{pf: poetry peeps share tankas}

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

First, let’s take a moment to scream, “AAARGH! WHAT HAPPENED TO SEPTEMBER!?” quietly into a pillow. *Ahem*

You’re invited to our challenge in the month of October! Here’s the scoop: We’re taking advantage of the rich bounty of the Poetry Friday Universe and writing ____is A Word Poems, wordplay invented by poet Nikki Grimes and shared by Michelle Barnes. Once you’ve read a few examples, you’ll get the hang of it. Have a word in mind? Good! You’ve got a month to craft your creation(s), then share your offering on October 29th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.

Seriously, poets: wither September? I’m not exactly averse to the conclusion of this ENDLESS season of chaos and smoke, but goodness, does it seem as if it was August five minutes ago! The month has brought challenges and changes for many and a louder pitch to the usual machines of industry churning around us, producing media and news and drama and nonsense. I’m now happy to welcome the rain (please, please, PLEASE) and the gloriously bright, crunchy (not engulfed in flames) leaves; the long seasons of rest before renewal… Somehow, it seems it has been such a manic summer and I am so pathetically eager for autumn that I will even put up with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice and ginger being added to a hard orange squash and then that flavoring being slopped indiscriminately on pretty much everything, without too much complaint. (I never said NO complaint, though, so don’t @me with those lattes…)

With my love of this season of change, it’s not much of a surprise where I ended up with our challenge this month. Tasked to choose material from poets within the Poetry Friday Universe and write a tanka in response or in conversation with the poem of our choice I found myself choosing instead of a single poem, an entire project – the Poetry Sisters autumn hymn poems from 2017. Hymn meter is repetitive and simple, and autumn is pretty straightforward. Those two things together allowed us to really polish a single thought. Now, a tanka is meant to evoke a mood or an event, so the process here is wholly different. After a quick read I discovered that most of us chose to imbue seasons with a female energy female:

  • Tricia: Summer sheds her cloak (Fall Fashion, 101)
  • Liz: Slipping on wisdom’s dress (Though Folly’s overalls fit better)
  • Sara: Leaves rake our cheeks with gold smear (Contoured & highlighted?)
  • Laura: Maple wears her scarlet blooms (Coiffed couture!)
  • Kelly: I whisper it through rustling leaves (Gossip, girl!)
  • Me: When kissed by nighttime rime… (Maybe not quite feminine energy here, [& I’m not using mine anyway] but…close enough)

With this trove of imaginative imagery (though admittedly, with less time than I wanted this week), I came up with a nod to Liz’s poem that incorporated everyone:

Lady Libra

a stunner – that one
trails whispers like rustling leaves…
years rest gold as light
bearing scarlet blooms – cloaked in
wisdom’s borrowed dress, she winks 😉

Nobody expects the season decline before the sleep of winter to go quietly, do they? Lady Libra is stepping over her sister’s cloak, borrowing a dress, shoving some blossoms in her hair, and coming in reallllly late – or is it early? – with gold-smeared cheeks…

This one is in conversation with “If Apples Were Dappled And Sweet,” Sara’s ode to endings and the violence of the harvest before the decline of winter, which just didn’t really blend as easily ideologically. It jarred me when I first read it, but in a true way, resonating with the abruptness of the end of bee-loud glades and dappled shade that makes a summer… To everything there is a season and a time, and today it’s time to bring in the apples and wrench the honey from the hive, and it’s gonna get messy, there will be a lot of rage (largely from the bees) and it might get loud. Leave off the idea of bringing in the sheaves with some light rejoicing – even vegetarians end up slaughtering the peace a bit to bring in the harvest:


this, how it begins:
goodbye. redden, crumble, dry
swift twist, snap, an End
as daylight bleeds from the fields,
harvest is waged ’til it yields

Poetry Friday is hosted today Poetry Sister Laura, whose round-up is right here. You can check out Sara’s poem here, and Cousin Mary Lee’s is here, and you’ll find Tricia’s here. Andi‘s poem and Kelly’s poem is here. Michelle’s tanka is here; Linda B’s is here. Carol’s autumn offerings are here, and Irene’s poem is here. Even more Poetry Peeps might pop in throughout the day, so stay tuned for a round-up of links.

I’m flat exhausted right now, but the last week, we had the first nights in the low fifties, and they were exquisite. Summer is dragging her skirts, kicking up the last fuss, but remember, perhaps soon – this too shall pass. Paz, mis poetas.

