{pf: poetry peeps drink deep of the ghazel}

Greetings! Welcome to another Poetry Peeps adventure on Poetry Friday!

Poetry Peeps! You’re invited to our challenge in the month of June! Here’s the scoop: we’re writing in response to a quotation. Ours is an excerpt from Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass, p. 359, in the chapter “People of Corn, People of Light:” “If grief can be a doorway to love, then let us all weep for the world we are breaking apart so we can love it back to wholeness again.” How does that strike you? This time, the form and way you use this quotation – or another one which strikes your fancy – is totally up to you, but the Poetry Sisters are continuing with our 2023 theme of TRANSFORMATION. You have a month to craft your creation and share it on June 30th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.


I feel like a dropped mirror – seven years of indifferent luck and little shards of self reflecting any number of different realities. This revision has just wrung me out – but in a better way than I had any right to expect of a novel outline done in a fit of pique that took me deeper than I expected. Himself sat patiently with me the times I completely wigged out and moaned aloud that I was never going to finish this on time. (I did. I always do. I always have. What is work, if you can’t be really dramatic about it, though?)

Oddly, all of this feels like really good prep for doing a ghazel.

No, seriously.

The #1 hardest thing for me to …embody in this couplet form is a sense of disjointedness. No, you’re not telling a story. No, you’re not pulling together the unified theory of anything. No, you’re not supposed to create an ensemble performance. Agha Shahid Ali, the poet who edited Ravishing DisUnities: Real Ghazals in English, in his foreword compared each ghazal couplet to “a stone from a necklace,” which should continue to “shine in that vivid isolation.” Sara had a great idea when she suggested we think of it as a new “13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,”, by Wallace Stevens. That’s the level of splintered we’re going for – and while I’ve been working the past several months on being able to be … loose with words and wordplay, this was still quite a challenge. Dabbling in Neruda last month helped create a feeling of voluptuous abandon with words. This month, I wanted less to luxuriate, and more to make clockwork, ticking along with a limited pas de deux, each couplet touched and spinning perfectly for just a moment…

Well, that was the idea, anyway.

After writing THREE of the bloody things, each one more hated than the last, I took Marilyn Hacker’s “Dark Times” as my mentor text, and tried again… I only lightly kept to our transformation theme, but I tried to order the couplets from darkness into light, or at least from skies of gray to deeper shades of blue.

“Bad Times”

Did thriftiness (or hoarding) got them THROUGH the bad times?
“Use it up, wear it out, make up, or make do” the bad times.

Expansive “destiny,” proud wagons Westward believed
Sepia-tinted lies: this past previewed the bad times.

Did colonialism urge dominion, so might made right?
Post-planet Earth, what’s our next berth, as we accrue the bad times?

Sixteen-nineteen, heartwood filled hell’s incinerator
Nineteen-thirty-three new genocide renewed the bad times.

Prayers on Angel Island’s walls, grief observed in stone.
Regardless of race, the spirit debut in the bad times.

No “time of trouble” singular – disasters, naturally,
Buffet with waves a weary world in view of the bad times.

Sing out for voices silenced, lift memorials, and rise,
For those war-broken who remain black and blue from the bad times.

What generation will survive? A remnant, not a nation
For thick-heads still persist and MISCONSTRUE the bad times.

What metals alloyed, intertwined strengthen weak to strong?
Fired copper, iron, gold sings TRUE in the bad times.


There’s always more poetry. Sara brought this to the table. And here’s Laura’s. Tricia’s poem is here, and Liz’s poem is here. Mary Lee’s lakeside ghazel is here, while Michelle K. joined the challenge here. Heidi’s ghazal is right here. More Poetry Peeps will be checking in throughout the weekend, so don’t forget to come back and read the whole roundup. Meanwhile, Poetry Friday is hosted today by Patricia at Reverie. Thanks, Patricia!

