{pf: poetry peeps pantoum on repeat}

Welcome to another Poetry Friday Poetry Peeps Adventure!

Poetry Peeps! You’re invited to our challenge for the month of April! Here’s the scoop: As a final celebration for National Poetry Month, we’re exploring the work of Rebecca Kai Dotlich and Georgia Heard’s, Welcome to the Wonder House, and noodling through answers to what we consider to be “unanswerable questions.” How do ants sound complaining? When do stars sing? Let’s wonder as we wander through the natural world – and ask and answer those wonderings in whatever way that appeals to you. Are you game? Good! Whatever way of seeing that you choose, you have a month to craft your creation and share it on April 26 in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.

(P.S. – Here’s an answerable question: do you know what you’re doing for National Poetry Month this April? I’m taking part in the Progressive Poem for the first time, ever. Last I looked there were a few spots left…! If you’ve never done it, why not give it a shot?)

*waves* Hello especially if you’ve dropped by today because you’re one of the St. Mary’s Episcopal School scholars, or one of the EIGHT HUNDRED readers from the San Mateo County Library District who had a school visit with me this week. Welcome!

From Process…

Since the pantoum is a familiar and well-loved form for our Poetry Peeps, this month Cousin Mary Lee introduced Padraig Ó Tuama from Poetry Unbound, to our practice. As our brief was to write a pantoum and include animals in some fashion, we felt free to come at the project from a variety of different ways. I used these eight prompts on different days and in varying moods to get the answers to questions which might take me deeper into the topic. In answering the questions, we began to expand our thinking about ordinary interactions. While I doubt I used these prompts entirely as directed, they were a welcome push in the right direction to get me started:

Write a line about something that’s become ordinary for you: The restless shift of windblown leaves.

Where does this ordinary thing happen? Dust baths of birds against expanse of earth.

Write a line about time: When did you notice this ordinary thing had become ordinary? A year of watching shifts of shadow through walls of window.

Other surrounding events: what happens before it? what happens after it? Clamor lifts the blinds like opened eyes, revealing drowsing birds on hard fence post bed.

What is a single feeling you have about this ordinary thing? Amusement at our vastly different ideas of comfort – no cottage core cozy, but a slab of post.

What do you most wish to say about this ordinary thing? (You may wish to imagine yourself speaking to a person you think will listen: it could be yourself.) Open your hand to the gift of ubiquity, dust baths and freedom to flee, lending magic to the earthbound.

Write a line showing us an object that’s associated with this ordinary: A curtain drawn back opens me not to sky but to dirt.

Write something about your body and this ordinariness: Widening eyes expansive as horizon’s wings, I too, will settle, not soar, yet still sing.

A lot of us used this prompts in various ways – or not at all. This week’s host, our very own Miss Rumphius interpreted ‘animals pantoums’ in this way. Sara saw it thusly. Liz’s poem went this direction. Cousin Mary Lee’s pantouming pointed her this way. Laura’s poem is here. Michelle K.’s poem is here. Heidi’s cardinal poem is here. Carol V’s hummingbird is here. Denise K. brought a western fence/ lizard. Linda B. joins the party here, and Margaret brought elephants! More poets may be paso doblé-ing with the pantoum, so check in throughout the weekend, for the round up, won’t you? (Seeing as it’s Easter Weekend and I’m singing with either an a cappella sextet or a full chorus with organ, bells, strings and trumpet voluntary every day from now until Sunday, I might be slow, but I’ll get there!)

… To Poem

As you can see, for me it was less about answering the questions and rearranging them for actual use in a poetry, and more… just idea generation, which I used as a springboard to create subtle differences in the way I use the traditional pantoum repetition. Once I started expanding on the prose ideas, combining the ordinary with an animal really came easily. What’s more ordinary in the backyard than a dove? I have to admit that I don’t know if my doves are rock pigeons, mourning doves, white-winged doves, or common ground doves. They’re just ubiquitous – and sketchy, fluttering off if I look at them too hard. But, they’re a very common bird that I have come to have a rather uncommon love for. Growing up, my father kept pigeons. They’re faithful parents, but their nest-building tends to surprise people. They lived on rocks, before they were domesticated, and they prefer rocks for nesting. They prefer pecking leftovers on the ground, than to eat from the feeder – as a matter of fact, they won’t. They are the most low-key, low-maintenance bird to invite to the yard – and they might stay, if they feel like it – or they might skitter off and you’ll never see them again. You can put out a nesting box, and they might use it. They’re just passing and yet, they show up every year anyway. I can’t quite figure them out, and yet they intrigue me.

A Paloma’s Pantoum

A subtle clamor draws my blinds aside,
Full, rounded bird buns, fluffed on wooden fence,
Wild garden sprouting weeds, lushness supplied,
Hears March’s orders: “Let the Spring commence!”

Full, rounded bird-bum fluffs on wooden fence,
So placid! Dove, in shades of granite gray
Hears March’s orders, “Let the Spring commence!”
Selects a twig, and nesting seems to weigh.

Ah, placid dove, in shades of granite gray,
No cottagecore, no. “Cozy’s” not the rule –
Selects a twig, and nesting seems to weigh
Upon a rock, nurture seems minuscule!

No cottagecore, no – hygge’s not the rule,
Ubiquitous and mild as scratching hens
Nesting on rocks, nurture seems minuscule –
The common core of magic shines again.

Ubiquitous and mild as scratching hens,
In gardens wild, a lushness signified
That “common” creates magic. Once again
A subtle clamor bids me open wide.

