Category Archives: Literary

Your favorite blue

A poem from Susan Higgins Donnelly, who wrote, “It occurs to me that you might like to see a new poem of mine, written from a Times obituary of the late Robert L. Herbert (1929-2020), Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Humanities at MHC,  and author of Impressionism.  I was struck by his ardent attachment to color and beauty, throughout his long life.”   May 2022.

Your favorite blue                  

Of the larches in Mt. Holyoke’s Prospect Park,
he tells a reporter from The Amherst Bulletin,
“They turn yellow in late October, and when
they get to be about seventy-five years old,
they develop a wonderful bark that looks like
oval shingles hung one above the other.”
Nearly ninety, he walks the campus daily,
looking as intent as the much younger man
in his obituary photograph
–arms folded, trim beard, striped jersey
who might be setting off for some
plein air work along the Brittany coast.
A landmark book, decades of teaching,
the Legion of Honor medal he never wore,
all fading as he looks to the window,
points toward Lower Lake:
“You can see the blue reflections as you walk
up the hillside from the lake.  The blue pops up
between the tree trunks.  This will become
your favorite blue, as it is mine.”

Susan Donnelly

Susan Higgins Donnelly

Dear Liz,
     It was enjoyable talking with you and others at the reunion this weekend.  Thank you very much for all the work you did to help put it together, and for the great slide shows.  I am taking you up on your request to send something to the MHC class website.  I attach below two of what they call ekphrastic poems, basically one art reflecting on another.  In my case they are quite personal reflections and projections.  I hope you will enjoy them and can use one or both for the website purposes.
     I also attach an image of the cover of my new book (which includes the art poems): 
The Maureen Papers and Other PoemsIt’s my fourth full-length collection, is published by Every Other Thursday Press, and is just now getting out into the world.  I am distributing it at present.  Class members may be interested.  I know you can’t give my contact information on the site but perhaps you can give the name of my website, as well as referring people to the Alumnae office.  the website is
     I trust you are getting some well-deserved rest this week.
     Susan Higgins Donnelly, May 24, 2021

     (Editor’s Note:  In her letter to me, Susan included this excerpt from an application for review:  “I am the author of three poetry books, including Eve Names the Animals and Capture the Flag, as well as six chapbooks.  My poems have appeared in Poetry, The New Yorker, The Atlantic and other journals and anthologies.  I live, write, and teach poetry from my home in Arlington, Massachusetts.”)

For the MHC 1961 website, two personal looks at art:

Madame Cezanne au Chapeau Vert

Madame Cezanne has put on
her new green ribboned hat
and now wishes she hadn’t.
With an afternoon’s errands to run
and several calls to make,
she has had the bad fortune
to run into Paul coming out
of his studio. He is struck
by the hat’s not quite matching
the color of the plush-green
chair by the door and insists
she pose there a few moments.
Which she does, but very reluctantly,
very “just off,” her eyes of nearly
the same shade glancing to the side,
as she mentally reviews her lists,
her straight spine condescending
to lean just a bit on the chair’s arm
as her feet twitch to stay still,
her lips to keep silent.


Homme au Bain
     painting by Gustave Caillebotte

Impressionist women
forever step in
and out of baths
in various graceful ways
but now for a change
here’s a young fellow
brisk with his towel
slight of build but with
shapely shoulders
whose spine
—if it weren’t
past my time
for such things—
I would draw
one finger down
till it reaches
the small
of his sweet back
and take so long about it
those wet footsteps of his
across the tiled floor
would almost have dried.

     Susan Donnelly



Written by Dottie Smith Mann’s daughter, Susan Mann, when addressing the Catawba county council in NC.  March, 2021


Statues stand all over the South
Stone and Metal and Concrete reminders
Of a war that was fought, and lost
Of a Confederacy that lived a mere 4 years
But which still casts a shadow on our Nation.

They call it the War of Northern Aggression
And pretend that Slavery wasn’t the reason.
And that slavery wasn’t that bad,
And besides, it was all so long ago

But it was that bad, and worse.
Rape, and beatings, and starvation.
Torture, and murder,
Children sold away from family
People treated as animals, owned
Just another part of the economy

(If you have any imagination, any sense
Of empathy for others, please use it now)

And so the War was fought, and many died.
Brother fought brother, families torn apart
A country divided
A war that laid a country to waste

But finally it was over
And General Lee, himself, spoke out
I think it wiser, he said
Not to keep open the sores of war

He wanted no statues
And no statues went up.

And then a wondrous thing happened!
In Carolina, Black and white came together
As a political power, to do good for all
They rewrote the Constitution
Helped the children, and the widows, and the sick
And expanded voting rights

               Susan Mann

Thought for the Day

Thought for the Day

Back when I was young and free
I thought no rules applied to me,
But as I traveled on my way
I saw my freedom slip away…

Now at this age I finally see
That every rule applies to me,
So, focus on the rules you like
And tell the rest to take a hike.

