Poetry Friday: My very first poetry collection…from 40 years ago

Today’s the day.

After months and months and months of cleaning out my parents’ house – the house I grew up in – it is finally being sold.

By the time you read this, we may have already closed the sale, in fact. It’s bittersweet, as there are a lot of memories inside and out…but considering how long it has taken me and how much work it’s been, I’m glad to be able to put this chapter behind me.

Boxes of letters mom and dad exchanged while he was stationed in Germany in the early ’50’s.

Mom and dad are now both together in the local nursing home, and if you have frequented this blog at all during the past 16+ months, you know that cleaning out a house filled with 60+ years of married life has been a long, arduous process dotted with sporadic bursts of nostalgia, amazement, and melancholy. (See a few random posts HERE, HERE, and HERE) Being an only child has meant no sibling-squabbling about who gets what…the problem is, I’m the one who gets it all, and I have no idea where to put it!

Now, granted, I have found lots of things I had completely forgotten about.
Like my high school artwork…

…news clippings…


…and assorted mementos from my senior year…

So having found these lost relics, I’m glad I had the opportunity to peruse the museum warehouse home before it was sold. I’m also fortunate to have been able to revisit my “hideout,” a small area of woods just outside the boundaries of our lawn, where more than one adventure transpired:

(If you wonder where I got the idea for “Flashlight Night”…this is likely the spot)

But one of the most surprising things I discovered hidden away among the childhood drawings…

…the models…

…and the toys…

Boxes and boxes of original, late ’80’s-era McDonald’s Happy Meal toys!

…was a little book (if I may call it that) I didn’t even realize existed! I estimate I was probably around 10 years old when I produced this little poetry collection for my mother. Honestly, I don’t even remember writing poetry at this age, so this really took me by surprise:

That’s right…only 4 pages, and one of them is a full-page display ad promoting my next book. If I knew anything at that age, it was how to market. (By the way, speaking of marketing…)

Up until now, I thought my first “book” was a high school creative writing class project I also discovered while cleaning, but apparently I had been publishing years earlier and had completely forgotten. So as bittersweet as it is to say goodbye to my childhood home, I do have some memories, poetry and artwork – and a 50-year-old bottle of Mercurochrome – to hold onto.

Time for me to put all this memorabilia away for now. 2020 is looking like a banner year for Yours Truly, with as many as FOUR books coming out along with a poetry anthology, so I’ve got plenty to keep me busy. I’ve also got several other manuscript submissions to get to before I hunker down and begin this year’s cookie-baking marathon.

So enjoy your weekend, and please encourage your kids to pursue their interests and dreams…one never knows where those dreams will lead! If you’re looking for more poetry, my friend Liz Steinglass, with whom I presented at NCTE last month, is hosting Poetry Friday today with her “favorite word!”

Very proud to be a first-round judge in the CYBILS Poetry category, once again!


Ordering personalized signed copies online?
Oh, yes, you can!


You can purchase personalized signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018), and nearly ALL of the books or anthologies I’ve been part of!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH a note requesting the signature and to whom I should make it out to. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it, and then they’ll ship it! (Plus, you’ll be supporting your local bookseller – and won’t that make you feel good?)


Thank you to everyone for your support!


Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

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31 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: My very first poetry collection…from 40 years ago

  1. authoryvonafast

    Thanks for sharing this with us… I too am an only child (and one with no kids of my own) so i feel for your travails… I live with Mom now as her body is deteriorating… shoulders, back, legs… and have to do more and more…


    1. I know how that is, Yvona…I had asked both mom and dad if they wanted to move in with us before going to the nursing home, and they were adamant they wanted to stay in their house. But eventually they realized they couldn’t do it on their own. My best to you as you work through this time with your mom.


  2. Linda Mitchell

    What a wonderful gift from you, to YOU! Poetry has always been with you … and now it is so much a part of you. What a delightful end of this chapter. Enjoy your new found freedom. Best wishes of health and happiness to your parents and you. I’m looking forward to writing journeys that you share with us.


  3. Oh Matt, I’m glad this part of the journey is coming to a close for you. I know it’s been a lot of work and a lot of feelings. What’s clear to me most, though, is how incredibly loved you’ve been. We see all of those mementos they held onto. They were/are so proud of their son, and it’s clear the feeling is mutual. Thanks for taking us along for the ride.


