{pf with p7: what’s the skinny?}

June, and the chaos has been unleashed. I won’t bore you with all of it, but our friends’ baby came – two and a half weeks early, so none of the handmade gifts we’d started were finished in time (like the baby cares), my deadline is this month, and I didn’t realize a week ago, the Monday of Memorial Day, that I’d be moving house. I am! Next Monday, in fact. So, yeah, it’s barely June, yet a lot has happened.

Fortunately, somehow poetry happened, too.

This month’s challenge is Skinnys. The Skinny, invented in 2005 by poet Truth Thomas, is a short form with eleven lines, the first and eleventh of which can be any length. The eleventh and last line use the same words, in the same order or rearranged. The second, sixth, and tenth lines are identical. (Skinnys have a linked form, which would be amazing to play with too.) And all other lines but the first and last are a single word – thus the name of “skinny,” as they appear rather narrow. Unless you’re me, and cannot stop yourself from using really long words.

Le sigh. Yes. Once again, I struggled with this form. Things that restrict my word count/usage are hard – but things without restrictions? Very hard. Poetry: challenging, every single time. Ah, well. Thematically, Skinnys are often on serious topics – but with so few brief words, they can easily slide into moroseness. I tried to balance my depressive tendencies with short verbs and punchier topics. It helped to just keep writing, and keep experimenting – I got to where I was literally waking up to write Skinnys after dreaming them. The neat thing about this form is that you can write a great many poems in a short amount of time. Today I’ll share just a couple.

Hypnagogic

on the edge of sleep, a dream of falling
sudden
start
abrupt
spasm
sudden
heartbeat
acceleration
another
sudden
falling of dream, of a sleep on the edge

Malignant

metastasis, a silent sword, speeding
spreading
poison
spiteful
blight
spreading
baneful
toxic
fright
spreading
silence. Metastasis, speeding a sword.

This last woke me to remind me of Miss Phine, an infant who gifted me with new wonder for my species.

Homo Familial

sometimes I love them so much
occasionally
humanity
inherently
baffling
occasionally
incredible
relatable
invaluable
occasionally
instinctively
Love times Them. Sum: so much I.

This June chaos has unleashed itself all over, so a few of the Sisters will be poetrying along into next week. You’ll find serious and silly from Laura, a last minute but determined Tricia’s best, here; a very sweet return to the ring from Kelly, and the one who challenged us, Andi’s poem here. Sara, Liz, and Rebecca will check in later in the month.

Poetry Friday flourishes under the love and care of Cousin Mary Lee; if you haven’t signed up for a week to host, and you’re feeling brave, join the party! Poetry Friday this week is hosted at the blog of illustrator Michelle Kogan (do check out her work) who gathers us this week to celebrate poet laureate Tracy K. Smith.

Meanwhile, June rolls on. May you ride out the chaos into the middle of a summer calm. Just remember:

{pf: the p7 get dizzied by dizains}

The new month has burst upon us like …well, a lot like a sudden shower of rain. Because we keep having those. And I am not even mad about it. We’ve also got early strawberries at the Farmer’s Market, so… you win some… and then you win some more, if you have a hat in the car.

May is National Mental Health month, and this is my annual – weekly? – reminder to you all to be excellent one to another, because truly — “A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.” – Amelia Earhart. After all, it’s SPRING! Time to make things grow, good people.


Poetry Princess Sara challenged us to dizains this month, which turned out to be… oddly mechanical. We were discussing how sometimes poetry seems to require us to …look things up and make specific connections with definitions and distinctions in order for mere words to turn into wordplay. The French poetic form dizain (not to be confused with dizaine which either means a decade or “about ten” in French) is regimented – ten lines, ten syllables per line, and a strict rhyme scheme – ababbccdcd. I found myself looking up things which were square, or ten, because it felt awkward, at first! I found that the form kind of builds on itself, and halfway through, the rhyme pattern begins to echo the pattern from the beginning, building a kind of square. Sara decided we could have a bonus point if we used the word “square” in our poems (from the Imaginary Point-Giving Poetry Body), so off we went.

My first poem was kind of a joke – my siblings and I play cards at my parents’ house once a month, in order to see them and each other more regularly, and we were making a disorderly mess last weekend, and my father was patiently …doing dishes. While we played. This is not the pattern of my childhood AT ALL, so that was… spectacularly weird, to be honest. But it got me thinking how much we girls (and my poor lone brother) disrupted my father’s #goals for order and peace. And, since my Dad was a bricklayer just out of high school, and that uses square…

Netherlands 2018 690

All the bricks you could want.

Daughters, Or Things That Messed Up Dad’s Life

Brick by brick, the Mason’s art constructed
Scaffolding, hod, cement in balance tied
Calculus, a symphony conducted
With “joints” and “beds,” and squarely dignified
As sums meet stone, and stone is satisfied.
Bull-nosed – both brick and man – he made life’s call
For “soldiers” in a row, chaos forestall.
No fickle furbelow accommodate
Geometry the goal, once and for all.
But Life provides girl-chaos to frustrate…

(I was reminded that CHILDREN, not just daughters, are the point of chaos, and so I concede. However, a good soldier makes do, and my father has.) That was a good entry poem for me, because I got to use a lot of technical terms (soldiers is a way to lay bricks – in a specific line. Who knew! [Well, Dad, probably]) and got to grips with the weird rhyme scheme. I decided to look further at squares… with dance.

Having attended religious schools my whole life, I never experienced the “fun” so many of my friends and relatives complained about (middle school + dancing for PE = tales of woe). I can’t square dance – or dance at all – but was delighted to discover that for an allegedly simple country dance, square dance has tons of serious adherents and technical terms. A ‘promenade’ is itself a whole dance subgenre! So, I was off again:

Treasure Island 35

Around the Quad

The Promenade brings sweethearts, two by two
With mincing steps, into a perfect square.
Striding in step along the avenue
Forward-and-back, the dancers walk on air
A ‘side-by-side’ that’s truly debonair.
Seeing – and being seen – the highest goal
As gents and ladies proudly take a stroll.
Walk where the lights are bright – all eyes on you
And never mind the critics on patrol —
Just do-si-do on to your rendezvous.


But, wait, there’s more! Sara’s poem uses more technical builder‘s terms, Liz is all science. Rebecca is, of course, quantum science, while Tricia found myriad other disciplines. Poetry Princesses Kelly, Andi, and Laura are off creating their own experiments elsewhere this month.

Need a bit more poetry? Poetry Friday today is hosted by the fabulous Jama-j, at Jama’s Alphabet Soup.

Glasgow Botanic Gardens T 15

One last Mental Health Month reminder: “Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.” – Lao Tzu