Archive for ‘Programs’

December 10, 2013

The Irrepressible Line in Your Poetry (by Jeffrey Hillard)

** The following is also a free bonus article for those that purchased my ebook, STORY’S TRIUMPH: Mining Your Creative Writing for Its Deepest Riches on

Several years ago, I taught this session to female inmates at Franklin Pre-Release Center, a prison that formerly housed female inmates.


Breaks Away

The kind of attention that poets give to a poem’s individual lines is often a source of great frustration. We write the poem. We “get it all out.” We hurry to write. We think the poem contains most all of what it intends to say. Maybe we’ve spent hours on it. Perhaps even days. And we stare at the poem repeatedly and think, “These lines don’t seem right. They’re lacking in something. They don’t feel true to the poem. How can this poem get more from its individual lines?”

There is not an easy answer to this question.

The options for line lengths and breaks are many. The way a poem “appears” on the page becomes a subjective decision, especially if you’re writing in free verse, with no dependency on a particular form.

With the free verse line – which is what we’ll focus on here – there are seemingly unlimited ways to arrange a line. Still, in getting the most out of your lines, you must ask: what does this poem want? What does this poem need?

Since Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, William Carlos Williams, and so many others proved that a poem’s strength can be derived from close attention to the poetic line, let’s examine several ways that a poem can achieve more interesting energy and fluidity.

Free Verse

When writing free verse, for example, it’s easy to get lost in the over-arching feel of the poem, in its grand, free development. But, as some poets have complained, their subject matter may not be that interesting because there lines have “the blahs.”

John Hollander writes in “Rhyme’s Reason: A Guide to English Verse” that “since a line may be determined in almost any way, and since lines may be grouped on the page in any fashion, it is the mode of variation itself which is significant.” I strongly agree. Let’s look at this variation in poems by three poets who give major attention to energizing a poem’s lines.

I like to use the phrase, “manipulating the line.” Two basic options for “manipulating” rise to the forefront: one is allowing poetic lines to achieve immediacy. By immediacy, I mean that a poetic line reflects a sort of spontaneity. It may put the reader’s attention greatly on the line’s end word(s). A second option is to emphasize more rhythm; this is especially true with longer lines.

The lines that achieve immediacy, where momentum can gather quickly from the middle to end of the line, are usually short lines. Take this excerpt from the poem, “Money,” from the book Split Horizon by Thomas Lux. Look at the energy his lines generate. Look at Lux’s attention toward the end word in these lines:

“A paper product. We say it’s green

but it’s not, it’s slate green, drained green.

New, it smells bad

but we like to sniff it

and when we have a relative pile

we not only want to inhale it but also look at it,

hear it buzz

as we work with our thumbs

its corners like a deck of cards.”

There is no mistaking the energy in these lines. The breaks seem arbitrary, and maybe they are, but notice how the senses of sight and smell are emphasized. The references to money as “smells bad,” “it,” “pile,” and “it” create an urgent image – and not a positive one – in the reader’s mind. The “paper product” itself presented here almost has an eerie human feel to it. These nine lines contain only one full sentence (“A paper product” being a fragment). But it’s not a sentence that drones on. It is crisp and controlled, and it has the freshness of spontaneity.

The same can be said of this excerpt from the poem, “The Winged Eye,” by Beckian Fritz Goldberg. She goes for a similar immediacy, although her line lengths are not as jagged. Consider these lines:

“We sit in the garden where lips

purse in the snapdragons. A chicken

lands on his arm leaving its claw

print in his skin like creases in the cardboard

seal of a cereal box

pressed beneath a thumb.”

In this poem, the speaker imagines being cast into hell. In the poem the devil actually reads a book to the speaker. The speaker is entranced by the devil’s calmness. In these lines, notice how the poem emphasizes the chicken, claw, cardboard, box, and thumb. The mystery of the devil’s physical presence is expressed in the way one simple sentence is broken: “A chicken/lands….” To break the subject and verb here energizes those lines and keeps momentum happening. The break of “cardboard/seal” is a poetic strategy called “enjambment,” which means jamming one line, basically, into the next line. This mostly occurs when end-words presented as subjects and verbs or adjectives and nouns are broken.

Rhythm of the Night – and Day

Other than for immediacy and abruptness, shape your lines for rhythm. You may want to mix line lengths, for example, to vary a certain rhythm in a poem. The poet Belle Waring concentrates on blending long lines with short lines in most of her poems in her book, “Dark Blonde.”  Here is an excerpt from her poem, “Shots”:

“…but in the ambulance, he codes, and then, in the ER

with the furious swirl of personnel, crash cart rumbling up, curtains

snatched to shield him from the drive-bys and the drunks,

the boy expired.

