VIVIENNE, THE POET (Part 1): The Song of Joy and Pain (from my perspective), by poet Mike Stone

                      You deem me rude
To come and pierce your solitude. I know
More than you dream, how precious are your thoughts,
Guarded and unperceived. You see, dear heart,
We are but one. You are the child I was,
I am the poet grown that you will be.
Vivienne Stone, excerpt from Related (July 13, 1948)

“I never saw my mother’s book of poetry until a couple years ago (2018). I don’t remember seeing any of her poems or seeing her in the act of writing.” Mike Stone 

Editor’s Note: The photographs here belong to Mike and his family.  Please be respectful.  Note also that Mike’s mom changed the spelling of her name from Vivian to Vivienne, hence the discrepancy between the narrative and the name on the book and the header photograph. / J.D.

These are the dry facts of my life relating to my mother and her hand-written leather-bound book of poetry, The Song of Joy and Pain. The facts form a triangle in my mind: my father, my mother, and my stepmother.

My father and mother eloped and got married young. Dad was nineteen. Mom was eighteen. I was born nine months and twelve days later. My sister, Victoria, was born four-and-a-half years after me.

At this point, I must state that I have no factual memories of my mother prior to the age of thirteen. I have memories. They just aren’t factual; that is, whatever I might have remembered from personal experience had been supplanted by a collage of other people’s narratives and the few physical documents I happened to come across.

It has been said that we see only what we expect to see. I believe that the memories that we’ve experienced directly are replaced by parts of narratives that are associated with those experiences. Those narratives come to us from the people we trust.

Victoria and Mike
Victoria and Mike

Dad divorced Mom when I was seven years old. Victoria was three. This was when the narratives started. Dad’s narrative went like this: Mom was an unfit mother. She was hysterical. She beat me with a pancake turner. This was why he divorced her and sued for custody of my sister and me. She wrote “poetry” (deprecatingly said) and held poetry “salons” in which she would sit on the floor in a circle of “poetry” admirers. Dad hated these salons.

I never saw my mother’s book of poetry until a couple years ago (2018). I don’t remember seeing any of her poems or seeing her in the act of writing.

Dad remarried two years later. I was encouraged to call my stepmother “Mom”, although it was a few months before I felt able to do so. A new narrative began: our mother had never loved us. After a while, after calling my stepmother “Mom”, I began referring to my birthmother as “my biological mother” to avoid confusion when discussing her. As time went on, I just called my birthmother by her first name, “Vivian”.

Vivian remarried a year or so after the divorce. Her husband (Irv) was a psychiatrist. They visited my sister and me twice a year. Eventually, Irv was called up to the Army and they were transferred to Panama for three years. A few months before they were to be rotated Stateside, they adopted two infants, Lisa and Chris.

Three days before they were to fly back home, Vivian was killed in a freak pedestrian accident. I was fourteen when we received a letter informing us of her death.

Six years ago (2014), Lisa contacted my sister and me on Facebook. Although she was only an infant when Vivian was killed and had no direct memories of her, she had heard many stories about Vivian from Irv and also from friends of the family in Panama and America who knew Vivian and knew her history with my father, my sister, and me. The narratives Lisa had heard contradicted the narratives on which I was raised: Vivian had loved my sister and me very much. Dad’s family had been against the marriage and had forced my father to divorce Vivian or he would not receive any financial support from them. Vivian was unwilling to give up custody of us. Dad’s parents had Vivian committed to an insane asylum until she agreed to sign the divorce papers.

Lisa told my sister and me that Irv had sent her two hand-written leather-bound books of Vivian’s poetry, which were word-for-word copies of each other. Lisa had read Vivian’s poetry and it was clear to her from Vivian’s poems how much she had loved us.

Narratives against narratives. The ground shook under my feet. My childhood memories crashed and lay in ruins. I couldn’t imagine any possible motive for Lisa to lie about Vivian’s past, but I could imagine a few possible motives for my father and stepmother to lie to us.

Dad passed away in 2010. By 2017 our stepmother suffered from vascular dementia. We placed her in a 24/7 nursing care facility. She passed away in October 2019.

