Poet & Reviewer

Kali Lightfoot lives in Salem, MA. She worked as a teacher, wilderness ranger in Washington state, executive at Road Scholar, and retired from her position as founding Executive Director of the National Resource Center for Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes. Kali earned an MFA in Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2015. Her poetry has appeared in journals and anthologies, and been nominated for Pushcart prizes by Lavender Review, and Poetry South. Kali received Honorable Mention in the Science Fiction Poetry Association contest and she has written reviews of poetry books for Broadsided Press, The Hopper, and Solstice. Her first full-length collection of poems, Pelted by Flowers, will be published by CavanKerry Press in April, 2021.

The Rest of the Story

Writing poetry came easily to me in my teens, and I even had a couple of poems published from a series I created as a special project for my master's degree in physical education from the University of Washington, but I stopped writing shortly after receiving my degree at age 26.

In the ensuing 38 years I lived in eight states, worked as a high school gym teacher and coach, wilderness ranger for the US Forest Service, clerk at Eastern Mountain Sports, instructor and assistant professor at two different colleges, camp director, New England Director and other management positions at Elderhostel (now known as Road Scholar), program director at World Learning, body-oriented psychotherapist, Program Director for Spring Hill of Ashby’s Opening the Heart personal growth workshops, Director of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at University of Southern Maine, developer and coordinator of the Maine Senior College Network, founding Executive Director of the National Resource Center for Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes. I became known as a national expert on education for older adults.

In 2008, wanting to do something new just for myself, I signed up for an undergraduate poetry workshop at USM taught by Betsy Sholl, the Maine Poet Laureate. I loved the class (and the students), and took it four more times in subsequent semesters, then in 2011 traveled to Greece for a two-week Summer Writing Seminar taught by Betsy, and Mary Snell, on the Island of Lesvos. That summer, at Betsy’s suggestion, I applied for a low-residency MFA at Vermont College of Fine Arts and was accepted for the class beginning in December, 2011. Because I was still working, the two-year program stretched out over the next three and a half years, which also included moving to Salem, MA and fully retiring before graduating from VCFA in 2015. 

The conventional wisdom for finding happiness in retirement is to retire “to” something, rather than  “from” work. Poetry has been that “to” for me. It has given me a new focus, a new community of friends and colleagues (especially important in this place where I knew almost nobody outside of family), and a whole new way of looking at myself and the world around me.