Archive for the ‘poetry’ Category

The Storms have crossed the Atlantic. I was delighted today when the post office delivered my copy of the inaugural issue of The Storms, a journal of poetry, prose, and visual art that includes two of my photographs. The Storms is a printed journal, which is increasing rare these days, that was made in Ireland with international contributors, with support from The Arts Council Ireland and the Fingal Arts/Fingal County Council. Check out this link for more information on The Storms.

How in the world did I get involved in this effort? Believe it or not, WordPress played a role. Several years ago I became friends with Liz Cowburn, the New Zealand-based author of the blog Exploring Colour. Through her blog, I became acquainted with the work of Irish poet Damien B. Donnelly and his blog DeuxiemePeauPoetry. At that time Damien was living and working in Paris as a pattern maker and writing poetry part-time.

During a trip to Paris in November 2019, I was thrilled to meet Damien in person. We had a wonderful time together sharing some of our personal experiences. Check out my December 2019 posting Paris Portraits: Damien for more of the back story and details of our encounter. At that time, Damien was preparing to return to Ireland to pursue his dream of becoming a poet full-time, with a goal of finding and renovating a property in Ireland that will serve as a writers’ retreat and bed-and-breakfast.

Then the pandemic happened. Damien quickly pivoted and found new avenues for his creativity. He started a poetry podcast Eat the Storms—the name is drawn from the title of his first poetry pamphlet—that is already in its fifth season and has featured hundreds of poets from all around the world. I have seen him read his poetry numerous times during Zoom and it has been a delight each and every time. He has also managed to find time to create TikTok and YouTube videos of some of his poems—be sure to check out his YouTube channel for some delightful content. In just a few days, he will launch his first full collection called Enough, that features poems and photography from his time in Paris.

One of his projects became The Storms, which he edited and designed, with the able assistance of his wonderful sub-editor Gaynor Kane. I have been a spectator cheering from the sidelines for numerous poetry readings, but when the submission window was opened for this journal I noticed that it included “visual art.” Did I dare submit some of my photos for consideration? The rules said that I could submit only three images and that the file names could not include any personal identification—all submissions would be read blind.

I think that I am a pretty good photographer, but I guess I am a little insecure about entering contests or submitting my work for consideration. Am I good enough? Some of my poet friends tell me that you get used to having your work rejected, but I wasn’t so sure I was thick-skinned enough. I decided to be bold, though I set my expectations low, and selected three images to submit. Amazingly two of them were selected.

The only guidance we were given was that the theme of the issue was going to be storms and that we could interpret it any way that we wanted. The two images that were selected for use both were taken during my November 2019 trip to Paris. The first one shows a bicycle on the wet cobblestones of a Parisian street, with the light from a streetlight causing a distorted shadow. The image appeared for the first time in one of my blog posting entitled Bicycle in Paris. In The Storm, the image was used on the title page of a section entitled “Showers of Survival”—the journal was thematically divided into nine sections,

The second image that was used showed a rainbow in between two buildings in Paris. It first appeared in a November 2019 blog posting entitled Rainbow in Paris. In the journal, the rainbow photo appears on the title page of a section entitled “Beyond the Rainbow,” the final section of the the journal.

It is hard to describe how cool it feels to see my photos in print and I just wanted to share some of that joy with you all. So many of you have encouraged and supported me on my journey in photography during the last ten years. Thanks.

The Storms

The Storms

The Storms

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.


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Earlier this year I joined a mysterious organization known as the Cult of the Spiny Hog, an offshoot of The Hedgehog Poetry Press, a United Kingdom-based poetry publishing company. For over a year I had heard whispers of this mysterious group, with hints and rumors of its Illuminati-like status, so with a certain amount of trepidation I submitted my application and was accepted into the organization.

Last week I received a package with the “holy writings” of fellow members of the cult, the nine books of poetry that you see in the first photo. If you look carefully at each volume, you will spot the shadowy silhouette of a hedgehog, the mark of the cult. So far I have not been asked to have it tattooed on my body, but I do not exclude that being a future requirement. The second image shows the way the bundle was packaged, with a mysterious face looking out through the translucent paper and the seal of the cult. The final photo shows different versions of the cult’s signature mascot.

How did this happen? How did I fall under the sway of this poetry organization? It began quite modestly when I subscribed to the blog of Irish poet, Damien B. Donnelly. A few months later I had the pleasure of meeting Damien in person in Paris in November 2019—you can read all about our encounter in my blog posting entitled Paris Portraits: Damien. If you too want to be throughly enchanted, check out this YouTube video called An Evening of Eating The Storms in which Damien debuted his poetry collection—it is an amazing performance.

