SOLC Day 6: Poetry Friday: Question Poem


March 2020 SOLC–Day 6
A huge thank you to Two Writing Teachers for all that they do to create an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write, learn, share and grow.

Today’s post is doing double duty for the SOLC and Poetry Friday.


This month Margaret Simon challenged our writing group to write a question poem. “What is a question poem,” you ask? Well, Susan Sherwood at Pen & the Pad writes: “A question poem is described by its name: it’s a series of queries. The poem generates one question after another, building upon a topic.”

I was looking forward to this challenge, but it didn’t go as smoothly as I’d imagined it would. I can’t tell you how many questions I posed, trying to find a way into a poem. I’ve gone from the meaning of life to the inconsistency of dress sizing. There were so many false starts! I worked on poem after poem, finally I settled on one poem for a while, only to junk it a week later. Then, as the deadline loomed, I went back to that poem again. Ugh! It still felt like a hot mess. Last night, I actually began to compose an “I’m sorry but I’m not sharing this month” e-mail to send to the group. But I couldn’t quite bring myself to push send.

The SOLC reminds me that you have to challenge yourself, to show up and try, and Amanda Potts reminded me yesterday that sometimes you have to accept when something is “Good enough.”  So, I’m not wild about this poem, but I’m sharing it anyway. I may rework it. I may junk it again. But I’m putting it out there in the spirit of this crazy thing called writing. It’s all about process right?

Why is the barista sad today?

Why is the barista sad today?
What story weighs her down?
Will my coffee–
half-caff, light two percent please–
contain the flavor of her quiet sorrow?
Why is it so easy to overlook
each others’ stories?
To let our eyes slide away?
Do we ask?
And if we do,
do we truly listen?
Which version of our own stories
do we share?
Which truth percolates up
in a rich brew of fact
and fallacy?

Does she even know
how beautiful her skin is?
How is it that,
at my age,
I have never learned
to apply foundation?
Shouldn’t everyone know how
to hide their blemishes?
To chose the face they share
with the world?

Does she appreciate
the firmness of her jawline?
When did mine soften anyway?
How did I go from ten years old
to turning fifty plus change
in the blink of an eye?
And how can that
already measure
more than half a life?

©Molly Hogan, 2020 (draft)

You can check out some other question poems at the following links:
Margaret Simon — Reflections on the Teche
Linda Mitchell– A Word in Edgewise
Heidi Mordhorst — My Juicy Little Universe
Catherine Flynn — Reading to the Core

This week’s Poetry Friday is hosted by Rebecca Herzog at her blog, Sloth Reads. She’s sharing two poems that she wrote during Laura Shovan’s February Poetry Project. They cover an unusual range from volcanoes to eggs. 🙂

44 thoughts on “SOLC Day 6: Poetry Friday: Question Poem

  1. dogtrax says:

    with the query:
    the question
    worth asking,
    the poem worth
    the scene worth
    the song worth

    for the answers,
    elusive though
    they may be,
    swim inside
    the questions

    – a poem riff off your questioning poem ..

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Fran Haley says:

    Oh, how you look with writer’s eyes, seeing the facets of beauty in the ordinary encounters. The questions frame it so perfectly. And I am right there with you in those last lines, “How did I get here?”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. humbleswede says:

    Well, it may be a draft in your mind, but I love it. I love how the coffee images waft through the whole poem. I love the opening line and the unspoken conversation. I love the question that starts, “Why is it so easy to overlook…” What you accomplished by asking was to get us all interested in that overlooked story. This poem raised the mundane moment to a meaningful one. Submit it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Linda Mitchell says:

    I do love this poem for the weight of the moment someone at fifty plus change has that is without worth of worry for someone young, serving coffee. I think this poem has more legs than you might think it does. Don’t scrap it. Let it percolate? steep? marinate? Let it be for now.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m with Humbleswede and Linda–I see perks and polishes since the last draft that bring the whole poem way up, and it was a good one to start with. If I may, what you are doing is moving away from “wow this scene is beautiful” (which you do so well with camera and words) to “wow is this scene beautiful?” (which is a much more interesting kind of writing, if you ask me). Go Brave Molly.

    Liked by 2 people

    • mbhmaine says:

      I like your question–“Is this scene beautiful?” –and am going to tuck that one away. My “go to” is to write poems that try to show the beauty rather than ask the question. You’re right that there’s power in doing the latter. Thanks for the food for thought!


  6. margaretsmn says:

    So many great comments already. I do love this revision. It keeps going on in the mind of this fifty-something (me) and carries the metaphor of making coffee into a whole new realm of self-exploring questions. Keep it!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Patty McLaughlin says:

    I like this question poem, especially the last line.

    Hang in there, girl, it’s Friday!

