I write

I write to breathe, to try and stop time from tripping on down the trail and around the bend without me, to give the descriptions and wandering wonderings in my head a place to curl up for a while and just be.

Jamie Lynn Heller uses poetry as her caffeine (and she needs a lot to keep up with her life of teaching, parenting, wife-ing, daughtering, aunting, neighboring, writing, and other -ings ). Her book Buried in the Suburbs was published in 2018 (Woodley Press) and received the 2019 Notable KS Book Award. Her chapbook Domesticated was published in 2015 (Finishing Line Press). She has work accepted or published at Prairie Schooner, Tule Review, Noctua Review, Gargoyle, Earth’s Daughters, Whistling Shade, The Main Street Rag, Iodine Poetry Journal, Flint Hills Review, I-70 review, Blueline, and others.

To order:

Domesticated. Poetry From Around the House

Buried in the Suburbs (2019 Kansas Notable Book)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Writing About Writing and Writers

Most publishers aren't interested in writing about writing - but I think it's normal to explore the topic of writing when you are exploring the art - so I'll just list them here:

How to Love Writing a Poem

There is the small pulse
before thought even starts to babble,
the shifting through files of language
searching for the right sounds to string together
into words that blend and bounce or slink
with just the right tempo across a page.
Giving in to the infatuation,
blind to all faults, drinking ego,
the angry late night fight about disappointment,
disenchantment, disillusionment, recognition
of what is as is, acceptance,
discovery that underneath it all,

love has contentedly rooted.

Jamie Lynn Heller

Reading Someone Else

Your words trip along exactly
as I needed them to,
taking my hand and
walking with me
to a new place we can go together
or maybe a place I’ve already been
and I’m so excited you’ve been there
too, felt it too, thought it, wondered at it, written it. 
We touch through the space of thin paper. 
For a moment I believe
I want to meet you in person.  I see us
letting the steam rise from chipped cups,
no need to speak. 
But maybe you’re actually crazy
in a needy way
and you’ll talk non-stop never allowing a space to think you’ll call
at all hours asking for me to venture out into the cold or
spend our time together showing off
how many other poets you can quote.  Or
you’ll be fine
and I’ll be the crazy one, and you’ll say
very little, make more eye contact with
the waitress than me,
and leave your cup half full,
still warm.

Jamie Lynn Heller


From Me to You

I’ll truly never know

if your hands closed
around, held, loved
my meaning


or if you pocketed
something else

leaving it
shining on the grass

only when a winter sun’s
sharper angles

find it

-Jamie Lynn Heller 12/14


with this extended hand

I quietly place my fingers
against your lips

to stop exasperated sighs
and accusations of contrived reality

forcing poetics on the world

because before us
on the road

there is a butterfly resting

it orange wings bright against grey fur
on a raccoon’s open but stilled eye 

-Jamie Lynn Heller

“It’s a poet’s truth”
– Hilary Mantel

And is better left
un-photographed, un-posted,

best shared late,
after long talks have melted walls,

with someone who is about

to be someone to you

and you’re tired enough
to forget the facades,

touch the bared beams.

- Jamie Lynn Heller

there may be
time for one
more poem
if I let there be

-Jamie Lynn Heller

Reading Life

I relish clomping
from font to furrow

leaving muddy footprints
while I make sure

each curve is properly stroked,
each capital evaluated

before the climb, each
period sat upon.

-Jamie Lynn Heller

My Margins

When you
write in
my margins,
the crisp boarders
with your take on me,

or squeeze
your sentences
the lines
of my text,

I get stuck,
sometimes mid
afraid to
turn the page.

-Jamie Lynn Heller

Reading Poetry before Bed

Others words fill the space
between me and my thoughts,

sponges expanding in crevices
gone dry and sandy,

my dreams are colored
with the their visions

inviting me
to play along. 

When I fall into their embraces
the book slips from hand, lays on his chest. 

He’s made jealous comments
about being my poetry prop.

