Tag Archives: Barbara Lefcourt

Thoughts on Point of View

Our most recent around-the-table discussion…

photo by Marcie Schwindt

photo by Marcie Schwindt

Elizabeth McCallister
I think point of view is one of the most difficult things that new writers can face. It seems like a simple enough task – are you writing in the first, second or third person.

It gets more complicated when you actually get down to doing it well. In a sense, you must inhabit not only the personalities of your characters but also the world that you have created. A narrator who describes someone or something seems the easiest route until you realize that you have written something from one of the characters’ POV.

Trying to write from more than one character’s POV can be one of the most difficult tasks. How do you clearly separate the two characters’ POV so that each rings clearly?

Which is the final most difficult task – creating a character who seems fully human.

Jockie Loomer-Kruger
I like first person especially ideal for memoir which is my preferred genre. I [also] like it for the poetry I write.

Second person – sounds like a lecture. Thou shalt not…

Third person – can add a different type of detail from first. Good for fiction with various characters.

Omniscient – All knowing and able to get into everyone’s thoughts – best for descriptive scenes, for commentary on a character.

Barbara Lefcourt
From 1st person, there are unlimited POV – age, sex, ethnicity, personality, stage of life. What first person POV do you feel comfortable writing from.
What kind of minds are you able to get [into] and imagine being?

A major reason I love to read novels is to be able to get into the body and minds of persons totally different from myself.

My own writing of course grows from my personal points of view that have changed with age and with living in totally different environments.

Kathy Robertson
[POV] should convey the author’s opinion without being obvious.
Metaphors are effective tools in conveying imagery.
The true meaning should be elusive, not fully comprehended until the end.
One image building on the other until the complete meaning is fully realized.

Becky Alexander
I like to use the antiquated POV known as the “omniscient storyteller,” the guy who knows all, sees all and this includes knowing (and telling) what the characters even think, let alone what they do, see, etc. Think of the writers of the Bible.

I like this form as it is time tested, has survived for centuries and is the easiest form (for me) in which to write.

Case in point: I hate second person POV. [Sounds like a lecture].

Wendy Visser
Narrative style a) where narrator stands outside the story b) where narrator is part of the poem or story

Humour – writer writes from humourous perspective
• form of entertainment
o should not be forced but natural.

3rd person perspective – work written in 3rd person allows easy access to the reader. Can identify more with the situation – empathy.

First person -[works] depending on subject matter.

Marcie Schwindt
When I think about POV, first, second, third, whatever, just seems like an obvious choice based on the character’s voice and how intimate the reader needs to be with him/her to “get” who they are.

What’s more interesting, I think, is choosing which character’s viewpoint to write from. Personally, I choose the weakest character to showcase because they always seem to pull the most interesting text from me. Strong characters are boring. Weak people have to “fake it”, still have to learn how to cope. They have the greatest potential character arc because they have less to lose from taking risks.

Life is too short to waste writing on boring characters. The next time you need to decide whose story to tell, pick the less obvious choice: the character who might otherwise have been the sidekick. Give the non-speaking stock character a voice. Their story might surprise you.

Rob Quehl
1. In my opinion, if an author switches from one character’s point of view to another’s, then the style of writing should change to reflect this, so much so, that after a few chapters, the reader should be able to flip open the book at random and know whose point of view is being shown at that point.

2. I like the second-person point of view. If done well, it can pull the reader in and get them involved in the story, as it makes it sound like YOU, the reader, are the main character. A wonderful example of second-person for children is the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series of books. (See example below.) I have also read second-person for adults, and found it unique and engaging.

Your Very Own Robot (Choose Your Own Adventure #1) synopsis:

Your parents are scientists and inventors. One day, they throw some pieces of a robot into the trash. If you can figure out how to put the pieces together, you’ll have a robot of your very own! But do you know enough to control it? Are you ready for the adventures your very own robot will bring?