{pf: the poetry peeps build a villa(nelle)}

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

You’re invited to try our challenge in the month of August! Here’s the scoop: We’re writing after the style of Jane Yolen’s eight line, unrhymed poem, “What the Bear Knows,” a poem written in honor of her 400th book, Bear Outside. Our topic is What the ____ Knows, modeled here by Joyce Sidman. Maybe you may know something other than what a bear knows. Maybe you know what the finch knows? or what linden trees know? maybe fishing creels? …mailboxes?! Are you thinking of something? Good! You’ve got a month to craft your creation(s), then share your offering (or someone else’s) with the rest of us on August 27th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.

One of the problems with pulling your theme for the month out of your metaphorical hat is that occasionally that hat might have better suited another outfit. Either we were not in the mood for villanellery this month, or we’d nearly forgotten how to write one, or we remembered there was a theme mid-villanelle – and there’s really no good way to change partners once you’ve started this dance. Suffice it to say, we each had more than a few moments of “Ugh!!!” -but in the immortal words of Sara Lewis Holmes, “What the heck, I’ve gotta have something – so here I go:”

Viva La Villa(nelle)! Sara’s poem is here; Liz’s poem is here. Laura’s is here. Cousin Mary Lee’s is here, and Tricia’s is here. Andi and Kelly are out on the beach, but they’ll come inside at some point. Heidi’s in the villa, along with Denise, writing about truth and lies. Michelle is joining with us, and Donette wrote a villanelle, too, though for a different project. I really appreciated Margaret’s jeremiad villanelle. Carol’s villanelle is here, and she’s open to suggestions to improve it. If this is your first time joining in, welcome! Other Poetry Peeps links will be dropped into the villa as I find them, so stay tuned!

Wait – whose bright idea was it to include dichotomy in this challenge? Oh, yeah, mine. ::sigh:: I started three villanelles, the first was contrasting past and future, which was fine, but sheesh, kinda grim. The second one, which I was really getting to like, started within the theme, but became completely mired in something wholly different – both off-theme and equally depressing. (This happens a lot for me when I have a repeating form. One sad thought gets bounced around endlessly.) SO! I started again, first taking time to read back over old villanelles from Poetry Seven projects in 2015, 2017, 2019 and the like. (Hmm… we do tend to hit this form in odd years, don’t we!?) I found that I often write villanelle when I’m emotional – qué sopresa, no? As I’ve mentioned, the repetition of the first and third lines, together with the iron-clad rhyme scheme tends to mimic how a thought can pound into the brain. Throughout the poem the theme tumbles over and over, end over end and if you’re not careful, you’ll get sick of the whole thing. Villanelles are really good for looking at all sides of a thing thoroughly.

My attitude toward friendship changed radically after seventh grade. After a year of false friends and being ignored en masse by almost all the girls who were once my friends, I learned to be all in, or all out – one or zero, nothing in between – if you showed the least little sign of turning on me, I’d find somewhere else to be. After eighth grade, and all the tearful promises of keeping in touch, I wondered, with a mixture of panic and plotting, what I’d do if I had to see those people again… Well. A couple of years ago, I found out… and honestly, this poem could have been my internal monologue. I imagine someone could perform this pretty well, slam-poetry style.


Hah, no – I did not come here to be friends
My seventh grade heart bled to pay my dues
Now you’re my enemy – let’s not pretend.

You called me weird – said I would never blend
I tried, but you kept shifting social cues
So no, I did not come here to be friends.

Each cliquish tween sorority depends
On “Just ignore them, girls” – words which excuse.
Now? They’re my enemies. I won’t pretend.

Do you think that’s too much? Do you defend
Your “harmless childishness” like I’m confused?
Uh, no. I did not come here to make friends –

Nor did you – no, you came to condescend.
I shrank when bullied. You grew large, amused.
An enemy, clearly – let’s not pretend
We graduate together in the end,
They sign yearbooks and cry, keep up their ruse.
Years on – I will not look to them as friends
They made their choice – I refuse to pretend.

Mmm, nothing like the smell of scorched earth in the morning.

Poetry Friday today is hosted by Rebecca Herzog at Sloth Reads, which has one of the cutest little cartoon icons ever. A glasses wearing sloth! It me! Hop over to find more original and shared around poetry to kick off your weekend right. Don’t worry if you’re still mad over junior high – or your last job. It’ll pass, and if not, you can use it as fodder to make art which amuses you, if nothing else. The best revenge is living well – so take joy in your survival. ☮Happy Friday.☮

(NB: My mother would want me to add the caveat that poetry is a game of the mind, and I don’t really believe in enemies as a concept, just super difficult people, and of course I was perfectly chill and polite to former classmates, just… perhaps more chilly than my usual chill… Don’t worry – my ancestors remain unashamed. K? K.)