I wasn’t joking about their preference for fence posts and their tendency to “select a twig” and weigh the idea of making an actual nest; rock pigeons and doves make equally flimsy, horrifying-to-non-dove-observers, deeply un-cozy nests. This image is courtesy of Nancy Carver of Livermore, from our local paper’s annual weird nest “contest” several years ago.

What ordinary thing captures your heart, and elevates your thoughts? What beauty and grace is there in the commonplace in your life? May it pry your heart open wide this weekend. Pax.♥

{pf: the poetry peeps love a letter}

Welcome to another Poetry Friday Poetry Peeps Adventure!

Poetry Peeps! You’re invited to our challenge for the month of March! Here’s the scoop: We’re writing animal pantoums. This delightful Malaysian poetic form will pair perfectly with beasts of all kinds – wild or domesticated. Are you game? Good! Whatever way of seeing that you choose, you have a month to craft your creation and share it on March 29 in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.

From Process…

I love letters, and I don’t think it’s unfair to say that I could write a pretty good love letter if I put my mind to it… but somehow writing a poetic epistolary felt beyond me this month. Mainly because I am… burnt out to ashes. There’s been a lot of drama going on (2024 CONTINUES to be that special snowflake) PLUS I have a bunch of editorial notes and a big fat revision going on – which is honestly great news, my editor is brilliant, but… I’m just pooped. My body tends to respond to stress by… stressing out further. There’s some switch in my brain that trips that keeps me up, unable to quiet my mind, because SOMETHING IS WRONG AND I MIGHT BE ABLE TO DO SOMETHING TO FIX EVERYTHING IF I JUST STAY UP AND OBSESS.

Yeah, it hasn’t worked so far, but my brain remains determined.

This month is supposed to be about writing love letters, but I have no love for insomnia, and that’s all I could fixate on. Kelly helpfully suggested that I might flip that script, and write about insomnia’s love …for me.

…To Poem

Honestly? I hadn’t spent a lot of time thinking about anything but how grinding this was. Insomnia is like your worst night, on repeat. I knew I wanted a repeating form to work with, but I couldn’t think beyond that. The minute Kelly gave me her suggestion, I was able to shift my viewpoint, and found an entry point to writing not one, but two epistolary poems, in conversation with each other. After all, doesn’t every love story have two sides?

There’s the unhinged pursuit…

A fascinating flame as bright
As lightning streaks the thoughts fly through
A moth to flame, I crave the light
Of neuron’s fire. Of minds. Of you.

As lightning streaks, your thoughts fly through
From deepest darkness, just the sight
Of neuron’s fire. Of minds. And you –
Forgive me! – whet my appetite.

From deepest darkness, oh the sight
Of signals sparking, rendezvous
Forgive me for my appetite –
I know you’ve things to attend to…

Those signals sparking, rendezvous –
The surge and twist of thoughts delight
I know you’ve things to attend to,
I pause your sleep, but not from spite —

They surge and twist, your thoughts. Delight!
A fascinating flame so bright…
I pause your sleep, but not from spite –
A moth to flame, I crave your light.

And then, there’s the pointed refusal…

She Resists
Insomnia, your sobriquet
Sounds sweet, though lately, in the night
As sleepers sway at sleep’s threshold,
You feast with gluttonous appetite.

Your ‘som’ shapes softly somnolence
I sink in with a grateful sigh…
And wake – abruptly – all pretense
Of resting peacefully passed by.

Why me, Insomnia? Reply!
Explain your wearying campaign!
Your ardent interest I defy
Desist! You’ll not leave me insane.

Oh, well. Better luck next time… I guess. Insomnia will, doubtless, keep trying…

I spent a lot of time giggling writing this, so thank you, sweet Kelly, who is always a positive energy in the universe, for making me laugh, and reminding me that there’s ALWAYS another way of seeing things.

There’s more love stories, or anti-love stories waiting, thanks to our Poetry Friday host Tabatha, at The Opposite of Indifference. Want to see what everyone else came up with for love poems? Sara’s epistle to February is here. Mary Lee’s love letter is here. Laura’s affectionate missive is here, and Tricia’s loveliness is here. Michelle’s epistle to a sparrow is here, Linda B’s first heartbreak poem (it counts, Linda) . Carol V’s poem is here, and Linda M’s poem is here. More Poetry Peeps will be penning tender phrases to all manner of animal, vegetable, and minerals this weekend, so stay tuned and I’ll post more links as I find them.

Until then, dear ones – keep your pillows soft and your screens off. This too shall pass.

{pf: the poetry peeps are piñata-ing}

Welcome to another Poetry Friday Poetry Peeps Adventure!

Poetry Peeps! You’re invited to our challenge for the month of February! Here’s the scoop: We’re writing …love letters. Epistolary poetry in the form of a love poem can pull us in any number of directions. We’re writing our ways of seeing love as an animal, vegetable, mineral, emotion, decision – or anything else. Are you game? Good! Whatever way of seeing that you choose, you have a month to craft your creation and share it on February 23 in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.

From Process…

Mere weeks ago, I can remember thinking to myself, “If I can just make it through December…” Hm. Well. January is proving to be its own special level of Hades so far. First, I got roped into just “beefing up the choruses” for a Pergolessi piece, and somehow ended up doing a solo and a duet on top of the chorus pieces. Then, I was given a draft deadline a week before said concert for next year’s middle grade novel, and I figured out one day that the act of opening the document for my draft made me physically ill, I hated it so much, so obviously then I started rewriting THE ENTIRE THING a week before said deadline… and, THEN one of my parents had the temerity to have a minor heart attack. Oh, 2024, you’re a special snowflake already.

