{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.

20 Replies to “{pf: pp go mano a mano with monotetras}”

  1. You’ve captured this slice of life so well! I just received a belated 8th grade grad announcement of my eldest nephew & while I know we all keep having birthdays, I needed a moment to grasp that he’s in HIGH SCHOOL now.

  2. I think your changes to the last line made this form so much more accessible. And honestly, the poem is genius. I can still see my middle schoolers in these lines. I adored teaching middle school, and you’ve put us square in the middle of it. Well done.

    1. @Miss Rumphius: I wanted to like this form so much more! I …will have to keep trying. But the homonyms really did at least make it fun.

      And, I think I miss my 8th graders. Who are now in their twenties… Sheesh.

  3. Most enjoyable, cousin! And of course the New Year begins in September. Or the last week of August. But really NOT on August 1st! I appreciate your assessment of what makes this form tricky, and I might even go so far as to say that this form lacks balance somehow–but your treatment of the last lines overcomes that while sticking to the rhyme scheme! I’m on holiday with my 20-year-old, seeing him more than the usual 30-60 minutes per day than usual, and in places he’s been coming since he was tiny, and I can’t keep the contrasts out of my head. My little one, all grown up. Have you ever read Quentin Blake’s Zagazoo? Unsung masterpiece!

    1. @Cousin Heidi: My childhood presented to me Quentin Blake as an illustrator, so to discover a book that he both wrote and illustrated is delightful. Here’s to the wild life we have (and are) – isn’t it amazing, indeed!

  4. I love your ending line especially disappearing. And comparing the eighth graders to deer leaping just makes me smile–lovely typography and images too! Thanks Tanita, and I hope it cools off a bit for you.

  5. Tanita, in my early teaching career, I was in love with my 7th-8th graders. It takes a special amount of sensitivity and energy to teach that age level. Your description of the transformation is on target. The last two lines capture what happens with such verbs as erupting, launch, leap, and disappear. I found the monotetra format challenging. I revised many times and finally decided to leave as is and wait for suggestions to improve what I wrote. Playing with the Poetry Sisters is always a worthwhile experience. Thanks for this challenge and the next one.

    1. @CVarsalona: I think the poignancy of how they disappear is still echoing within me; my little questioning middle graders have leapt into young adulthood in new ways, and are genuinely vanished into something else… halfway between a butterfly and a magic trick, they’re just something altogether new.

      Honestly, your monotetra experience sounds just like mine!! Leaving it alone to think on it awhile looks to be our best bet.

  6. Tanita, oh so clever, my dear. I loved remembering those years, not always great, but you have captured so much truth here in your monotetra. Well played!

    Here is some truth that I remember from my school days, and especially as a teacher:
    “In every classroom, eyes compare
    Those newly tall, some longer hair
    Such change! Arriving from nowhere!”

  7. Yes, to the time flying & September opening, Tanita. I spent the day earlier this week taking a granddaughter who’s on her way to high school (how can that be?) & of course, now this is a favorite activity! I was a teacher, as you know, and I do adore how you made the changes in your poem, and that ending is poignant with so many layers. Indeed, “You leap like deer. You disappear.” Happy August!

    1. @Linda B: Here’s to the changes that keep coming — trailing like the wakes of comets behind the middle graders who shoot off to Become some other when, some other how.

      I’m pretty sure only yesterday your granddaughter was in Kindergarten. My nephews were!

  8. I feel the SAME WAY about fall and September, and I know I always will.
    And boy do I feel this poem. I was this age when I moved cross-country and it was… well… transformative is one word for it.
    But what I want to remark upon is your cleverness! Homonyms to play with the final lines??????
    TANITA! I bow down.

  9. Yes to the fact (FACT, I say!) that September is and always will be the start of the new year. Periodt.

    Your end line variations made this form MUCH more interesting and fun to read. Good for you that you managed to do “a patented L.P. Salas One & Done!”

  10. Ha! Those 8th graders leaping away like deer! The ending of this made me laugh, as did your variations of the end rhymes..way to go, you rule breaker, you! I’ll have to share this poem with my SIL who has taught 8th grade for many years and seems to survive it every time.

    1. @Sara Lewis Holmes: Strength, creativity & energy to your SIL for the upcoming year!
      And yes: It was ALL about the rule-breaking, and I giggled because I wasn’t REALLY breaking the rules this way. Yes, I am THAT NERD who feels like she got away with something. LOL.

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