    1. Thank you, Kimberly. Yes, as frustrating as it was having to throw out stacks of paperwork, empty jars and boxes, and all sorts of ridiculous stuff that mom saved over the years, I feel fortunate to have been loved that much. They really did save everything I did!


  4. Jane Heitman Healy

    Thanks for this trip down your memory lane. It’s interesting to look back and connect the dots to where to are now. You’ll be relieved when the sale is final and you can move on from your archaeology dig, but be the richer for having done it (says one who did the same a decade ago). Congratulations on your upcoming banner year. Looking forward to seeing these new works!


  5. That is a monumental task! Have to take it slow so as not to get overwhelmed. (Actually, I guess it’s overwhelming anyway!) I think I have/had that same “You Can’t Take It With You.”
    Congrats on accomplishing so much with your writing while you’ve been doing so much caregiving. Quite a feat!


    1. Thanks, Tabatha! I was very proud of my role as the father in that play, as our school attended the state high school theatre festival for the very first time that year, and I was named to the All-New Hampshire Cast (the very first person from our school to ever receive that honor). And as the mayor in ‘Bye Bye Birdie,’ I got to bring home the official key to the city. I also took part in several college productions – I loved the theatre!


  6. Liz Steinglass

    Wow, your parents saved even more than my mom. What an incredible project left to you to do. I absolutely love your first collection of poetry. So fun. Made me laugh out loud. Congratulations for all your success!


  7. Wow, what a surprise it must have been to find that poetry book. It was so much fun to read. My mom recently moved closer to me, after living in her home for over 40 years. Lucky for me there are 7 of us in our family so cleaning out was a group effort, I couldn’t imagine having to do it alone, and I emphasize with you. Congratulations on what appears to be a wonderful start to 2020!


  8. lindabaie

    I know that it’s been hard, but also illuminating to find your childhood surprises, Matt. I’ve been through this several times, and in my own move, too. It is a challenge to choose what to keep. My grandchildren now play (or have played) with the toys their parents had. Lincoln logs from my husband’s childhood are still in the granddaughters’ playroom. I love seeing your early poetry, must have had that love hidden for a while, and now, coming full on! I’m looking forward to your new books in this new decade!


  9. Congrats on getting the big job done. I remember when we cleaned out my in-laws’ cellar, there were cancelled checks from the 1950’s. It was tedious work for you, yet as others have mentioned, a nostalgic and eye opening journey. You are SO lucky your parents saved so many of your childhood possessions, especially that little poetry book! My mother threw or gave everything away — my books, dolls, toys, you name it. This is probably why I started collecting teddy bears in adulthood. My parents were also not picture takers, so there are only a few photos of me growing up. I like knowing that you were a poet from the beginning. 🙂 Looking forward to your new books next year.


    1. I was a poet and didn’t know it, ha! Thanks, Jama. And yes, cancelled checks, pay stubs, and all sorts of assorted paperwork going back decades…most of it was garbage, but I had to sort through all of it because occasionally I’d find something that needed to be saved. On to 2020 now!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Kay Mcgriff

    Wow! What a house filled with treasures and treasured memories. That was quite an accomplishment to get through. I enjoyed your earliest poetry collection. I just read an article that explored how your passions at age 10 shape your adult-hood. Congratulations on all the upcoming success in 2020. I look forward to hearing more about your new books.


  11. maryleehahn

    Oh, WOW! I, unfortunately, did not find such amazing gems of early writing when my brother and I cleaned out mom’s house a couple of years ago. Lucky you! (I understand the nostalgia and the bitter+sweet.)


    1. Thanks, Christie. I find it interesting that there were many things I remembered creating, yet this one thing – the very thing I’ve made a career out of! – I don’t even recall putting together. And yes, I need to get back to the cookies…only 56 1/2 dozen so far!


  12. Matt, I loved the walk down memory lane. Perhaps, there is new writing that will come of your boxes of lifetime treasures that were in your parents’ home. Enjoy the holidays with your family.


  13. Dear Matt,
    Thank you for being you, for sharing what is important, for striving always to give your best. You have helped to make me a better poet, a more professional poet, and that, just by example. And you are funny!
    Have the Merriest Christmas and most fulfilling New Year!
    Linda Dickman who hopes to meet you this summer!


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