You’d think this would mean I would a.) bow out, or b.) sensibly at least cut my research short for our first Poetry Friday venture of the year.


That would have made sense, wouldn’t it? ::sigh::

It’s been a joy to revel in the work of Roberto Benavidez, the South-Texas sculptor who specializes in the piñata as an art form. The color and light and movement in his work is a serious treat on these gray, soggy days. From poking around on the artist’s Instagram page, it appears that it’s done via layering the thin pieces of crepe paper. Some of the paper is impregnated with glitter, but a lot of the effect is simply light filtering and refracting through the thinnest layers of paper, and it is… *chef’s kiss* WOW. We Poetry Sisters gave ourselves the latitude to write an ekphrastic poem on any of his wide body of work, and that, in itself, was a little daunting. Initially I found myself fixated on his treatment of birds, and thought that’s the direction I was going… until I saw the Medieval Bestiary from his Illuminated Piñata show. The basilisk isn’t a bird… but it’s also a bird? Or something. I obviously needed a deep-dive into the medieval mindset on monsters, didn’t I. (I mean, what deadline?)

Before I get too distracted, you should see what Sara did. Or, what Laura came up with (when she wasn’t serving as the Poetry Princess Archivist, and updating all of our challenges since sometime in 2007. Thank you, Laura). Cousin Mary Lee’s way of seeing is here, Tricia’s piñata poem is here, and Liz‘s project is here. Denise K.’s poem is here, Linda M.’s celebration of the artist is here. Michelle K.’s sandpiper piñata poem is here, and Linda B.’s meditation on the Hieronymus Bosch piñata is here. (*snicker*) You might discover more Poetry Peeps checking in throughout the weekend, so stay tuned for the full round-up as I find them. Meanwhile… Poetry Friday is ably hosted today by Susan @ ChickenSpaghetti, who I “met” blogging sometime back in 2005. Here’s to the blogosphere, which, when it’s not giving us nonsense, sometimes gives us both good friends and good old friends.

I won’t bore you with all of my reading, but I had to share a few of the hysterical historical images I found, as well as a couple of significant points: one, a basilisk was mostly a basilisk in Europe. In Britain, it was referred to in the main body of literature as a cockatrice. It’s essentially the same thing, but the Brits have always strove for distinction, historically and to the present moment. It’s part of their brand. ☺ Secondly, from Pliny the Elder on down, no one could… agree quite on what a basilisk/cockatrice looked like (I mean, the CROWN. Jeez Louise, Pliny, how much poppy was in that wine???). Or, really, even what it did. Some swore that the beast was like a giant gastropod, dragging poison via its belly and even killing plants and soil beneath it, in a wide swath, while others say its mere breath did the slaying – not to mention its gimlet gaze. So much fear! So little… detail! That… got me thinking.

…To Poem

As I inarticulately tried to explain what I was working on in our Poetry Sisters Zoom meetup, Cousin Mary Lee said that my description of what the basilisk was – and wasn’t – sounded like politics. I kind of laughed at that, but then the thought returned insistently. So much of what we hear via the churn and spin of the news cycle regarding the Sturm und Drang of current events is like …well, like trying to swim by committee. Too many people are trying to manage the arms and the legs, trying to coordinate the strokes and the breathing as we beat the water into a froth, aerating our fears into some whipped up thing that we cannot see through. Boy, do we need to step back! Scoff. Doubt. Question. Interrogate. Take a moment and let things settle, and really look at what’s before us. Sometimes, when we truly examine circumstances, situations, and individuals which terrify us, we will find that they really are ludicrous… and then we can laugh.

This poem makes it sound pretty darned easy to do all of this – just pack up our troubles in our old kit bag, or some folksy nonsense. Friends, we are all well aware how easy it’s NOT. Fears are sometimes a serious, crippling business, and I will freely admit that this is just my first-ish draft of this idea. But it’s an idea to which I’ll be returning this year – because I am sometimes a person deeply in need of getting out of my own head. Doubting our fears is the first step away from them… and I hope it’s an one which gives you a different way of seeing things.

And if your 2024 is beginning with a seismic shift the likes of mine, take heart – we are in the year of the Dragon, and we can a.) start this New Year thing over and b.) immolate what isn’t working, and move on. Breathe fire, friends, and make your fears take wing. Who knows, you might be the basilisk.

{posting our january poetry plan}

I love this statement from Audre Lorde’s poem of the same title – poetry is not a luxury, but a necessity to remind of us thoughts and feelings and ways of seeing. This ‘ways of seeing’ is going to be a recurring theme for me this year, as the Poetry Sisters celebrate our unique and varied visions and our ability to all look at one thing and come away with seven different ideas about it. Viva la difference!

Welcome to another Poetry Friday Poetry Peeps Adventure!

Poetry Peeps! You’re invited to our challenge for the month of January! Here’s the scoop: We’re writing ekphastic poetry on… piñatas. No, really. Those hollow-hearted paper beasts we love to beat might not be something you think are poem-worthy – usually – but you’ve NEVER seen piñatas like these. Featured on PBS’s fabulous Craft In America series, we’re celebrating the humble piñata as elevated by Robert Benavidez. Check out his work. Are you game? Good! Whichever of his creative creatures and absolutely out-there works of art that you choose, you have a month to craft your creation and share it on January 26 in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.

HAPPY 2024!

May you offer art without apology as you celebrate YOUR way of seeing.

{pf: poetry peeps elfchen it up}

Welcome to another Poetry Friday Poetry Peeps adventure!

