Posted by: poet kate hutchinson | June 24, 2016

Hawks in the Neighborhood

Red-tailed-Hawk_MV203[New poem below — “Cooper’s Hawk”]

In the bird world, red-tailed hawks rule the Midwest.  You can see them dotted against the sky every time you take a drive – on utility poles, high tension wires, and limbs of dead trees.  Big and stocky, red-tails perch for long spells, then suddenly swoop down to snatch up the unsuspecting mouse, rabbit, toad, or baby bird.  Any time a red-tail is near, all the other birds in the vicinity chirp noisy alerts and send brave warriors to try and drive it away.



hawk_coopers_adult_winter_california_3aLately, however, there’s a new hawk in town.  Until recently, all I knew about the Cooper’s Hawk was that it was the name of a trendy restaurant chain where you can get a flight of good wine during happy hour.  Then an actual one moved into my neighborhood.  This is one crafty hawk!  Sleeker and smaller than the red-tail, the Cooper’s hawk hangs out in trees of any size, often right in our back yards.  It will dart across lawns at window level into a hedge or fir tree to grab a bird off a branch.  The other day, I saw a Cooper fly past my windshield in pursuit of a robin just as I pulled out of my subdivision.  I’ll never know if that poor robin went on to find dinner or become one.



owlRed-tails and Coopers seem to co-exist nicely in a given area so long as there’s an abundance of critters – and what suburban area lacks them?  Add the owls and coyotes prowling at night, and it’s a wonder there’s a chipmunk left around here.  (But of course there is – right under my front porch.)


Despite hawks’ brutal, predatory nature, it’s hard not to find them awesome and beautiful.



Cooper’s Hawk


It darted with sureness

into the evergreen.  Glad

coopinitI wasn’t near enough to hear

the death screech when talons

punctured nape, I shuddered

to see the limp blackbird

soon draped on a wide branch

of my neighbor’s oak tree.

The victor wasted no time

tearing in.  Feathers flew

as the sharp beak ripped,

bit by bit, at the flesh of itsCOHA_adMale3

cousin, its steely head

like the knobbed handle

of a cane, its striped tail, ruler-

straight, pointing down.

Precise, focused, functional:

eyes, claws, talons, tail.

Gnawing hunger.  An absence

of shame.



Cooper’s hawk photos by Bill Schmoker



Posted by: poet kate hutchinson | March 27, 2016

Poetry Reading April 7 in Barrington

Please join me at Grassroots in downtown Barrington on Thursday evening, April 7, for “Transcendence,” a collective reading from 7 local poets.  I was very happy to be invited to join these talented writers, including organizer Terry Loncaric, Tamara Tabel, Michelle Brinckerhoff, Judith K. Tepfer, Joanna Kurowska, Carmen Severino, and Tracie Pradal.

We’ll each read 2 sets of 3 poems each.  Start time:  7 p.m. 

Come on out for a night of poetry, and wear your tie-dye! 

Grassroots is at 211 Park Avenue, Barrington.


Posted by: poet kate hutchinson | March 14, 2016

Next Reading: Madame Zuzu’s in Highland Park

zuzu logoI’m really looking forward to the next reading from my book.  It’s slated for Saturday night, March 26, at 8:00 at a trendy new spot in Ravinia-land, Madame Zuzu’s Tea Shop and Art Studio.  Billy Corgan — he of Smashing Pumpkins fame — owns this space, though I hear he rarely makes appearances.  Regardless, it has an interesting vibe and attracts a small core of poetry diehards to its Saturday open mic sessions, which are sponsored by Highland Park Poetry.

Margie Skelly and I will again be sharing the stage as the opening readers.  After that, anyone can share their work, so writers — bring something to read!

Madame Zuzu’s is located at 582 Roger Williams Ave. in Highland Park.  Here is the link to their website:




Posted by: poet kate hutchinson | February 9, 2016

Poetry Reading on Feb. 28 in Westmont

111250685My next reading, shared with fellow poet and good friend Marjorie Skelly of Chicago, will be at the Brewed Awakenings Coffeehouse in Westmont, Sunday, Feb. 28 at 12:30.  A $10 cover will get you a beverage, a snack, and our reading, followed by 2 hours of entertainment with an open mic hosted by the Illinois State Poetry Society.