Measles encephalitis.

He never got his shots.”

Waring shows how the longer line more often depends on lucid sound. In this case, the alliteration of “crash cart” and “curtains,” and “drive-bys” and “drunks.” There’s a focus on long-vowel sounds in those first three lines that add to the mystery of what’s happening to the boy. But the staccato rhythm of the last three lines signals the boy’s fate. It is explicit. It’s not pretty. The poem’s lines are etched in a lyrical music.

It’s true that most anything can happen in a poem when it’s written in free verse. But if you find that your poem is lacking in energy, momentum, or even interest, you might try “manipulating” your lines for maximum effect. A poem is so beholden to language, and because of that, the poet owes it to his or her poem to pay attention to the individual lines, to sculpt them in a way that benefits the poem.


Editor’s Note: This article stems from a workshop session at Franklin Pre-Release Center in Ohio in which some of this material was covered. 

September 29, 2012

Winfield House: Breaking the Cycle of Poverty

At Winfield House this month and October, we are collecting new or gently used outer wear for men. Those items include: coats, vests, sweatshirts, gloves, hats, and boots.

To all of the knitters and crocheter’s out there, we need handmade scarves and hats. If you are inclined, blankets, too. All items are collected and given in love to the men who live under the bridges in Cincinnati.


Because they need you!

Have you ever driven a car and accidently lost control? It can be likened to the downward spiral of homelessness or poverty. Sometimes we are driving through life without a care, all of the sudden something comes at us, or perhaps we were not paying attention, and we need to move the wheel quickly to avoid an accident. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Life is that way, hard to predict. If, when driving, we are startled, we jerk the wheel, and over-correct ourselves, as our adrenaline is heightened; we either miss the object or we are hit from the oncoming car.

If we swerve and still hit the object, we are now off the road and perhaps in an undesirable position. The car is tilted to one side, half on rock and half in the dirt.  Last night’s rain has made the dirt mud, so our tires are quickly sinking. We are somewhat immobilized by the shock of the accident, wondering if we have killed a person or animal we hit. Afraid of the tilt of the car, we try to examine our options. There don’t seem to be very many. We try to call for help, but find we have no phone service.

Seeing that the tilt of the car could be dangerous, rather than abandon the vehicle, we try to restart and maneuver the car into a better position.  In doing so, we have now sunk the tires deeper into the mud. The spinning noise is bringing us to hopelessness, and we realize the vehicle is truly stuck.  To leave the vehicle may not be safe as we are in now unfamiliar territory. Worried about the other vehicle, we pray, try 911 again, and are wracked with fear.

It might occur to us to now look for our own wounds, as we feel a sharp pain in our side, and see the oozing of blood on our forehead. The dizziness of the whole event has now brought us to a paralyzed state. We need assistance!

So, it can be with life circumstances. We sometimes need assistance. Whether we are brought to a low place by another, our own decisions, or a pervasive lifestyle, we have spun out the tires in exhaustion and cannot find hope for our circumstance. There seems to be no one to help us dig out from the accident.

At Winfield House, we are dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty.

Poverty is defined as a state of mind or financial situation where there is lack to sustain life and/or a healthy emotional condition.

Anyone can be affected at any time of their lives by poverty. Either one is born into it, or somehow brought low by circumstance.

For 20 years, Winfield House has helped individuals and families strive to become independent, self-reliant, and successful in both public and personal life.

Here is a three-pronged approach to helping:

Dignity- helping with basic needs, food, clothing, and life-sustaining supplies.
Discipline-helping with life skills to help avoid future problems, and to create a new life.
Direction-spiritual help to bring richness to our souls.

Regarding the poor, I hear this all the time, “Why don’t they just get a job?”
In responding, I have to have as much mercy on the giver as the receiver. Understanding poverty and homelessness is not as easy as it seems. The dynamics are as diverse as the people. In the Bible, we are mandated to take care of the widows, orphans and the poor, so I am especially honored to be part of the restoration team.

Please open your hearts to our friends under the bridge. You, too, may swerve off the road one day and need assistance. You never know.

by Karyn Alexander

Voice of the Nations column for RED!
Executive Director,

Winfield House brings the good news of Jesus in a practical way, bringing hope to God’s people.
Voice of the Nations, Rev.5:19 “With your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe, language, and nation.”

July 5, 2012

Carriers of Hope: Ohio Justice & Policy Center (by Jennifer Von Gries)


What is unique about Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati: current Vice President of Recruitment, Lynn Cameron, at this point in his life had once been a juvenile probation officer for eight years. He was working with a few kids on probation and there was boy, 13-years old, who seemed bright, but he had a chip on his shoulder and was in trouble.