{pf: the poetry peeps, zentangled}

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

You’re invited to try our challenge in the month of July! Here’s the scoop: We’re writing villanelles on the topic of dichotomy – or, true opposites, if you will. Bifurcations. Incongruities. Paradoxes. Contradictions. We’re talking Luke/Darth (or is that a false dichotomy, and they’re two sides of the same coin??? Discuss), real or imagined, civilized v. savage, winter v. summer, function v. dysfunction. Interested? Good! You’ve got a month to craft your creation(s), then share your offering (or someone else’s) with the rest of us on July 30th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.

A Recounting of the Trials of Zentangling, Or, Artistic Poetry Wherein I Screwed Up: Okay, so the thing is, I am a CHAMPION doodler. I excel at mindless scribble that we could stretch ourselves and define as patterns. It’s not relaxing so much as… something I do when I’m not paying attention. You’d THINK I would be all over the Zentagle poetry form! Reader, I was not.

The process for a Zentangle poem is really enjoyable. I had a good time paging through catalogs in the mail, electronics manuals, and old grad school texts for likely words from which to craft poetry. I scanned pages which looked promising, and fiddled with them, using the computer to create squares and lines to show the correct flow of the words. I honestly found that part fairly simple, though there often wasn’t just the right word – or in the right form – to create the meaning I wanted, but that was mostly manageable. The poems tended toward the enigmatic – I felt like I was writing Poetry By Yoda, after a bit, but that was fine, too – from the Zentangle I’ve read, they do tend to be short, pithy and …sound more like quotations than poems, to my mind. (And yes: we had the whole What Is A Zentangle Poem, And Is This One Because I Say So” discussion amongst my Poetry Sisters. We decided YES, there are rules, but fewer than you’d think, but your mileage may vary.)

Where it fell apart for me was the artwork. At first, I used a highlighter and the first one I picked up was… horrifying pink. This was a mistake. I tried to fix it with yellow. Also a mistake. ::sigh::

The poem reads:

the system may reduce failure

if you adjust
the adjustable

It’s not terrible, but I wish I’d gone an artistic direction other than…pink. ((Shudder))

On my second try, I decided to mingle color AND black and white. I tried doing the outline of an image FIRST, and tried to let the flow of the words suggest an image to me. It… kind of worked? A bit?

The poem reads:

in pieces.
lived through history
focused using
to connect,
we share

Finally I thought I had a clue – just use black and white. That’s what the Zentangle artists do, who don’t try and use words but just make patterns. However, somehow my black and white was …too thick of lines? Too uncertain of pen-strokes? Or something. In the end, mine looked more like it intended to be blackout poetry, and also like it needed a watercolor wash, which I didn’t dare try adding because a.) I don’t know how to watercolor and b.) it was busy enough. I like the poem better, though.

The poem reads:

you have sometimes
Over and over
while small has
it speaks,

Whenever I whined – oh, so frequently – about this project, I remembered that Tricia’s stated purpose was to “push us beyond our comfort zones.” BOY, HOWDY did she succeed, so thank you, dear Tricia, I would never have attempted these on my own (and may never again. Perhaps. When the sting of defeat dies down a bit). I’m so excited to see what the rest of us came up with. Here’s Tricia’s zentangle, while Sara’s zentangle-ISH is here. We welcome Andi right here, and Cousin Mary Lee’s zentangle is here. Of course, artist Michelle zentangled with us, and Linda B’s zentangle is here. Carol V’s is summering here, Jone’s here, and here’s Margaret and Chicken Spaghetti’s blogger Susan! Welcome to the Poetry Peeps joining us for the first time! It’s been an intense month, and we’re all in different spaces with it, but as always, various Poetry Peeps will be added throughout the day, so stay tuned. Poetry Friday is capably hosted today by Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise. I hope your weekend is as randomly artistic and creative as you can make it. As Miss Frizzle says, “Where the road ends, adventure begins!” Here’s to pushing way beyond the boundaries of creativity (and good sense) this weekend.