Lee Anne Johnston
I find first person narration comes naturally to me and seems to flow. I feel too artificial using third person, although this is just me. First person has obvious limitations, i.e. your narrator can not get into the minds and hearts of others, whereas an omniscient 3rd person narrator can easily float from and into many characters.


by Barbara Lefcourt

As if heralding royalty
throngs of wildflowers,
lacey white, petals of blue
sprays of gold
bow our way as we
drive country roads to town
in dancing ambience.

Eons from our
ancient heritage
of diaspora,
long rooted in this world’s
cloistered polity,
we swing predictably
between spells of
holiday indulgence
and fits of

With never a thought to
this life’s fragile crown:
freedom, civility, sanity
we glide through shops,
their shelves dependably stocked,
meet old acquaintances,
amiably chat, and
wait our turn in line.

Imagining well-earned diversions:
working the crosswords,
inner dialogues with
favourite columnists
we happily scoop up the
weekend paper set aside
just for us.

But, like spores of toxic fungi
finding succor in disturbed soil
to grow far
secret networks underground
and burst forth into the light

their poison fruit
luring the unwary and confused,
the living fervor of ancestral feuds
fed by passions of ancient myths
blaze headlines into consciousness.

And we see
our trembling blooms wilt,
feel our high-stepping
being reined in
by eternal bonds
in our DNA.

pic by Idea go | freedigitalphotos.net

pic by Idea go | freedigitalphotos.net

* Published in BORDERLINES, Ascent Aspirations, Fall 2007

Barbara Lefcourt was born, raised and educated in New York City and moved to Kitchener-Waterloo with her young family in 1964. She had taught elementary school before staying home to raise three children. She became a member of the CWC in 2003 after starting to write poetry around the time she retired from her mid-life career as teacher of Literacy and Basic Skills for Adults.

Manitoulin Meanders

by Barbara Lefcourt

A significant part of my poetry focuses on the natural world. My sense of wonder is continuous and consuming even as I cringe at how helpless we can be when faced with the disruptions of sporadic storms and upheavals. This group of haiku spring from wonderment.

A haiku sequence


photo by Liz Noffsinger freedigitalphotos.net

by trail at edge of woods
deer stare

at wilderness lake shore
June’s sun enveloping mist
swirls evergreen ghosts

throbbing hummingbird
peers through cottage window
Where’s my feed?

tortoise pulls hard
uphill on three legs
lucky escape

skinny skeleton trees
long fallen, beneath sprawling
fresh greenery

damp limestone meadow
tiny blue blooms mass
soar scent of mint

tickle touch of
questing daddy-long-legs
my fingers kissed

puff-blue sky
the still Great Lake whispers
lost horizon

Barbara Lefcourt was born, raised and educated in New York City and moved to Kitchener-Waterloo with her young family in 1964. She had taught elementary school before staying home to raise three children. She became a member of the CWC in 2003 after starting to write poetry around the time she retired from her mid-life career as teacher of Literacy and Basic Skills for Adults.

In With The Environment

by Barbara Lefcourt

The feelings/ideas that inspire my poetic muse are wide ranging. Many focus on the sense of a particular place and moment, some on personal relationships (loves, regrets. pleasures), others on environmental issues and contemporary political-social problems, but I’m always open to writing about particularly amusing situations, such as the following IN WITH THE ENVIRONMENT. I was so proud of the composting toilet we installed in the guest cabin we had built on our cottage property some years ago. And then a thought about its unexpected not-so-pleasant effect took hold of me…


Seated nobly in cottage private space
is wise wife on solo business, apace.
Then down on her knees, so it’s not forgotten,
she’s “compost-friendly cleanser” swabbin’
to purify sweet the shiny bowl
of human droppings completely foul.
With task completed and standing upright
she swells with pride at the pedestal bright.

Plastic made, but of ceramic look,
it’s topped by a throne of old oak wood.
Musing, she eyes the seat of solidity
wouldn’t Mr. Crapper jump joyfully?
But ask, he might, where is the closet hid,
why does no water tank stand by the lid,
why no big stink assaults his knowing nose
when one moves the flap to open from close?

