Poetry Contest August 2015

Limit 3 entries. Entries may be submitted by those who live or work in the Southern California High Desert’s Victor Valley area, specifically these cities:

  1. Adelanto
  2. Apple Valley
  3. Hesperia
  4. Phelan
  5. Victorville

Where to send entries: email to

Entrants must agree to be published by JoyLife Press and/or

NOTE: This post contains an affiliate link which means if you click on it and make a purchase, I make a commission. This doesn’t cost you anything additional. These commissions help to keep the rest of my content free, so thank you!



“PoemSmiths” Gain new Audience at First Fridays Event

On First Fridays when the Historic Apple Valley Inn opens its doors to open-air vendors, booths, walk-through visitors, and gallery viewers, you’ll often find different events at Hi Desert Book Oasis used bookstore.

Shoppers Concentrate on Book Sales

Shoppers Concentrate on Book Sales

This time, owners Donna and Allysa, hosted a poetry reading event to celebrate their third year of business.

Mary Langer Thompson leads PoemSmiths event

Mary Langer Thompson leads PoemSmiths event

Members of the newly-organized PoemSmiths gathered to read a variety of poems from each member. The PoemSmiths are a critique group sponsored by California Writers Club – High Desert Branch.

Mary addressing the group of poets

Mary addressing the group of poets

Elizabeth Pye shares a poem

Elizabeth Pye shares a poem

“There was so much interest in poetry that we branched out to share our poetry and support poets within the branch,” said Mary Langer Thompson. She’s also a former California Senior Poet Laureate, and retired English/poetry teacher. Break-out groups are common within the CWC organization.

Other featured poets were: Linda Boruff, Loralie Kay, J.P Newcomer, Rusty LaGrange, and Elizabeth Pye, and a guest reader, Davida Siwisa James.

A Personal Space is Prime for Poems

A Personal Space is Prime for Poems

Donna, the owner of the bookstore, often encourages different events in the bookstore: from book signings by local authors, to painting displays, poetry readings, and craft booths. But First Fridays remains the featured evening when shoppers can stroll the entire Apple Valley Inn complex to see what’s happening.

Rusty LaGrange

High Desert Blogging Announces April Poetry Contests Winners

The judging panel for the April Poetry Contest on has made the decision on the winners!

The winners are as follows:

1st PLACE: Mission Inn, Molly Jo Realy, New Inklings Press

The poet pays homage to the beautiful Riverside Mission Inn with the bells “announcing their stories every quarter hour.”

2nd PLACE: “Europe, 1945” by A.M. Thomas

The poet runs through different cities in Europe under siege during WWII, starving, hiding, yet surviving.

3rd PLACE: I Heard Your Voice Today by Richard Zone

The poet hears the voice of a loved one in various locations of the world while he goes about his daily activities.


The Apology by J.P. Newcomer

The poet apologies to children for going into caves to “pluck these faded phrases” rather than following them in their play.

Namaste by Loralie Kay

The poet does yoga and becomes “Grounded to the earth” while “appreciating all that I am.”

Congratulations to the winners!

Thanks to everyone who entered the April contest. The next poetry contest is scheduled for June 2015. Be sure to check our Events page for the details that will be posted soon.

April is Poetry Month

Writer/Poet Mary Langer Thompson

Learn how to write poetry from
Mary Langer Thompson, Poet/Writer

I love April, not only because of springtime, Easter, and Passover, but because it’s National Poetry Month, founded in 1996, to show poetry’s importance to our culture and lives.

Here are a couple ways you can celebrate:

  1. Read a poem every day.
  2. Order a free poster from the American Academy of Poets (
  3. Participate in Poem in Your Pocket Day on April 30, 2015.

But the best way you can celebrate is to enter our poetry contest. Because it’s spring and you can go to a new or favorite area, the theme is “Place.” It can be a tourist spot, a sacred spot, or even home. Tell us what it means to you in a poem not exceeding one page (saved in a Word document).

There is no entry fee. Please email your submission  by April 20, 2015, 11:59 p.m. to with “Poetry Contest” in the Subject and include your name and email with your poem.


1. $15 Barnes & Noble gift certificate

2. $10 Starbucks

3. Poems in Water by Mary Langer Thompson

Here’s my most recently published poem from The San Gabriel Valley Quarterly:

Viva Venice, Las Vegas

We’re staying closer to home
these days
and it’s okay
because it’s just like being there,
except better,
and quieter,
except in the casino.
There are no annoying pigeons,
no rats about to bob their heads
next to our gondola.
So what if the jester dolls
are made in China and there’s no
St. Mark in the Square?
I stand on the simulated Bridge of Sighs,
look through the clear, shallow water.


Mary Langer Thompson

Poems in Water by
Mary Langer Thompson

Click below to order Poems in Water:

Mary Langer Thompson’s poetry appears in various journals, anthologies, and writing textbooks. Her first collection of poetry, Poems in Water, is available on


By Guest Blogger Mary Thompson



Poetry Contests

            The poetry you write and like will be viewed subjectively. For example, some people love only rhymed poetry, and some prefer modern or free verse that doesn’t rhyme. For either, what judges look for is a poem that is crafted and original. For instance, if you rhyme, are your ending words conventional or what you see and hear in music all the time (love, above, dove)? Remember, music can hide what is common, while plain words cannot. Do the lines flow naturally or does the rhyme seem forced?

            When I want to rhyme, I feel more comfortable with a traditional form, like the sonnet. Here’s the beginning of one I wrote after September 11th, “The Waste Land Revisited”:


Mr. Eliot, with all due respect,


April is no longer the cruelest month.


It’s September that we will recollect


As the time we created a new front,


Notice that “month” and “front” are not exact rhymes, but what is known as “slant” rhyme.


           How do we craft free verse, especially since it sometimes sounds like it came full blown out of the author’s head and so must be their first, inspired draft?  The best have been sculpted, returned to again and again after leaving the poem and coming back to it. Many have another poet read or critique their work. Here are five tips to consider:

  1. When I read it out loud, how does it sound? Does it flow?
  2. Do I use strong, concrete, unique images or do I have words that are too abstract, that one can’t touch or feel, words like “love,” “death,” “pain”?  The theme of a contest may be abstract, but your poem should not be.
  3. Does your poem say something about life in a new, condensed way, like a snapshot?
  4. Are the words at the end of each line strong words? Although some poets do it, try not to end lines with “a” or “the” with the thought carried to the next line.
  5. Have your last line be as strong as you can make it. Your reader has been waiting for it.In my poem, “Butterflies Alive,” the poet meets with a young girl, mid poem:“A girl with hairin simple cornrowsreads the sign that saysthey live for only a week or two.She confides, ‘I’m afraid of dying.’”

         There is a reason for ending each line where it ends. I describe the girl in concrete terms, but simply. The reader can read the sign along with the girl and poet, a sign that gets to the heart of the poem.


         Remember, from an image or concrete object, a beautiful, original poem can from you. Happy writing, and best wishes when you enter those contests.




See February 2014 poetry contest details at


Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

iBlog Magazine for Professional Women Bloggers