Damien is an incredible poet and over time he and his fellow cult members have helped to reawaken in me a part of myself that had been dormant for decades. When I was in college, I immersed myself in French literature, spent my junior year studying in Paris, and made the totally impractical decision to major in French. As I now look back at those years, I hardly recognize that romantic dreamer as me. I am now beginning to dream again.

If you read my blog regularly, you have seen growing indications of poetry’s growing grip on my heart. In October 2020, I did a posting called National Poetry Day 2020 that talked about new poetry collections by Damien B. Donnelly, Gaynor Kane, and Katie Proctor, poets whose works I had read and seen performed at the Zoom poetry readings that I had started to attend regularly.

I knew that I was hooked in late December 2020 when I felt prompted by the pandemic to write a poem myself. I included it in a posting called Pandemic Poetry that also looked at a powerful collection of pandemic poetry by Gaynor Kane and Karen Mooney. One of the benefits of joining the cult is that I can submit poetry for free into the various competitions run by the publish, a step that I do not envision myself taking now, but can envision such a possibility in the future.

Why am I so smitten with poetry? If I reduced my answer to a single statement, I would have to say that it is because poetry speaks to my heart in a way that no other written or spoken words do. Contemporary poets express themselves in so many different ways and across such a wide range of subjects, that there is bound to be one that speaks to your heart—Amanda Gorman’s moving reading at the US inauguration opened the eyes of many Americans to the power of poetry.

I am not recruiting for the cult and I think there is a strict numerical limit on the number of members. However, I do encourage you to consider adding some poetry to your life. One of the easiest ways to to that is to listen to the weekly Eat The Storms podcast, in which the aforementioned Damien B. Donnelly hosts an hour-long show with poets and musicians performing from around the world. (The podcast is named after Damien’s debut poetry collection, which you can order directly from Damien at his website.)The podcast is already in its second season and new episodes come out each Saturday and are available on Anchor, Spotify, Podbean, Google, Apple, and other podcast platforms.

Here is a comment I left on the podcast’s website that gives you a feel for the scope of the poetry presentations in a single podcast—”Each of your podcast episodes, Damien, is an emotional rollercoaster as your poet friends explore a wide variety of themes in an amazing range of voices, both figuratively as well as literally (with accents from around the world). Where else could I letters to letters to Sylvia Plath juxtaposed with contemplations on Chagall; memories of Paris alongside perceptions from the parallel world of Wolf Planet; humankind’s fight with nature followed by personal memories from a Kodachrome image; greying mists of colorful memories with some black-and-white consequences of British archaeological discoveries? Those topics only touch the surface of this mind-expanding episode of this wonderful podcast.”

Let me end this posting with Damien’s signature closing line, “Stay bloody poetic.”

Hedgehog Poetry Press

Hedgehog Poetry Press

Hedgehog Poetry Press

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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How are you coping with the pandemic? Most of us give a politely positive response to such a query. It is hard to admit to doubts and fears, so we generally mask our emotions just as tightly as we mask our noses and mouths.

I was in a contemplative, almost poetic mood yesterday as I was walking about in nature with my camera and played around with these words. If you had seen me, you would have noticed me mumbling to myself. (I decided to illustrate my thoughts with a masked bird, an immature Cedar Waxing (Bombycilla cedrorum) that I photographed in early November.) I’m not a poet, but here is where I ended up. (NOTE: The formatting may be messed up in the WordPress Reader, but is correct if you click through to the blog itself.)

A Masked Response

“I’m fine,” you reply
wearing a mask.
But are you really?

Have you been tending
to your mental well-being
or merely pretending?

Is your pretense
in the past tense
or are you still tense
in the present?

Take care, my friend,
I care.

Cedar Waxwing


Throughout this year I have been entertained, intrigued, and inspired by a whole group of real poets, primarily but not exclusively from the United Kingdom and Ireland, who have helped me to maintain my emotional well-being. Two of them, Karen Mooney and Gaynor Kane, recently published a short collection of poems, entitled Penned In, in which they responded to the impact of the pandemic on society and everyday life. It is an amazing work by two wonderful ladies. If you want to know more about the collection or would like to order your own copy, click on the title above.

Here is a link to a video version of one of Karen’s poems in the collection entitled “We’re All In This Together.”

Here is a link to a video version of one of Gaynor’s poems in the collection entitled “Learning BSL During Lockdown.”

Let me conclude with a stanza from one of the poems in their collection entitled “Stilling the World.”

“But think of the cost if you don’t stay home.
You’re not alone, we’re in this together,
won’t be forever, but some will never…”

Stay safe and healthy as we all prepare to begin a new year.

Michael Q. Powell.





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Today is National Poetry Day in the United Kingdom and in Ireland. To celebrate, I decided to read a little poetry when I went out to photograph nature today at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and brought along with me three poetry collections that were all published during the past two months in the United Kingdom by The Hedgehog Poetry Press (https://www.hedgehogpress.co.uk/).