A Buddhist koan about life after enlightenment says that “A broken mirror never reflects again; fallen flowers never go back to the old branches.” Well, I’ll respectfully disagree – of course a broken mirror still works! It merely reflects different pieces of the same sky, which is both a kind of clarity and a kind of distance I think I can live with. And if you’re feeling a little broken, a little blurry, taped-together, and wonky, don’t worry, friends. You’re not alone. ♥

Pax.

{pf: poetry peeps appreciate Pablo (Neruda)}

Greetings! Welcome to another Poetry Peeps adventure on Poetry Friday!

Poetry Peeps! You’re invited to our challenge in the month of May! Here’s the scoop: we’re writing a ghazal. The ghazal (tripping correctly from the tongue as “guzzle” – with apologies to those of you giving it a French flair as I used to) is the oldest poetic form still in use, with roots in Arabic, Urdu, Hindi, and Hebrew traditions. A ghazal is made to be sung, and is a couplet-based form with internal rhyme. (Find out more about it at Poets.org.) As always, the topic is totally up to you, but the Poetry Sisters are continuing with our 2023 theme of TRANSFORMATION. You have a month to craft your creation and share it on May 26th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.


I feel like I need to set up a camera in the garden, so I can capture the milometers-per-hour growth of my seedlings. We have hit the 80°F mark this week in my part of the world for the first time in 2023, and the acceleration of — everything green is just gobsmacking. We’re happily stashing windbreakers and pulling out our short sleeves. …For the most part, anyway.

Last week at my Sunday gig (choir #2), a friend stepped behind the pulpit and slipped off her cardigan to put on her robe. She saw me watching her and winced. “I don’t usually wear sleeveless dresses,” she explained hurriedly. “My arms just look so bad…so crepey.”

Of course, I fussed at her about it, as we do with friends. She looked gorgeous in her spiffy dress, which I’d complimented the moment I’d seen it and I reiterated. I told her it was a gorgeous day and she had a gorgeous set of arms that needed to feel the sun on them. And then we settled down to warm up and rehearse.

But, I kept thinking about it.

Poets, my friend is eighty years old. She is a size six, maybe a seven. She swims one hundred laps in an Olympic pool three times a week, and walks two miles the other two days. She sings in the choir with me, and she’s louder and has a longer range. She sports a perfect layered cinnamon-brown bob with nary a silver strand twinkling, as well as perfect manicure at all times. More, she’s kind and funny. And she’s still worried that her upper arms look bad.

As I said to the Poetry Sisters when I mentioned this, good Lord, at some point we HAVE to be enough.

I mean, I get it. I don’t display my upper arms. Having been various sizes of fat my whole life, even when I was really lifting weights and playing sports, they were still… squishy in a way that was socially unacceptable. Bigger than other girls. I never wear sleeveless things outside of the house. But, I will not be eighty years old and still worrying about this crud. I. Will. NOT.

And so I wrote a lovely sonnet to my upper arms. The style of Pablo Neruda to me is layered and rich, loquacious and bountiful — just like my arms. He writes a lot of love poems, heady and redolent with beautiful language with which he woos the reader. I choose to attribute that to his Argentine heritage, a beautiful country filled with beautiful people speaking a lilting and glorious (and gloriously complicated, I say from the perspective of sixteen hundred days on Duolingo) language. Using the mentor poem “One Hundred Love Sonnets: XVII (I don’t love you as if you were a rose)” I speak of my arms – and your arms. And all of our arms. May we embrace ourselves, and our flaws, not like something about which poets sing – some romanticized, perfect thing. Rather, may we embrace ourselves as if we’re children who may or may not be sweaty, muddy, covered in pet hair, widdle, puke, snot, or tears and still – cherished, and worthy of love.

I Do Not Love You ‘As If’

I don’t love you as if you were a summer fruit, warm,
Firm, perfumed and toothsome:
I love you as an auntie loves a defiant toddler,
Exasperation woven from skeins of amusement and resignation.