Rocki Hill Hughes

Bette Keck’s poem


While we’ve all been contributing our thoughts about our lives with COVID-19, Bette sent in a wonderful poem.  In order to save her delightful formatting, click here to enjoy.  The Good and Very Bad of COVID-19

Thanks, Bette, for sharing with us.    Hugs– Liz Webfoot

Sandy’s Poem in a Skyscraper

October 4, 2018 email to MHC Class of 1961

Dear friends, family, fellow poets,

I have had some unexpected good news this past week which I’d like to
share with all of you.

Last Thursday evening, I got an email from the studio of the conceptual
artist Jenny Holzer. I was familiar with her name, and have seen some of
her work at the Museum of Fine Arts here in Boston.

Holzer has been commissioned to create a large LED artwork for the
public atrium of a skyscraper, the Comcast Technology Center, which is
currently being built in Philadelphia. Designed by the architect Sir
Norman Foster, it will be the tallest building in Philadelphia, and
there’s been a lot of hype about it.

The LED artwork will consist of nine panels, suspended above the
building’s atrium, animated by text, which will be added to gradually
over the years to come, that will scroll from one panel to another.

The email went on to say that the permanent editorial core of the work
will initially consist of poetry by some of Jenny’s longstanding
favorite authors such as Wisława Szymborska and Anna Swir, as well as
several poets strongly associated with the city of Philadelphia, among
them William Carlos Williams and Marianne Moore — and writing by
architects, led by Louis Kahn and Sir Norman.

And, to my astonishment, a poem of mine (from my first book, “The
Country of Women”), “In the Small World.”

I have no idea how and when she became acquainted with this poem.

I was stunned and delighted by this news. It was followed by a week of
nail-biting suspense and frustration, because permission for the use of
my poem had to be obtained from the publisher of the book it’s in. The
permission was urgently needed; the publisher was ridiculously hard to
reach; at points I thought the whole thing was going to fall through.
But finally, just about twenty-four hours ago, it became a done deal.
Permission was granted and an agreement signed between Calyx Books and
the studio of Jenny Holzer.

I do not yet know when the building will be open and the installation
completed; it’s planned for “the first quarter of 2019.”

It would delight me if some of you could get to Philadelphia sometime in
the future to see this work. And meanwhile I hope you’ll rejoice in my
good fortune.

With warm wishes to you all,  S.

In the Small World
(after a visit to the model train museum in Strasbourg, Pennsylvania)

Walk through the black curtain and it is night.
The room that houses the world is barnlike and shabby,
bare planks underfoot, a worn handrail separates us
fom the exhibition tables, defines the narrow passage
we are crowded into, a constricted ellipse
circling the model world. At first all you see
are myriad lights: here it is night when the world
is lit by lamplight, floodlights, streetlights,
car lights, spotlights, train lights. The darkness glistens
as in a child’s night-lit room where every shadow’s gilded.
In the light everything in this world is moving.
Skaters go round and round the pond; skiers ride the lift
up and their skis down over and over on the one
snowy slope. The steamboat in the amusement park
paddles back and forth its one swath of water;
the locomotive on its scaled-down track shuttles
from Strasbourg to Paradise and back, its smoke
clouding the fields where hounds chase the fox
they never catch. Tobacco fields are hoed and hoed
again; one boy flies a kite behind the barn while scouts
camping in the next wood work on their next badge,
chopping logs, shooting arrows, boxing; the badge
they will never finish. In the playground the seesaw
rocks to the drums of the approaching parade.
As the soldiers near; the children’s play changes rhythm,
and what was singing goes marching. The house on fire
is conveniently next door to the firehouse. When the alarm
sounds, engines rush to it the way the ambulance
does to the accident down the block; men carry the victim
bloodily away, put out the flames; each returning
silence is broken by the scream of sirens. The circus
is in the midst of a performance: its parade
circles the streets, acrobats riding elephants;
in the big tent the high wire act is already in the air,
trapeze artists dancing toward and away from each other,
while below them seals balance tiny globes, never stopping.
Everything starts up and finishes and starts again.
No wonder there is a wedding and a funeral both.
The wedding party gathers in front of the church while
on the other side of the graveyard, a marquee,
festive and bridal, shelters the fresh bed waiting
for the flag draped coffin, and soldiers in blue fire
seven guns into the stunning silence of old gravestones.
It is right that the only funeral is that of a soldier
whose death belongs to him the way play belongs to children
or answering alarms to firefighters or soaring from thin
wires into thin air to trapeze artists. The same soldier
is buried over and over. No one in this world is lying
in a field gazing at the sky until time stops spinning;
no one is painting a picture or carving stone;
no one steps outside the music of the many parades
to the space where music comes from to create it; no one
wrestles along with the sense of a world moving and still
beyond him. Nothing here moves to the inexorable rhythm
which musters us to a destination outside this world
we surround and encompass like sentinels, larger than life,
with its valleys, its mountains, its long days
and short nights illuminated for beauty.
This is how we live most of the time, small
and beautifully moving as these replicas,
blind to anything but the dazzling display.