I am most familiar with Eat the Storms by Damien B. Donnelly, an Irish poet whose blog I have followed for quite some time. One of the highlights of my stay in Paris last November was having a chance to meet Damien in person, shortly before his return to Ireland—check out my blog posting Paris Portraits: Damien. Damien is amazingly creative and has done video versions of a number of his poems that he has featured on YouTube and even on TikTok. The poems in this collection, his first, are full of references to colors that characterize both the physical and psychological landscape, including some steps of his personal journey. Be sure to check out his blog at deuxiemepeaupoetry.com and his newly-created Eat the Storms podcast that features Damien and a host of poets from around the world. The podcast can be found at https://anchor.fm/damieneatsthestorms as well as on Spotify.

The second collection here, Venus in pink marble, was written by Belfast-based Gaynor Kane. I was introduced to her when she did a joint poetry launch video with Damien that was published on YouTube and was entitled “Venus Eats the Storms, A Poetry Launch of two Poets, Gaynor Kane and Damien B. Donnelly.” Both of them are energetic, funny, and engaging as they talk about their individual stories and read selections of their poetry. They apparently had so much fun recording the video that they decided to post an outtake video that is hilarious and can be seen by clicking this link.

The final poetry collection is called Seasons and was written by Katie Proctor, a young poet from Yorkshire, England. I encountered Katie during a Zoom launch presentation in mid-September that presented a “Prickle of Hedgehogs,” with readings from poets, including Katie, whose collections had been published by The Hedgehog Poetry Press. You can learn more about her at her webpage or on Twitter.

You might have had bad experiences from being forced to read and analyze poetry when in school, but I encourage you to give it another shot. The poems by these three poets help me to see and experience the world in different ways, through different eyes. I encourage you to listen to a podcast or two or check out the websites for which I have provided links.

All of these poetry collections are available from Amazon, but I encourage you to order them directly from the poets for two reasons. First of all, it helps to support them more. Secondly, the quality of the books is not the same. I was so anxious to get a copy of Eat the Storms that I ordered one from Amazon and one from Damien. Not surprisingly the one from Amazon arrived first. It was printed in the USA and the paper is of lower quality and is off-white, rather than white like the “original.” The Amazon version also lacks the inner flap photo and biographic information that is found in the UK version.

Let me end with Damien’s standard closing, “Stay Bloody Poetic.”

Hedgehog poets

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Blogging helps to create communities. We are exposed to people from all around the world, some of whom may be like us, but many of whom are quite different. What is critical is that we interact with each other—we “like” and comment on the postings of others. All of this takes place in a virtual world and we develop relationships in that world. Wouldn’t it be cool if we could meet each other in person, in “real” life?

It may sound like the story line for a corny Hollywood movie, but an American photographer recently met an Irish poet in Paris, thanks to the efforts of a New Zealand blogger who had much earlier highlighted their respective blogs. As you might suspect, I am that photographer; Damien Donnelly of deuxiemepeaupoetry.com is that poet; and Liz Cowburn of exploringcolour.wordpress.com is that blogger.

Several days ago I said a few words about Damien when I re-blogged one of his postings with photos from our time inside the Grand Palais in Paris, so his name may sound familiar. When I first made plans to visit Paris, I thought there might be a chance that I could meet Damien, but what I did not realize at that time was that he was preparing to leave Paris. As it turned out, I made it to Paris before he left.

We agreed to meet for lunch. Have you ever met someone in person that you met initially on-line? Did you worry that the on-line “persona” would not mesh with reality? I really encourage you to read Damien’s poetry, which I previously characterized as “personal and universal,” and I can reassure you that he is just as thoughtful, introspective, and engaging in person. During our lunch together, we shared deeply details about our personal lives and our connection with Paris.

One of the things I remember best was Damien’s description of how long it took to reach the point when he felt comfortable telling people that he was a “poet.” You see, like many creative people, Damien has a full-time job and crafts his verbal art in the remaining time. Gradually, though, writing appears to have taken on a greater role in his life. As of a few day ago, he no longer has that full-time job and in a few more days he is leaving Paris.

Is he calling it quits? As the French would say, “au contraire”—Damien is in fact returning to Ireland to pursue a dream. You can read more about it in the “About Me” section of his website, but the essence is that he plans to find and renovate a property in Ireland that will serve as a writers’ retreat and bed-and-breakfast. Damien is also working on a novel and I believe more of his poetry is about to be published.

Why am I writing all of this? First of all, I want to let you all know how wonderful it is when the virtual world and the real world overlap—meeting and spending time with Damien was one of the highlights of my three weeks in Paris. I hope to have the chance to meet more of my readers whom I consider friends. Maybe New Zealand?

