Word Garden

The Blog of Writer and Poet Michelle Regalado Deatrick


...How a writer and her family fell in love with 80 acres,

and what the land gives back.


Sometimes we can’t quite believe how lucky we are to be the owners and caretakers of this beautiful place, with its sloping land, small wooded areas, wildflower-rimmed fields, wetlands, and hedgerows sheltering wildlife.  On it, we’re developing a native prairie…stands of native trees…an orchard…a large organic garden…And we have plans for livestock, timber stands and more—these are the beloved, frustrating, time-consuming eighty acres we call Walnut Ridge Farm.  





5/3/2016  LAGNIAPPE #8: CYGNUS BUCCINATOR (Trumpeter Swan)

Lagniappesomething extra, something beyond what was labored for, or paid for. A gift. A blessing. Two native swans returning, day after day, to our glacial kettlepond. A return to poetry and the land after a solid year of politics.

The trumpeter swans paddling around our pond are part of a narrative of healing. Trumpeters, the largest species of waterfowl native to North America, nearly went extinct in the early half of the twentieth century. Fewer than 70 were known to exist in the wild in 1933, and even these were dwindling. When several thousand were found near the Copper River in Alaska, wildlife organizations reintroduced them to the parts of North America where they were native. Here's the good news: we can do this. We can heal what we have broken. The population of trumpeter swans is now nearly 50,000.


It's been a year minus a day since I posted in this blog. For that year, I worked more than full time--first as a volunteer, and then as a staffer--on Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign. I am still volunteering for the campaign, and thinking forward, to what comes next: whoever is elected to the presidency, we must--as a species, a country, a state, a county, a community--continue the most important work of our generation: not merely halting climate change and the mass extinction event we're already living through, but healing the earth and ourselves and our fractured institutions as we do so.

And the two swans who chose our pond as their home? Six years ago, it wouldn't have happened. The pond that must have existed here for centuries had been cultivated away. The basin had some standing water in spring that drained away by early May. The land was tilled and sprayed with glyphosate. Corn, wheat or soy were planted year after year.

We made that basin the center of our native prairie. And after six years of no tillage, no spraying, no mechanized equipment, and no seeding (except of native plants), plant debris is building up in the bottom of the pond basin, deeper each year. The soil is settling. The pond fills to a higher level and remains wet longer each year. There's plenty of submerged, decaying plant materials and amphibians for swans and ducks to feast on.

We humans need to eat too. Farmland is good thing when stewarded well. I'm finding ways to wed my work on the land and on poetry with the political work I feel I must continue. Too much is at stake.

But our souls and spirits also need poetry. And the swans.


Lagniappesomething extra, something beyond what was labored for, or paid for. A gift. A blessing. A muskrat den where no muskrats have lived for over a hundred years.

Muskrat_Den_cropped_300x298@96dpi_wC2015.jpgThe concert of frogs—peepers and chorus alike—is raucous in the pond this year. I walk slowly down the slope, hoping not to interrupt them. And there it is: the muskrat den, hidden in the still-strong stalks of last summer’s blue vervain and rose milkweed.

Our pond is an ephemeral kettlepond. Ephemeral is fancy shorthand for saying that the pond dries up—or, more accurately, drains into and refreshes the aquifer deep below—most summers. Kettlepond means the pond is a glacial artifact.

Flowers_3_cropped_287x250@96dpi_wC2015.jpgI’ve sometimes wished the pond were more permanent—the water is lovely, the waterbirds love it. But I’ve been told that an ephemeral kettlepond is a unique and somewhat rare little habitat, and I’ve come to love the purple-blue and rosy pink and yellow native flowers blazing at its bottom in late summer.

Flowers_2_cropped_158x250@96_wC2015.jpgWe’ve never had a muskrat den before. I sit by the pond as dusk comes on, and sometimes hear splashes I feel quite certain are not frogs. So far, the pond has had a good amount of water. But I keep checking the forecast, hoping for rain. Coyotes might be able to get to the muskrats if the level drops.

