Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, dear blog readers! 
May the coming year will bring you good health, 
much happiness, 
and all the things you cherish and love!

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Prompt 346 – Happy Holidays

For many years, I've revisited the story of Virginia O'Hanlon and her letter to the editor of the Sun at some point during this time of year, and I'm happy to revisit it with you again here on the blog. It's one of those magical Christmas stories that never fails to warm my heart. There are several prompts for poems that follow, as well as a letter written by Mark Twain to his daughter.

Over a hundred years ago, eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of New York’s Sun, and the quick response was printed as an unsigned editorial on Sept. 21, 1897. The work of veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church has since become history’s most reprinted newspaper editorial, appearing in part or whole in dozens of languages in books, movies, and other editorials, and on posters and stamps. I've read Virginia's letter and Francis Church's reply every year during December for many years. I hope it will touch your heart as much as it always touches mine.

The Editorial

    DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
    Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
    Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’
    Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?


    VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

    Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

    Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

    You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

    No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.


The first poem I ever had published was a letter to Santa that I wrote in December of 1956 (I had just turned 8 years old and still believed in Santa Claus). My poem was published in the Grover Cleveland Elementary School newspaper. Happily, my mom saved all those early writings, and I have an original copy of the newspaper.

Your prompt for this week is to write a letter to Santa in which you list the things that you wish for. These needn’t be material things! You may also consider writing about what you believe or need to believe.


1. Think in terms of non-material gifts you’d like to receive. (For example: spiritual well-being, healing from (and cures for) illnesses, an end to homelessness and hunger, peace in the world.)

2. Think about your family members and friends. What would you most like for them?

3. Is there a relationship in your life that needs healing? What would you ask for in terms of that relationship?

4. What about our world? What would you ask for?

5. Is there something you want or need to believe? How would you ask for that belief?


1. Observe the usual caveats: avoid the passive voice, eliminate “ing” endings wherever you can, don’t use too many adjectives.

2. Use more one-syllable words than multi-syllable words in your last couple of lines (think in terms of strong verbs and no superfluous language).

3. Try (minimal) repetition from another part of the poem—sometimes this can work very well.

4. Try to link the end of your poem to the beginning but not overtly—and don’t over-write.

5.  Write beyond the last line, then go back and find the last line hidden in what you’ve written.

6. Leave your reader something to reflect upon.

7. Point toward something broader than the obvious content of your poem.

8. You may want to try a prose poem  or to use letter format. Here's a letter from Santa Claus that Mark Twain wrote for his daughter Susie:

Mark Twain's Letter from Santa Claus
Written for His Daughter Susie

Palace of St. Nicholas
In the Moon
Christmas Morning


I have received and read all the letters which you and your little sister have written me by the hand of your mother and your nurses; I have also read those which you little people have written me with your own hands--for although you did not use any characters that are in grown peoples' alphabet, you used the characters that all children in all lands on earth and in the twinkling stars use; and as all my subjects in the moon are children and use no character but that, you will easily understand that I can read your and your baby sister's jagged and fantastic marks without any trouble at all. But I had trouble with those letters which you dictated through your mother and the nurses, for I am a foreigner and cannot read English writing well. You will find that I made no mistakes about the things which you and the baby ordered in your own letters—I went down your chimney at midnight when you were asleep and delivered them all myself—and kissed both of you, too, because you are good children, well trained, nice mannered, and about the most obedient little people I ever saw. But in the letter which you dictated there were some words which I could not make out for certain, and one or two small orders which I could not fill because we ran out of stock. Our last lot of kitchen furniture for dolls has just gone to a very poor little child in the North Star away up, in the cold country above the Big Dipper. Your mama can show you that star and you will say: "Little Snow Flake," (for that is the child's name) "I'm glad you got that furniture, for you need it more than I." That is, you must write that, with your own hand, and Snow Flake will write you an answer. If you only spoke it she wouldn't hear you. Make your letter light and thin, for the distance is great and the postage very heavy.

