It could be verse: Herbert Elliott

It could be verse*

Poems are like teabags in that they have the potential to infuse our minds and hearts with the flavor of their contents.  They communicate feeling, connection and meaning.  They are immediate pieces of humanity; they are portable worlds.

Poetry, we sometimes think, belongs in a special place, like a literature class, or a valentine.  But what if poems were as ubiquitous as advertisements?  What if poems secretly crept out of their lonely volumes and appeared in your lunch box, your in-box, or on TV, a brief haiku between the six o’clock news and Seinfeld.  In this skinny column I’d like to introduce you to the poetry made by your Vermont neighbors like Diane Swan and Burt Porter.

To kick off the column, I chose a poem by St. Johnsbury poet, Herbert Elliott (1914-1990), whose observations in his poem, “Birds With Us” conveys the tugging of spring upon winter, winter upon spring, as we and the just arrived birds carry on together amid the unsettled season. Elliott was a dairy farmer, and this poem comes from his collection, Take Your Last Look, selected by his daughter Sandria Elliott Ebbett. The poem comforts us as we shovel out of April and splash into May.


Birds With Us              by Herbert Elliott


The April snow came late

And covered bush and weed.

Around the house in flocks

The spring birds came to feed.


The wood-birds left the woods

And snowy forest floor

And printed little tracks

Before the kitchen door.


The night came, and the moon,

And in the silver gleam

In barn they dreamed of spring

On rafter and on beam.


*column first appeared in the Barton Chronicle on May 2, 2007. It is reprinted with permission, and a special feature in celebration of National Poetry Month, and in conjunction with POETRY Alive!

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:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s