But mostly, the sight of the den is a joy. A sign of the land returning to health. Perhaps long ago, the ancestors of these muskrats lived here, too.


3/09/2015  SNOW CRUST MOON


The Ojibwe—who were among the several Native American nations once peopling the lands of the Great Lakes—named the full moon of March the Naabidin giizis, or Snow Crust Moon. 

Whether in the Ojibwe’s now endangered language (Anishinaabemowin) or in English translation, the moon’s March name is beautiful—and the farm beneath the Snow Crust Moon is a beautiful sight. In the warming almost-spring air, the surface of the snow melts by day, then freezes by night. And so ice lies smooth and glossy—a cold fabric of translucence—over still-thick snow. A clear full-moon night lights the iced land and the ice-filled tracks of deer to incandescence. 

The great human forces of money, machine and power that wrested the Ojibwe’s land from them are now utterly ruining the surface—the crust—of this beautiful world. Still, when I wonder what difference our small native prairie (however cherished), or our few hundred native trees (however carefully tended), can make against those forces, I also remind myself to be grateful for what remains and for what has been: to be thankful for the moon, the ice, and the land, and for those who stewarded the land and dwelled here before me—for the First Nations, whose path crossed the land that is now “my” farm, for the fox and the crane, the rabbit and vole. For the trees. The grasses. And the natural forces of ice, snow, rain and glacier that shaped the land. And yes, for the European-American farmers who cleared forests and fields but also left (and planted) hedgerows to break the winds that carry away fertility, and to provide a place for the wild creatures to dwell, unlike the factory farmers of our times.

Moonlight_300x450@96dpi_wC2015.jpgOne Ojibwe prayer of thanks says, in part:  My Creator...We say thank you to all those animals, wild and domestic, the birds and the fish. Everyone that gave up his or her life here upon the earth, so that we can live...Thank you my creator thank you.

And then there’s W.S. Merwin’s poem, “Thanks”:

...with the animals dying around us
taking our lost feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you...
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is

Read Merwin’s entire poem at the Poetry Foundation. The full text of the Ojibwe prayer, and a reading of it in Anishinaabemowin, is available at a website created by the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians.

Thank you.



The view from my window, glazed and crystalled by freezing rain.


2/23/2015  LAGNIAPPE #6: CANIS LATRANS (Coyote)

Photo_1_400x221@96dpi_wC2015.jpgLagniappesomething extra, something beyond what was labored for, or paid for. Today’s lagniappe:  Canis Latranscoyote. Coyote sign (prints, scat, the scattered feathers and fur of prey) is common on the farm, and we frequently hear their wonderful yips and howls in the night—but have seen one here only once before. Today: a beautiful, Photo_2_200x180@96dpi_wC2015.jpgthick-ruffed animal hunted the native prairie for nearly an hour. There’s an icy crust over a foot of soft snow, and the coyote, luckless in its search for lunch, kept breaking through as it stalked prey.

Coyote are native to North America, and I love that the root word, coyotl, is from the Nahuatl language, spoken by the Aztecs (other English words rooted in Nahuatl include avocado, chocolate, and tomato). Mid-January through March is the best season to see coyote in Michigan, as it’s their breeding period; I’ll be watching, and hoping, for more.



DSC_0744_Grisaille_cropped_300x398@96dpi_wC2015_wCaption_aqua.jpgIn December and January, I am in love with snow and ice and the near-monochrome view that I’m looking at now, as I write. Like a grisaille painting (think Picasso’s Guernica , or del Sarto’s magnificent frescoes of John the Baptist), our farm’s winter landscape is painted from a limited palette—white, black, brown, and shades of blue. 

In winter, what I notice is the terrain’s lines, its dimensionality. And at first, it’s distinctly pleasurable to do so after fall’s flamboyance. It reminds me of the delight—even a certain restfulness— I recently felt, reading Bashō after a week immersed in Wordsworth.