I love you as the corner of the yard the cats favor,
Dense blooming bush beneath which they lie concealed, tails twitching,
Keen to pounce and leap and rend, replacing peace with panic,
Forcing conflict and change, challenge and confrontation.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or for what,
I love you austerely, without expectation or prediction,
I love you like this because I know no way but this, to embrace
The flawed and the fleshy, the crepey, creased, amd changed,
Complete in this moment as the sweet-fleshed perfection of a ripened peach,
Complete in this broad-shouldered, wide-bellied work of cradling a wailing world.


There’s always more poetry. You should see what Liz wrote. And here’s Mary Lee’s. Tricia’s poem is here. Michelle K’s poem is here. Heidi is “Neruda-ing” (yes, that IS a word) here. More Poetry Peeps will be checking in throughout the weekend, so don’t forget to come back and read the whole roundup. Meanwhile, Poetry Friday today is hosted by Ruth at There Is Not Such Thing As A Godforsaken Town. Thanks, Ruth, and Happy Seventeenth Blog Birthday!

Well, back to the garden, poets. I’m sending you out with a hug, from my arms to yours. Happy Weekend, you are loved. ♥

{npm23 – headline cinquain #21}

It’s odd to be entering the last nine days of the month. It’s almost MAY, people, and that’s just concerning and alarming, as this month has rushed by in a headlong bolt. Perhaps the confusing part for me is that where I live in California, the temperature hasn’t yet climbed into the eighties as it usually does in April, and it’s lush and green on every hill. I think collectively we keep looking around wondering, “Where the heck ARE we?” I don’t know either, Cali.

Meanwhile, the world keeps spinning and it’s abhorrent in its usual way. I cannot get the beautiful face of Ralph Yarl out of my mind this week, and the wreckage of his life, and his innocence keeps breaking me. As I often do when I’m trying to process, I’ve been writing poems – awful, toxic poems which won’t see the light of day… but it’s excising some demons. To that end, I’m returning to the Crapsey cinquain, but loosely letting my thoughts go to current events. I’m going to tell the story of this time in five line bites — what we’re doing, what we’re thinking, so we remember. Human beings have such short attention spans. To my horror, I realize I’ve written more than one poem about an innocent Black child getting shot.

But here we are again.

Poetry Friday is hosted at Karen Edmisten’s the blog with the clever name, and there’s so much lovely Spring content. Please don’t miss Denise K.’s poem about democracy and gun laws which gave me some words for mine.

{npm23 – tetractys cinquain #14}

Last Sunday was the first in the seventies with sunshine since… who knows when. We have had weekday afternoons when it gets into the low seventies just before the wind picks up and the temperature drops back into the sixties, so a whole day during this unusually cool, windy spring after our unusually wet winter was so, so welcome. The whole neighborhood was outside for our day of sunshine, and with the doors and windows open, we could hear the joy in the air.

Poetry Friday today is hosted at Jone’s place.

{pf: the poetry peeps engage in etheree}

Greetings! Welcome to another Poetry Peeps adventure on Poetry Friday!

Poetry Peeps! You’re invited to our challenge in the month of April! Here’s the scoop: we’re writing “in the style of Pablo Neruda.” What does that mean? That’s totally up to you. We’re continuing with our 2023 theme of transformation, but how you interpret that in the realm of Neruda poems topically is wholly your choice. You have a month to craft your creation and share it on April 28th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.


WHAT, may I ask, happened to March?!

We are sliding right into April – on a bed of chilly mud, I might add – and wow, I feel unready. My National Poetry Month project this year is Cinquain Stories – I’m going to be practicing making a linked story cycle using the five line form. There are quite a few quintains I’ve never played with, so I’ll tell you more about that when things actually kick off, but since I also turned in a novel today and am ramping up rehearsals with my choral groups (and my autoimmune disorder is kicking the back of my seat like an vexatious child in an airplane), I’m a bit scattered. Forgive me, this post will be super short…

…but, it’ll still be fun. I like etherees, though I freely admit to being terrible at them. I wrote a poem I really loved, but realized, when formatting it for my post, that though it’s perfect as it is, it’s …not an etheree. ☺ Did I mention I occasionally can’t count? Oh, well. Today you get the second run that I wrote in a mad hurry. It’s an actual etheree, at least…

I feel pretty good about the fact that I managed to stay on theme for the year, too! I wrote it thinking of the Terry Pratchett quotation from Hogfather, “Humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape.” The evolving human grows up, squawking to have the last word.

