After Talking it Over

The National Spelling Bee…

Host: “The word is galliambic.”
Katherine: “galliambic- g a l l i a m b i c”
Host: “Correct.”

Host: “The word is tlamatine.”
Nathan: “Tlamatine. t l a m a t i n e.”
Host: “Correct.”

Host: “The word is hamburger.”
45: “Hamburger. h a m b e r d e r.”
Host: “I’m sorry; it’s spelled h a m b u r g e r.”

45: “Once again, FAKE SPELLING.”


After Talking It Over

She says, “Why not?” Says,
“Corn chips, a long walk, maybe
a new dog, a mutt, half beagle or
one-third collie, one that will sit
on our laps when we watch
the worst shows on TV.” I think
TV, but know the shows will
turn into another movie or
a report on raising taxes to build
a dam in Idaho. Sixth grade

was not this frightening, but came
close. Mrs. Kendelton held spelling
bees every Friday afternoon. We’d
stand in a line along the blackboard
in the order we finished the last time.
She kept a record. We spelled
antelope, nuclear, satellite, creche.
Winners got chopsticks. Amy
Witherspoon finished elementary
school with 27 sets. Losers sat
with their knees pressing against
the bottoms of their desks. This

place is filled with winter. Winter
makes you think about your head, keeps
your mind on the road, roof, the dog
being outside. You have to know how
to spell rock salt, shovel, scarf.

–Jack Ridl

from Practicing to Walk Like a Heron (Wayne State University Press)

Next Thursday: D.R. James, Katie Kalisz, and Greg Rappleye will be reading from their new collections at The Bookman, 715 Washington Avenue in Grand Haven, 7pm.


On January 29 at 7pm, the Hope College Visiting Writers Series will host a reading by Sophfronia Scott in the John and Dede Howard Recital Hall located in the Jack H. Miller Center


Today is the birthday of William Stafford. I remember him every day as I sit down to write, kept good company by this poem he wrote at our first house, about our first dog.


On April 1 (perfect!) (yipes, just 2.5 months away) my new book, St. Peter and the Goldfinch, will be released by Wayne State University Press. Preordering is up at that link, and Julie says stay tuned for news of a PARTY!

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Visit Reader’s World in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

Jack’s page on Amazon.

Click here to subscribe to receive Jack’s poems and news in your inbox.

Click here for Jack’s entire collection, In Time — poems for the current administration.

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

25 thoughts on “After Talking it Over

  1. “This place is filled with winter” in all its layered meaning. Thank you, Jack. Since the Right started calling the Left snowflakes I’ve used the mantra from GAME OF THRONES as my own internal mantra. It helps to live in Montana.

    • Oh my yes,it would certainly help to live in Montana.
      “Layered meaning” Beautiful, so beautiful.
      Hold fast to that mantra!!!!!

  2. Love this poem – I was immediately in the 4th grade again. Also appreciate you sharing the poem from your friend. What a gift. If only we could hear and see what an animal does – even for a brief moment – I wonder, I ponder, maybe words will come.

    Thank you, my friend. Kathleen

    • Not a day goes by that I don’t sit with our dogs and cat and wonder, wonder, wonder what their world truly is.
      I’m grateful that you love the poem. Thanks so much for telling me it took you back to fourth grade. A poem
      should most of the time take the reader somewhere personal.
      Ahhhhh yes, Bill Stafford. When asked about writer’s block, he always responded, “Lower your standards.”

  3. Thank you, Jack! I just laughed out loud in front of my students, reading that Trump joke. The poem, too, made me smile and remember. Thanks for blessing my Thursday, Mark

    • I hear that laugh, Mark. And man am I glad to hear it. You sure
      need and deserve a laugh.
      Ahhhh yes, don’t ya love it when a poem can make you smile and remember!!!!
      On we go, Friend.

  4. Happy birthday, William Stafford – and what an amazing memento to have in your home! I’ve been a fan ever since I read “You reading this, be ready”.

    • Thank you, Linda. When one says they love something, it goes way beyond
      evaluating and into something was touched that matters. What a mystery that is.
      Thank YOU for telling me.

    • It’s my version of Bohemian Rhapsody! : )

      Yeah had a Betsy chat this morning.

      And it really does mean so much what you say about waking up.
      It ain’t always easy, waking into another day. I’m really
      grateful you told me. And as always, thanks for being
      so good to Betsy.’

    • I am so glad for this message, dear Friend. That you feel this
      means so so soooo much. Wasn’t I ever lucky to have him come
      into my days. And stay.
      Like you have!!

  5. Love this, Jack! And what a tribute from William Stafford. I wrote about Kim Stafford in a guest post on Kathy Temean’s website a bit ago. We must be channeling them! I hope you are much warmer than we are, here in Lansing. I’m not usually chilly, but wore my coat indoors at work today! Blessings to you and Julie and the furry crew!

    Love, Beth

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