Use the Right Butter and Other Slatherings from our Poetry Workshop

I am in the middle of my nine-week Poetry Workshop at Lifelong Learning Institute (, we are creating increasingly more wonderful individual and class artistic works. For example, using the popular idea of creating magnetic poetry, I had the participants read an article from the Flair section on the best uses of butter and butter alternatives in cooking and baking. Then, they selected keywords from the article and hand them to me on index cards, which I taped on an easel. After the words were satisfactorily re-arranged and edited to everyone’s satisfaction, we omitted some and added others so our home-made poem would be a slatheringly successful!  I then took it home, kneaded it a bit, added some bread and presented the class it to them the following week. See it below:


Use the Right Butter!

Even in just your slatherings

Keep things simple.

Advocate for real butter

Or use olive oil instead

On your bread.

That is the conundrum!

Zap It. Sauté it

Without burning

Through Moderation

You’ll have less yearning.

          Use sweet Cream and buttercup in all your

            American gatherings.

With the right butter, you’ll be happier with your baking,

Your sautéing, and even with just your slatherings.

 LLI Poetry Poem # 1, March 2016

Use the Right Butter!


For the next group poem, participants read Advice Columns from Dear Abby and Dear Ann. We wrote “Walk Away in My Shoes” (below) after two Workshops:                                              

Always asking for gifts?

Or giving gifts voluntarily:

Put the measure to a vote.

I ended up with a refrigerator!

Since she rarely wears a dress,

Old journals are reminders of a past that once was their future.

What good does this all do?
Be simply true.

Not having a right to know his crime,

She was alone and isolated in Pennsylvania

For further testing and treatment.

Clear signals are often neglected.

Walk away in my shoes,

Never to see the light of day.

Hug goodbye, follow my clue.

Trust what I say and

Not what I do.

LLI Poetry Workshop Class Poem #2,  March 2016



Bob Ferguson wrote four fine poems. In one of them, he used the inspiration of a Peanuts cartoon by Charles Schultz. In Bob’s poem, Charlie Brown is a metaphor for a person whose thoughts are hovering in the clouds- far removed from reality. Lucy is a symbol of the reality of the “Here and Now. She helps Charlie Brown get grounded by punching him in the nose!

Lucy’s’ Question    

“What is the meaning of life?”  It’s the question I ask

Unraveling this mystery would be a great task

It’s a topic of much learned philosophical debate

And one on which only the wisest can meditate.

“But Lucy” I reply “Why is that the question of the day?

We can solve that one with hardly any effort, is what I say.”

The answer you need is as plain as the nose on your face

Daily actions and virtuous deeds, must shape us in our race.

For example, “Rise early, eat well, then brush teeth” is a start

Respect people and animals, always show you have a big heart,

And do only your best in all life’s little tasks.” Adds still more.

Follow the golden rule at all times. Listen up Lucy, that’s no chore.

Charlie Brown, perhaps a punch would help you answer me right

Your thoughts are so plain and simple, but this life’s still a fright!

  Bob Ferguson, March 2016

charlieand lucy


I wrote a poem while I was in Professor Gregory Donovan’s VCU graduate poetry workshop on an article that I had read about the late-Abigail Van Buren. The article also reprinted some of Dear Abby’s “Best Advice” (in her opinion). I tried to work her sagacity into a poem, and then revised it recently for the present poetry workshop:

Her Best Advice—For Abby (1919 -2013)

Dear Abby: “What should I do?  My eighty-year-old father chases after young girls for fun.”

Abby: “I wouldn’t worry about it if I were you.

My dog chases fast cars, but he wouldn’t know what to do, even if he caught one.”

Dear Abby: Are we heading for a divorce?

My husband is having an affair with my sister.

Abby: “If you can’t put a rein on him then you better ride out, butt on your horse.”

Dear Abby: “Will our relationship fail?

I am fifteen and my boyfriend is nineteen.”

Abbie: “Not necessarily, in three years you can visit him in jail.”

Dear Abby: “Should I tell my best friend that her dad and I are now one?”

Abby: “You can’t keep this quiet. What will she think

when she hears that you will soon be her new step-mum?”

Dear Abby:  “It’s my neighborhood, and I’d like it to improve.

What can I do about the two cross-dressing men who live next door?”

Abby: “My advice is that you should just move.”

Dear Abby:  “Please give us your ‘best advice,’ now that you are in your last stage?”