Friends, it has been a year of TRANSFORMATION and we’ve been glad to have every one of you who joined us. Thanks for being one of our #PoetryPals this year.

The Sisters are very shortly going to be in our annual poetry confab to come up with the 2024 challenges we’re setting ourselves, and to choose a theme or word of the year. While normally I’d let you know in this space what’s on for next month… you’ll have to stay tuned for the January 7th announcement! In the meantime, if you have a form or style suggestion, please feel free to drop it in the comments.

FROM PROCESS…: Our last challenge for 2023… might have been set by me? None of us remembers anymore, but since I’m a real fan of a five line poem, we suspect me. ☺ The Elfchen is eleven words, and the -chen suffix is a diminutive, so it’s a “little eleven” poem. As I began Duolingo German this year, I was happily able to try writing with my shaky grasp of another language. The basic Elfchen rules requires ONE word for line one, TWO for line two, THREE words for line three, FOUR for line four, and returns to ONE word for the fifth line. I’ve read that the first word is meant to be a topical, setting the tone of the piece, and the final word is meant to summarize and wrap things up. I did not always feel the need to summarize, as sometimes the topic wasn’t closed, but I like knowing what I’m supposed to be trying to achieve!

Of course, my restless brain took those rules and …tweaked them a little, deciding to not use only counted words, but counted syllables as well. As German is not a language known for short words, beginning with a single word of a single syllable was… definitely more of a challenge. (WHY did I feel like I needed more of a challenge? German wasn’t enough? Yikes, brain). As I made my attempts, I quickly discovered that I had to actually write in German, not take what I wanted to say in English, translate it, and then create the poem — that didn’t work at all.

…TO POETRY. What worked best for me was simply to draft many, many poems. Writing egregiously bad poetry is sometimes the only way I can get to the better stuff, so I wrote and wrote, as rain rolled down my office window. This is why so many of the poems I drafted had to do with being sleepy and or wanting to be cozy and warm… and/or wanting desperately to go back to bed with a book…! I wrote so many Elfchen it got to where I was once again counting words or syllables while I was thinking. The other day I wrote in an email to a friend: “Busy”/ isn’t true/ My holiday was/ Wholly ‘booked’ this year/…reading! However, I will spare you more of my stream-of-consciousness poetry, and share what the rest of the Poetry Sisters got up to. Tricia introduces us to a reverse elfchen here. Liz’s poem is here. Laura’s poem is here. Mary Lee’s is here, and Michelle K’s myriad Elfchen are here. Carol V.’s poems are here, and Linda B.’s Elfchen is here. Denise’s poems are here, and Heidi’s irresistible Elfchen are here.

More Poetry Peeps may be elfchening throughout the weekend, so stay tuned.

Let It Go For Now
nicht wahr?
Wenn endlich
der Tag endet:
isn’t it?
When finally
the day ends:

In neither language does this fit the rules for word count, but it does make the syllabic rule work.

Ausschlaffen (Sleeping In)
drumming drops
murmur, “Safe. Sleep.

This final poem follows the actual rules of the Elfchen and not my invented ones – in an announcement that pretty much speaks for itself and explains why many are receiving New Year’s cards:

My Last Spoon
The drawer
yawns empty now –
No further hungers sated

Poetry Friday today is generously hosted @ More Art 4 All with Michelle K., one of our Poetry Peeps who has been playing with the Elfchen form for a couple of weeks now. May you find warmth and light as the year burns down to its coals – and may you gather a breath of strength, purpose, and hope to fan the flames again for next year. Happy New Year.

{pf: poetry peeps in the style of Valerie Worth}

Welcome to another Poetry Friday Poetry Peeps adventure!

Poetry Peeps! You’re invited to our challenge for the month of December! Here’s the scoop: We’re writing the eleven-syllable German cinquain, the Elfchen. Unfamiliar? There’s plenty online about this brief form, which has often been taught in German elementary schools, so intangible bonus points wenn dein Gedicht auf Deutsch ist (if your poem is in German). Are you game? Good! The Poetry Sisters are continuing to throw our 2023 theme of TRANSFORMATION into the mix as possible. Whatever your topic or theme, you have a month to craft your creation and share it on December 29th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.

Poetry Friends! I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving/Friendsharing/ChosenFamily/Family Day yesterday. I am putting this blog post together a week in advance, and might not ‘see’ some of your posts right away, but I will get there and add you to the Valerie Worth round-up! What with travel and meals and homes full of guests, those of us nearby may be a bit slower – so do pop back in for a full roundup later in the weekend. Meanwhile, it was delightful to meet with almost the whole gang at our Poetry Sisters prewrite last week. You must check out Mary Lee’s poem here. Sara’s poem is here. Laura is joining us here, while Liz’s poem is here, and Tricia’s poem is here. Laura’s poem flew in to land here. Michelle K.’s poem is here. Linda B.’s poem is here.

Poetry Friday is hosted by Ruth @There Is No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town, long-distance from Uganda, so let’s take our time with Ruth and savor everything, along with a second helping of pie.