Still, by February, I need to work harder at staying in love with winter.  Days of small wind, I go out, as I did five days ago, over my knees in snow as I walked around the native prairie.

DSC_0250_Deer_Bed_Cropped_200x238@96dpi_wC2014_wCaption_aqua.jpgI wasn’t the only one out and about, that sunny day. Voles and mice left their delicate signatures on the snow surface. Deer left their rounded snow beds: hollow ovals where they lie, chewing their cud and resting, somewhat protected against wind. 

And the birds! Cardinals and Stellar jays flitted about the hedgerows. A crew of crows gathered in the treetops, eating freeze-dried apples we neglected to harvest. Perhaps best of all: the DSC_0721_Bluestem_Cropped_210x318@96dpi_wC2015_wCaption_aqua.jpgnative grasses we’ve planted were lit to pale rosy gold by the setting sun.

But today, it’s 9°F as I write, and falling. The wind is gusting to 35 miles per hour.  For southeast Michigan, this is very cold. (Editor’s Note: In fact, we broke a 110 year low temperature record on February 15th). Days like these, I’m happiest at my desk, sipping lemongrass tea, binoculars at hand.

Out the window: wind whips up snow, creating a shining crystalline mist. I can see at most twenty feet. The wind slows, and to my amazement and joy, three very forlorn-looking bluebirds land (or, perhaps, are blown here?) on the deck railing. A few hops, a gust, and they’re off, soon swallowed up by the snow-fog. I wish them well, this cold, cold day, with night coming on.

In “The Darkling Thrush,” Thomas Hardy writes of birdsong in winter—the poem is lovely and beautifully observed (worth reading just for his description of the thrush’s “blast-beruffled plume”—wow). There are days, reading the news, when the wintry gloom without becomes the gloom within me too—Hardy reminds me to keep singing, like the thrush, “full-hearted...of joy.” Here’s my Valentine to you, Winter. 

I leant upon a coppice gate
      When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter's dregs made desolate
      The weakening eye of day....

[A] voice arose among
      The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
      Of joy illimited;

An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
      In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
      Upon the growing gloom....

            Thomas Hardy, The Darkling Thrush
             (Read the entire poem at the Poetry Foundation).


11/03/2014 FIRST QUINCE

DSC_0145_quince_300x450@96dpi_wC2014.jpgThe fragrance of quince is intoxicating. In this first year that our young tree has borne fruit, I understand why the Romans used quince to create perfume. No wonder Plutarch recommended brides eat quince before entering the marriage bed, where “the delight of lips and speech should be harmonious and pleasurable from the beginning.” (Personally, I think the grooms should have given it a go as well).

The fragrance, the flowers, the rounded-out pear shape—perhaps for all these reasons, quince were associated with fertility and the erotic in antiquity. The Greeks believed that where Aphrodite stepped, quince trees sprang up, and some Jewish traditions teach that the fruit of Genesis was actually a quince.

Raw quince is quite astringent unless a special ripening process (unfortunately called “bletting”) is carried out. But cooked, the flesh turns delicate pink, then a gorgeous color somewhere between papaya and magenta. The flavor is unique, reminding me of rose and pear and paradise. In my kitchen, the quince are destined for crisps, jelly, and, if time allows, pâte de coing (dulce de membrillo in Spanish)—a translucent quince preserve that’s delicious and usually eaten with a hard, strong cheese such as Manchego, though it’s also lovely with a soft goat cheese like crottin.



Lagniappe—something extra, something beyond what was labored for, or paid for.  The thirteenth pastry in a Baker’s Dozen. An unlooked-for turtle in a vernal pool. A gift. A blessing. This harvest season, I’m continuing last fall’s series of posts about the lagniappes of the land.

