Poetry Friday: Poems from the Writers’ Renaissance, Florence, Italy

Writer's Renaissance - Florence 2013

Buongiorno, amici miei!


Benvenuti! We’re in Italy today! Back in April, I left for Florence at the crack of dawn to tape some poetry videos with the delightful women participating in Julie Hedlund’s Writers’ Renaissance Retreat.

The whosie whatsit, you say? Well, first things first. This is Julie Hedlund, hard at work on one of her reconnaissance missions to Florence:


Julie founded the 12×12 picture book writing challenge, which is currently in its second year. Then she put together a writing retreat that would whisk a few lucky women (sorry, guys!) away to Florence, Italy, for a week of inspiration via art, architecture, gelato, and good company.

Look, here I am with Julie and faculty member Katie Davis, getting inspired over cappuccino! What fun it was to finally meet some online friends. We yakked it up like we’d seen each other yesterday…which I guess we had, considering Facebook and all.


If you want to treat yourself to a writing getaway extraordinaire, you can find out all about it on Julie’s Writers’ Renaissance 2014 page. The next retreat is set for April 6-12, so you’ve got plenty of time to cajole your loved ones into letting you go.

Here’s the group of lovelies from this year. See any familiar faces?

Writers Renaissance Group

I didn’t have a lot of time with this fabulous group, so we got right down to poetry video business. The whole group got together to recite their group poem, created in a session with Katie that she likes to call the Vulcan Mind Meld. It’s very much like Irene Latham’s Progressive Poem, but the participants see only the last two lines written, rather than all the lines. (Oh, did I “forget” to edit out the messy parts? Oops! Sorry ladies — you were too fun to leave on the cutting room floor!)



Bells tolling, rivers rolling
Rowers sliding free
Their oars flap the water:
Slap! Slap! Slap!
Oops! down, down the tower!
tumbled, jumbled
like a pile of Pinocchio legs and arms.
Their noses grow and prick the air.
Their aroma lives on forever.
Light, sweet, dancing on air
through the streets and over bridges
pulsing through verdant hedges
over narrow, frightening ledges…
I jump, I fly
I sing, I cry
Bend like a willow tree.
Cry like a river.
Tell us your song.


Next up was Julie with her brief but heartfelt ode to gelato. I have been singing this ode for ten years, and it shows.


I tried to eat a frittata
and had to wash it down with wattah
and now I think I gotta
eat a lotta gelata.

© 2013 Julie Hedlund. All rights reserved.


One of the many highlights of the morning was meeting and chatting with the warm and wonderful Esther Hershenhorn of TeachingAuthors.com fame! I had no idea she would be there, and since TeachingAuthors is one of my favorite blogs, it was a real treat to meet one of the women behind it. What a generous, joyful soul! I wish we’d had more time to talk — she’s one of those people who covers you in warmth like your childhood blankie.

ANYWAY, Esther wanted to share a poem by her TeachingAuthors pal, April Halprin Wayland — another wonderful surprise! April wrote this poem as a response to her participation in the 2013 March Madness Poetry Tournament. I think it pretty much sums up the experience.


There’s a Superwoman
caffeinated rush
in my veins!

I’m becoming that crazy woman
at the top of the highest roller coaster
laughing hysterically for fifty-five minutes!

And then, bleary-eyed in the morning,
wearing my robe and slippers,
finding a severed head

in the vegetable bin
of my refrigerator
next to the iceberg lettuce

when I read my poem
posted for all to see
and realize

it doesn’t scan
the way it seemed to

last night.

© 2013 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved.


And then yet another surprise awaited me. When I arrived, one person at the breakfast table greeted me with, “Hi, I’m Cory, from David’s blog.” Being still in a fog from the early start and long drive, I had no idea what that meant. After just a couple sips of cappuccino, however, I made the connection and yelled, “Oh, you’re THAT Cory from THAT David’s blog! Hugs must happen!”

Yes, it was fellow David Harrison groupie Cory Corrado! We see each other all the time on David’s blog, where Cory is a regular contributor to his Word of the Month poems and all his wacky poetry challenges. What a sweetheart she is!

Cory Corrado and Renee

Cory offers us a poem from her new book of photos and poetry called Word Blossoms, which you can flip through right here. I was sad to discover that the strong wind that followed us that day often overpowered Cory and the video camera. But Cory waxed philosophical about it, saying, The fact that it is windy and my voice gets carried away is perfect in a way because I say I want to be as free as the wind, and it happily obliged… .

If you’d like more info on Cory’s book, feel free to contact her at word.blossoms@bell.net.


I love to gaze at e n d l e s s skies;
behold the boundless seas.
I love to w a n d e r among the trees
look out into the vast unseen.
I love to m e a n d e r with the stream
delight in f r e e d o m’s flow.

Give me space to find my place,
to set my pace and live with grace.
Give me room to find my groove,
to breathe,
to be,
to feel w i n d-f r e e

I need v a s t n e s s of endless skies
I seek freedom of the birds that fly.
To me and to my heart I give
s     p     a     c    e  to find my place
to breathe,
to love
and live,
to grow and thrive–
to be just me.

© 2013 Cory Corrado. All rights reserved.


Although this was a whirlwind trip, I’m so glad I got myself together long enough to meet this charming group of writers. I have to thank Julie for making space for me in her itinerary, and all the writers for their generosity and willingness to share their time and their work. Tanti baci e abbracci a tutti voi! 

This is me looking wistful that I couldn’t stay for the whole week!


[heading style=”1″]Extension Activity for Group Poetry[/heading]

  • Vulcan Mind Meld Group Poem
    • In one of her sessions with the retreat group, Katie Davis encouraged participants to let go of expectations and just write, letting the words flow in and out organically. The Vulcan Mind Meld group poem exercise is a great way to let your imagination wander and your creativity come out without over-thinking it.
    • To create a Vulcan Mind Meld group poem:
      • Have one person in the group write two lines at the top of a page and pass the paper to the next person.
      • Person #2 reads the two lines, adds two lines of her own, then folds the paper down so only her lines are visible.
      • Person #3 follows suit, reading Person #2’s lines, adding her own, folding the paper down, and passing it on.
      • Continue until everyone in the group has contributed. Then do a group reading. Then eat gelato.


La bella Betsy has the roundup today at Teaching Young Writers. Take her a plate of pasta, already!

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[divider top=”0″] Video Location: Florence, Italy

See more poems in my poetry video library.

All poems © their respective authors. All rights reserved.