Secondly, I am personally inspired by someone who decides at age 44 to go all in on his passion, who has the courage to radically change the course of his life in pursuit of his creative vision.

Let me end with the words of a short poem that Damien posted a few days ago, part of a series of poems as he prepares to leave Paris. This one was entitled “Bookends; Timing is Everything.” (In order to get the full impact of the poem, you should click on the name of the poem which is a link to the original posting with Damien’s accompanying photograph and brief words of explanation.)

“Coming in

is easy.

Learning when to leave

is an art

not easily understood.”

Damien Donnelly

Damien in the Grand Palais


Damien Donnelly

Damien in the Grand Palais


Damien and Me

Damien and me after lunch.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.




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So many creative people are multi-talented and Irish poet Damien Donnelly is no exception. His poetry, which can be found on his blog at deuxiemepeaupoetry.com is both personal and universal and often prompts me to look deeply inside myself. You definitely should check out his website.

He is also a talented photographer. I was thrilled last Sunday to have the chance to spend some time with him as we photographed the inside of the Grand Palais in Paris. Here are some of his wonderful photos from that day.

Damien B. Donnelly

Last Sunday, this masterpiece of beaux-arts architecture, le Grand Palais was open to the public for a few hours and I rushed in along with fantastic photographer, and now street sketch artist, Mike Powell, on one of his last days in Paris, in order to snap a little of the light under the glass.

All photographs by Damien B Donnelly

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Another photo of a chickadee? Chickadees are so common that they fade into the background to the point where we no longer notice them. Nobody would travel a great distance to see a Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinens) like this one and there were no throngs of curious spectators to ask me what I was photographing.

What was the attraction for me? One of my fellow bloggers, Mr. K.A. Brace, a thoughtful and insightful poet who writes in a blog called The Mirror Obscura, posted a poem today entitled “The Brilliance” that really resonated with me. In the poem, he spoke of the “brilliance of the ordinary.” I encourage you to check out this poem and other wonderful poems—one of the cool features of most of the blog postings is that they feature an audio clip of the poet reading the featured poem.

“The brilliance of the ordinary”—I love that combination of words. Children (and pets) approach life with boundless curiosity and endless fascination with the most mundane, ordinary aspects of our everyday world. I want to regain more of that childlike sense of wonder.


© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Soaring summer temperatures have caused the water level in some areas of my marshland park to drop and Northern Water snakes (Nerodia sipedon) can now be seen trolling these shallow waters for prey. Yesterday, in one small area I saw three of these snakes and managed to get shots of two them.

Sometimes the snakes will sit on brush and logs just above the level of the water, as in the first photo, while in other cases they submerge their bodies in the water, with their heads sticking out of the water, as in the second photo.

I like the way that the first image shows the details of the snake’s scales and like how the second photo highlights the marking on the snake’s body (and realize that some folks may find both images to be creepy).


© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Why do hawks scream? That question ran through my head yesterday during a visit to a local garden, when the call of a hawk rang out almost continuously for long periods of time.

Twice I managed to see the hawk, which I think may be a Red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) and got some shots of it. Although I was able to get a shot of the hawk perched on the limb of the tree (the second photo here), I prefer the first image.

I had observed the hawk flying to the branches of a tree that was relatively near to where I was. The photographic challenge for me was that the hawk was mostly in the shade and the sharp upward angle made it tough to get a good shot. After a few minutes on the branch, the hawk took off and I got a couple of photographs before the hawk disappeared into the trees.

I really like the outstretched wings and tail of the hawk as it took to the air. Note too that the hawk’s mouth is open—I think he was still screaming.


© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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If I were a woodpecker, I would want to be a male Downy woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) and slam my head into something soft as a pillow—like this cattail—and not always into solid wood. Of course, you can end up with a mouthful of cattail fibers, and not just a tasty bug.

Downy woodpecker with mouthful of cattail

Downy woodpecker on cattail

More seriously, scientists are doing research to figure out why woodpeckers don’t end up with concussions, given that they can slam their heads into wood with the force of 1,000 times that of gravity, according to an article on livescience.com. By comparison, humans can survive a force of up to G’s, according to Air Force research, though there are reports of race car drivers surviving a force of over 100 G’s. According to the article, Chinese researchers are studying the microscopic structure of the bones surrounding the brain and also the beak to try to understand how the woodpecker’s brain is protected. If you are interested in the research, an article on a website called Inkfish explains in layman’s terms the research methodology and some of the preliminary conclusions.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The world seems changed after the rain. The falling rain stripped some of the delicate petals from this lotus flower but left behind a glistening trail of water.

From the perspective of beauty it seems like an equitable trade—the transformed flower still takes my breath away.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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