But, did you see what Laura did? Or, what Sara did? Liz’s poem is here, and Tricia’s is here. Poetry Friday host for this week, Cousin Mary Lee’s poem is here. Denise’s etheree is here. Michelle K’s gloriously photographed poem is here. Linda B’s poem is here, and Carol V’s poem is here. Heidi’s definito+etheree (detheree? Etherito!) is here. More Poetry Peeps will be dropping etherees into the aether throughout the weekend, so do check back for a full roundup.

Be well, dear poets. In a world where you could be anything, thank you for choosing to be kind. Pax.

{welcome to your poetry friday post!}

You are cordially invited to March…

In this hemisphere, March is the month of seeds, the month of being in the raw cold, pushing seeds into the clammy earth with cold fingers.

I haven’t yet gotten to the second part of that last sentence, the pushing in of the seeds with cold fingers. I’m still in the indoors stage, waiting for the raw cold to abate, trying to possess my soul in patience at each new frost warning. This is why half the dining room table is covered with seedlings, strawberry plants and lavender bushes straining toward the light. This is why both my lasagna pans are filled with mini pots of soil. This is not a month for company at my house; I have little packets of seeds and pots on most flat surfaces, and nowhere to put you that isn’t covered with proto-plants. I think I’m worse than usual this year, because it’s been such a cold, gray time. Not just winter, of course; winter is supposed to be cold and gray. I mean the cold grayness of book bans and disheartening political chicanery, of climate threats, and mass shootings, of war anniversaries. I have never needed the hope and anticipation of a garden more.

For moments like these, there’s Poetry Friday.

Join the Roundup here.



The Poetry Sisters have been riffing off of the word “transformation” as part of their poetic peregrinations this year. One of the synonyms for the word, evolution, has been quietly reverberating through my poetry practice. With my Deeper Dive group, I’ve been “diving” into some of the exercises in The Practice of Poetry, with the goal of keeping better track of how my poems change, and where I begin with them as opposed to where I end up. It’s been kind of intriguing to see some of them come together, and to feel like I am finally beginning to find my feet as a semi-sorta-kinda poet. (Don’t @ me – it’s a process.)

In doing an exercise to imaginatively embody inanimate objects, I tried to apply the idea of change. I tried to imagine what typically comes to mind when I think of this or that object – and then toss it, enabling me to think past my first reflexive thoughts. Most of my beginnings weren’t poems, they were lists – beginning with the word “I am.” Three objects later, I returned to look at my lists and try and figure out what lines, moved and rearranged, had some kind of theme to them. A few more switches and refinements, and I began to hear… something. Is it a poem yet? Maybe? All I know is, it’s a …start.

The key to having gotten this far is having… started. It sounds kind of obvious when stated so baldly, but it took me a while to figure that out. So many people want to “be a writer,” and state this desire with a fervid sort of earnestness… but writers learn that desire alone cannot be the endpoint. It’s desire and. Desire and work. Desire and beginnings, middles and endings. It’s desire and editing and rewriting. How do you get there from here? You…desire, and then you begin. Somehow in prose I knew that, but just hadn’t figured it out for poetry.

So, anyway, here you are – land cleared and furrow turned. Here you are with seeds in your back pocket, looking at this expanse of earth, wishing for a garden.

I’ve got great news for you – you can take the next step to whatever your goals are. Transformation is at your fingertips. Are you game?

A frequent saying of mine is that anything I write, I’m also writing to myself. As I have a meeting with my editor (triumphantly back from striking) in a few hours, I’ll be thinking of the transformations ahead – the beginnings and the work to be done. As I continue to noodle with various poems, as I look out at the gray world, I’ll be thinking of the transformations necessary. The seeds in my pocket. The call to… begin.

