The World of Poetry Invites You – Senior Planet from AARP

The World of Poetry Invites You – Senior Planet from AARP

“Poetry is not a luxury. It is vital necessity of our existence,” stated the renown poet and activist, Audre Lorde.

Since April is National Poetry Month, Senior Planet spoke with two New York City based poets about their craft and how they work.

Table of Contents

Lisa Holzkenner

Lisa Holzkenner, 84, started writing poetry after she retired from a distinguished career as a social worker and psychoanalyst. A world traveler and a bird photographer, her first poem, “Raven in Our Oasis”, was published in 2016 in Chelsea Now, a local newspaper.

Since then, her words have flowed into print. Two poems, inspired by her visit to Portugal and Dachau, were published by the Jewish Writing Project. Other subjects included her search for meaning during the pandemic and her wish for lasting global peace.

“I don’t think of rhythm or rhyme when I start a poem,” she says when asked about her process. “I just write whatever comes to mind, getting in touch with the subconscious. Words can come from pain or joy.  My muse is whatever moves me emotionally or intellectually.”

But then she does a lot of rewriting, noting that it takes passion, honesty, tenacity to write draft after draft. “When the poem is ready, it speaks to you. You hear it, feel it, know it.  I polish it like a pearl. A new opportunity is born, self-awareness leading toward a healing journey,” she says.

Not surprisingly, Holzkenner trusts in the therapeutic power of writing and hopes to inspire others to put pen to paper. “I believe that every human being has the potential to bring about Tikkun Olam (repairing the world), leading to self-growth and meaningful life experience.”

She also enjoys reading her poetry at events including those sponsored by Senior Planet in Colorado, in libraries and at NYC’s  The Poets House. Learn more about her here.

Michelle Herman

Michele Herman, 67, has spent most of her career writing journalism and fiction and teaching writing. She discovered poetry in 2015 when a poet neighbor with a river view apartment suggested they meet weekly to write together. “We’d sit in her living room, pull out random books, find words we liked, set a timer, go to a corner and write,” says Herman. “I started out writing prose but rubbing up against the world of poetry was the nudge. I’m a little person who likes things tight and neat so poetry was a good fit.”

Since she started writing poetry, Herman published two chapbooks with Finishing Line Press.  (A complete list of her works is here.)   An experienced instructor and editor, she’s used to doing a lot of rewriting and taking out the excess. She teaches online memoir classes at The Writers Studio in Manhattan.

Advice to aspiring poets

What advice does this pro give to aspiring poets? “I’m all for studying with someone who knows more than you and receiving constructive feedback and joining a writing community. I also suggest reading good books about poetry.”

In addition, Herman recommends reading Poets & Writers Magazine or its website, especially the classified ads, which list places to submit poetry. An account with,  which lists journals seeking poetry, is a necessity, and she suggests joining an accountability group for writers, such as The Grind.


Herman enjoys reading her work in public. “I read whenever I have a chance,” she says. “Make friends with your local librarians to schedule a reading. You can read in coffee shops, restaurants, neighborhood centers. Put yourself into the poetry community. It’s a very inviting world.”

For More Information about Poetry

Michele Herman’s recommends:

A Poetry Handbook, Mary Oliver

The Poetry Home Repair Manual, Ted Kooser

The Triggering Town, Richard Hugo

The Art of Voice, Tony Hoagland

Attention Poets and Writers – and “would be” poets and writers!   Join fellow scribes and versifiers at Senior Planet Community’s Writers’ Studio!  Learn more here. 

Get Your Poetry Fix

For those interested in reading poetry, old and new, these are great sources:

Kate Walter is the author of two memoirs: Behind the Mask: Living Alone in the Epicenter; and Looking for a Kiss: A Chronicle of Downtown Heartbreak and Healing. Her essays and opinion pieces have appeared in The New York Times, Newsday, New York Daily News, AM-NY, Next Avenue, The Advocate, The Village Sun and other outlets. She taught writing at CUNY and NYU for three decades and now works as a writing coach.

Photo (inset) Kate Walter by Su Zen

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