Vivienne Stone’s collection is available through Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and Kindle Unlimited

How did I come into possession of my mother’s poetry collection?
Lisa had told my sister and me that she would be happy to give us one of the hand-written copies of our mother’s poetry. She sent the book to Victoria since Lisa lived in New York state and Victoria lived in Connecticut. I live in Israel. We didn’t trust the international postal carriers to get such a precious book to me in Israel, so the next time I went to Columbus Ohio to visit our stepmother in 2018, Victoria mailed the book to my cousin in Columbus who handed it to me when I arrived.

What did I think of her poems?
I love poetry, both the writing and reading of poetry; however, I’m very demanding of the poets and poetry that I read. Poets must be authentic in their expression. They must be brilliant. Poems must leap with originality. They must surprise me. I have scant patience for less-than-brilliant poets. My only rule in writing is that I write what I’d like to read.

Before I opened our mother’s book of poetry, I trembled in fear of what I was about to read. I was afraid that I would be disappointed, that her poetry would be just “poetry”, as Dad had described in deprecation.

I opened her book and read the first poem and then the next, and the next. Her poetry exceeded my wildest expectations. Her poems were beautiful; they were brilliant; and they were authentic. She wrote poems about everything and everyone around her, and how she felt about them. She wrote about how she loved my father as only a poet can love. She wrote of the betrayal she felt when Dad told her he was divorcing her. She wrote of the despair and loneliness she felt. She wrote about her thoughts of suicide.

How did I feel about her poems?
I believed every word my mother wrote. A poet who is authentic does not lie. If you must lie in a poem you write, then what is the point of writing the poem? The authentic poet needs to reveal his soul. Perhaps that is the difference between a poet and a wordsmith. A wordsmith connects one word to another, considering rhyme and meter, showing off his or her knowledge and vocabulary. A poet’s soul needs to peek out of his or her poetry.

Therefore, the truth about our mother and us cracked and crumbled the narratives of my childhood memories. I feel freed of my shackles. I feel empty though. I know my childhood memories are false, but her poems cannot replace my memories because I have no memories to replace.

I transcribed our mother’s poetry into digital form, using a script font reminiscent of her handwriting. There were fifty-four poems in all. I added a foreword and, at the end, poems that I had written about her, to her. It was a labor of love for me.

How did I feel?
I felt that my father had thrown away a goddess worth more than all the wealth his family had threatened to withhold from him. He should have stood up to his parents and protected his wife who had loved him with the purest of innocence. That is what I would have done if I had been in his shoes. I felt that my father had lied to us, to me, because he was ashamed of what he had done. I felt that our stepmother had lied to us because she had wanted us to love her instead of our mother.

In what ways did her poetry change me?
Her poetry made me return to my childhood to love and cherish her, retrospectively. In doing so, I’ve grown to love the little boy that I was once. Now, I am seventy-three years old. It’s about time.

© 2020, Mike Stone


MIKE STONE (Uncollected Works) is a regular participant in The Poet by Day, Wednesday Writing Prompt. We are always delighted with the opportunity to read  and share his work.  Mike was born in Columbus Ohio, USA, in 1947 and was graduated from Ohio State University with a BA in Psychology. He served in both the US Army and the Israeli Defense Forces. He’s been writing poetry since he was a student at OSU and supports his writing habit by working as a computer networking security consultant. He moved to Israel in 1978 and lives in Raanana. He is married and has three sons and seven grandchildren. Mike’s Amazon Page is HERE. His work is recommended without reservation.

The Art of Reinvention, a poem . . . and your next Wednesday Writing Prompt

Photograph courtesy of Sebastian Unrau, Unsplash

Nothing in the cry
of cicadas suggests they
are about to die

A rooster’s crow echoes in the hallowed halls
Of a mind as unfettered as the sun hitching
A ride across the day sky and dying without
Angst into dusk and lunar magic, shinning on
Sea waves wearing away stone, pine needles
Rotting into detritus, decomposing into food and
Housing for small residents of busy ecosystems,
Like the bodies of sinners and saints, one moment
Clay and the next starlight, a sacred unharvest for
Wholly spirits, clinging to nothing, single minded
Evolving and devolving, reinventing and recycling
An etheric trail across the great galaxy of mystery

© 2020, Jamie Dedes



An old friend of mine is fond of saying that nothing is lost in the Kingdom of God – nothing really dies, she says –  but all things are in a constant state of reinvention. I agree. I would even suggest that we reinvent ourselves in the sense that we often have to in response to life events. So that’s the challenge for this week. Write about reinvention from any perspective you choose and …

  • please submit your poem/s by pasting them into the comments section and not by sharing a link
  • please submit poems only, no photos, illustrations, essays, stories, or other prose


Poems submitted on theme in the comments section here will be published in next Tuesday’s collection. Poems submitted through email or Facebook will not be published. If you are new to The Poet by Day, Wednesday Writing Prompt, be sure to include a link to your website, blog, and/or Amazon page to be published along with your poem. Thank you!

