AMP Nights 2018

It’s the third and final installment of our 2018 AMP Nights! It’s happening Thursday, May 24 from 6:00 – 8:00 (doors open at 5:30) at Bryan Memorial Gallery in Jeffersonville – a night filled with magnificent Art, Music, and Poetry! $10 suggested donation at the door. Presented in partnership with River Arts and sponsored by Cambridge Arts Council and Cambridge Area Rotary.

Here’s our line-up for the final installment of the 2018 AMP Nights:

Artist: Lois Eby – Lois grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She spent her childhood summers on an island in northwestern Ontario, Canada. It was on that island, contemplating vast sky over expanses of water, far from the mainland and “civilization,” that her first profound experience of nature, and questions about what “nature” is, occurred. She moved to northern Vermont in 1969, and lived there until moving to central Vermont in 2015. Her work is at West Branch Gallery & Sculpture Park in Stowe, VT, and online at The Painting Center of New York’s Juried Art File. Originally she studied still life and landscape painting, but eventually she felt the need to push in a different direction. When working from observation, she felt too “outside” nature, and wanted to find a way to work from within. This impulse led her to explore the meaning of the calligraphic line, of open space interacting with color, and of improvisation.

Musician: PoJazz – For more than a decade a rotating group of professional and student musicians and poets in Vermont have collaborated on a project called “PoJazz”. It’s the brainchild of musician and Johnson State College creative writing teacher Tony Whedon. As a young man, Whedon performed in Jazz groups in the New York area and in Europe. At the age of 16, he received the prestigious Great South Bay Jazz Festival Award for his trombone playing and was praised by Downbeat Magazine’s Nat Hentoff for his “lusty, inventive” trombone style. He has played in Salsa groups in Cuba, Ecuador, and Argentina.In recent years, Tony has combined poetry and jazz improvisation in ensembles at colleges and jazz festivals throughout Northern Vermont and the Eastern Townships of Quebec.

Poet: Tony Whedon – Tony Whedon is a poet, essayist, and musician. Over the past two decades his writing has appeared in over a hundred prominent literary magazines. Tony spends his summers with his wife Suzanne at their rural, peaceful cabin in the woods of Vermont. Winter finds them in their bungalow in the bayou of Georgia, performing locally and continuing his writing and poetry. Tony attended Goddard College, The New School for Social Research, and the University of Guanajuato in Mexico. He received his Bachelors and Masters degrees from the University of Iowa’s Writers Workshop, and an MFA from the VT College of Fine Arts. In 2010, he retired from his position as Professor of Creative Writing at Johnson State College. He has also taught at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia; at the University of Maryland overseas campus in Madrid, Spain; and at Champlain College in Vermont. From 1989-’90 he was a visiting professor at Shanghai International Studies University in Shanghai, China. Tony Whedon’s new essay collection “Drunk In The Woods” is due out in Fall 2018, distributed by Green Writer’s Press.

Don’t miss this! It’s our final AMP Night of the year.

AMP Nights are presented in partnership with Sundog Poetry Center and River Arts and sponsored by Cambridge Arts Council and the Cambridge Area Rotary






Check out images from March’s AMP Night at River Arts in Morrisville, featuring Hanna Satterlee, Melissa Perley, Shay Gestal, and Martha Zweig

Share Your Heart!

We had an inspiring day at Bishop Booth Center last Thursday with feature poet Tim Seibles, Vermont poets LN Bethea, Stephen Cramer, Rajnii Eddins, Lizzy Fox, Geof Hewitt, Kerrin McCadden, and Neil Shepard, and teachers and students from BFA St. Albans, Rock Point School, Vergennes, and Montpelier High Schools. Thank you to Main St. Landing and Clemmons Farm for hosting Tim’s reading and workshop!

Nature Poetry Camp for Kids 2017


In late July and early August of 2017, Sundog Poetry Center held a unique poetry camp for 5th and 6th graders that focused on the nature around us in Vermont. Youth walked the nature trail, explored the woods, observed the wetland birds and animals from the lookout platform and the pond docks, learned the names of the sheep, and took refuge in our small yurt when the weather wasn’t agreeable.

And, of course, there was poetry, too. Below are examples of the poems participants wrote during camp.

Out of the Woods – A Pantoum

dog by my side, girl’s best friend
ferns part a path at my feet
healing hemlocks surround me in a forest of green
ice storm survivors loom overhead

ferns part a path at my feet
I walk further into the forest
ice storm survivors loom overhead.
I take it all in.

