Photo Credit: Sue Fortier
Photo Credit: Sue Fortier

Rehoboth Beach

Emerging Professional
Literature: Poetry

By Christopher Yasiejko

Sherry Gage Chappelle writes mostly at home, and mostly in the morning — it’s when she feels freshest.

“But I think as a writer, you’re always writing,” Chappelle says. “I’ll often be thinking about a poem while I walk; I try and walk every day. Then something will come to me and I’ll go, Oh, I think that’ll work really well.”

When she puts pen to paper, that’s precisely what she does — Chappelle, in her early 70s, writes her rough drafts by hand. Usually, she’ll start with notes. She’ll play with language, work her way through three or four drafts, and only then will she transcribe via computer.

“That’s where I find I do my best revising,” she says.

Still I hear that sizzle, see the bloom 2014

Burning: There was always burning.
Backyard: a land of derelict paint
cans, sleds in August, cracked dirt
garden gone to weed
one blacked oil drum
where yesterday’s news and bits
of family life are tossed
for a brother and sister
who fight
to be the one to light
the flash and dance….

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For nearly two decades, Chappelle has been the facilitator of the Browseabout Book Store’s book club in Rehoboth Beach. She lived for more than 50 years in New York State and New England. During her former career, as a teacher, she reached students from nursery school through graduate school. At all levels, her focus was on children’s literature. Most of Chappelle’s classroom years were spent teaching upper elementary students literature, reading and writing. The mother of four also has four grandchildren and is a soprano in the Southern Delaware Chorale and in Mixed Blessings, an a cappella group.

She began writing poetry around 2002 and attended two poet laureate retreats, in 2002 and 2005. She won the 2011 Dogfish Head Poetry Prize for her chapbook, “Salmagundi,” has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has published in the Broadkill Review, Delaware Beach Life and in several anthologies. Chappelle credits Coastal Writers, a critique group that meets weekly at the Rehoboth Art League, with having provided her great support.

“I did not set out to write poetry,” she says, “but once I started, I was captivated by the process. Poetry, more than any other medium, has the ability to pull together infinite combinations of sound and sense. The possible subject matter embraces the world: physics and philosophy, archeology and mythology, cooking and crafting. The products have astonishing power to reach within me, connect to others, and explode the universe without. I wanted to be part of that world. I still do.”

Her Division grant, Chappelle says, will go toward additional workshops and mentoring programs to broaden her skills.