Art Words

By Mary Wehner

This is a new feature in SCENE that will explore writers, poets, and artists and generally focus on the arts in and around the Fond du Lac Area. This month I will feature The Foot of the Lake Poetry Collective, a group active in the writing community in the city and surrounding area.

Poetry; learning how it works, how to write it better, and ultimately how to get the rest of the world to read and listen to poems, was and still remains the aim of this small group of poets.
Five poets: Sandra Ahrens, Judy Barisonzi, Paula Sergi, John Walser and Mary Wehner met at a coffee shop in 2003 to examine ways to promote poetry as well as support one another’s writing.

Inspired by the Laurel Poetry Collective in Minnesota, and various other groups around the country, they began to combine their visions for promoting poetry in the Fond du Lac area.

Fond du Lac sits on the south end of Lake Winnebago. The lake, with its poetic imagery has inspired much of the poetry written by members of the group, thus, “The Foot of the Lake Poetry Collective.”
Membership consists of the original five poets and in the past three years, two additional poets from Appleton, Cathryn Cofell and Karla Huston. Each member contributes as much time and money to the effort as possible.

A reading series was developed for the first year and the inaugural reading took place in February 2005 at “The Awarehouse,” a loft space/art gallery. Wine, snacks and an open mic slot brought in a broad and enthusiastic audience.

The Collective moved the next year to Windhover Center for the Arts and is currently presenting their events in partnership with THELMA Center for the Arts, formerly the Windhover.
From September through May the Collective presents readings by the best regional poets and various, other writerly events. The readings are free and take place the second Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m.

You can find more information at

On Tuesday December 10th 2013, the Foot of the Lake Poetry Collective in partnership with THELMA will invite audience participation by presenting ideas for on-the-spot Haikus. You can participate or not, but it promises to be a good time and a great way to spend a winter evening.

Here is a bit of background about the haiku and a couple examples. You might want to try your hand before you drop in at THELMA on December 10th to see what it’s all about.

Wikipedia: A Haiku in English is a short poem which uses imagistic language to convey the essence of an experience of nature or the season intuitively linked to the human condition. It is a development of the Japanese haiku poetic form in the English language.

· use of three lines of up to 17 syllables, traditionally in “5–7–5” form.
· allusion to nature or the seasons
· use of a caesura or kire represented by punctuation, space, a line-break, or a grammatical break to compare two images implicitly.

English haiku do not adhere to the strict syllable count found in Japanese haiku, and the typical length of haiku appearing in the main English-language journals is 10–14 syllables. Some haiku poets are concerned with their haiku being expressed in one breath and the extent to which their haiku focus on “showing” as opposed to “telling”, i.e., describing rather than explaining.

Haiku uses an economy of words to paint a multi-tiered painting, without “telling all”. As Matsuo Basho put it, “The haiku that reveals seventy to eighty percent of its subject is good. Those that reveal fifty to sixty percent, we never tire of.”

Now I see her face,
the old woman, abandoned,
the moon her only companion

Frog pond
a leaf falls in
without a sound

Sun flash of orange
bird dip and quick sugar hit
no time for thank you’s
Mary Wehner

Early frost creeping
up yellow pumpkin skin
October wakeup
Mary Wehner

Driving home through snow
the tree lashed to our car
a comet flares
Sandra Ahrens



It was noon when she exited the freeway and turned down a maple-lined road. The blazing sumac fed her imagination. She was on fire, in love with the trees, in love with the road, in love with the sound of her truck—its hum and rattle—they belonged together. Spring air rushed through the window; she was a bird flying—away from the dot in the rear-view mirror. She would slow down only for food in the next town. Back home Norman was drunk and sleeping.

The man on the stool beside her seemed familiar. He had shiny hair, a peppery beard; his eyebrows were dark and expressive. She knew he was shy and private. She decided on only three questions: “What is the best river town—would it likely be on a migratory path—did he think it an honest place?” He looked amused by the questions.

“Pine Flats,” he said, “twenty miles east, nice folks, quiet,” and “yes, unfamiliar birds sometimes pass through.” He smiled and touched his cap. Now she recognized him. His was the face of a bird she once saw as a child in Florida. A Tern, a Royal Tern, her father said. She remembered the tilt of its head, the strut and confidence, the clean blue-blackness. This man could be trusted.

When she got to the outskirts, she pulled over. It was a narrow town on the edge of a slow-flowing river. The straggly streets were stacked up a hill. There was a twitter in the pines. She knew the Pine Siskin’s whistle, its upside-down antics. Suddenly she saw the Osprey’s shadow in the tree hanging over the river. This was the place. She would name herself Robin, stay at least for a season, feather a nest, never go back.
Mary Wehner

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