Since Cameron, at that time, was a volunteer at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati and knew about the organization, he told the boy that he could sign him up. This young man didn’t believe that it would work out for him; he came to tears and told Cameron that if they would have met a couple years ago it might have worked. But, to the young man, it was too late now. 

Two years later, this 13-year old boy died from an overdose by mixing the wrong combination of illegal substances. “If we could only work with kids to help prevent this kind of situation from happening. If these kids don’t find a role model who is positive and appropriate, they could find them anywhere, such as with a gang member or someone off the streets, and potentially get them into trouble. I feel like we need these positive volunteers be role models,” says Cameron.  

When you walk into the offices of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati, the first feeling you experience is that of compassion and at home. In the hallways of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati you can observe pictures of organizations best matches. “These photos help represent who we are as an organization,” says Cameron.

His journey for the last 23-plus years explains why the impact from positive figures has an effect on teenagers. Cameron, immediately out of college, started working for the Juvenile Probation Department where a co-worker mentioned the Big Brothers Big Sisters program to him in 1988.

According to the Big Brothers Big Sisters website, each time Big Brothers Big Sisters pairs a child with a role model, they start something incredible: a one-to-one relationship built on trust and friendship that can blossom into a future of unlimited potential. And thanks to the first-ever nationwide impact study of a mentoring organization, they have the facts to prove it.

Corey Strauss, a graduate of the College of Mount St. Joseph, says, “I got involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters because a friend had mentioned it to me. I have always been interested in working with young children as a future career. Having been with my little brother made me a better mentor and a better person because I know I am helping him follow the right path. I want to be the role model that he can look up to by graduating from college and staying off the streets. I can give him the advice that he needs.”

At Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati there are core programs and special programs.  The special programs include the Amachi program, which, in the West African tradition means, “Who knows but what God has brought us through the child.” 

Statistics say that, currently, there are approximately 2.4 million children that have one or more incarcerated parents in the United States. This statistic puts the child in an overwhelming state of mind and with that Big Brothers Big Sisters committed themselves to identify and help the children of incarcerated parents with one-to-one mentoring that will match the child with volunteers from the community. 

Cameron states that 30 to 40 percent of the children involved at Big Brothers Big Sisters are in the Amachi program. In his words, this saying means, “Look at the gift that God has given us through this child.”  Cameron says that the children do not know that they are in the Amachi program. Parents will put their child in this program to give the child a positive role model.

Cameron has been the Vice President of Recruitment for the past five years; however, he has been involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters for well over 10 years now as a case manager who interviews volunteers and matches them up with youths. 

“A very recent year was the toughest with our being short of our goal of matches of about 18 matches out of 500,” he says. In the first half of 2010, on the other hand, 110-plus individuals applied for goal matching in terms of fundraising.

Cameron says eighty percent of mentors have had good experiences. Twenty percent of the mentors will be lost in the first six months because of connection and pair-up issues. “This is something worthwhile. I want the recruiters to know that it is worthwhile, a good experience, and that they will enjoy being a Big Brother or Big Sister. They will build a good relationship and attachment,” he says.

“The reason why some pair-ups don’t click is because parents aren’t communicating. Some may feel like their mentors are upper class; however, our goal is to tell the parents and volunteers to not focus on materialistic things but on being a role model for the child.” 

Parents need to give permission to each activity that the mentor plans for their little brother or sister. That includes taking them to sports games or going to a salon to get nails done. Parents are always involved.

Some children are struggling with grades in school; however, every year a survey is conducted and the results come in stating that about 75 to 80 percent of the children have improved their grades. There are a variety of surveys conducted that focus on several different components of a person’s life including school, personal and relationships with others especially with self-confident and social skills.

Cameron says that children may not talk at first with their mentor, but after about three weeks they will socially improve for an example while speaking look in the eye of the person they are speaking to.

According to their community-based program, most of the relationships formed and the one-to-one outings and activities include going to parks, museums, listening to one another, and engaging into each other’s interests, and going to sports games. 

“A lot of the children really enjoy going to the Reds’ games. Being able to sit in the ball park and enjoy the game is something they always continue to ask to do in the spring. Sometimes, Big Brothers Big Sisters meets with their little ones on the weekends, and sometimes in the evenings. It is what works with the child and the mentor. Each pair is unique,” says Cameron.

Cameron didn’t receive his love and compassion from recruiting. As stated earlier he joined the Big Brothers Big Sisters when a coworker expressed how it would change his life. During Cameron’s journey he became a mentor for four little brothers. Describing his little brother’s experiences brought joy to his face, because he knows deeply that he made a difference in their lives. 

