{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.♥

{welcome poetry peeps: the pf round-up is here!}


When you’re born the first week of March, you are legally obligated to celebrate all month long, even on the Ides… so, welcome to my Poetry Party. (Beware of dudes named Brutus.)

March has indeed come in like a lion. We’ve seen a lot of rainy, sleet-y, thunder-y days here, and it’s wiiiiiiindy just now, but already I can see the light of Spring at the end of the tunnel. There is all sorts of chaos going on in my garden – poppies returning, alyssum sluggishly coming into flower. There are long, naked whips rising from my Russian sage plants, and next door, the cherry-plum-peach-almond tree (whatever it is) has decided to give up on being coy, and is bedecked in delicate pinky-white blossoms. Even through scouring winds, Spring is bustin’ out all over, and with it comes a surge of, if not energy, purpose, and a renewed interest in looking around and seeing where we are. Hello! Welcome back from hibernation, Brain!

Poetry Friday: Food for Waking Brains.

Click Here & Join the Round-up!

From Process…

One of the best things about having a poetry practice that includes other people is that they have often read poems that you have not. While doing a poetry project using slang – both reacting to it, incorporating it into a ten-line poem, and redefining it within our work – I was reminded of the poetry of Richard Wilbur, and his first book of OPPOSITES, first published in 1973. The brief I was working with was to use a slang word and then to move beyond it. I chose the relatively dated (but still well-used) slang word “snatched.” In drag circles, it’s a celebratory word that denotes a person’s flawlessness – you look mahvelous, darling. Sometimes for me, “snatched” evokes images of corsets and constriction, of firm adherence to beauty standards and a rigidly implacable sense of correctness. (Note that this doesn’t at all necessarily reflect the actual meaning of the term!) In that sense, it’s not always a friendly-feeling word… Like most people, I’m all for flawlessness, except when I’m against it – all of us have our moments of circling around what the pursuit of peerless and perfect means to us.

…to Poetry

The day I wrote this little poem, I was definitely in the against camp. I was feeling …pinched and pushed, and the idea of being snatched just made everything feel… worse. So I wrote this exploration of opposites. What was the opposite of “snatched,” in the sense of something wrapped and tied and perfect? What if we celebrated all things lax, roomy, slack, and slouchy? Is there anything worth praising in that? Well… obviously! Thank goodness, there are always opposite options.

NB: Though the poem uses the word “girl,” in the campy way that people toss it around, this poem is in celebration of delightful beings of all – or no – genders. You might choose to try this poem as it relates to who you are, and how you see yourself – there are a number of terms which could use a good rousing dose of opposites. Grab a thesaurus and have fun…


GIRL! That waist is surrendered
No longer scrunched or subdued,
Freed from the tyranny of snaps and shaping.
Check it – her whole look’s relinquished;
Loosened and launched and liberated,
Unfettered to set free her frizz.
Unclasped from the grabbing and grubbing,
From striving to catch and to capture,
This girl is discharged and disentangled,
Is unsubtle, and unsubdued;
Has become unconstrained – and unhinged!
Fallible. Flawed. But FREE.

Friends, it’s been lovely to have you here! The party continues all month long. As always, you’re invited to join the month’s last hurrah during the Poetry Sisters’ March Challenge on Friday the 29th. (PLEASE click the image to enlarge for details.) In the meantime, I hope that you know that your perfection, whether spiraled or unspooled, constrained or uncoiled, buttoned up or billowing out – is ENOUGH. You’re loved unceasingly, just as you are.

Have a blissfully, blessedly unbound weekend.