{pf: poetry peeps know what the ____knows}

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

You’re invited to try our challenge in the month of September! Here’s the scoop: We’re writing tanka in response to a poem we love from the Poetry Friday universe. Choose to respond to an original poem from anyone – give us a link to the original poem, then go tanka-tangoing on. Are you thinking of a poem? Good! You’ve got a month to craft your 5-7-5 creation(s), then share your offering (or someone else’s) with the rest of us on September 24th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.

The original steps for the Sidman Deeper Wisdom poems included: a.) Choose your subject, b.) think about the overarching Truths relating to your subject, c.) state six of the strongest truths into two stanzas, and d.) make your end words rhyme – but you don’t have to. While the mentor poems we used – Jane Yolen’s vs. Joyce Sidman’s – differ slightly, at least on the surface, this is a short, simple vehicle for thoughtful poetic description. That said, I still choked on the first step.

During our Seven Sisters meetup the previous Sunday, I had written one poem off the top of my head, but realized it might be somewhat controversial, so I shelved it. However, since sharing an office in a 1959 bungalow means help (READ: constant Zoom meeting distraction) is just two inches away, I glanced over my shoulder and said, “Hey – I need you to tell me ten things.” Once we determined that “things” in this case meant nouns, Himself said, “Fine,” and began to recite: “An emu egg. A hummingbird. A geode. A monocle. Lilies. Squirrels. Garam masala. Swim fins. Cuttlefish. Moose nuggets.”


“What?” he protested. “Don’t you remember that dried moose poop potpourri stuff we saw in Alaska that time?”

Erm… no, I did not, actually, but …aren’t travel memories precious? Or …something?

ANYWAY, thanks to this very helpful list, I did find a couple of things which were intriguing enough to warrant further study. But, that’s the problem with me – these poems are deceptive. Sure, you can find six facts about most anything, but how many of them are worth calling “deeper wisdom?” Plus, it’s a bit addictive to play with the idea of fact poems, because my rabbit-hole is research. I barely got my poem written because I was chasing the history of garam masala (every state in India has their own blend!!!)… Which tells me I’ll revisit these someday! But for now, did you know that cuttlefish can see into infrared, but they’re colorblind? And, that they have three hearts? And, did you know that they don’t have ten arms at all? And, and…

What Does the Cuttlefish Know?

hearts trio-thumping, three downbeats
two tentacles, eight arms to greet
a spy’s disguises and deceit!

What Does the Cuttlefish Know?
Through colorblinded eyes, the heat,
Mimicking objects, to defeat
Its foes. Nothing else can compete.
(A bonus line: they’re really neat)

This doesn’t really count as a “deeper wisdom” poem, per se – but this is just the first poem I came up with during my free-write. No matter what you feel about masks, though, I hope you read it in the spirit it’s intended: as just a thought, not an indictment of anyone, about anything.

What Does the Mask Know

The silken slide of facial skin
The snubness of a nose
A cloud of damp from breath held in
Being your newest “clothes.”

The shrouding of a friendly smile
The shielding of the Earth…
Perhaps a hint of runway style?
What I think you are worth.

Poetry Friday this week is hosted at Unexpected Intersections, and our hostess this week unexpectedly joined us in our Poetry Peeps challenge! And now I know something new about marmots! Thanks for joining the fun, Elizabeth! If this is your first time joining the Peeps, welcome! You can check out Sara’s poem here, and Cousin Mary Lee’s is here, and you’ll find Liz’s here. What Kelly knowss is here, and you’ll find Michelle’s poem here. Bridget joins us here, Heidi’s poem – well, the second one she wanted to write – ☺ -is here. Rose joins us here. Margaret’s heron is here, and you’ll find Linda’s poem here, and Denise’s poem here…and, joining us a bit later, Kat’s poem is here. What a fun bunch! Even more Poetry Peeps might pop in throughout the day, so stay tuned for a round-up of links.

It’s been a mentally-crowded kind of week, and I hope you find the time this weekend to geek out over some new and previously silent deeper wisdom that speaks to you. Have a lovely weekend! Hope you join the fun in September!