Good luck, all. Remember…


Poetry Peeps! A little reminder for our challenge in the month of March: We’re writing an etheree. This ten-line form begins with a single syllable, and each line expands by one syllable until the tenth line has ten. We’re continuing with our 2023 theme of transformation, but how you interpret that topically is up to you. You have a month to craft your creation and share it on March 31st in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.

{pf: the poetry peeps picture it}

Greetings! Welcome to another Poetry Peeps adventure on Poetry Friday!

Poetry Peeps! You’re invited to our challenge in the month of March! Here’s the scoop: we’re writing an etheree. This ten-line form begins with a single syllable, and each line expands by one syllable until the tenth line has ten. We’re continuing with our 2023 theme of transformation, but how you interpret that topically is up to you. You have a month to craft your creation and share it on March 31st in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.


Greetings, friends, on this absolutely frigid (for California) morning!

Ekphrastic poetry appeals to the storyteller in me. The story I found in this week’s image took me back to high school auto shop. One of the few girls around, I so wanted to be one of the boys crew, but alas, my time in the shop was an exercise in frustration, as the brave new world of the 90’s era equality wasn’t quite ready for takeoff. (My Freshers auto shop course was called POWDER PUFF Mechanics, and you can bet your backside I refused to take it on principle.) Even my friends only really only let me do the sticky/annoying jobs – greasing bearings, sanding primer, using a tire iron to wrestle tires from rims, draining oil. I lifted and lowered cars on the hydraulic lift (and raised balancing daredevils on it occasionally) and got to wear a coverall like my grandfather. I learned how fragile a powder coat of paint was, and how quickly it could be streaky or unevenly applied (which was why I was told I could only sand and apply primer because I might get distracted while painting). I learned about the toxic corrosion of rust and about sexism, which turned out to be remarkably similar things.

Tricia shared the images which jarred my memory this month. For the show Transformed: Objects Reimagined by American Artists, artist Denice Bizot, who “reclaims, deconstructs and transforms” art from salvage yards and junk heaps, created this image called Urban Flora. On display at The Montclair Art Museum exhibit in New Jersey, it features a 1970’s truck hood the artist found in a salvage shop and beautifully helped along in its state of decay with a hand-held plasma torch. The shapes of flowers and arabesques give the illusion of light, shadow, and movement in the rusty green metal.

Bizot’s intervention in the salvage yard lives of this scrap metal won’t stop rust from chewing it up. Realistically, cutting holes in the truck hood will do even less to preserve it than the weather-worn paint the rust is blooming through. Nothing will save the metal from the destructive transformation it’s undergoing, but how we perceive it… that’s what can change us.


Poetry Friday is hosted over at Tab’s place, so be sure to pop over, and thank you, Tabatha!

There’s a host of other images coming into focus today with the Poetry Peeps. You should see Sara’s poem is here. Tricia’s poem is here, and Liz’s is here. Cousin Mary Lee’s post is here, and Michelle’s post is here, and Carol V’s is here. Molly’s gorgeous image is here, and Heidi’s garden bed is here. Margaret’s dual challenge poem is here. Bridget with her twenty-three words poem is here. More Peeps will be checking in throughout the weekend, so stay tuned for the full round-up.

While I never got to do all the things I wanted to in auto shop, I chose to embrace what made me happy: telling my grandfather about what I was doing (and not telling my Dad, who joined my classmates thinking I shouldn’t be doing it), cherishing the small skills I learned (I can still sand a spot of primer as smooth as a baby’s cheek, thank-you), and getting to work in the cavernous cool of the shop filled with loud noises and sharp smells and the sun glinting rainbows in the oil-and-water puddles on the floor. I tried to paint that into my poem; the choice to redefine something that can, at best, reshape us, and at worst, warp us and simply take it as a gift of memory and let it shine in that way. Here’s to the transformation of time. Happy weekend.

{pf: poetry peeps cascade into transformation}

Greetings! Welcome to another Poetry Peeps adventure on Poetry Friday!