I walk further into the forest.
squirrels race out of my way.
I take it all in
as birds chirp nature’s song.

squirrels race out of my way
healing hemlocks surround me in a forest of green
birds chirp nature’s song
dog by my side, girl’s best friend

The Dark Side

I climb into the canoe.
I sit in the front.
We row into the tall swampy forest
hidden from the outside world—
a dragonfly kingdom.

We venture out to the dark side—
the animal civilization.
Frogs croak, ducks quack,
dragonflies lightly tap the water
sending out a river of ripples.

Summer Is Here

Firefly lightning illuminates the sky
filling it with a warm late June breeze.

A beetle waltzes across the floor
and scurries into a secret hide out.

Signals are sent through the water,
fireflies as the messengers.

Bound by the Roots of the Past – A Pantoum

Bound by the roots of the past
Healing hands of hemlock guide us
Safe in the heart of the forest
Nature’s voice wisping through the wind

Healing hands of hemlocks guide us
Toes sink in the dirt – nature’s hug
Nature’s voice wisping through the wind
Bird songs – a lullaby sung by the forest

Toes sink into the dirt – nature’s hug
Nature’s foot trips me and I fall into a blanket of moss
Bird songs – a lullaby sung by the forest
Calms me into a deep slumber

Nature’s foot trips me and I fall into a blanket of moss
Safe in the heart of the forest
Calms me into a deep slumber
Bound by the roots of the past.

Into the Forest
I go in and suddenly hidden
from the outside world
surrounded by a furry forest
I feel small

Dragon flies mate hovering
over the water
they spread their wings
and zigzag through the cattail forest

Curiosity opens doors to nature’s
world – a connection for all living
things and compassion for them
to pass on

A Blue Heron

lifts its wings slicing
through the deep blue sky
like knives, landing lightly
on the dock, not knowing
people are coming, lifts its
wings and flies off
into the distance.

In The Canoe

Dragonflies lightly hover
over the cold black water
bouncing along the surface
some entering the swampy
cattail lagoon




A buzz from the bees,
a nice summer breeze.
In the distance you shall see mountains,
rolling hills keeping them contained.
A small little snail
leaves one slimy trail.
A slug
leaves a trudge.
Fall roles in ever so plump.
lines along the fields are orange pumpkins
Look out for wooly bears.
Now it’s time to harvest.

The World in the Mist

The power of one thousand dreams
opens a picture beneath the surface.
A world dressed in shadows.
Somehow they heave moon diamonds.
They are near you no matter
what picture you enter.
Staring into the mist only some
can see the chain
connecting our wishes.
Above them is us.
The Inside – A Pantoum

Surrounded by bluebells every step I take
I open a path, an unfound treasure.
Walking through a bog forest
fog surrounds me disguised as sadness.

I open a path, an unfound treasure
bluebells sway in the warm summer breeze
fog surrounds me disguised as sadness
but below the light mist, mother nature looks over the forest.

Bluebells sway in the warm summer breeze
I listen to my breath reflect off the frog’s croak
but below the light mist, mother nature looks over the forest
I know I’m safe.

I listen to my breath reflect off the frog’s croak
walking through the bog forest
I know I’m safe
surrounded by blue bells every step I take.

New Poetry Readings Now Live on YouTube

We have added two new videos from recent events to our YouTube channel.

Pamela Spiro Wagner reads from Learning to See in Three Dimensions at the book launch celebration in Brattleboro, VT on June 2, 2017.

Darren Higgins, the featured poet at the third and final installment of the 2017 AMP Nights, reads his original poetry. AMP Nights is a collaboration between Sundog Poetry Center and River Arts to combine art, music, and poetry.

Interview with Poet Cleopatra Mathis

Listen to our interview with Cleopatra Mathis here. She was the last in our series, Conversations with Vermont Poets, sponsored in part by the Vermont Humanities Council. Cleopatra discusses writers and poetry topics such as Slyvia Plath, Flannery O’Connor, the importance of holding tension in writing poetry, the relationship between syntax, line break, vocabulary, and the music of a line in a poem, lyric vs. narrative poetry, and the observation of things outside the self that then become of the self. CD’s and podcasts of all 8 Conversations with Vermont Poets available soon!

Sydney Lea and Jody Gladding

This past fall, Sundog board members Mary Jane Dickerson and Tamra Higgins had the honor of conversing with Vermont poets Sydney Lea and Jody Gladding about their poetry, their literary influences, and their writing practices among myriad other topics. While these two poets seem worlds apart in their creative style, both are steeped in nature and value what fewer and fewer places on Earth offer us – a sacred communion with nature. Thanks to support from the Vermont Humanities Council, these conversations are now available for listening by clicking here.


A Few Questions For Poetry

Please see below or click here to view this article by Daniel Halpern of the New York Times. 

Why Poetry? Well, yes. Most books of poetry sell a couple of thousand copies, at best. So in a quantitative sense, what’s the point of supporting it? With dollars or sense? Would we make the same argument for investing in an endangered species? Like the great Indian bustard, one of the heaviest flying birds, down to a couple of hundred of its kind.

The issue is larger than the number of collections of poetry sold each year. It’s about the language — our language. Is it, too, endangered? If the depleted language of emails and texts and Twitter is any indication, then there’s a case to be made that it might be.

Still, a question I often ask myself is why so many people (and we’re now talking about millions of people) turn to poetry for all important rites of passage — weddings, funerals, toasts, tragedies, eulogies, birthdays. . . . Why? Because the language of poetry avoids the quotidian — but the best poetry simultaneously celebrates the quotidian. Language that’s focused in such a way that true meaning and emotion is redolent in the air. The poet W.S. Merwin once said: “Poetry addresses individuals in their most intimate, private, frightened and elated moments . . . because it comes closer than any other art form to addressing what cannot be said. In expressing the inexpressible, poetry remains close to the origins of language.”

Why poetry? I sent out a few emails to see what various people had to say. The poet Louise Glück, on the subject of book sales, wrote back, “The books may not sell, but neither are they given away or thrown away. They tend, more than other books, to fall apart in their owners’ hands. Not I suppose good news in a culture and economy built on obsolescence. But for a book to be loved this way and turned to this way for consolation and intense renewable excitement seems to me a marvel.”

Continue reading the main story

The Greek poet Yiannis Ritsos, jailed for political reasons, wrote his poems on cigarette papers while in prison, stuffed them into the lining of his jacket and, when he was released, walked out wearing his collected poems. They were mostly short.

The Ukrainian poet Irina Ratushinskaya, while in prison, wrote her poems on bars of soap. When she had them memorized, she washed them away.

The novelist Richard Ford differed from the poets in his take: “The question ‘Why poetry?’ isn’t asking what makes poetry unique among art forms; poetry may indeed share its origins with other forms of privileged utterance. A somewhat more interesting question would be: “What is the nature of experience, and especially the experience of using language, that calls poetic utterance into existence? What is there about experience that’s unutterable?” You can’t generalize very usefully about poetry; you can’t reduce its nature down to a kernel that underlies all its various incarnations. I guess my internal conversation suggests that if you can’t successfully answer the question of “Why poetry?,” can’t reduce it in the way I think you can’t, then maybe that’s the strongest evidence that poetry’s doing its job; it’s creating an essential need and then satisfying it.”

When you’re looking for a poem to read at a memorial service, what is it you’re looking for? And why are you looking for a poem? Do you imagine that it is in poetry that you’ll find something you could not have said yourself? And when you find the right poem, what have you discovered? What do you hear? What’s been said? And what do you imagine the mourners are going to hear?

Why read poetry? Emily Dickinson wrote: “If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire ever can warm me, I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only way I know it. Is there any other way?”

Again, why poetry? I wrote the poet Robert Hass. His response: “ ‘Paradise Lost’ was printed in an edition of no more than 1,500 copies and transformed the English language. Took a while. Wordsworth had new ideas about nature: Thoreau read Wordsworth, Muir read Thoreau, Teddy Roosevelt read Muir, and we got a lot of national parks. Took a century. What poetry gives us is an archive, the fullest existent archive of what human beings have thought and felt by the kind of artists who loved language in a way that allowed them to labor over how you make a music of words to render experience exactly and fully.”

So to the question at hand: Why support poetry? Those of us who engage in the publication and sustenance of the written word do so to insure that language for our future generations remains intact, powerful and ultimately renewed, capable of its role during times of crisis and celebration.

Wallace Stevens wrote that the poet’s function was “to help people live their lives.” And because he was a financial guy as well as a poet, he wrote, “Money is a kind of poetry.” I’d reverse that and say poetry is a kind of currency. As Stevens himself put it, “The imagination is man’s power over nature.”

Sundog Poetry Center Prepares for Growth; Expands Board

Jeffersonville, VT December 5, 2016 – Sundog Poetry Center, a non-profit charitable organization focused on supporting poets and promoting poetry throughout Vermont, has expanded its board of directors as it poises for growth in the new year. Joining the board are three Vermont poets, Pamela Harrison, Neil Shepard, and Judy Yarnall. A fourth member, accountant Christina Sultan, will join the board in the spring.

“For us to increase our services throughout the state and build upon our established solid foundation, we recognized the importance of expanding our board of directors,” said Tamra J. Higgins, vice-president and founder of Sundog Poetry Center. “We are ecstatic that Pamela, Neil, Judy, and Christina are joining us and look forward to their collective expertise and efforts playing a crucial role in our continued growth.”

pamela-harrisonPamela Harrison is the author of five poetry collections, with a memoir in verse, Glory Bush and Green Banana, to be published in May 2017. Her poems have been published in a variety of literary journals and magazines, including Poetry, Beloit Poetry Journal, Georgia Review, Green Mountains Review, Cimarron Review, and Yankee Magazine. Harrison was born and raised in Oklahoma City, and earned a B.A. from Smith College, and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has taught English Literature and Creative Writing for the University System of New Hampshire and Dartmouth College as adjunct faculty.

Neil ShepardNeil Shepard joins the board a year after Sundog published his book, Vermont Exit Ramps II. His poems have appeared in several hundred literary magazines, among them Harvard Review, New England Review, North American Review, Paris Review, and Southern Review. He founded and directed for eight years the Writing Program at the Vermont Studio Center; he taught for a decade in the low-residency MFA program at Wilkes University (PA) and for several decades in the BFA Creative Writing Program at Johnson State College. He also founded the literary magazine Green Mountains Review and was the Senior Editor for a quarter-century. He currently splits his time between Vermont and New York City, where he teaches poetry workshops at Poets House.

“Sundog is the most dynamic poetry organization in the state, and one I’m proud to join as a board member,” Shepard said.

judy-yarnallJudy Yarnall is the author of Transfomations of Circe (University of Illinois Press). She has taught at several area colleges before joining the Writing and Literature department at Johnson State College. She’s published poems in journals including Feminist Studies, Green Mountains Review, Sojourners and Anima, and essays in the Southwest Review, Friends Journal and Shenandoah, where she won the Carter Prize. Yarnall studied history at Bates College and holds a Ph.D. in English from McGill University. She recently served three years on the board of the Peace and Justice Center in Burlington and is now excited and delighted to join the board of Sundog and put poetry once more at the center of her life.

The new members join Higgins and Mary Jane Dickerson, President, on the board of directors. The board’s first initiative as a new group was launching their 2017 capital campaign last month. The funds raised through the campaign will help expand the organization’s offerings across the state, including the return of their successful “Share Your Heart, Share the World” event in Shelburne with Tim Seibles in September 2017. Sundog Poetry Center plans to release a new poetry collection, Learning to See in Three Dimensions, by Pamela Spiro Wagner in conjunction with Green Writers Press next year. The board is also working on restructuring its corporate sponsorship model and strengthening its ability to provide and promote first-rate poetry events, workshops, and publications for all ages.

For more information on Sundog Poetry Center, visit

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About Sundog Poetry Center

Sundog Poetry Center is a non-profit charitable organization whose mission is to promote poetry as necessary to the enrichment of our cultural lives, support poets in their work and create audiences for their poetry, and provide ways to share poetry throughout the Vermont community.

Tony Whedon Featured on Write the Book Podcast

write the book podcastTony Whedon, the author of Sundog Poetry Center’s latest publication (with Green Writers Press), The Hatcheck Girl, was the guest on the Write The Book podcast this week.

Joining host Shelagh Connor Shapiro, Tony explores two writing prompts:

  • Either imagine an attic or remember one from your past, and describe the things you see there.
  • Find a piece of music that you don’t know that well and explore it with words as you listen.

Listen to the podcast below.

Write the Book is a Burlington, VT radio show about writing for writers and curious readers. The podcast features interviews with authors, poets, agents, editors, and illustrators.

The Hatcheck Girl is available for purchase now.

Tony Whedon is the author of the poetry books Things to Pray to in Vermont Press and The Falklands Quartet, and the poetry chapbook The Tres Riches Heures. His poems and essays appear in Harpers, American Poetry Review, Iowa Review, Prairie Schooner, Sewanee Review, Ploughshares and over a hundred other literary magazines. His essay collection A Language Dark Enough: Essays on Exile won the Mid-List Press award for Creative Nonfiction. Tony is a working trombone player and the leader of the poetry/jazz ensemble PoJazz. Along with Neil Shepard, he founded Green Mountains Review. He lives with his wife Suzanne in Montgomery, Vermont.