“Never forget that the subject is as important as your feeling: The mud puddle itself is as important as your pleasure in looking at it or splashing through it. Never let the mud puddle get lost in the poetry – because, in many ways, the mud puddle is the poetry.” (Valerie Worth, quoted in Another Jar of Tiny Stars, the second NCTE book of award-winning poetry, edited by Bernice E. Cullinan and Deborah Wooten

As I recall from our brainstorming session at the beginning of this year, we chose to write in the style of Valerie Worth first because many of us were less than familiar with much of her work, except her books for children, and secondly, because her poems are short(ish), small, plain-spoken (unrhymed), and specific. Note that when we say ‘small,’ we don’t mean an additional observation on length, but rather a topical observation on the dialed in, specific topics Valerie Worth judged worthy of poetry. Fence posts. Rags. Earthworms. Mushrooms. Valerie Worth was a poet who had, as Mary Oliver attributed to excellent writers, “an attitude of noticing.” I believe that observation lends itself to its own theme of transformation… In so many ways, when one is able to extrapolate the extraordinary from the mundane, it changes things seen, experienced, known, and understood. Inasmuch as Mary Oliver described that ‘noticing’ as a relentless and dynamic curiosity about the world, I believe that Valerie Worth’s unwillingness to exclude anything from observation is what enabled her to be a poet whose work is memorable and occasionally astonishing. To that end, in my own choosing, I purposefully looked for ‘small’ topics. I thought of my dead sunflowers, which I’ve left in place because the birds really love them, Himself’s giant clogs which I keep tripping over on the garage step, and the draft evader I fashioned from flat fiberfill stuffing and torn flannel rags. Sunflowers when they’re bright get plenty of ink – not so much when they’re dead. We might write poems to baby shoes, but not to rubber gardening clogs. Few find the wads of cloth we stuff under door and windowsills particularly poetic, and yet…

I started by hewing as closely as I could to one of Worth’s actual poems. Sparrow is one of my favorites about a dun-colored bird minding her own business, and not caring if you look at her. I transferred the sparrow’s ubiquity to the boxy rubber clogs that seem to grow on the back step – worn by anyone whose feet will fit, perfect for standing in the outdoor kitchen frying something, or chucking things into the compost bin in the rain…

Our garden is still quite lively, for all that it is considered functionally dead. The dry flower heads, yellow-browning speckles of mildewed stalks and fallen seeds are alive with an hundred thousand birds, chasing lizards, squabbling, pecking, rolling in dust, and scratching like hens. This is why we’re the WORST gardeners – we can’t bear to tear everything out and turn it under just yet because the birds are having way too much fun. May they all make themselves at home.

(This handsome specimen isn’t MY draft stopper, which is a scrappy, patch-worked thing in various shades of ‘dirt.’ Mine is in the wash just now and unready for its close-up, so we’ll just pretend I actually stitched something pretty.)

Mary Oliver’s famously succinct ‘Instructions for Living a Life’ admonishes us fussily to “pay attention.” Maybe in a less didactic tone, as there is nothing truly obligatory here, we might encourage ourselves to give attention to our lives, to see within our every day ordinariness a sheen of the extraordinary. As German actress and coach Uta Hagen once famously said, “We must overcome the notion that we must be regular…” As we tunnel out from stolid regularity into glorious irregularity, exchange our viewpoint on life as ‘usual’ for the chance to revel in the unusual, may we discover that life is more than we knew. May we, by being open, inventive, expressive, and questioning, live our uncertainty and questions into answers that change everything.

All poems ©2023 Tanita S. Davis

{pf: peeps are talkin’ about bouts-rimés}

Welcome to another Poetry Friday Poetry adventure!

Poetry Peeps! You’re invited to our challenge for the month of November! Here’s the scoop: We’re writing in the style of Valerie Worth. Unfamiliar? Renee LaTulippe shared poet Lee Bennett Hopkins’ NCTE reminiscences on her as a poet, and Renee wrote a great post highlighting her. And, now that you’ve read a bit, are you in? Good! The Poetry Sisters are continuing to throw our 2023 theme of TRANSFORMATION into the mix as possible. Whatever your topic or theme, you have a month to craft your creation and share it on November 24th – yep, that IS the day after Thanksgiving, so plan accordingly – in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.

We’re grateful to our Poetry Friday host today, Carol Labuzzetta Tricia’s poem right here, and Sara’s poem here. Liz’s poem is here. Mary Lee’s is here, and Laura’s popped in here. Michelle K. borrowed lines from Emily D. here. You might discover more Poetry Peeps checking in throughout the weekend, so stay tuned for the full round-up as I find them. Meanwhile… on with the poetry.

The original tale of the Bouts-rimés form has to do with a nobleman complaining of having some three hundred sonnets stolen from him. As it turns out, it wasn’t sonnets at all, only the rhyming end words. Our rhyming end words were A: profuse/abstruse/chartreuse/truce; B: incline/shine/resign/supine; C: various/gregarious/hilarious/precarious, D: ceasefire/quagmire/higher/dryer, E: transform/barnstorm/uniform/conform, F: humility/futility/nobility/tranquility; G: perturb/superb/reverb/disturb. With a couple of (horrifying) exceptions, the word list isn’t really that bad – and for once I gave myself permission to use forms of the words like inclined instead of incline. However, as there are several types of sonnets, I couldn’t really decide which would work best. I dabbled a bit writing three sonnet forms, but I found I really disliked the Terza Rima with this word list, so that one won’t ever see the light of day. Instead, here’s a Shakespearean sonnet, and a semi-Spenserian. I’ve made it a s/he poem for your amusement, but I defaulted on my illustration to HE, because we live in a sexist world, and I only found two graphics of MEN yacking, and HUNDREDS of women. (This is me, doing my bit for… equality. Or something.)

The Yack Attack
A waterfall of facts profuse
In detailed minutiae s/he shines;
The more perplexing and abstruse
Towards peak verbosity inclined.
Beyond the mere gregarious,
That tongue admits to no ceasefire.
Pleas for peace, often, various,
Unheeded. A social quagmire!
What if relentless talk transformed
To listening humility?
Could need to air one’s wit, barnstorm,
Be seen as gauche futility?