More information at the Brewed Awakenings website!  Come join us for some warmth and inspiration.



Posted by: poet kate hutchinson | January 5, 2016

Poetry Reading and Art Show, Jan. 16

It was a cold day in Chicago’s suburbs, but the sun shone through the windows of the atrium at the Arlington Green Executive Center as 7 of us from the Northwest Cultural Council read from our 2015 publications.


023014Poems I shared:


Aerial Photograph

Dog Memory

Modern Minotaurs

Only the Hills Remember

Ground Feeding Ban






As usual, we poets made sure to feed the guests.





Posted by: poet kate hutchinson | November 17, 2015

Map Making now available at Amazon

Here is the link:cover

You may still purchase through THEAQ Press as well, or contact me and I can send you a signed copy!

Posted by: poet kate hutchinson | September 22, 2015

New poetry book coming soon!

coverIt’s gone to press!  My new book — Map Making: Poems of Land and Identity should be available at Amazon by early November, just in time to help you kick off your holiday shopping.  I owe many thanks to the publishers at THEAQ Press in Rosemount, MN, for taking a chance on my work.  The poems use a conversational, free-verse style and cover subjects that will interest audiences of any age and background.

The collection includes a few poems from my 2 previous chapbooks; a few that have been published in literary magazines or on websites; and a whole bunch of new, unpublished pieces.  Subjects include the more light-hearted — like family (past and present), parenting, fictional character sketches, and ruminations on aging — as well as the more serious, touching on nature and animals, the planet’s shaky future, and thought-provoking stories I’ve read about in the news.

010Here’s the official book summary from the publisher’s website:

Our souls contain landscapes, and not just the metaphoric kind. What we see daily as we look out upon the world leaves an indelible imprint on us and shapes our relationships – to each other and to the planet. We’re forever fused with the regions where we come of age, sometimes becoming hybrids of multiple landscapes as we shift and move to new places.

In the 50 poems and prose-poems of Map Making: Poems of Land and Identity, poet Kate Hutchinson explores the daily rituals and negotiations many of us make as we move through Midwestern landscapes. Her life as a suburbanite, raised in outskirts of O’Hare Airport, has prompted Kate to ask some key questions about the suburban identity. What is it that pulls some of us into the city and others toward open space? How is it that many of us feel the tug toward both places over the years? What happens to our sense of community and of self as we pass time inside our walls and fences, perhaps commuting alone to places far away? And what of the creatures whose habitats are razed to make way for our concrete roads and foundations – the birds and fowl, the squirrels and mice, the coyotes and deer?

015Ultimately, Kate urges us to pay attention to those ever-shrinking, less-touched places around us. In poems that conjure landscapes of farms and cities, suburban back yards, woodlands and prairies, and even the distant surface of the moon, she reminds us to remember that we are each but one being in a huge and complex universe. It is essential for those of us who have the means to take care of ourselves to also assist those who cannot – human and otherwise. Map Making invites readers to wonder about their own internal and external landscapes, and to consider how each informs the other.

Photo credits:  THEAQ Press (cover); author

Posted by: poet kate hutchinson | September 17, 2015

Wait — I’m how old?

women-bodyWe reach a certain age, and all we can do is wonder how we got so old. My friends and I talk often about how we still feel like our 35-year-old selves inside, no matter how many years have passed since. What causes this disconnect in our sense of self?

I’ve read that as children, we often feel older than we are – no doubt because we’d like to be. But at around age 30, we reverse our thinking and begin to feel younger than we are. I’m not sure that’s because we want to re-live our 20’s, however. For me, it was more a disbelief that I could actually be a full-fledged adult.

debra_wilkinson_320I still remember that moment when I realized there was no going back. I was 33 or 34, and I’d recently moved with my husband and toddler into our first single-family home. (Oh, the automatic garage door opener! The basement! The walk-in closet!) We’d both earned tenure at our schools, and he’d moved into administration. We’d even gotten a dog. All the trappings of middle class.