DSC_0012_Bottlebrush_cropped_200x383@96dpi_wC2014.jpgThat morning in early July, I wasn’t looking for native grasses. Bending a little as I made my way, step by slow step, through the woods, I was intent on finding summer-blooming native wildflowers. In fact, I only noticed the Bottlebrush Grass because the cloud cover broke open, and sun poured through a break in the tree canopy, illuminating the little stand of grass brushing my knees—its charming, starry inflorescences, its delicate leaning stalks.

To notice something is the first step toward learning to be with it—and, I think, toward loving it. In 1786, Goethe—already celebrated as the author of The Sorrows of Young Werther—suddenly left the comforts of Germany and a duke’s patronage to embark on a long yearned-for trip to Italy, where he encountered the unfamiliar work of unfamiliar artists. Some of the paintings puzzled him—others he outright disliked. Nevertheless, he kept going to art galleries, to churches: he kept looking, at paintings by artists whose work he already admired (Raphael, especially), but at those he didn’t like or understand, too. 

Circumcision_210x359@96dpi_wCaption_Aqua92CDDC.jpgAnd because he kept looking, Goethe’s puzzlement and dislike gave way at least once to something else altogether. Two months into his journey, he writes: “I was much impressed by a Circumcision of Guercino’s, because I now know his work fairly well and love it....And so it is with me, as it was with Balaam, the confused prophet who blessed when he had come to curse. If I were to stay longer, this would happen more.” 

To stay longer. To look again. To journey to the woods at the edge of your farm or yard or street, along the walking path in the park, or Italy. And once there, to learn to look and to love.

How is it I never noticed Bottlebrush Grass before that morning in July? I’ve learned that it’s one of several native wild rye grasses common in Michigan, and that it thrives in damp, shady spots— like the little woods where I found it. This week, I began harvesting its seeds to sow elsewhere on the farm.



DSC_0045_cropped_200x266@96dpi_wC2014.jpgI love to write outside in deep summer. There’s a lush, meditative quality to the landscape, and I often become so wholly immersed in the writing experience that I’m nearly unaware of time’s passage. Other times, the writing goes slower because of minutes watching fledgling swallows scooping up mosquitoes from the air, or half-hours of wandering the paths through woods and field instead of sitting at my table—but I am the richer for that time—I store up riches of texture, color, sound and smell that I bring with me into DSC_0088_Wild_Garlic_cropped_171x266@96dpi_wC2014_wCaption_Aqua92CDDC.jpgthe long, solid days of winter writing. 

What seduces me from writing? The fragrant pool of native rose milkweed and blue vervain, buzzing and fluttering with insect life, which fills the bottom of our DSC_0076_Prairie_Dogbane_171x266@96dpi_wC2014_wcaption_Aqua92CDDC.jpgephemeral kettlepond; it more than doubled in size this year, to well over an eighth of an acre. These are plants that return, and spread: they have become good old friends, along with the thimble flowers and the sand coreopsis, bergamot, blanketflower and butterflyweed, and the enormous, expanding splashes of gold-orange that are thousands of Black-eyed Susans.

Wild garlic, with its gorgeous little top-setting bulbils, is growing on the prairie for the first time, as is Prairie Dogbane, with its coral red stem and bell-shaped flowers. (Prairie Dogbane is a milkweed relative also called Indian Hemp, as some First Nations tribes made twine from the fibers in its stem).

And during a long, dallying walk along the prairie’s eastern edge, among the hundred or so young native trees and shrubs we’ve placed there, I came upon an elderberry bush we planted four years ago and had nearly forgotten. It was blooming for the first time.



DSC_0364_bowl_300x200@96dpi_wC2014.jpgOver forty people entered my random drawing for the Fifth Annual Big Poetry Giveaway. To celebrate the unexpectedly large number of participants, I’m giving away some extra books! (And please accept my apologies for the lateness of this announcement—I’ve had trouble getting in touch with one of the winners and have been out of town a great deal).