If such a thought serves to perturb
Sit with it. SHH! Let it reverb.

I think the funniest thing about the next poem is that I rarely drink coffee… it’s a “Oh, sure, I’ll have some,” drink that I have maybe once or twice a week, if that. And I know that’s not other people’s experience with coffee (I’m reminded of my friend Jules’ mug that reads “Coffee! Do stupid things faster, with more energy!), so if you’re a coffee person, this one’s for you.

La Belle Dame Sans Coffee
My day begins with apologies profuse,
Decaffeinated brain cells whine, crying ‘truce!’
Whilst wincing through faux pas, who among us shines?
To ‘grit-your-teeth-and-grin’ we become resigned …
Flubs and mistakes pre-coffee are various,
We hold as we can, our grip precarious.
A few sips of brew won’t relieve the quagmire
A FULL cuppa’s all that will create ceasefire.
Then Monday, a day full of headaches, transforms
To calm – since caffeine makes moods more uniform.
Vicious conceits give way to humility,
Soothing savage beasts back to tranquility.

Indeed, it’s a powerful brew that’s superb!
So, until we’ve had some? It’s DO NOT Disturb!

Can we agree together to dispense with quagmire, ceasefire, barnstorm or abstruse in our poetry? Those are such delicious words, of course, and the point of this poetic game is to actually make your fellow poets work pretty hard by CHOOSING the more outré vocabulary, but oy. Barnstorm. It’s just somehow unwieldy!

This time of year is just the best time for table games – sitting inside, cozy, while the weather does what it will, and we keep our brains busy. (I promise you that sitting inside, being cozy still works even if the weather doing what it will requires an air conditioner or fan to combat it.) I hope that you’re able to try this poetry game with a class, or a group of friends – even if the poems you play with aren’t as long as sonnets – admittedly those are a lot for first-timers – I know that almost everyone can write a limerick. Giving people end words for them to compose their own limerick will be… enlightening, at the very least! Never forget that DOGGEREL is also a poetic form with a long (from the 14th century!) and storied history.

(For more on the cartoonist, Mickey Bach, visit the GetWords archive.)

And thus we come to the end of October.

The summer seemed briefly endless, and now we’re free-falling through autumn, plunging towards winter. In the month of November, that traditional time of pause, I’m going to try a daily exercise of poetic gratitude. It has been a grinding summer for me personally and physically, as well as for members of my family, for those of us nationally who love books and have deep concerns for inclusivity and freedom, and then globally – oof. I’ve gotten out of the habit of journaling over the years, so a daily poetry practice is for me one way to slow down and reflect on things which are happening, to recall what I’m meant to be doing right now, which is to be present in the moment, and then to also remember what I have done in previous years during this time. This reflective practice reminds us how troubles, though seemingly endless in the moment, always pass with time. This is an especially important message now, and I hope some of you will find a gratitude practice for yourselves in the days to come. This, too, shall pass. This moment, this place, this You is right here for a reason. You will find it. You will embody it, and you will shine. ☆You are made of stars.★

Happy Weekend.

{pf: poetry peeps pruning poems}

Welcome to another Poetry Friday Poetry adventure!

Poetry Peeps! You’re invited to our challenge for the month of September! Here’s the scoop: We’re writing Bouts-Rimé, which in French means literally ‘rhymed-ends.’ Bouts-Rimé is a poetry challenge wherein you supply a set of fourteen rhyming words, like June, stress, moon, obsess, snake, moot, cake, beaut, Garbo, play, hobo, day, rhinestone, cologne (from Columbia College’s journal, 2006), exchange them with a friend or poetry group, and then write a poem to the rhymes in the same order that they were placed upon the list. Great ingenuity is required to create something coherent – which is, of course, 90% of the fun. Are you in? Good! The Poetry Sisters are continuing to throw our 2023 theme of TRANSFORMATION into the mix. Whatever your topic or theme, you have a month to craft your creation and share it on October 27th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.

Poetry Friday today is brought to you by the word ‘WITTY’ and is hosted by the generous, lovely, and delightfully witty Jama-J at Alphabet Soup. Do pop on over for poetry goodness that is not these rather silly poems of mine!

Oh, my goodness, poets, buckle up. Diminishing or Pruning Poems appear to be simple – but of course, you know the Poetry Sisters drill by now. Nothing we ever attempt – despite our best efforts – can ever just be easy. A poem built around a single rhyming word which diminishes by a single letter per line? Now, how hard could that be???

::insert eyeroll::

In order to find words to prune, I started with digraph and trigraph consonant blends, imagining that more consonants on the beginnings or ends of words would help. They did, kind of… however, the words I found somehow just did NOT seem to lend themselves to anything poetic. Scrump? Relapse? Paeon? Feel the poetry there, folks. I asked Himself to dig into his lists of words (yes, he keeps lists of words for fun, yes, you knew we were word-loving nerds in this house) and I pulled quite a few I could work with, but… even so, I started feeling like I was writing middle school assignments with these three line little… ditties. I don’t know, it didn’t feel very poetic, but you know, I started to lean into the brevity and the simplicity of idea, and the playfulness. Not all of them are worth sharing, but I have a few…

I’ll have you know, today’s poetry reveal is a reveal for all of us – due to several unforeseen circumstances only two of the Poetry Sisters met for our usual co-writing hour last Sunday, so we have the added amusement of not knowing anything about what anyone else is posting! But, if you check out Tricia’s poem here, you’ll get your first idea. Liz’s poem is here. Mary Lee’s is here. Michelle K’s poem is here, along with an offering of art, and Denise Krebs is writing poems of presence here. Linda B’s poem is here, and Carol V.’s seasonally perfect poem is here. Kelly, Laura and Sara are sitting out this dance, but more Peeps rising to the poetry challenge will be checking in throughout the weekend, so stay tuned for the full pruning poem round-up.

(CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE) Thematically, these poems are eccentric (#transformationfail), so… enjoy.

I had to include this one, even though TECHNICALLY this one doesn’t “count.” The rules of the Pruning Form describe the word that you choose to prune as “rhyming.” Morally, orally, rally, and ally sadly do NOT. However, I couldn’t pass it up.

Notes On Sixth Period Lunch Period, or “No One Wants to See Chewed Food, Guys”

MORALLY, it’s the right thing to do.
ORALLY, it’s tasteful and smart when you chew, to
RALLY your manners, whatever you do, and
ALLY yourself with a mannerly crew.

After having my LIFE changed by Nikki Giovanni’s poem, “Allowables,” I’ve tried to be a bit more Zen about all the life around me, even those bits of life I really despise. So, um… fleas are the longest/highest jumpers in the world? Yay? Still want them and mosquitoes to stay away from me, though. Shoo them with fire!

Yes, They’re Cool and All, But…

That ABLEST of jumpers, the house
flea is BLEST with thirst
like a vampire’s, LEST any forget!

As you can see, I may have a ways to go with the Zen thing…

Incidentally, I’ve begun to ask myself what it is about this form that brings out… the wildlife for me. I hadn’t honestly even realized I was writing zoology poems until…now? Anyway, this little ditty almost felt like it was cheating because of the palindromic poem “Madam, I’m Adam” which made me think of madam as a word choice – but I’ll take it anyway:


MADAM, we’re strangers: you don’t know me from
ADAM, however, your beaver has built me a
DAM. He’s billed, so I’ll pay him. That’s just who I

Look, I WARNED you they were a little goofy.

Shout out to the people who want to take libraries back to the days when the only books were to their tastes (perhaps – we’re not sure they ever actually, you know, read whole books), the only patrons were controlled and silent, and the only senators of note were named McCarthy. That era is aspirational for someone out there, but brace yourself, it’s not gonna happen, folks, so beware…!

Reminder: The Library Is For Everyone

SHUSHERS in the library whose
HUSHERS silence crave, you
USHER in the urge to make some noise and misbehave!

And, it’s back to the natural world – and a stop by the garden for a final salute to the beauty and peace I’ve found with my little DIY meadow this summer. Happy Friday to all, as the last vestiges of summer diminish and we welcome in the crisp and chilly – the fading, the falling, the fallow, the mist and the moss that means autumn’s arriving, amplifying and approaching its peak.


ASWARM in the garden aloud with their wings, a
SWARM of striped, bumbling, honeybees.
WARM thoughts of summer days bring to me:
ARMs and legs and feet bare. Free..

I’d LOVE to see you try your hand at some Pruning poems with some of the words I’ve chosen, or others. Uneaten. Abraid/Abrade (the first archaic spelling is still a word, thus legal for Scrabble, FYI). Slabs. Prelate. There’s got to be a poem somewhere in these most mundane of words!

Here’s to making a little time for wordplay – and even if your efforts are not the wittiest, the English language is such a rich, deep well from which to draw that it keeps our thirsty brains busy being smarty-panters. And, cheers to those bi or trilingualists who can riff in multiple languages, or with fingerspelling! Here’s to the world of words – and long may it do anything but diminish us.

Happy Weekend!

{pf: pp go mano a mano with monotetras}

Welcome to another Poetry Friday Poetry Peeps adventure!

Poetry Peeps! You’re invited to our challenge for the month of August! Here’s the scoop: We’re doing Exquisite Corpse poetry. These collaborative poems necessarily involve yourself and at least one other passing lines or stanzas along, so now’s the time to start choosing poetry compatriots. Are you in? Good! The Poetry Sisters are continuing with our 2023 theme of TRANSFORMATION somehow wedged or sneaked into this form – and we’re going to also sneak in a few of Linda Mitchell’s clunkers to give us more to play with. If you’re still game, you have a month to craft your creation and share it on August 25th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.

It’s eleventy billion degrees here as I’m writing this (though tomorrow is forecast to be a whole five degrees cooler) and I view the calendar with horror… After a mostly mild summer which has suddenly hit ridiculous temperatures, it’s almost August… Which means it’s all but over. What?! My tomatoes haven’t even bothered to ripen!! In our neck of the woods, by August 1st, many teachers report back to school. At my nephew’s school, August 13th… is the first day of classes.

As the Bard says, “Summer’s lease hath all too short a date.”

As always, my imagination takes me back to school this time of year (no matter how former, no teacher ever seems to lose the idea that September begins a new year) and I was thinking about the differences between my nephew at the beginning of his junior high experience, when he was a talkative, shorter, rounder person – and who he became by the end of it – a lanky, tall person who won’t use two words when a grunt and a side-eye would do. These thoughts fit well into our poetic theme of transformation — though for a while it felt like not much fit a monotetra. This is such a deceptively simple form, just four lines and eight syllables per line – but the final line repeating the same four syllables was… hard. With such a short syllable allotment for the stanzas, it feels as if each word should do more work than simply sitting there, so a repetition seemed pointless. I tried to make it work with homonyms – and I’m aware I wasn’t entirely successful (and at one point just gave myself an out to do what I wanted) but did I mention that it’s eleventy billion degrees out? I’m doing a patented L.P. Salas One & Done today, since normally we’re all a mite envious of her ability to just crank a poem out and call it good. We peeps are here for the PRACTICE of poetry, not the perfection of it, and I’ve officially practiced. I’m out.