-Jamie Lynn Heller 06/2014

The Writer

I need a place on a boulder or tree limb
just off and above the trail
with a view of the peaks
and the lone stream below
so I can watch
on some days,
and on others smile and wave,
call out greetings to friends and strangers,
but I can’t go too far alone
in the woods.
I won’t be able
to find my way again.

-Jamie Lynn Heller 06/2014

Poetry Poolside

Poetry makes a perfect poolside companion.

Short snippets of lines
free the eyes to jump up
and check on small bodies
staying above water.

Seeds of thoughts to contemplate
while fending off
water gun barrages from hyper boys.

Non-intimidating pages with wide margins
inviting daydreams under summer sun.

Just a glimpse of what I’m reading
kills any attempt
at conversation from overly talkative others.

But I am careful to not stay out too long.
Poetry is more likely to burn.

-Jamie Lynn Heller 07/2013

Thin Poems

When so



drip down

a page,

they must


be worthy

of pulp,



or run





-Jamie Lynn Heller 03/2012

Why My Sentences Come Out Wrong Sometimes

There’s this thought parade, constantly
marching, with a grandmaster pompously leading the way,
widely sweeping his arms left and right to encourage cheers
for what is about to travel his carefully prepared route, in a large tail
the rest come along with their floats all in the right order,
their coordinated colors, side shows of clowns, ribbon twirling dancers
spinning carefully off, tickling the children, but if they turn a corner
too quickly, that last float of a word gets
disconnected, lost in the crowd,
and it’s the street sweep, with his extra large broom, his bit of leftover
makeup and discarded foam nose, that’s left with the task
of frantically searching for the next closest option to fill in the spot
so all can end as intended.  He grabs any noun, verb, or adjective
from the nearby crowd, but his substitute doesn’t always quite fit
right, bringing the whole contraption to a sudden tangled stop,
an anchor plunked on its hem.  The grandmaster turns to see
what the problem is, gasps at the wreck in his wake, and lands
his eyes accusingly on the street sweep, who shrugs
and begins sweeping the mess into a neat pile.

-Jamie Lynn Heller

Retirement Plan

I don’t want to outlive books. 
I’d rather collect them in sagging cardboard boxes,
dusty shelves, find a little house at the edge
of quaintness and fill it with stories and must. 
A little tinkling bell on the door
will alert me to visitors making their way
across creaking, slanting floors
whose worn varnish speaks
of past lives crossing there. 

And I will smile and ask if there is something
I can help with, and they’ll tell me,
or look around a little more to be polite,
and then quietly leave me
to my chores of sorting, or re-reading, or looking
out the window while running my fingers along spines.

-Jamie Lynn Heller 01/2013

Woolf Wanderings

If while reading Virginia’s experiment,
stemming from an unidentified spot
on her wall, I find my own mind falling off
the side of the page and landing
I wonder if she would be frustrated that
I didn’t follow her path or
proud that I found my own

-Jamie Lynn Heller

Meeting the Poet

While waiting in line

I pull down pieces
of the chatter
floating about
to look at for a while.

Snuggled among dramas
of the day, restaurant reviews, 
and other relishings,

I hear I am not the only one
to leave the book jacket at home,
carefully laid aside to prevent
accidental tears and smudges
on the way to the auditorium.

She asks the poetish looking boy
two admirers in front of me
if that’s what he’d done with his cover. 
His emancipated beret topped body
bows slightly in humbled response.

So now
what will I say
to her
when the line reluctantly

because I’ve dressed carefully
for this part
and everything.

-Jamie Lynn Heller

Like Photographs

Words reach out to grab
at a moment and catch it

even before those days
when subjects strained
to be still, new magicians
hiding under black scarves
focusing through a large box
and thick lenses, puffs
of black smoke startled
them all and people peered
wonderingly to see
what they looked like
on thin sheets of metal

we turned into paper

and now ride on wireless airstreams
without the dramatic show

we snap soundlessly under skirts
poems that travel the world
in seconds

-Jamie Lynn Heller 07/2012

Your Words
(to singer/song writers)

Cradled and nursed
you wrote them,
found the colors, the rhymes,
the notes that painted your dreams
and sang.  We wrapped them
around us as coats, blankets, armor
all our own and as you stood
under bright lights our breath
teasing your hair,
you closed your eyes
and let us give
your words back to you.

