It could be verse: Phyllis Larrabee

It could be verse: Yes, you too can go home and write them

Once, a woman in the audience at a poetry reading stood up and said to the poet William Stafford, “Why, these poems are so simple anybody could have written them!” To which Mr. Stafford gently replied, “Yes, but these are my poems, and so when you go home, you can write your own poems.” I love this anecdote because it dismantles the idea that poetry is only written by “Poets,” who are different than other people. As Stafford explains: yes, you too can go home and write them.

Phyllis Larrabee who lives in Woodbury has been writing down beautiful observations, descriptions and reflections since she moved to Vermont over 30 years ago. In her book, Shoveler on the Roof, the poem “Dusk Ride” is composed of details noticed on a summer evening, driving home from the store: the cattle, the grass, and the pink clouds distinguish this evening from all other evenings. Notice how she put her words down in a neat column—like an accounting column—this is how her senses were spent.

Dusk Ride        by Phyllis Larrabee

Black cattle munch

on lush grass



where the skies give up

their light


polishing the hills copper

before pink clouds

before night.


And I notice

driving to the store

for fish, cucumbers

and bread


then returning home

along the quiet road

groceries tucked in

the cooler, in the car


I notice

a pear sliver of moon

appear like a ghost to the

tune of the radio’s “Blue Moon,”


Now I’m no longer alone.

*column first appeared in The Barton Chronicle on April 18, 2007

Julia Shipley is one of three newspaper columnists in the United States. Her column, It could be verse has appeared monthly in the Barton Chronicle for five years, showcasing the poetry of more than 50 Vermont writers. In May she will present, “The News from Poems,” a talk on Contemporary Vermont Poetry as part of the Osher Life Long Learning Institute lecture series in Newport, Vt. Her own poems have appeared in Hunger Mountain, Gihon River Review,  Bloodroot, Rivendell and elsewhere. Her chapbook Herd was published by Sheltering Pines Press. For more information please go to:


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