Poetry Peeps! You’re invited to our challenge in the month of February! Here’s the scoop: we’re creating ekphrastic poems! Your choice of form, length, topic, or meter, but each poem should be based on an image you’re willing to share (a Creative Commons image is best if it’s not one you’ve taken yourself or have permission to use). You have a month to craft your creation and share it on February 24th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.


January, my friends, has seemed both simultaneously six years and five minutes long. Topping my list of Ugh, No tasks this month was shameless self-promotion for my newly released middle grade novel, and Tech Boy’s office party. The glorious reprieve provided by the pandemic is over, so I had to put on my big girl pants – and my mask, because only the reprieve is over – and get on a boat (in the midst of atmospheric rivers on the eve of a massive flood, whose bright idea was this???) and make small talk over indifferent food with too loud of music. Even beyond the wild wind and the waves, beyond stepping into an ankle deep puddle and running from the dock between showers, it all seemed ghastlier because I hadn’t done it in so long. Social muscles atrophy if ignored, just like every other muscle group.

As the Poetry Sisters sat down to work on our poems this month, we shared stories of what was going on in our lives – and some of us tried writing about it. Whether it was because we were unsure of what to say, or had a lot of ranting to do that didn’t want to fit itself to the Cascade form, few of us were ecstatic about our first drafts. (But you should see what Sara came up with, and here’s Laura’s poem, and Liz’s. Here’s Mary Lee’s, and here’s Tricia’s poem. Jone’s is here, and Heidi’s is here. You’ll find Margaret’s poem here, and Linda B’s poem here, and here’s Michelle’s and this one is Molly’s. Carol V’s poem she dropped off on her way out!. Kelly’s poem is on her desk in New Jersey… and she’s on an even bigger boat than I was on, so check back next month! As the weekend goes on, more Peeps will be joining the fun so check back for the full roundup.)

Additionally, adding an annual theme to our challenges is new for us. Some of us chose to highlight our theme of “transformation” through the poem form itself. The Cascade, I was delighted to learn, was invented by political theorist Udit Bhartia, whose research focuses on “normative democratic theory, comparative constitution-making, and social epistemology.” I noted that whether in the tercet or quatrain form of the Cascade, the poet seems to need to begin with a strong statement that can shift through the rest of the lines. I can see how a political theorist would know how best to use a firm thesis statement!

While I found the tercet to have too few lines, the quatrain was an immediate fit. I had the intention to create something unrhymed – in the name of our annual theme of transformation I intended to at least try to stop rhyming everything – but this off-the-cuff rhymed effort worked out better. Rather than shift lines as my change, I focused on the idea of a resolution, or, as some call it, “setting intentions.”

Introvert Intention

A Show up: half the battle is won.
B Say, “Yes.” People-watch. That’s still fun.
C If “No” tries the world to control –
D Change tunes. A new song feeds the soul.

a So what if “I’m Quiet”‘s your fame?
b A quiet match still kindles flame.
c Though you won’t spark with everyone,
A Show up. Half the battle is won.

d Skill as a good listener amends
e A lack of “crowd-loving” in friends
f Who shine brightest when one-on-one.
B Say, “Yes,” people. Watch – that’s still fun.

g One hour: that’s it. You’ve agreed
h To socialize (TRY). It could lead
i To new friends, new tastes, or new goals,
C If “No” tries the world to control…

j So caution to winds, will you try
k a new way of being, whereby
l you give Chance a new, starring role?
D Change tunes. A new song feeds the soul.

I left the “frame” up so you’ll see how straightforward a Cascade can be. For me, stanzas worked well for me put into sentence form, otherwise I sometimes fell into making short, punchy statements that occasionally sounded unnecessarily aggressive. This was a fun form to play with, and I look forward to digging more into it – maybe even without a rhyme.

(You’ll note that I don’t promise to report on my intentions to socialize more… everything is a work in progress in this transformation business.)


Poetry Friday today is hosted by Jan at Bookseed Studio. If you find yourself faltering already at intentions you’ve set, today is a new day – and it only takes turning a different direction to be at a beginning instead of an ending. Happy Year of the Cat, Rabbit, and Happy Weekend.