He would find no sewer pipe, fly or mouse
in this state-of-the-art in-house outhouse.
But to keep it in such a pristine state
means following steps both humble and great.
First, one must act with punctuality,
be in tune with own regularity:
with care, to excreta often adding
measured spoons rich of mossy peat padding,
occasional pinch and part of a cup
of friendly microbes and aqueous drops.
With simple smart trappings, aerate, blend, slice
by pulls on the handle many times twice.

Heeding directives will surely unfurl
organic alchemy: dung into pearls.
In several months time, perhaps a full year,
the decomposition becomes most clear.
When opened wide, the broad drawer below
bursts forth no stench, mere pseudo tobacco!
The aging mix is totally ready
from full black box to be quickly emptied.
Then bury the brew for further steeping,
enriching the earth in its safekeeping.
A while later, we don’t really know,
the dug up treasure will amaze and show
that any novice can improve thin soil,
by abetting nature with clever toil.

Towards all earth’s creatures around and about
show respect, not offense; never have doubt.
Full, of visions high-minded and mighty
the wife dances outside, stepping sprightly,
laughing broadly at her singular wit:
thoughts of grounds laced with her very own shit!
Molecular morsels, broken down slow;
energy, atoms for new life to grow.

Suddenly, by pines, loud birds are heard call
nearing the turning of a turret tall.
With neck craned to eye such activity,
the wife gasps, “There’s more to this recipe!”
To expel far beyond our lungs’ intake,
to shield us from reeks that make senses quake,
we cleverly build grand venting tower
that owes its thrust to electric power!

Meanwhile, resting from a mindless chore
where, on his knees, he’d been staining the floor,
the husband stands gazing across deck rail
at glories against which all others pale.
Basking in well-earned, serene elation
his mind floats to the bay’s undulations.
He hungrily savours the far shore long
where conifers mass in majesty strong.

But, sudden squawking pierces from behind
shakes placid air, jolts the dreamer’s mind.

Stretched out aloft on the pristine blue
a stately goose is leading its crew.
They veer sharp to skirt the stack’s release.
The grand vee breaks, of these Canada geese.
The husband surveying over the deeps
where the turning birds then gracefully sweep
to regain their course with wings a’thunder,
rivets his eyes in speechless wonder
at the brilliant guide whose flock’s now arrayed
in vee of perfection deftly remade.

Barbara Lefcourt was born, raised and educated in New York City and moved to Kitchener-Waterloo with her young family in 1964. She had taught elementary school before staying home to raise three children. She became a member of the CWC in 2003 after starting to write poetry around the time she retired from her mid-life career as teacher of Literacy and Basic Skills for Adults.

Member News

Image by digitalart; FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Four members of the CWC will be published in Ascent Aspirations’ latest anthology As One Cradles Pain: An Anthology on Issues Exploring Disorders.

Poetry Prizes
“The Great Illusion” by S. J. White received Ascent Aspirations Second Prize for Poetry.

April Bulmer – “Ward Paint”, “Perennials”, “Petting the Black Dog”
Barbara Lefcourt – “Good Housekeeping”
Diane Attwell Palfrey – “Birthing the Hexenhammer”, “Teratoma”
S. J. White – “The Great Illusion” (2nd Prize), “Mr. Whittaker”

Congratulations to all!

Breaking Through That Dreaded BLOCK

Image: Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Since no one person has all the answers, we’ve starting gathering around-the-table tips from members on subjects that affect us all. What follows is some of what came out of our discussion on writer’s block.

Lee Anne Johnston:
I journal every day. In my formal writing, I write in the first person so the characters seem to develop themselves and tell their own story. I also am a very slow writer. I write historical mysteries and I just love learning the gritty details about the past that will make my story come to life.

