Ann McHugh looks out a window and turns musings into poetry.
"Thoughts come quickly and I jot them down," said Ms. McHugh. "Then, I wait for a quiet time to fit the words together."
A sail across the bay, a childhood memory or the view from the sun room have all inspired rhyme schemes from the Sykesville resident, who recently won a 1995 Poet of Merit Award from the International Society of Poets.
The society gives the award to all its Poet of the Year nominees, who attend the annual convention in Washington. About 250 members from 70 countries qualify, said Kathy Hudson, editor at Watermark Press, the society's parent company.
About a million submissions for anthologies arrive annually at the society's offices in Owings Mills. From those, the editors publish about 15,000 in one of the five anthologies compiled yearly.
"The society is the largest poetic organization in the world," said Ms. Hudson. "Work is chosen for publication on its poetic merit. Each poem is read by our editors and selected for quality."
The society also donates the anthologies, which sell for $49.95, to several literacy-promoting organizations such as Baltimore Reads.
"We encourage people to write as much as possible," said Ms. Hudson. "Publication gives them a little added push."
In the past year, Ms. McHugh has had three poems published in different anthologies. The most recent, "Feathers and Friends," is included in the recently published "Best Poems of 1995."
The awards are flattering and "let me feel like I am right in the ballpark with my poetry," she said.
Professionally, she uses Ann McHugh, her maiden name.
"I have always been proud of my name, something that is all mine," she said. "I love to boast of my Irishness. There is a tradition of poetry there."
For 42 years, she has been Marion M. Stockman, wife of George Stockman and mother of two sons. Ann is her first name, but she hasn't used it since her marriage. Now retired from the state police, where she was a records supervisor, she can devote hours to her poetry.
She can remember "scratching down rhymes" as a child, she said.
"My siblings were all musically inclined, but I couldn't pick that up," she said. "I made my own rhythm by composing verse. I
think I have always had a poetic soul."
Ms. McHugh chooses a subject, a rhyme scheme and sets to tTC work on a "little old manual typewriter" that sits among flowering plants and her awards on a sunny enclosed porch.
"I can look out and see nature all around me," she said. "I write what I feel, whatever is happening at the moment."
She has had no formal writing training, but knows "about meter and how many syllables I want for each line."
She plans to continue writing and "would love to publish a poetry book of my own."
She also would like to show her work to the former high school English teacher who twice failed her.
"She never let me show what I was capable of writing," Ms.