Nancy Willard

Nancy Willard

Hello all Poetry Friday seekers.
I am grateful to Heidi who organizes it here this week.

This week, I am spending time with
my Nancy Willard books,
especially, THE SALT MARSH,
STEP LIGHTLY, Poems for the Journey,
collected by Nancy Willard.

I want to pick one to share Saturday,
when I feel fortunate to be meeting with
teens at the request of a legendary
librarian I treasure, Ms. Lenita Joe.

Since Nancy Willard treasured every poem
she placed in
reading them feels like two chairs are pulled up
before a big window overlooking a salt marsh,
tea is poured and
a conversation begins.

Nearly every selection speaks to me, especially
the poems about writing,
but for this post I’m sharing two lines,
from Emily Hahn, in her poem,

“Wind Blowing”
“I can see everything, all around the earth;
Red sun dying, gold sun’s birth.”

c. Emily Hahn, all rights reserved

I feel that is Nancy’s world now,
stepping lightly,
knowing and seeing everything.

Here is a sweet memory written
just a few days ago by her friend
and former neighbor, poet
Lee Bennett Hopkins.

I was thrilled
to meet Nancy Willard in Roanoke, VA
once, at the graduate program
in children’s literature.

She sat in on a creative writing seminar
I enjoyed so much, led by
Han Nolan. She was available to us –
we were all big fans. I treasure the moon she drew

When she learned that my thesis
for Hollins University included
serious poems about bears in history, she
suggested I look up the work of her poet
friend, Galway Kinnell.
Reading him was rough work, but it helped me.
In expectation of my editing & layout of a
chapbook of bear poems, experiences &
images, I feel fortunate to have been
touched by Nancy Willard’s
magical presence that summer.

I’ve previously mentioned her books here.
and also here, where I shared her signature artwork
a gift that graces books of many admirers.

And I think NW would have liked the recent honor that LBH earned in my state.


25 responses to “Nancy Willard”

  1. Beautiful tribute to Nancy Willard. I just love William Blake’s Inn — I should really read more of her work. Interesting that you went to Hollins! I grew up in Blacksburg, not far away.


    • Her love of Blake is so prominent in that lovely picture book.
      Blacksburg! What lovely countryside you are from, Tabatha. I am charmed by it every drive we take through those hills & mountains. to reach family in New England (thus avoiding the hectic east coast highway passage . . . )


  2. I’m only familiar with William Blake’s Inn. Was saddened to hear of her passing. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and Lee’s beautiful words.


    • Love
      “a comet trail of words”

      Agreed – every time I write (even metaphorically) the end
      to a poem, chapter or story,
      I feel lucky to have pulled it together.

      Appreciations, always, for your sweet visit.


  3. I love the idea of having tea and conversation as we sit and view that salt marsh, Jan. What a lovely gathering of poetry today. I have done quite a bit of moon studies/poetry with students in the past & have The Nightgown of The Sullen Moon. I haven’t explored Nancy’s work further except for William Blake’s Inn. guess it’s time to do so.


    • Thank you, Heidi.
      Her essays in TELLING TIME are a guiding force in my writing world.
      And appreciations for your collecting work this week & your very special
      Billy Collins theme.


    • Fortunately we have LBH’s evocative memories, especially as collected by Renee at No Water River,
      to enjoy on our path to meeting poets with whom he has worked. NW sort of floated through
      campus, a quiet, spare presence, but potent messenger about poem making & storytelling.


  4. Thanks for this post Jan. I’m not very familiar with Nancy Willard’s work, though I added her some time ago to a list of poets to follow up and read more of. It’s a seemingly endless list since I joined Poetry Friday. Love what LBH says about her., he’s obviously been touched by the connection.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We are gifted with an abundance of writers to read, poets to study & books to share with young readers.

      I hope Nancy Willard becomes one of your favorites.

      Her NIGHTGOWN OF THE SULLEN MOON, a picture book,
      made me see that retelling a story about a natural cycle,
      such as the moon’s passage each month,
      could be breathtakingly inventive & lyrical.


  5. Hello Dear Jan. Big hugs to you.

    I am not as familiar with Nancy Williard as I should be. The tender mourning of her passing has brought her name to light. The only work I know of from her is A Visit to William Blake’s Inn. So, I appreciate your naming a couple more titles.

    I also enjoy the quote about the setting and borning sun. What a beautiful way to see a friend who has passed.

    Jan, what is your best definition of “chap book”. This concept is one that I should know. But, I am ignorant.

    See you soon

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Linda,

      You are always a good teaching librarian,
      as I needed to look up the term
      I used, before answering. Perhaps others
      can add what they have gleaned . .

      According to various easy online sources –
      It may be from Old English, for barter or
      business dealings. Chapbooks were sold
      in Europe by traveling salesmen who
      were known as chapmen. They offered small,
      cheap booklets of essays, ballads and poems.
      I have a collection of small
      (not always cheap to produce) paper poetry
      booklets, or small softbound books,
      of contemporary poets’ works –
      mainly the work I buy of
      talented friends.
      Today chapbooks can be online or
      digital, also.
      I think the idea today is that these
      collections are not only small
      but they are very
      special, thoughtfully put together
      and carefully designed and

      On Nancy Willard, I feel you are
      in for a treat . . .


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