The Winners:

Lissa C. – Kim Addonizio’s Lucifer at the Starlite

Lynn P. –  Cecilia Woloch’s Narcissus

Marianne M. – Natasha Trethewey’s Native Guard with a CD of Trethewey reading the poems

Michael W.  Cyrus CassellsThe Crossed-Out Swastika

Suzanne W. – D. Nurkse’s Night in Brooklyn

Rachelle R. –  Please contact me ( mrd@michelleregaladodeatrick.com ) with your mailing address: my emails to you are bouncing, and I’d love to send along your book (Trethewey’s Native Guard).



The burn crew arrived in late afternoon, already dressed in yellow hazmat suits, and surveyed the site. This was the third burn of our prairie, but each burn is a little DSC_0403_dave_cropped_386x276@96dpi_wC2014.jpgdifferent. This time, the stands of grasses were thicker than previously, and a slow steady wind blew from the southeast.

Even before we planted the prairie, we planned for the burns.  A four-foot wide grass path circles the prairie on three sides, and doubles as a firebreak. On the fourth side, to the north, we till a six-foot wide firebreak before each burn.

The burn crew lit small backfires on the inside of the firebreaks, spraying diesel mixed with gasoline along the west and north edges of the prairie, and igniting the area. Then we lit the prairie's east edge.


A translucent wave of orange, gold and scarlet moved west, gathering height as it swept down the slope, around the pond at the bottom, and up the northwest rise. An ocean sound filled our DSC_0447_bigflames_cropped_400x286@96dpi_wC2014.jpgears, generated by the transformation of dry grasses and wildflowers into heat, vapor, and soot. And the smell of smoke, tinged with the aroma of baking bread—native rye seeds, I think, roasting and burning. The air above the flames shimmered and shook like thin foil. Flames fell, rose, reached protean arms through the smoke. And fell again.

A native prairie burn is a beautiful thing, a necessary thing, and—many worry—a dangerous thing. We're very fortunate in the man who manages our prairie burns. Dave Borneman is careful and smart, and he not only manages burns for cities and townships across Michigan, but also founded and serves on the board of The Stewardship Network, a  conservation organization DSC_0455_burned_cropped_400x250@96dpi_wC2014.jpgworking to protect and restore natural lands. He understands the prairie's flora and fauna, and plans the burn so the little creatures can scamper from holes and hiding places to out of harm's way. And Dave has never had a fire jump out of control. 


The fire was over. We walked around, looking for smoldering embers, spraying them with water. And the crew went on to the next burn.


Coming up soon:  The Kettlepond Prairie in Spring


Politics. Poetry. Protest. I’ve tended to keep the overtly political out of my blog, and at this time of year, when ephemeral spring wildlflowers are blooming in the hedgerows, I’d love to continue to do so. But poetry and politics are integrally woven together in the life of a farmer-poet. And never have I been so strongly reminded of that as right now, when the government of Michigan has chosen to implement policies that threaten the rights of thousands of small farms in urban, suburban and rural areas to raise livestock, while relaxing regulations on large factory livestock farms.

DSC_0577_cropped_410x246@96dpi_wC2014_WCaption_aqua92cddc.jpgOrganic heritage apples on a small rural farm. Rare flowers on a native prairie. Hens in a backyard coop in Detroit. All ways of reclaiming the power to nourish ourselves, heart and soul and mind.

I protest government policies, lobbied for by agribusiness through their allies such as the Farm Bureau, that stand for the destruction of essential liberties to raise one’s own food, on one’s own land, and to start small-scale farms that feed local communities.

On May 6th, the Michigan Department of Agriculture published FAQs about the Right to Farm changes. The MDARD document is very misleading and—in parts—so  inaccurate it seems purposeful. I have written both a short and a long response/rebuttal to the MDARD FAQs. A concise rebuttal of MDARD’s FAQ is here, while a more detailed Rebuttal of MDARD’s FAQ is here as a pdf. Both are available from the Michigan Small Farm Rights Information page at my website.


The Michigan Agriculture Commissions' 4:1 vote on April 28th enacted regulations that strip thousands of small Michigan farms of Right to Farm protection for raising livestock, while simultaneously relaxing government oversight over some of the largest livestock factories.