{#npm: 30 – innocence • p7 & pf}

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

You’re invited to try our challenge in the month of May! Here’s the plan: We’re going to write an ekphrastic poem using a photograph taken in a museum. We’re sharing a few amongst ourselves, but we’re sure you have some of your own – and it’s a great way to get us revved up about going back to museums! Interested? Good! You’ve got a month to craft your creation(s), then share your offering (or someone else’s) with the rest of us on May 28th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.

Andi challenged us with Linda Hogan’s poem, “Innocence“ this week, a fitting finish to the entire National Poetry Month celebration. We wanted to go out with a boom and boy was it a doozy. Here’s what Sara did with it. Kelly and Laura are taking a breather this week, but Tricia’s poem is here, Kelly’s is here, Liz’s is here. Andi’s is here. Check in throughout the day to find out what other Poetry Peeps have done. If you’d like more Poetry Friday content, Matt Forrest Esenwine is graciously hosting the roundup at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme this week. Thanks, Matt!

“Innocence” is beautiful, deep and… utterly inimitable. It falls outside the usual topical sphere for my poetry, so I approached writing “in the style of” from a number of different angles. My Poetry Sisters all threw out their own recommendations, and I tried using haiku, then sijo, then mimicking Hogan’s topics – nature, growth – and her pattern of lines and syllables – 10-6-4. None of that really worked for me, so I set my attempts aside to really think about the title.

Contrary to all appearances, innocence is conceptually complicated, often a loaded concept for some growing up an ethnic minority, female, and/or religious. Some people are never embraced as innocent, witnessed by the number of girls sent home for dress code violations, as if they are only their bodies and are threat and distraction instead of children, or viewed askance because of early maturation, or even early pregnancies. Because there was so much – too much – swirling around a single word, I grounded innocence as far back as I could – to an image from childhood. This poem is based on one of my earliest memories, of watching my older sister at church, who was probably no more than five at the time, wearing what my envious sister eyes determined to be a fabulous yellow dress, standing up to recite with her class. (And yes: this is my sister, nearly five, in The Dress. Some fortymumble years later, I figure she won’t mind if I show her off. She looks the closest thing to a baby, yet I remember thinking she was oh, so grown-up then.)

How much of what we held in childhood do we keep? How do we navigate the passage between childhood certainties and adulthood’s intricacies? What does it mean to be young at heart, or have a child’s optimism and faith? I don’t know. I’m not entirely convinced I was able to go where I wanted to in this poem (you don’t want to know how many times I rearranged lines and fiddled), but as I wrestled with at the eleventh hour, I reminded myself – and you, too: the challenge isn’t perfection, but persistence. So, here we try again:


Be thou faithful unto death &

Is there anything more innocent
than an unformed soul clutching tight her crayoned crown,
as, words a wavering childish treble,
she recites revelation? ablaze with
purity, knowing neither faithfulness
nor death she
stands; stray sunbeam whitening a dress already luminous
proclaiming borrowed words, she is, personified,
a mother’s pride, transformed larger than life
in these two wondering eyes

We grew, wholesome as wheat, but I backward looking, linger to
wonder: who decodes such concepts as
faithfulness and faith? whose hand, holding keys to childhood certainties
points toward one door, while locking tight another? Perhaps
pushing past crowns and covenants, we all return at last
to merely human

a child, I watched, awaiting my turn, lips shaping
each confident consonant. Child-hearted now,
in uncertain innocence, I
claim my chance to choose my crown


…I will give thee a crown of life.

{#npm: 28 – turn}

“Sometimes,” a beloved poem begins, “things don’t go, after all, from bad to worse.” As a realist (READ: downer) I tend to think of life as a long road filled with disasters that you can see coming from far off – and then, there’s this turn… and you can’t see around that at all.

We are nearly to the turn.

Sometimes, not everything goes wrong.

Every year at the coming of Spring, we contemplate the fire season. We can’t see around that turn. Every year one of my nephews gains – happy birthday, Little E! – brings him closer to – or finally past – the age where another little boy was shot holding a pop gun or while backtalking or walking home or while looking like he was somehow dangerously unchild and suspicious and threatening to grown adults with guns. We can’t see around that turn. Sometimes not everything goes wrong, but it takes a tremendous amount of trust to keep walking this road.

can we see that far?
past the turn, the hill rises
sun-kissed and ancient

{#npm: 22 – joiner}

It’s not my first, nor my fifteenth thought to join a crowd. I generally stay to the edges, or turn in the opposing direction. It frustrates people. It sometimes frustrates me, but I am what I am, and habits of solitude are hard to break. That’s a bit of irony given the state of the world just now, wherein we have all been afflicted, to varying degrees, with the same thing. Now we are trying, in varying degrees, to fix it. To find our balance.

