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smiley face In honor of National Poetry Month, I’m happy to feature this lovely guest post by writer and friend Elena Azzoni about her 89-year-old grandmother’s poetry journal for elders, Smile.

I toss treats into the air, dash through the doorway, and whip around just in time to fasten the latch that prevents the cats from following me upstairs. If one of them snuck in behind me, it would surely knock over at least one of the piles of papers my grandmother has neatly stacked on her desk. I weave my way around a labyrinth of letters to give her a kiss on the cheek.

My grandmother has been publishing the poetry journal Smile for sixteen years. Comprised of poetry by and for elders, Smile brims with writing on love, loss, nature, family, courage, hope and faith; it’s a celebration of all of life. I know her poetry journal has moved many people, because I see signs of gratitude everywhere in her home. Her walls are plastered with thank you cards, and that pile of letters I mentioned? It’s eight inches high.

Two months ago, my grandmother turned 89. “I don’t know how I’m ever going to get this issue out,” she said to me, proofreading the final copy. She says this every time. Granted, from opening the envelopes of eager contributors to choosing the poems to finding the perfect accompanying artwork to creating the layout to making the copies to stapling to stuffing to labeling to sealing to stamping… publishing a single issue of Smile is no small feat. Luckily, my grandmother gets a little help from my mom, who makes trips to the post office (and who has been known to stuff an envelope or two), and her sister, who provides much of the artwork. My brother and I give her stamps for Christmas.

Every issue of Smile, she claims, could be her last. But she’s been saying this for as long as I can remember. And for as long as I can remember, there is a light that shines through the crack at the bottom of her door, deep into the dark hours of night, and the faint sound of tap tap tap on the keyboard of her computer. I am filled with pride, knowing my grandmother’s hard work reaches hundreds of elders each year–many who might not otherwise read a single poem–touching hearts throughout the world, one hand-typed, stapled, stuffed, and stamped Smile at a time.

Elena Azzoni is a New York City based writer who is currently hard at work on her first book, to be published by Seal Press in Fall 2011. Tap tap tap…

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