Small, local farms--from backyard beehives to 100-acre organic dairy farms--are about as American as it gets. They allow all of us to grow our own food healthfully and inexpensively, while our backs and our minds grow strong on exercise and clean water and sunlight. They give all of us--farmers and neighbors of farmers--access to fresher, more nutritious food, and allow transparency into how that food is created. I believe they hold out actual hope for the environment and for our souls.

For nearly two years, many of us have worked against the changes just enacted in Michigan. That work is even more important now.  If you'd like to learn more, or would like to help, please click here.



DSC_0355_Cattails_200x301@96dpi_wC2014_wCaption_aqua92CDDC.jpgFour years ago, our native prairie experiment began in earnest when, after years of planning and site prep, we planted our five acres of ephemeral kettlepond and the surrounding slopes with seeds of native grasses and wildflowers. 

Since then, we've controlled non-native plants (and one invasive native, the dreaded Giant Ragweed) through weeding, mowing, deadheading, and spraying with strong vinegar. Some non-natives, though, are best controlled by burning. DSC_0375_Poplars_210x325@96dpi_wC2014_wCaption_aqua92CDDC.jpgAnd many native plants—cattails, sedges and grasses in particular—are invigorated by occasional burns, having evolved to thrive on fire because for several thousand years, the First Nations peoples purposefully burned the land.

Burns are usually done three years after the initial planting; we'd waited four. Still, something in me ached at the idea. In early spring, the landscape seems fragile, the colors muted (softening snow and bleached grasses), the reflections of things more vivid than the things themselves, the pond's surface a darker blue than the watery sky it mirrors.

Many of the birds are transitory, on their way to prairies and lakes further north, like the redheads that settled briefly on our pond. Sifts of snow lie in shaded hollows. Winter and the underworld still touch the landscape and the imagination.


Knowing what was to come, I felt more than my usual tenderness toward the wakening earth.  A burn is beautiful and beneficial in its own ways, but it is, nevertheless, a destructive act.  



Next week:  Burning the Kettlepond Prairie



Stack_of_Books_300x244@96dpi.jpgBright flashes of blue are winging back and forth to our nesting boxes: bluebirds, which arrived simultaneously with the beginning of April and the beginning of National Poetry Month. 

To celebrate this wonderful confection of birds, spring and poetry, I'm participating in the Fifth Annual Big Poetry Giveaway, hosted by poet Kelli Russell Agodon. I'll be giving away two books of poetry that I've fallen in love with recently. Email  mrd@michelleregaladodeatrick.com (put your name and email address in the email so I can contact you if you win) by April 30th to enter. Winners will be notified by email, by May 7th.


Native_Gaurd.jpgNatasha Trethewey's Native Guard

This book includes a CD of Trethewey reading the poems—poems such as "Myth," with its amazing structure that enacts the poem's exploration of the aching, sometimes tortuous, relationship and bonding between the living and the dead.








Cecilia Woloch's Narcissus

Chosen by Marie Howe as winner of the Tupelo Press Snowbound Chapbook Award, this book offers gorgeous poems with a concision and beauty of language and image that sings. Every single one of these poems is stunning (in a good way!), with the ancient Greek story of Narcissus and Echo playing through the book in subtle, revelatory ways.


If there are more than twenty entrants, I'll also give away a copy of Copper Nickel 17, which has terrific poetry by writers like Jazzy Danziger and CJ Evans (and also my story, “The Second Coming of the STASSIS Goat,” an apocalyptic vision of humanity’s future set in an East African country devastated by plagues and climate change).



2/20/2014  THUNDERSNOW

Thundersnow today:  a rare thunderstorm letting fall not rain
but luminous, large wet snowflakes that velvet the dirt road
leading to our home.