Deadline:  Monday, May 4th by 8 pm Pacific Time. If you are unsure when that would be in your time zone, check The Time Zone Converter.

Anyone may take part Wednesday Writing Prompt, no matter the status of your career: novice, emerging or pro.  It’s about exercising the poetic muscle, showcasing your work, and getting to know other poets who might be new to you.

You are welcome – encouraged – to share your poems in a language other than English but please accompany it with a translation into English.

Jamie Dedes:

Your donation HERE helps to fund the ongoing mission of The Poet by Day in support of poets and writers, freedom of artistic expression, and human rights.

Poetry rocks the world!


For Peace, Sustainability, Social Justice

Maintain the movement.

“Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Bernie Sanders

“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton

Federal Court Confirms Literature Is a Vital Component of Education

Photograph courtesy of Element5 Digital, Unsplash

“The main hope of a nation lies in the proper education of its youth”  Dutch Philosopher and Scholar of the northern Renaissance, Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus (1466-1536), The Erasmus Reader

The right to basic education should be a given in a developed country of the 21st Century. Apparently it’s not:  The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals found it necessary to affirm last Thursday that the right to a basic education, meaning one that provides access to literary education, is a fundamental right under the Constitution. The court made this holding in the case of Gary B. v. Whitmer, a lawsuit brought by students of several of Detroit’s worst-performing schools. The case will be sent back to a lower court for a new ruling.

Photograph courtesy of U.S. National Archives and Records Administration / First Lady Barbara Bush at the 1989 UNESCO International Literacy Day celebration / Public Domain

“Plaintiffs in this appeal are students at several of Detroit’s worst- performing public schools. They credit this substandard performance to poor conditions within their classrooms, including missing or unqualified teachers, physically dangerous facilities, and inadequate books and materials. Taken together, Plaintiffs say these conditions deprive them of a basic minimum education, meaning one that provides a chance at foundational literacy*.

“In 2016, Plaintiffs sued several Michigan state officials, who they say are responsible for these abysmal conditions in their schools. Plaintiffs allege that state actors are responsible, as opposed to local entities, based on the state’s general supervision of all public education, and also on the state’s specific interventions in Detroit’s public schools. The state argues that it recently returned control to local officials, and so it is now the wrong party to sue.” United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

* Functional Literacy: “reading and writing skills that are inadequate to manage daily living and employment tasks that require reading skills beyond a basic level.”  Shaking Up the Schoolhouse, How to Support and Sustain Education Innovation, Phillip C. Schlechty

PEN America filed an amicus brief in support of the students’ position that access to literacy is a fundamental right. In response to the news, PEN America’s deputy director of free expression research and policy, James Tager, said:

“This ruling affirms one of the most commonsense yet profound concepts in society: There is a fundamental right to read. Literacy is the spark that animates the First Amendment. Without access to literacy, freedom of speech and of expression are just words on a page, inaccessible to broad segments of the population. In order for our democracy to function, every citizen must have the opportunity to fully partake in public life. As this case continues, we hope that the circuit court’s decision will translate into real change for these students who are fighting for their own right to a basic education.”


The content of this post is courtesy of the United States Court of Appeals, Wikipedia, Shaking Up the Schoolhouse, and PEN America.

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. It champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

Jamie Dedes:

Your donation HERE helps to fund the ongoing mission of The Poet by Day in support of poets and writers, freedom of artistic expression, and human rights.

Poetry rocks the world!


For Peace, Sustainability, Social Justice

Maintain the movement.

“Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Bernie Sanders

“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton

Sticky Summer Morning . . . and other poems in response to the last Wednesday Writing Prompt

Photograph courtesy of Martin Widenka, Unsplash

“Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition.” James Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room

Here now Tuesday and the responses to the last Wednesday Writing Prompt, A New House in the Suburbs, April 22, 2020.  That prompt asked poets to write an ekphrastic poem inspired by this painting.