One morning as I stood at the vanity mirror, eyeing my increasing gray hairs and daubing on make-up, the smells of toast and coffee wafted upstairs, and I could hear the sounds of “Sesame Street” from the TV in the living room where I knew my child was curled on the couch with his blanket. All of a sudden, I felt kicked in the gut with the realization that I had become my mother. An adult. I’d finally made it. Somehow, up until that moment, I’d felt like I’d been just play-acting, practicing for the real thing. Then BAM. Here it was.

woman-looking-in-mirror-vintage-e1343019650424The mid-30’s is where I’ve been ever since, though 20 years have passed. Sometimes I even step backward from there, regressing to helplessness: “No, I can’t do this! I’m still a stupid kid!” At those moments, the reality of my 55 years seems an utter absurdity, an impossible time-warp, as if someone had opened a portal and forced me to look at my future self. Then I imagine myself at my little blue desk from grade school, maybe in 1972 or so, on the cusp of teenagerhood, granted the gift of sight and seeing my own hand writing “2015” on the date line of a check made out to a mortgage company. I reel in disbelief. Wow, I’ll have a mortgage in 2015? Wow, there will BE a 2015??

(Funny how now it seems the oddest thing about that scenario is that I actually still do write paper checks – ha ha. Can you blame me for not wanting to give Chase access to my bank account? I recognize that this paranoia makes me seem even older than I am.)

But it’s these time-warping moments that make me think we aren’t as tied to time as our calendars tell us we are. Maybe, inside, we’re just us – age 5, 15, 35, 55 and 75 all at once. Our bodies fool and then betray us, trapping our timeless spirits in shells that eventually crumble away.

paper-pilesNow I’m on the countdown to retirement, and I hate to admit it, but I’m ready. I’m tired of the grind. My eyesight’s going, my knees are bad, and I’m sick of dying my hair in an attempt to remain relevant to the kids in my classes. I’ve been at this teaching gig for 30+ years, and I have other things I’d like to do with my life. By my rough estimate, I’ve worked with nearly 8,000 students and graded about 250,000 – a quarter million – pages of teens’ writing, only some of which has been remarkable. Plus I’ve read The Odyssey well over 100 times — though somehow it never gets old.

And yet. Retirement? Me? Really? Wasn’t I just a newbie at my school, being mentored by those who paved the road? The years are one big blur now. The thought that scares most of us is that time will continue to speed by faster and faster until that inevitable moment when it stops altogether.

old ladies in rainNone of us should complain to have been given the gift of aging, especially those of us who can afford to retire. Still . . . Damn! How did I get so old already? And how is it that most of my friends are old people, too?

We’re growing mouthy and eccentric, my friends and I, like Violet, the old dowager countess on Downton Abbey who mutters non sequiturs and says out loud what everyone else is thinking. Maybe that’s the best part about aging — we finally stop caring about what other people think of us. So we might as well have a little fun as we skip off into the future, knees creaking and saggy arms flapping.

Illustration credits:  menstrupedia; burbed; flashback summer; levkonoe.livejournal

Posted by: poet kate hutchinson | June 9, 2015

A Post-Binary World?

yin-yang-iphone-5-wallpaper-8What a thrilling time to be alive and human! Could we really be witnessing an end to our age-old binaries, heading to a future where no one must proclaim him or herself as black or white, male or female, straight or gay, liberal or conservative, theist or atheist, abled or disabled, meat-eating or vegan, coffee or tea, Cubs or Sox, Mac or PC?

The mind reels.


Linked_Arm-in-armToday’s youth are poised to embrace each others’ individuality and all the weirdness it might entail – in the best of ways. In throwing off the need to categorize, they are simply seeing each other as Each Other. They are less and less likely to judge based upon existence alone. This hasn’t stopped them from judging – (they’re teens, after all). They’re still as snarky as teens have always been….but their snark is more rooted in people’s actions than in their simply being who they are or looking the way they look.


gender neutralBruce/Caitlyn Jenner may be pushing buttons, but how fabulous that he/she/they is not just pushing one button with one group of people. How rich the conversations have been regarding just what it is that makes a man a man or a woman a woman, and if there are other categories entirely, or shifting between categories, or no categories at all, and how one might change oneself in a way that is acceptable or authentic. Or – my favorite point of the whole argument – why anyone should even care.