After The Indigo Girls Concert, KCMO 07/19/2012

-Jamie Lynn Heller

If you love something

and write it
carefully, wholly

keep it close.
Each word

a rosary bead
held at night

prayed over
released from

shaking hands
moving on

to the next
beginning again.

If you
set it free

out there
it can be abused

cherished, ignored
and even if

it comes back
to you

it will no longer be yours.

-Jamie Lynn Heller 04/2012

Too Young at the Poetry Reading

She sat on my lap in the front row, her growing
legs slung over mine, her head barely fitting
beneath my chin.  When I feared her wiggles
and not soft enough whispers would interrupt
the hushed room listening to the poets take
their turns bouncing words off paper, walls,
and opinions, I handed her my pen and the
backsides of poems and she settled in to drawing
flowers and stick people wearing see-through dresses. 
After each new image she’d tap my arm and point for
recognition.  I’d nod and grin my approval, kiss her
hair and she’d move on to her next scene while words,
gentle applause and murmurs of appreciation swam around us.

-Jamie Lynn Heller

Reading Poetry

“If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry” – Emily Dickinson

It is a hand off the page inviting me,
Dunn’s old sonnets maneuver like chess pieces,
Uncle Walt’s lead along the languid stream as it slips slowly to the coast,
Williams reminds me to stop, look, breath slowly for a moment,
Kay’s take me across stepping stones to stand before a mirror,
And when I pick up a local newspaper in Colorado,
I find today’s people flinging themselves to poetry
to describe how they grapple with rock and the world.

Writing in the Dark

My hand flops around on the night stand
striking first the tissue box, then the little
framed finger painting, the clock, my latest
read, until recognizing the pages of the notebook
laying open and waiting,

the metal sharp pencil resting
a finger’s length away
easily slides into place, its tip pricking
my ear drum, letting the rumble out,
tacking it down with crooked
determined letters before
it blows away into the night.

-Jamie Lynn Heller

Poet Laureates’ Collection

When there are too many pages to bend
that closing would crack the spine,
I switch to desecrating with pencil
but soon it’s time to wash the duvet
striped with my friendly fire of appreciation.

-Jamie Lynn Heller


What poet hasn’t been entrapped
in attempting to translate
your translucent spirit
by penning it down?
Your copycat originality
enthralls us, flaunts your
innate calling to use
already borne sounds
differently, and so
notes overheard or inherited,
wait to be picked up,
rearranged, in our
attempt to say something
somehow new.

-Jamie Lynn Heller

A Poem

A painting
gathered in a comfortable frame
settled into just the right spot
halts your steps
makes you look
each word a brushstroke
leads you all along its images and imaginings
matches you heartbeat for heartbeat
before allowing you to move on

-Jamie Lynn Heller

First Publication

Even after trying not
to turn the event into a world halting moment,
my heart still skips a beat
 when holding the magazine
knowing my first work in print
is contained somewhere within. 
I think about flipping
through like a casual reader
to see when my eye stumbles across
my own words -
what a romantic idea
conceived while I flip
to the table of contents and
scan for my name,
then run to the page and there it is –
my thoughts, my inspiration,
my moment of clarity printed.
Centered in its little space
although I always left justified the lines,
the word clock appears where I’d written cloak
which is pretty important
since the whole idea rides inside a metaphor of a cloak.
And it looks so small.  Tucked in the corner.
I’d given it a whole page, all its own in which to stand, and
here it’s squeezed into a
Even my own name
doesn’t look as familiar as it should and
I realize that this
is what’s it like

-Jamie Lynn Heller