It feels strange, being part of the multitude.

in so small a pond
who can fail to notice? fish
flunking out of schools

{#npm: 19 – silence}

Every once in a while I remember back in the early ’00’s when I asked a friend how she could bear to put her whole life on the internet. “But, it isn’t my whole life,” she explained. “It’s just the parts I’m sharing.” On MySpace, which I eventually understood could be renamed “My space for a mere echo of my actual self,” I learned that it was …tidier to keep some things back. It was… expected, and it made things neater.

It’s funny how much harder that is for me with poetry.

what we do not say
flutters up on pinioned wings
like moths seeking flame

{#npm: 14 – witness}

Prior to now, I haven’t made an antiracist statement on any of my social media, nor did I put anything here on the blog. Candidly, it felt disingenuous from me, a little “hop on the zeitgeist bandwagon,” in a sense. I mean, did I really need to make an official statement? I would hope my life would speak in such a way that you’d be able to tell whether or not I’d spit on someone for their ethnicity of all things! But you know what? Maybe. Not. You don’t know me, nor do we truly know anyone through their social persona. Staying silent is easily misinterpreted, ergo: Both the historical and the recently reported spate of violence – physical or psychological – against people of AAPI ancestry is deeply wrong, and intolerable, and will never come to pass without criticism or response anywhere I take notice and have the ability to deflect, push back, or speak against it. NEVER.

People catch us off guard; people whose lives we thought were …”normal,” or at least whom we believed held “normal” views on equality and egalitarianism. Hearing them engage in offhand, casual xenophobia will always be like licking a battery; an unpleasant jolt. In aggrieved shock, our impulse is to open our hands and fling the offending thing away. I’ve wanted to fling away friendships, but, fearing that I’m being intolerant, I’ve found myself outlining why that statement or this action is a microaggression, bigoted, intolerant, ignorant, unjust… But, just how much does one explain? How much ignorance, innocence do we ascribe to grown adults? Bias is implicit, baked in. It’s America’s busiest industry; our largest export. But there’s this… idealism that persists, that people should know that we’re all just… human, and not make nasty assumptions or sly inferences. My child-heart just keeps on hoping that the “average” person is really me, that most of us are like people I know, that is, good people. But…no. No. Such shock, these xenophobic interactions bring me, they leave me asking, Do I really know any of you at all?

Did you hear Kwame Alexander’s beautiful community-sourced poem against hate the other day on Morning Edition? In honor of that poem, and in honor of my Asian family, colleagues, friends and even strangers who share my neighborhood and this world, my heart is a sanctuary on offer. Come in. Share this house.

come to the table
here is a sanctuary
come name yourself kin.

come, bringing pickle
milk bread, stuffed dumplings, sharing
communal plenty

come bearing heartbreak:
break bread. bear witness. wrap wounds.
cry out. be consoled

come, sate your senses
brim with such bounty – feasting,
too full for sadness

come – you belong here
succor and sanctuary
wait. come, take your place

{#npm: 12 – potential}

Was thinking the other day of the glib frothiness with which we infuse Spring metaphor – all that talk about rebirth, depicted with peaceful pastels, fluffy chicks and quivering-nosed bunnies. Never having given birth, that still seems a bit suspect. I remember my sister after the nephews – both times she looked like she’d gone 12-rounds with a prizefighter. Not a lot of fluffy pastel peace to be had there. Birth – and rebirth alike – seems a messy, chaotic and overwhelming battle, from my observation. I suspect Springtime also contains such tension in its bunched buds…

“blessed event?” all
clenched and knotted buds, boding
bloom-rich eruptions

{#npm: 11 – duty}

When I was a kid, I remember the Target ad which played The Most Wonderful Time of the Year…in September, advertising back-to-school sales. Tons of people think Christmas – or Spring – or September – is the most wonderful time of year, but for myself, I’m a shoulder season person – late Autumn into early Winter. Late Winter before Spring. Or now, that sweet spot time of year when it’s nippy cold outside in the morning and in the evening, but right around noon is the perfect time to take lunch outside and just bask in the beauty. Ah…

an April Sunday
as blooms in backyard beds preen.
darn these dumb taxes.

Sigh. May your Sunday be filled with song, naps, and strawberries in cream, and not W-2’s and 1099’s.