DSC_0131_Wilkweed_Pod_cropped_266x313@96dpi_wC2014_wCaption_aqua92CDDC.jpgTramping through the cold fields recently, I came on a stand of young milkweed. Hidden by rye, aster and goldenrod during summer and fall, the milkweed now stands above the taller but more fragile plants' snow-bent and broken stems. I'd have jumped for happiness if I weren't over my knees in snowdrift and weighed down by several layers of long underwear, flannel and wool.

Robert Frost writes of milkweed, "For drab it is its fondest must admit." But I don't admit it at all. (See my July, 2013 post). And if Frost found milkweed so "drab," why did he write "From a Milkweed Pod," print the poem in a small chapbook with a gorgeous and specially commissioned Thomas Nason chiaroscuro engraving of an opened milkweed pod on the cover, and send it to his friends for Christmas in 1954?

It's not just Frost who's fascinated by milkweed.  Philip Levine ("Milkweed"), David Baker ("Monarchs Landing and Flying") and James Wright ("Milkweed") also wrote poems that take DSC_0690_Milkweed_seeds_cropped_400x200@96dpi_wC2014_wCaption_aqua92CDDC.jpgmilkweed as their central image. The plant is intriguing—its milky, latex-like sap, its status as sole food of monarch butterfly caterpillars. But the fascination is mostly, I think, with the milkweed pod, which indeed has the look and feel of something elegantly and thoughtfully ( if improbably) designed:  a miniature Neimeyer, perhaps. In fall and winter, the harp-shaped pods split open, revealing the carefully, efficiently stowed seeds, little voyagers tethered to delicate flossy parachutes;  it's lovely to hold a pod up to gusts that take seed after seed, winging them on their way.

DSC_0134_Teazel_cropped_166x290@96dpi_wC2014_wCaption_aqua92CDDC.jpgNear the milkweed, in a small depression, I found fifty-some heads of teazel rocketing toward the sky.  Teazel (also teasel and teazle) is a handsome plant even in winter—the honeycombed ovoid head cupped by scimitar-shaped sepals—so handsome it's used in dried floral arrangements. Goldfinches love the seeds, and in summer, rings of tiny blossoms (lavender on our farm; other cultivars are white or dark purple) open sequentially from the bottom to the top of the inflorescence.

If teazel is beautiful (in my eyes, at least), it is also beastly.  An Old World native brought over the Atlantic—probably for both its decorative features and its use, dried, as a brush to raise the nap on felt and wool—teazel quickly takes over roadsides and field. Along with the non-native rush phragmites, teazel dominates many roadsides and wetlands here in Michigan, and it's a beast to get rid of, with barbs that penetrate leather work gloves and roots that even fire fails to destroy. 

The only poem I've found that centers on teazel is by a fairly obscure Victorian-era Irish poet, Owen Blayney Cole, who in "Teasel Tall," rather endearingly exoticizes teazel by comparing it to a pineapple and then declares it useful enough to redeem it from its supposed ugliness:

"Rough from the loom, the Teasel smooths the fleece...
So many virtues if this plant possess,
To beauty be preferr'd its ugliness!"


If you know of any other good poems about either milkweed or teazel, please email me a link and I'll post them: mrd@michelleregaladodeatrick.com .



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Previous Posts

May 3, 2016

May 4, 2015

March 9, 2015

March 3, 2015

February 23,  2015

February 14, 2015

November 3, 2014

September 20, 2014

July 19, 2014

June 15, 2014

May 19, 2014

May 13, 2014

May 5, 2014

April 24, 2014

April 3, 2014

February 20, 2014

February 12, 2014


Archive of 2013 Posts     

Archive of 2011 and 2012


Sites for Poetry
Writers and Readers

book of kells
A lively, engaging blog about "writing and living creatively" by poet Kelli Russell Agodon, Co-Editor of Crab Creek Review and Two Sylvias Press.

Voltage Poetry
Online anthology of poems with interesting structure/turns, paired with thoughtful analyses. Edited by poets Kim Addonizio and Michael Theune.

Structure and Surprise
Poet and essayist Michael Theune's blog about poetic turns.