The more shades of gray among us, the less we must focus on only what is black and white. The wider we throw open the doors to our own collective future as a race, the more promise we provide each other with finding paths toward unique concepts of identity, purpose, meaning, and joy. Imagine how that has begun to play out in our homes, our communities, our schools, our places of worship, our workplaces. It’s already changing – and fast.

Bring it on, I say. It’s about damn time.


through my eyes

your eyes look back

and see yourself



Posted by: poet kate hutchinson | March 23, 2015

Autism is not a “gift”

I’m taking time out from my usual writing about writing to post a letter I sent today to the editors of the Chicago Tribune.  I’ve written and re-written it multiple times over the last few days and finally just decided it was time to send it.  Whether or not they print the letter is yet to be seen.  It’s long, so they may want to chop it to bits.  Whatever.  But I figure it may get some strong reactions if it gets published in any form.

I do hope no one finds it offensive.  My goal is to wake people up and cut through some of the haze about disability culture that persists in the media — primarily that children with disabilities are somehow “magical,” that they never grow up, and that they exist to teach lessons to the rest of us.  UGH.  Enough already.  Let’s get to work making the world a better place for them — now and in the future — shall we?

Dear Tribune Editors:

In response to the featured essay from a week ago, “Finding the Gifts of Autism,” I humbly assert that it’s time we stop perpetuating the myth of the “magical disabled child.” I understand the sentiment behind it, as I am a mother of a now-adult child with autism, and I too wrote such essays and poems in the early 1990s when my son was small. In the face of such difficulty and challenges, the rare moments where either humor or clarity shine through the chaos are certainly memorable, and we take great solace and joy in them. However, let’s remember that for the remainder of the week or the year, caring for a child with a disability can be frustrating, exhausting, overwhelming, guilt-inducing, and lonely. All parenting is incredibly difficult, and disability adds another several layers of care to the daily routine, some of which require much time, added costs, and resources that are often unavailable to a family or parent. When we objectify disabled children as tools that can bring us new kinds of enlightenment, we are not doing them any favors. In fact, romanticizing our experiences with them as “gifts” presents some misconceptions that endanger the health and future of all people with disabilities.

We are now 25 years into an autism epidemic. The children have begun to grow up. And guess what? As adults, people with disabilities are no longer seen as the cute, “magical” children they once were. In reality, an adult with a disability is often feared and shunned, unable to find work, transportation, a meaningful social group, or an adequate place to live. My son may look 23, but he still functions as a seven-year-old. He may need a twice-weekly shave, but he cannot cross the street safely or make a meal for himself. And while his high level of distractibility was manageable in the Special Ed classroom, it has made him entirely unemployable as an adult. His impulsive need to walk up to strangers and begin conversations is no longer comical but downright alarming – both for the unsuspecting recipient of his friendliness and for his mother, who envisions a future full of police interventions. The boy whose mother wrote the essay published last week, who fixates on buses and imagines his own front drive is a bus stop, may eventually have a difficult time navigating the distinction between fantasy and reality – a problem shared by many adults with autism that prevents them from being independent.

Additionally, governing bodies in suburbs like mine continue to find reasons to deny permits for housing projects that would offer assistance for the developmentally disabled, claiming such a development would not be a “good fit” for the neighborhood, and caving to concerns of uneducated homeowners who perpetuate the myth that such people are “dangerous.” They worry that their own home values would decrease if such a building or development were to move in next door. In fact, there is no evidence to show that adults with developmental disabilities would pose any more danger to their neighbors than the average citizen; they often pose less. Only when more of these facilities are built and occupied successfully will that myth subside.

So let’s be honest about the facts: in twenty years, our communities will see huge increases of adults with developmental disabilities, many whose families are gone or who cannot provide care for them. Who will provide this care? And who will pay for it?

Rather than offering “gifts,” autism primarily offers some harsh realities. Its growing existence in our world poses complex problems that will soon test our capacity for compassion in new ways. If communities can discover the means and the will to embrace their disabled members and work together to fully integrate them into their neighborhoods and workplaces, then and only then will we be able to say that autism’s presence in the world has been a “gift.”

Respectfully submitted,

Kate Hutchinson

Ray n Mom

Ramon and me

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