Abby: “Gossip has no respect for truth, it turns a woman to rage.

To track its source, impossible, but unlike a woman, it gathers strength with age.”

 Murray Ellison, Revised March 2016


Timothy Pace has written two big poems about holidays. He had a great time writing about a St Patrick’s’ Day Celebration, where the party-goers had a wee bit too much Guinness:

Saint Patrick’s Day 

I wandered into  O’Malley’s bar to have a bit of a brew

Sean, Liam and Kate were already there along with the rest of the crew

 There was drink, merriment and lots of food galore

I bellied up to the bar and the keeper began to pour

The first beer was a Guinness and it went down just fine

 We started whopping it up and preparing next to dine

 The second beer went down pretty much the same

Except the room started spinning and the brew was  affecting my brain

By the third beer I was feeling kind of tipsy

When along came a little green man hailing from Mississippi

 He was dressed all in green and reached into a bag of tricks

 And out came a shillelagh, an Irish walking stick

 He raised his staff and mumbled some words to me

But nothing happened as far as I could see


 Just then    leprechauns appeared and started marching down the hall

They marched on the ceiling and came down from the wall

They began marching two by two, and then four by four

They were up to our elbows when out came even more!

 We closed our eyes to see if they would go away

Not in the least, it was clear they were here to stay!

Now this was clearly a situation than demanded a remedy

The bar was    overflowing with leprechauns full of mischief and glee

 But what to do now was perplexing, and not at all very clear

Lacking a unified solution we closed our eyes and had another beer!

  What happened next I swear to you is true

They joined us in the merriment and into the streets we grew

 Down the street we marched not knowing where to go

 And Into another building we marched, just going with the flow

They started serving decaf and we began to calm down

All the merriment ceased and you couldn’t hear a sound

The leprechauns disappeared just as quickly as they came into view

In an hour’s time we were  all sober and  as good as new

 The moral of this tale I cannot say for certain

But if you ever drink too much just stay behind  the   curtain

Timothy Pace, March 2016


Lydia Aikens-Wilson (see my recent Blog about her) wrote a poem based on the positive effects of an arsonist, that she constructed from the newspaper of her imagination:

The Past Predicts the Future 

An arsonist sets a shed on fire and runs.

The residents of the home, the police, and everybody he shuns.

So many memories were in those charred remains.

Each was like a song with dulcet refrains.

The past came to life, as she raked among the ashes.

So many thoughts of bygone days raced with only a few clashes

Some pages in the burned journals were still visible and bright.

They spoke of past events-some profound, some light.

The past predicted the future, which is now the present.

The victim of the fire now sees most things as pleasant.

Lydia Aikens-Wilson, March 2016


In the Real News, Lydia is giving a testimony tonight (March 23, 2016) to the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors, thanking them for supporting our programs at Lifelong Learning Institute. Naturally, she wrote her appreciations in the form of an Acronym Poem, called, “Thanks.”

T stands for a “Tremendous Thanks” for all your bountiful benevolence.

H means our “Hearts” are filled with “Happiness,” for you’ve allowed the “old gray matter” to perform gymnastics, keeping our minds young.

A represents the lack of  “Anxiety” that you’ve “afforded” us in our winter years.”

N says we’ll “never” forget the joy of the camaraderies that we experience at LLI.

K helps us associate with “Kindred” minds and spirits.

S Says you should see our faces of “Satisfaction” as we learn, commune, interact, and meet lifelong friends.

Put it all together and it spells “Thanks” – a word that puts the life in the Lifelong Learning Institute of Chesterfield County, Virginia.


Murray Ellison received a Master’s in Education (1973) and in English Literature (2015). He earned a Doctorate in Education in 1987. He is married and has three wonderful adult  daughters. He retired as the Virginia Director of Community Corrections for the Department of Correctional Education in 2009. Currently, he serves as a literature teacher, board member, and curriculum advisor for the Lifelong Learning Institute in Chesterfield, Virginia. He is the founder and chief editor of the literary blog,, an editor for the Correctional Educator Journal, and editing a book of poetry written by an Indian mystic and meditation teacher. Murray also serves a board member and volunteer tour guide, poetry judge, and all-around helper at the Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Richmond Virginia. You can write him at or leave comments on the LitChatte.Com Blog. You can also leave your email on the sidebar on the right of this post to receive automatic postings of my Blog.


Murray Ellison at the Poe Museum
Murray  at the Poe Museum
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