There was a word or two in your mama's letter which I couldn't be certain of. I took it to be "a trunk full of doll's clothes." Is that it? I will call at your kitchen door about nine o'clock this morning to inquire. But I must not see anybody and I must not speak to anybody but you. When the kitchen doorbell rings, George must be blindfolded and sent to open the door. Then he must go back to the dining room or the china closet and take the cook with him. You must tell George he must walk on tiptoe and not speak—otherwise he will die someday. Then you must go up to the nursery and stand on a chair or the nurse's bed and put your car to the speaking tube that leads down to the kitchen and when I whistle through it you must speak in the tube and say, "Welcome, Santa Claus!" Then I will ask whether it was a trunk you ordered or not. If you say it was, I shall ask you what color you want the trunk to be. Your mama will help you to name a nice color and then you must tell me every single thing in detail which you want the trunk to contain. Then when I say "Good-by and a merry Christmas to my little Susie Clemens," you must say "Good-by, good old Santa Claus, I thank you very much and please tell that little Snow Flake I will look at her star tonight and she must look down here—I will be right in the west bay window; and every fine night I will look at her star and say, 'I know somebody up there and like her, too.' " Then you must go down into the library and make George close all the doors that open into the main hall, and everybody must keep still for a little while. I will go to the moon and get those things and in a few minutes I will come down the chimney that belongs to the fireplace that is in the hall—if it is a trunk you want—because I couldn't get such a thing as a trunk down the nursery chimney, you know.

People may talk if they want, until they hear my footsteps in the hall. Then you tell them to keep quiet a little while till I go back up the chimney. Maybe you will not hear my footsteps at all—so you may go now and then and peep through the dining-room doors, and by and by you will see that thing which you want, right under the piano in the drawing room-for I shall put it there. If I should leave any snow in the hall, you must tell George to sweep it into the fireplace, for I haven't time to do such things. George must not use a broom, but a rag—else he will die someday. You must watch George and not let him run into danger. If my boot should leave a stain on the marble, George must not holystone it away. Leave it there always in memory of my visit; and whenever you look at it or show it to anybody you must let it remind you to be a good little girl. Whenever you are naughty and somebody points to that mark which your good old Santa Claus's boot made on the marble, what will you say, little sweetheart?

Good-by for a few minutes, till I come down to the world and ring the kitchen doorbell.

Your loving SANTA CLAUS
Whom people sometimes call "The Man in the Moon"

Chaucey and I wish all of you happy, healthy holidays 
and the best blessings of this festive season. 
May the coming year bring you good health, 
much happiness, and all the things that you love! 
I’ll resume posting in January 2020! 
In the meantime, celebrate the season!

Saturday, December 14, 2019

My New Book!

Dear Blog Readers,

Forgive me for shamelessly prompting my new book, but I'm so happy to share the news that it's been published! Wind Over Stones is a collection of prose poems based on various artists' paintings, and my publisher (John Weber, owner of Welcome Rain Publishing) has included QR codes so that readers can look at the paintings online while they're reading. I hope you'll consider buying a copy for yourself or for holiday giving. 

To order via Amazon, click on the link below:

To order through Barnes & Noble:

I wish you every blessing of this special season—good health, peace, and joy,

Wind Over Stones
Welcome Rain Publishers, LLC
New York, NY

ISBN-10: 1-56649-405-2

Paperback, 90 Pages

Publication Date: December 5, 2019

About the Book:

The ekphrastic prose poems in this collection were inspired by various artists’ paintings. A unique feature of the book is the inclusion QR codes for each of the paintings. Using their smart phones or mobile devices and a free QR code scanning application, readers can view the paintings while they are reading the poems.

From the Back Cover:

These prose poems continue Adele Kenny's reflections on the spiritual condition of being. Despite loss and change, she looks into the dark without flinching and finds light among the shadows. Using ekphrasis as a rhetorical device and combined with Kenny's signature elements of technical proficiency, hauntingly lucid imagery, and compelling immediacy, these poems filter and record experience in startling ways as they journey across aging's inevitable arc. Hardwired by Kenny's understanding of the human spirit, these poems offer us insights into the healing power of attention and awareness.
"Compressed and brilliant in their philosophical and imagistic scintillations, the prose poems in Adele Kenny’s Wind Over Stones are of one piece in both voice and intensity of gaze. Through each artwork she has chosen as her lens, she seems to be saying, If we look hard enough and long enough, and with just the right slant of light, we can see through these paintings into ourselves. Her vision embodies, without presumption, the knowledge that, as John Muir told us, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” Kenny tells us, This kind of purity comes to us without intention—in ordinary things that are anything but ordinary….” She paints it for us herself: “A flurry of bats becomes the Milky Way, and we make no pretense of understanding the infinite (deep inside us), our need to become nothing before we unname ourselves and disappear.” Everything is connected, and through the language of fairytale, examination, and prayer—the same language, after all—each of Kenny’s poems is a gem in a garland of gems."

—Renée Ashley