    Sent from my iPad


    Liked by 1 person

  8. Midnightlion says:

    Hi. Really enjoyed this post.
    Would you like to enter my poetry competition that ends on Tuesday?
    Here is the link to it,

    Please let me know if you want to enter, I hope you do 💕
    If not, please share…

    Liked by 1 person

  9. One thing I took away from Naomi Shihab Nye when she was on TLD was the importance of asking questions in poems. Like Heidi says, it helps us as writers (and readers) get underneath the surface. Writing a poem that’s ALL questions? Now, that’s seems a bit unnatural to me, so I think I would have had difficulty with this challenge as well. Still, I love the questioning journey you took us on. Brava for not throwing in the towel.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      Thanks, Michelle. My personal opinion is that there’s room for statements and questions within a question poem, but that might just be me going rogue. Now that I’m “fifty plus change”, I’m much more inclined to see rules and guidelines as suggestions or starting places. 🙂


  10. Oh my! This writing is superb! I love how you used words: percolating, rich brew…
    And you are so specific when you describe the barista. You actually saw her and empathized with her. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. kareneastlund4898 says:

    Loved the poem, all the coffee images, all the questions. I’m glad you were brave. I often feel unready to post also, but… what the heck??? Go for it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      With the daily posting challenge, sometimes it’s either “be brave” or “give up.” For now, I’m a bit too stubborn to give up. I’m hoping that holds true through the roller coaster journey of March.


  12. lindabaie says:

    I love that you looked outward, in the coffee shop, then inward, trying your ‘new’ self on & wondering how you got there. You may want to do more, but don’t throw it away. I loved it!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. paulabourque says:

    Are you kidding me?! You’re not wild about this poem?! I wish I had written it-the way you wove in coffee references and connected disparate ideas (the sad look of the barista to your own self reflections). I want to try this form in my notebook this week- thanks for the inspiration and your courage to post it!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Tara Smith says:

    I really love these lines:
    Why is it so easy to overlook
    each others’ stories?
    To let our eyes slide away?

    Why, indeed?

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      Thanks, Tara. I think there’s such a balance between navigating our own lives and being open to others and their lives. If I’ve learned anything in life, it’s that we all have our own stories.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. I really love this poem. You’re too hard on yourself. After it rests for a while you might appreciate the feelings it evokes. I often wonder about people I meet, including baristas at the coffee shop I go to. I wonder about their lives. I’m glad you shared it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      Thanks so much, Janice. The hardest thing for me with this poem was bringing it into focus. I tweaked it again just before posting and a few things clicked into place. I’ll let it rest for a bit and then perhaps return to it. Thanks again!


  16. This is my favorite slice I’ve read this year. Such emotion and such careful choice of words in your questions. My favorite line:
    “Will my coffee–
    half-caff, light two percent please–
    contain the flavor of her quiet sorrow?”
    I wish I had the courage to share some of what you said with others….what a better world we’d live in if we were more gentle with each other…

    Liked by 1 person

  17. lrimkunas says:

    This is such a cool structure! I love how you preface it with the process of searching for a topic/question to begin with. Lovely diction, particularly the coffee terms woven throughout. I am interested in the shift where you start to have an unspoken connection- her youth, your wondering where the time has gone. I love 50 plus change. Me too!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. kd0602 says:

    I love the way the questions build and you move from the surface, to a closer look, to introspection and questions about yourself. Thanks for pushing back against your inner critic and pushing the publish button!


    Liked by 1 person

  19. cvarsalona says:

    Molly, while you may think that this poem is not your best, I find it quite nicely pieced together with your questioning. You managed to not only give us a glimpse of the barista but insight into your process. The ending line is strong and introspective.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      Thanks for the feedback, Carol. I had a hard time bringing this one into focus. Finding an ending line (which I actually moved from earlier in the poem) was a key part of that process.


  20. Tabatha says:

    Thank you for sharing this with us…I know how hard it is to decide what is worth putting out there! I feel like “Will my coffee–
    half-caff, light two percent please–
    contain the flavor of her quiet sorrow?” is a really interesting question, because it does feel like love works its way into our food…why not sorrow? Also “Shouldn’t everyone know how
    to hide their blemishes?” is a good question, and one that goes well with my ongoing consideration of imperfection!


  21. Molly, I am in awe of how your poem moves from an observation to a deeper contemplation of life. I agree with Tabatha that “Shouldn’t everyone know how/to hide their blemishes?” is an interesting question. I’m not convinced the answer is always yes. Your final question, though, is the one that I struggle with. How did those years go by so fast?


  22. Such a poignant question poem. I was most touched by “Will my coffee–
    half-caff, light two percent please–
    contain the flavor of her quiet sorrow?”
    Thank you for sharing, Molly!


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