Barb Day:
There you are writing away, the words flowing from you, gushing out, you can’t get your thoughts down on paper fast enough. Your mind is working faster than your pen. And then it happens – you hit a brick wall, your mind closes (more like slams shut.) Your pen comes to a screeching halt. For me- it’s always two reasons – I’m tired of sitting in the same spot for hours or I’m not knowledgeable about the topic I’m writing about. I get up, get a coffee, take a break and come back refreshed and ready to do research. The joys of Google and from the research, ideas pop into my head like crazy just from reading what someone else has written even though it’s dry, boring facts. And then I’m back at it – full speed ahead, refreshed and armed with new knowledge.

Barbara Lefcourt:
The key for me when I want very much to write but cannot get thoughts to flow IS TO NOT SIT AT MY DESK. Rather, I turn my attention to some of the mindless household chores that always get delayed being done: dusting, vacuuming, cleaning floors, hand laundry, etc. etc. etc. It also sometimes help to put favourite instrumental music ( no vocals) on my stereo. That often sets the stage for the magical flow of poetic expression. And it’s good to have paper and pencil handy around the house so I can easily pause to jot down ideas, expressions, particular words that must be captured before they fly from my head.

Marcie Schwindt:

  • I try to write something everyday to keep the muse happy and coming back.
  • I read from something published every day. There’s always something to be learned from someone else’s successes.
  • I critique at least one unpublished work every week. Figuring out on my own what does and doesn’t work for me, and why, is more helpful to me than anything I’ve learned second-hand (through a course, instructional book, etc.).
  • I plot out my stories, then don’t write them sequentially. If I’m blocked on something, I write around it. Once I have the thing surrounded, it usually surrenders.
  • I stop writing mid-sentence or mid-scene. That way I don’t really have to face a blank page the next day. I already know how that sentence or scene should end.

Diane Attwell Palfrey:

  • I get a lot of inspiration from news stories or articles I read via different search engines. I like to research a topic and then write about it. So when the idea train has left the tracks – I head for the PC. I like to write about people and relationships, the human condition etc. News is full of items that can be turned into poetry.
  • I also get ideas from Facebook. I’ll read my homepage and that will inspire me. Sometimes I can’t quite believe the kind of things that people blog on a public forum. But then I think – well – it’s giving me a subject to write about.
  • Sometimes I ply myself with chocolate and listen to music. It soothes and helps the ideas flow.
  • Most of my writing is done after midnight. That’s when the house is quiet, the phone has stopped ringing and there are no more e-mails to deal with.
  • I’m not above asking others for ideas. I’ll often ask someone to give me an idea. I’ll just say, “hey, I need to write a poem – do you have an idea for me – tell me a story and I’ll turn it into a poem for you”. My mother is a great source for that.

Have you ever suffered from Writer’s Block? How did you overcome it?

Writing Poetry

by Barbara Lefcourt

In the dozen or so years I’ve been writing poetry, which is a late-in-life pursuit for me, I find poems grow mostly from personal encounters. I’m humbled by the experiences of others, which are often so very different from the life I’ve been leading. Oh, yes, there are many commonalities, but the fabric of individual lives, of particular place, cultural history and its expression and unique personality are infinitely varied.

The few times I try to write from the point of view of the “other” grow from a kind of kinship I have developed with that particular different culture and place. Empathy is a natural extension of my sense of feeling connected so I have more confidence in my ability to imagine truths of particular situations. In earlier, inexperienced stages of my life they might have seem alien.

Writing poems help me reflect on the gifts, the tribulations and the mysteries of being alive. In so doing, I seem to have a greater hold on what has come to pass. Here are some of those early reflections.


Image: Master isolated images / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Smells of paint stored in toddler memory
with images of Mom
breathing expectation for an apartment
in the brand new building.

Some years later she let me
flutter out with friends
to tear along our home’s ramps and tunnels,
explore the side courts.
We’d hover in the backyard
sipping honeysuckle nectar from blooms
that tantalized us through fences
behind the single-family homes.