New House in the Suburbs
1924 – National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Today’s responses are gifted to us by Anjum Wasim Dar, Sonja Benskin Mesher, and Adrian Slonaker. I’ve included an old poem of my own. Do join us tomorrow for the next Wednesday Writing Prompt. All are encouraged: beginning, emerging, and pro poets.

This Is The House

this is the house I dream of and long for
on a beautiful piece of Gods Earth, where I
first cried and opened my eyes, I am told
It was a cool evening of June otherwise hot
It was my Grandma’s house, made of strong
wood and and a roof of iron sheets-

logs burnt in a small brazier kept inside the room-
the place a hill station built around a lake, bordered
by the River Jhelum-houseboats lined the lakeside,
but my grandma’s house was on land, with trees
around a small lawn, and a small vegetable garden

but I have heard only stories about the house
never saw it nor ever will, the real houses are fading
‘we shall meet in a house in heaven’ father used to
say,’pray for that for that is real’ , and so he left this
world, and grandfather too and grand mother even
before him- all in a home in heaven-

and now we say, ‘stay home stay safe’ as safe as
houses indeed. but not always, not in war with bombs
falling and shells blasting’ but perhaps in a pandemic
of the Corona kind,
O heart mind and soul, true love strong faith breaks all
roofs,distances, spaces and walls
houses or no houses, the faithful are, will be together
all culture erased all traditions wiped out-life’s uncertainty
matters not for new ones, memories survive like tender
butterflies as love and life itself flutters with colors
fragrance and the softness of a pansy flower.

© 2020, Anjum Wasim Dar

Anjum ji’s sites are:

“POETRY PEACE and REFORM Go Together -Let Us All Strive for PEACE on EARTH for ALL -Let Us Make a Better World -WRITE To Make PEACE PREVAIL.” Anjum Wasim Dar

Houses of Silence

they dwelt in houses of silence
chewed through grudging fences
swam in oceans of best intentions
tried to find one another on the
shores of their fears and confusions,
alienation was their warrior shield

their lives were lived in a boxing ring
the fist in the glove was a malignancy
and the mom passed her days sparring,
she thought the winner would be the
woman who was pretty and hushed
she saw herself as a victim,
she exhausted her own mother’s charity

when she turned her silence on kinfolk
there was no one else she could
beat upon or say her grief to or even
show her bruises and lacerations ~
except for that wee child of silence,
useless in matters of such magnitude

© 2012, Jamie Dedes

My sites are Jamie Dedes’ The Poet by Day Webzine and The BeZine house in the suburbs..

was not for me

though i imagined it to be


i would have wondered how

it could  have been

to live there

new and important

with parents tidy

neat garden and no bashing ever

not in that house


maybe that is where it happened

behind the shiny clapboard

the neat hair and spectacles

foul mouths hidden

tempered by gins those

other nasties

came gathering here

hidden in the shiny


my honeys

oh really

down in the cellar

not painted so fine

© 2020, Sonja Benskin Mesher

Sonja’s sites are:

Sticky Summer Morning

Daybreak mimicking Homer’s “rosy-fingered Dawn”
(once hammered into my head by a high school literature teacher)
attacked the starkly white aluminum siding
on the boxy property
my parents had built just before I turned two.

They’d never predicted
that an accountant a decade my senior
would someday park his sedan in the driveway
under the basketball hoop –
where my brother and I played “H-O-R-S-E” –
after said sibling and Mom and Dad had departed
for an August adventure in Boston that I’d
flaked out on
following one of our gargantuan arguments

or that the visitor would deflate my dream of what
my deflowering would look like,
unfolding on the family room floor as
a poorly-paced procedure between
a basket of oily onion rings and a
yawning goodbye,
but I didn’t regret the “meh,”
since it had to happen sometime,
and at least I’d proved I wasn’t
too grotesque for sex,
as some of my classmates had concluded,
so I raced through my prayers and nestled
on the settee for an
air-conditioned nap
as a black-and-white sitcom
flickered across the TV.

© 2020, Adrian Slonaker

Jamie Dedes:

Your donation HERE helps to fund the ongoing mission of The Poet by Day in support of poets and writers, freedom of artistic expression, and human rights.

Poetry rocks the world!


For Peace, Sustainability, Social Justice

Maintain the movement.

“Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Bernie Sanders

“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton