Poetry Crossings: Barricades - Poem by Kathy Ellis

barricades kathy ellis poetry crossings Dec 15, 2021



 Poetry Crossings is our new poetry review column edited by Kathy Ellis. She finds that she is at peace when writing poetry. It’s a total immersion process that results in a sense of flow. She is wrapped up in the essence of the poem, feeling what goes in the white space, the impact of each word, and knowing when to let it fly out of the nest.

Growing up in St. Clair, a small town in Michigan across the river from Canada, was a good beginning but after earning her undergraduate degree in education she was encouraged by her doctor and her parents to leave the humidity for a warmer, dryer climate. So, she chose Guatemala from a college internship program. Realizing that she wasn’t done with being out of the country, she worked another year in El Salvador. Still not ready to move back she accepted a teaching position in Brazil—and another language to learn. She discovered in Brazil that Lesley College had a distance-learning graduate program for educators. Four times a year she went to Brasilia for in-person course work. She was fortunate that unlike one of her classmates she didn’t have to take a donkey, a canoe, and a bus to get to the capitol city. Kathy lived a total of 10 years abroad including: The Netherlands (High School exchange student), Spain (studied), Chile, Guatemala, Brazil and El Salvador (during the war). 

Eventually knowing that she needed to return to the States, she settled near her sister in Macon, GA. As lovely as the town is, she found she functioned better in an international community and in 1991 she moved to Atlanta. She had always worked in international environments, from serving as an ESL Director for a private university to working as a DSO and international student recruiter for Troy University at the Atlanta location. She enjoyed networking and joined professional organizations. Eventually with all those contacts she determined that she had enough resources to go out on her own. She found Rita Wuebbeler and started working with her as well as working for USA Destination Services. She prepares people going to Brazil, provides USA orientations, and teaches English for the workplace which involves getting to know the industry as well as the communication expectations at the worksite. 

Asked how she came to poetry, she said that as a child she liked to read and was a dreamer. She especially liked the whimsicality of language. As an adolescent she found that writing poetry helped her process the feelings of “teenage drama.” As an adult she was the language arts teacher and developed a deeper appreciation of words and writing. She stopped writing poetry during her time abroad, so her creativity was not being developed. When she returned to Georgia, she wanted to build on her experiences writing short stories that expressed how perspective affects what you think you know. You don’t know what you don’t know but living abroad makes you see things very differently. She encountered a major writer’s block. Suddenly she found that with poetry the ideas just flowed. Her inspirations were from spirit, nature, and relationships. Writing poems built up her confidence, however she admitted that the first time she read her work in public, she couldn’t breathe. She joined a poetry to find her “poetry legs.” 

Kathy published her first book (Primero) of 35 poems in 2017. Her second book Wings from Roots published in 2021 contained 70 poems, and her 3rd book of social justice poetry is ready, but she would like an illustrator to work with her on this book. She thinks that a student or an early-career artist might find this a worthy challenge and add it to their portfolio. Do you know anyone?

Kathy finds herself at peace as she writes—even with a hot topic. She feels that beauty can come out of struggle. Poetry helps her process her own struggles in life. She has not written as much during the pandemic but wants 2022 to be different. Kathy co-leads Johns Creek Poets and a spiritually based writing group. She twice served as Poet Laureate for the Spiritual Living Center of Atlanta. She runs an International Bed and Breakfast home with her two multilingual cats.
(Written by Sandra Fowler)


Kathy Ellis, Poetry Editor, Invites You!

Would you like to share a poem in SIETAR's January newsletter? Our new activity, Poetry Crossings, which is featured in a column every other month, will focus on poetry and poets who use intercultural expression. 

SIETAR USA welcomes an opportunity to spotlight your creative expression in poetry. In January, we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King, so we are looking for poems that express any of these themes: 

  • Martin Luther King
  • advocates/leadership for social justice, equality, equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging
  • Social Justice, equality, equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging
  • Peace and non-violence

Please submit your poem in an attached document to [email protected] by December 8. We wish that we had more space to accept all poems, but one poem will be selected for the newsletter.

Here is a taste of what is to come!



They breathe together under the spell of unity until it becomes truth.

They speak of their distaste of the outsider or may not ever mention their name.

They share inclusion of the righteous.

They need to have the reins of control.

What they think they know stems from their unaware selves.

Narrow habits pave how to think and what to do in the box of fear and resentment, until there are no other ways.

They find comfort in the wall of sameness.

The outsider has little chance for membership.


Poem by Kathy Ellis