     —Poem by Sandra Kohler, from The Country of Women

Editor note:  The new building is fantastic.  See some photos and read an article about it.  Click here to see it.

New Poems from Sandy

Below is a link to three poems recently published online.  Thanks, Sandy.  We are always so very proud of you.

Dottie Shares

ROCKPORT JULY 1, by Dottie Smith Mann

Slow sad tears of resignation

Once and again and again the solitaire reminds me
Doing the right thing does not always get a good result
Sometimes the game is lost even when it begins well
And there are good moments
But finally
“There are no more valid moves.”

The eight year old within cries softly
“But I did the right things, why can’t I win?
I love him so, we play so well together, he makes me laugh.”

I hold  her in my soft soft arms and kiss her soggy face.
We look to the blue June sky, the perfect Rockport day,
And vow to make it ours… All the joy and rapture
All the beauty of sea and sky and summer flowers
All that is more incredibly wonderful
Because it will not last.

I take her hand and walk the Lane eastward
Toward the sea.

Sandy Kohler again and again

ON TIME — April 1, 2016, by Sandra Kohler

Where did the morning go? The morning
went where it was supposed to, a child
obediently lining up in the schoolyard,
a car nosing into changed lane patterns,
falling water coursing down a hillside,
over stone, bony outcroppings, rich soil
inscribed by its vein of icy brilliance.
Writing to a friend, I tell her I keep circling
around and around death, my husband’s,
mine, stopping, resting, temporarily landing
in different places. Like the leaf I see today
in the yard, a single yellow leaf, floating
down like a parachute from high in one
treetop, a comma of a leaf, a comment.
In the three years and three months of
my grandchildren’s lives, time has created
two consciousnesses, two new worlds.
Still, the being each child was a year ago
is already lost, vanished. Ruthless and
slaying, time destroys these children,
recreates them, tender and growing.

Sandra Kohler’s third collection of poems, Improbable Music, (Word Press) appeared in May 2011. Earlier collections are The Country of Women (Calyx, 1995) and The Ceremonies of Longing (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003). Her poems have appeared recently in Beloit Poetry Journal, Notre Dame Review, Damfino, and Clementine Poetry Journal.

Another success for Sandra Kohler

“Poem of the Moment” on the Mass Poetry website today, October 2, 2014,  is Sandra Kohler’s Snowblind.  What fun she is having, and lucky us!

Sunday morning, snow. An icy snow, thick,
crystalline. I sit in a white-lit room, looking
through white lace curtains at the white-draped

houses and cars and trees of Tonawanda
Street. The only sound the scrape, rasp of one
shovel, one shoveller. What is the language

for this white light, cold state, this steady fall
of winter: prison, embrace, beauty, blindness?
The house is soundless. A distant roar ­– truck

or plow. The freight of Sunday papers waiting,
their sections worlds: imagination, arts, sport;
war, bombings, concentration camps, terror.

All architecture is the architecture of desire:
what’s built from our wishes, dark or aspiring.
In today’s news, a Vatican statesman calls

Gaza a concentration camp, to Israeli outrage:
their blind claim to the moral high ground.
Is the claim always a sign of blindness?

I condemn Israel for bombing Gaza, while on
the Boston streets where I live young men are
shooting each other and I close my eyes, hope

not to be in the line of fire or ricochet.
The wind chime on the porch slowly stirs,
as if moved not by wind, but from within.

Across the street, a shadow’s shadow: crow,
black marker, is perched on the crest of
Miss Rose’s slanted roof, defining the line

between the white of snow, the white
of sky. Morning’s clear light is blinding,
unsparing. There’s nothing left to spare.

Sandra Kohler’s third collection of poems, Improbable Music,(Word Press) appeared in May, 2011. Earlier collections are The Country of Women (Calyx, 1995) and The Ceremonies of Longing, winner of the 2002 Associated Writing Programs Award Series in Poetry  (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003). Her poems have appeared in journals, including The New Republic, The Beloit Poetry Journal, Prairie Schooner, and many others over the past 35 years. A resident of Pennsylvania for most of her adult life, she moved to the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston in 2007.