On wet days we’d scout hallways,
speed up and down all six stories.
Pumped, we tumbled into elevator
especially to burst forth in the basement
where mysteries lurked in incinerator closet
and cavernous furnace room.
Kids whispered that someone once saw
the superintendent high on a ladder next to
what looked like a tall ship.

In warm seasons we’d flee the streets
to sprint above the top flight
and open wide the door to the roof.
Revving up across wood walkways,
we’d reach the edge leaning toward
that world of trees, aging homes,
smattering of new apartments buildings,
the elevated train line,
church spires, schools and shops.

Don’t know what held us back,
poised over the fire escape.
Puffed-up, almost airborne,
we’d turn, scoot full throttle
into lines of billowing sheets
richly sweetened with unfettered sun.

Barbara Lefcourt was born, raised and educated in New York City and moved to Kitchener-Waterloo with her young family in 1964. She had taught elementary school before staying home to raise three children. She became a member of the CWC in 2003 after starting to write poetry around the time she retired from her mid-life career as teacher of Literacy and Basic Skills for Adults.

On Writing Poetry

Reflections nurture the writing of poems; my poems keep on feeding reflections
by Barbara Lefcourt

Image: Evgeni Dinev / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My first poem was born one autumn about ten years ago as I studied glorious sunset photos taken the previous summer at our cottage. I was gripped by the notion that the visuals needed words for the complex feelings we had as we sat on lakeshore rocks in the sun’s shifting glow. I continued on to write about many facets of the natural world: homage to other life, connections to eternity, nature’s threatening forces. I also focus a lot on personal relationships paying particular attention to sensual pleasures, regrets and human foibles.

My strategy in creating a poem developed quite unconsciously in those first attempts. There is always a beginning thought that generates deep-seated feelings. The ending comes to mind, often at the same time. Then the process of getting from start to finish by summoning up metaphors and images to flesh out connecting thoughts and feelings becomes most absorbing and satisfying. I often find myself wandering down “side roads” and must decide whether they add to the poem’s strength or are extraneous.

Occasionally I do research if I care deeply about an issue I wish to write about and need to be better informed. However, poems mostly grow from my desire to capture special moments in life’s journey. Early on, I had no strong wish to see my work published but, through membership in the Cambridge Writers Collective, I found encouragement to submit work to many venues and have been gratified to find some of my work well received for publication and in having been awarded a few prizes for poetry.

I treasure human connections that happen from revealing one’s self through poetry. On Sunday, November 1st 2009, as part of a church service in honor of loved ones who had passed away that year, I read several poems that were about aspects of my sister’s recent decline and death. Afterwards, many folks in the congregations hugged and thanked me for sharing thoughts and feelings they too had experienced but had never found the right words for.

by Barbara Lefcourt

of cushy chocolate velvet
that commodious easy chair
in those early years
my favourite focus at home

when little, stretched out
on Mom’s lap, I’d gaze at pictures
in the treasured books she’d read
as we munched peanuts

beneath lamp’s halo, the chair’s
clasping arms and generous breadth
nestled me in adventures, gave solace
through pages and ages of growing up

lengthening, strengthening to finally
fly away, I never noticed its skin thinning
and, once, on a visit home I saw
the carpet there, bare

the chair returned ready to accommodate
in dress of modish design, silky and stiff
a guest’s perch, now in waiting
for polite, casual conversation

By Barbara Lefcourt

the sea is calm today
complacent glass

feather clouds
shoreline trees
cottage retreats
in shimmer

scattered boaters
float to the welcome
dot with colour
the distant blue
glisten beneath
a munificent sun

come into the scene
amble wherever you please
play your games
gorge on the plenty
these sweet moments

waft on the fine
balancing of forces

that inevitable storm
shatters the sea
into an infinity
of crashing
black-white shards

Barbara Lefcourt was born, raised and educated in New York City and moved to Kitchener-Waterloo with her young family in 1964. She had taught elementary school before staying home to raise three children. She became a member of the CWC in 2003 after starting to write poetry around the time she retired from her mid-life career as teacher of Literacy and Basic Skills for Adults.