He has pride in the work which he does. Cameron described his first little brother as a boy who struggled with making friends in school and outside of school, just as he’s overcome the death of his father a year and a half before Cameron came into his life. The young man had suffered from physical and emotional disabilities and had a tough time prior to his adoption with his birth family. This little brother was with Cameron for seven years until he was 18.

“He was difficult to open up at first, but the more he and I got to know one another and hang out, he opened up a lot more,” says Cameron. “After I was done being his big brother I was given another individual whose life situation was different.”

Cameron’s second little brother had no father figure, missed school, and his mom was making excuses. “I got in involved with him in the 7th grade and knew that it wasn’t acceptable for him to be missing a lot of school. I wanted to see him get good grades. He improved his attendance the next year and from 9th through 12th grade he didn’t miss a single day.”

“My third brother also did not have a father figure. He was a good kid but had the lack of opportunity and lived in a rough area neighborhood. We went to Reds’ games and to the parks,” he says.

Cameron is currently still working with his fourth little brother. He describes him as a 15-year old boy in the 9th grade who has suffered from a lot loss.

Big Brothers Big Sisters has several fundraising events that go on each year. They have a Golf Outing, Bowl For Kid’s Sake, 5K Run, and Gold Ball Drop. To gather more information about these events and others, such as the annual Golf Outing and Golf Ball Drop, visit the impressive Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati website.  

“To get involved, you don’t need to be an expert with children,” says Cameron.

July 3, 2012

Justice Advocate Stephen JohnsonGrove Speaking @ Partners with Justice (7-5-12)

August 10, 2011

RED! Alert: ACLU-Ohio on Voting Rights

Laurie Brigg, board member of the American Civil Liberties Union-Ohio (ACLU), recently visited Partners with Justice (, informing attendees about significant – and often alarming – details regarding individuals’ voting rights.

In this very important meeting, on August 4, Brigg indicated that, in Ohio, under House Bill 194 which was recently passed in the Ohio legislature, “time procedure for early resident voting is to be cut in half,” she said. “The impact of ‘comprehensive voting changes’ in House Bills 194 and 224 now severely cut early and absentee voting, among other things.

Go to those sites above for more prominent information about the critical aspects of the Bills.

“These changes are going to be confusing to the voter,” Brigg said. “There are many changes and they’ve come quickly.”

That is, one significant change is that early voting now begins two weeks before Election Day voting. House Bill 194 also eliminatea weekend voting. It also restricts hours of voting to Monday to Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. and, on Saturday, 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Under the Bill, mail-in, or absentee voting, does not begin until 21 days before Election Day.

House Bill 194 prohibits poll workers from assisting voters. “People are needing to know their correct precinct,” Brigg said.

House Bill 194 also stipulates that a “Presumption of Voter Error” would make “any error as the voter’s error or fault and not election officials’ fault,” according to Brigg.

HB 194 stipulates that military identification, a passport, current driver’s license or state identification will be acceptable identification.

It’s important to check the ACLU website for updates at


A date of significance: Former Director of Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections, Dr. Terry Collins, will speak at Partners with Justice (PWJ) Thursday, September 1 meeting. The meeting will be held from 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. at Macedonia Living Word Fellowship Church. The address is: 353 Kemper Road, Cincinnati, Ohio 45246.  The church is located in Springdale, a suburb of Cincinnati. 

Report by Diane Rogers, Executive Director of Partners with Justice (PWJ)

March 3, 2011

PARTNERS WITH JUSTICE – April 2011 Meeting

Partners with Justice (PWJ), a tremendous advocacy organization in Ohio, will hold its next monthly meeting on Thursday, April 7, 2011, from 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.  The meeting will be held at Macedonia Living Word Fellowship Church, 353 West Kemper Road, Cincinnati, Ohio 45246.  Covering issues of transformation, understanding how jails and prisons operate, and encouraging individuals whose children or loved ones are incarcerated, PWJ brings hope to many lives.

RED! is a partner with Partners with Justice.  In recent weeks, co-founders John Rogers, Diane Rogers, and JoAnn Garner have spoken with editor Jeffrey Hillard at several venues.  JoAnn, whose column “Owning Justice” is a regular feature, provides much needed and anticipated updates on the PWJ’s advocacy achievements.

Currently, of course, Diane, John, and JoAnn are focused on their continuing intense efforts to expedite the appeals process of the case of their wrongfully-incarcerated son, Willie Rogers.  Willie is currently incarcerated at Warren Correctional Institution in southwestern Ohio.  His case is unique in the manner which Diane and John utilize it to help other individuals navigate the fault-ridden and rigid justice system.  And yet, Willie’s case, in the not-so-unique way, tends to echo the obvious cases of hundreds of other individuals wrongfully incarcerated in the U.S. 

For more information, call 513-365-8064, or email

The organization’s website is