When Elizabeth Follin-Jones joined the Macomb Street workshops, she had already worked on matters she could not discuss at Alamo, NM, taught English at National Cathedral School in Washington DC, painted canvases and, with “site specific sculptures” enjoying a certain vogue, Betsy created large fanciful statues of kangaroos and zebras.
The Tuesday afternoon workshops which began at the old Writer’s Center and moved to Macomb Street dealt with poetry. After all participants saw at least three of their poems accepted individually by various journals, we invented The Wineberry Press to publish FINDING THE NAME, an anthology of three poems by each of the ten authors. Betsy took on the job of treasurer of the press, and also artist, sketching little clusters of wineberries as our press logo, and other little drawings for the postcards bearing our poems and solving the holiday greeting card challenge for several years.
Wineberry Press soon published a brochure of Betsy’s poems with her cover drawing of a Japanese salon, titled NOBODY HERE IS LISTENING.
We tried to give Betsy what little support we could when her husband suddenly collapsed on the floor. She won a prize for her chapbook HALF WAY DOWN THE STAIRS, with poems reflecting her loss, and illustrated the cover. She was invited to paint one of her poems on a bench in suburban Maryland. She was also volunteering to help with incoming submissions to POET LORE, based at The Writer’s Center, so to avoid conflict-of-interest issues we refrained from submitting our poems there.
Her arthritis worsened, and eventually we moved the workshop around her dining table in Chevy Chase, pausing to loosen recalcitrant lids of her jars and bottles, carry out her trash, and even pull a few weeds in her garden. Meanwhile she continued to hand on the New Yorkers which she had devoured.
In June 1991, Betsy, Mary Edsall and Maxine Combs, the only members of our Thursday afternoon mostly-fiction workshop, hosted the wedding reception for Clyde Farnsworth and me on the eve of our move to Canada.
When finally Betsy moved to the Grand Manor nursing home beside Sibley Hospital, we found her mini-apartment full of her artwork, and our books.
At her rather poorly attended funeral at Gawlers, I read a couple of her poems. One of which was Cold Rain.
Written by Elisavietta Ritchie August 2014
Beltway Poetry Quarterly: http://www.beltwaypoetry.com/poetry/poets/names/follin-jones-elizabeth/