29 Replies to “{pf: poetry peeps know what the ____knows}”

  1. I love the suggestions from Himself. 😆 You could continue to mine that for material although, like you, I might give the moose nuggets a miss.
    I love both of these poems, Tanita, and I especially love the final line of the mask poem. Beautiful.

  2. After spending two days double-masking through airports, I can more than relate to the mask poem! I’m glad you decided to share it after all. And CUTTLEFISH! What a topic! Besides letting us in on what the cuttlefish knows, you increased what WE know about THEM!

  3. Fun post Tanita, I get caught in those rabbit holes quite often… too bad we can’t suspend time while we ‘re there. I think that cuttle fish is pretty cool—and I loved your extra line! I really like the 2nd stanza of your mask poem and “What I think you are worth.” Wish more of us would consider/embrace this last line, thanks!

    1. @Michelle Kogan: Maybe our next poem might be “what does the rabbit hole know?” Because truly, it knows that the world is so fascinating we’ll always lose time trying to figure out the next cool thing… and that’s probably okay.

  4. “Once we determined that things meant nouns” ha ha ha
    As we talked about last weekend, your pre-poem posts are always the best!!
    I love both of these, Tanita, with my favorite lines being the bonus line in the first and, oh, that snub nose in the second. Wonderful….

  5. That list of ten things is a list of intrigue indeed. I like the two ways you went, Tanita, and I think Liz is right–at the heart of this poem is pretend play, dressing up. Research, yes, but also *become* the thing to sense its wisdom? The mask poem gives up its secrets beautifully and brings the wearer in too!

    Now then, I will be taking you up on your offer to PAY to read “What the F**k Knows”…I’ll let you know when it’s ready!

  6. Research is my rabbit-hole too – the world is full of so many fascinating things! There’s never enough time …

    I love these poems – the “hearts trio-thumping, three downbeats” of the cuttlefish, and how you’ve taken something that has become a part of our everyday lives, and made us think about it from a new perspective.

    Thanks for the challenges – it was fun to play along with you!

  7. Tanita, what a fun and visually lovely post. I like that cuttlefish and learned a lot. Wow, you did get a list full of ideas to work with. I too vote for more poems on those topics. I will have to explore those deeper wisdom steps you describe here. Thanks for always giving us the next challenge! I’m looking forward to writing a tanka.

  8. I think your mask poem is wonderful! And that last line says it all, really. It’s sad that masks (and vaccines) have become such contentious issues, when really they’re about looking out for the greater good of others. Love your snubness of a nose… and the hint of runaway style. And your bonus squid line is necessary!

    1. Oh – and I was too late (too out of the loop) to join the challenge this week – but I have a poem scheduled to post next week! Because who could resist! (Err – like you, I have two. But mine are related.)

  9. Oh, Tanita, I always love reading your blogs because of the great introductions and your deep dive into research. Love the cuttlefish image that is so vibrant and the ideas that float around, such as a spy’s disguises. Love the ending line and I think students will understand the significance of an ending thought. As for the last poem, these lines are special:
    The shielding of the Earth…
    Perhaps a hint of runway style?
    I found the draft of my What ____ Knows that was written in the very beginning of August. I am writing a separate blog post for my poem with credit to the Poetry Sisters’ Challenge. Maybe it will be ready by tomorrow as a stand alone.

  10. Now you’ve sent me down that “cuttlefish hole” to learn more although you got a lot in your poem, the “mimicking” fascinates! And timely it is that wisdom of the mask, and yours with “What I think you are worth.” Wonderful, Tanita

  11. First, you picked the right partner in life…and second, I want poems on ALL that list. Your cuttlefish poem is sooo playful, and yet you’ve packed it with facts—I think our Laura would approve (as would a lot of teachers.) And I laughed at masks being our new clothes. Well, yeah. One more darn thing to wash. Well played, you.

    1. @saralewisholmes: You know me, I can honest to goshen write a poem on ANY of those – but I think I’m missing the point of “deeper knowledge” with the bare recitation of (rather cool) facts. Still – I’m game to try!

      And yes, Himself is just …very much ‘the man himself…’

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