(Gotta admit, though, that I did like playing with the homonyms, and sometime when I’m in a better mood, this might be a form to revisit. For someone who usually doesn’t mind requirements of rhymes and rules and syllables … the final line thing felt unnecessary, and for me, didn’t add anything. Others may have had a MUCH better time, however, so don’t miss the Laura Salas special, or Sara’s poemsmith-ery, or Mary Lee’s wordswimming. Tricia’s poeming is here, and Liz’s poem is here. Michelle K’s parrot poem is here, and Heidi’s nototetra slays me, while Linda B’s is scary. Carol’s gorgeous flowers (and poem) are here. Kelly isn’t with us this month, but other Peeps may be checking in with their masterful monotetra-ing throughout the weekend, so stay tuned.) Don’t miss the Bookseed Studio Dragonfly Bonanza – thanks Jan, for hosting Poetry Friday today!


when you walk into a classroom
in eight grade, you won’t assume
that you’re a bud about to bloom:
(Cramped petals push: Make room! Make room!)

In every classroom, eyes compare
Those newly tall, some longer hair
Such change! Arriving from nowhere!
Of who, what, where – you’re quite aware.

Suddenly, last year’s playground joy
Is sneered at – who’s got time for toys?
The things you once loved now annoy.
You’re moody, coy, your moods decoy.

Fast as the year is passing by,
The sparkling social butterflies
Befriend the world. You’re so tongue-tied
You get a high from saying “hi.”

But then – the last class of the year!
One final test, and then a cheer
Erupting, you launch into gear.
You leap like deer. You disappear.

One thing the endless round of school years reminds us is that time. just. flies. The days get shorter and the years blur faster and the what you wanted to do won’t wait for the when you thought you would do it… No matter what happened yesterday, there is still a road forward into tomorrow. Now is the best present we’re ever going to get – so grab it with all your senses and make it count. Here’s to leaning open-heartedly into your one wild, precious life. Happy (Breathlessly Hot) Weekend.

{pf: poetry peeps write quote-ably}

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

Poetry Peeps! You’re invited to our challenge for the month of July! Here’s the scoop: we’re writing monotetra poems. This four-line stanzas form is in tetrameter, with a total of 8 syllables per line, and can be a single quatrain, or several. Each stanza is mono-rhymed (each line has the same end rhyme), and the final line of each stanza repeats the same four syllables Writers’ Digest has an example. The Poetry Sisters are continuing with our 2023 theme of TRANSFORMATION somehow wedged or sneaked into this form. You have a month to craft your creation and share it on July 28th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.

Thought-provoking words from Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass: “We may not have wings or leaves, but we humans do have words. Language is our gift and our responsibility.” Those are the words before the sentence Mary Lee proposed for this month’s writing quote, which is, “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.”

…language is our gift and our responsibility. Though perhaps not in the way that Kimmerer intended, because my mind is far from the natural world, this phrase has really resonated this month. I’m always conscious of when I make a social expression of concern… – promising to keep friends in my thoughts or prayers, to find a way to help, if I can; to keep a daughter/son/husband in mind if I hear about a job/hear about an opening/tutor/book they might need or like. We promise each other so many tiny things in the name of care, a hundred small words that we genuinely mean in the moment they emerge. How many of them do we carry through? Because I AM Me, these are the types of things that revisit my thoughts late at night.

I am always disappointed in myself when I fail to fulfill the social exchanges I have promised. I feel, frankly, like a liar. We all fail, though, to follow through sometimes – sometimes on smaller, and sometimes on a larger scale. What would happen if we let that sting of feeling bad about it …change things? What if it all… meant something? What if we could go backwards and fix all the times in the past, from bad faith treaties to outright grift and lies, that have made the social contract has fallen apart? What wouldn’t we all give for a time machine that we could flip, and get a do-over.

I started out trying to use a villanelle for this poem, but a four-stanza pantoum – a form I normally struggle with – suggested itself, and, shockingly, worked out. The shorter lines conveyed a sense of my theme without drowning me in it, hinting at multiple meanings and not locking me into one way of looking at grief, change, or loss. I also took the opportunity to use one of Linda M’s clunker lines while revising. I swapped a clunker of my own with “for minute sips of time,” which worked amazingly, and is an absolutely BRILLIANT line, so thank you, Linda, I’ll take it!

I like the way this reads, laid out differently, too:

Time Machine

If grief can lead the way/ ‘cross the threshold of the world,
For minute sips of time /recreate our past again.

Cross the threshold of the world/ where our words, no longer lies
Recreate our past again/ bedrock-solid as we stand.

With our words no longer lies/ we, who never kept our word,
Bedrock-solid, make a stand/ make this lever pivot worlds.

We, who never kept our word/ if grief can lead the way
Make this lever pivot. Worlds,/ for minute sips of time.

I’m so glad I’m not teaching this poem, so I don’t have to force it to mean something that makes entirely coherent sense to anyone but me. ☺ Other poetic thoughts on quotations can be found at Cousin Mary Lee’s place, at Laura’s blog, at Tricia’s, and at Liz’s website. Michelle K’s lovely responsive poem is here. More Poetry Peeps will be checking in throughout the weekend, so don’t forget to pop back for the round up. And, Poetry Friday is ably hosted today by Irene Latham, who invites you to celebrate the moon in June and read more remarkable, thought-provoking, creative poetry. Happy Friday, and enjoy the supermoon and Independence Day.