“In One Word” Poems

Late in May I read a post from April Halprin Wayland describing a new form of poems she’d been writing. She called them “In One Word” poems. There was a puzzle-y aspect to the form (think Word Scramble) that immediately appealed to me. April’s linked post outlines her step-by-step description of the process, but essentially, to write an “In One Word” poem, you

  • choose a word
  • list words that you find within that word
  • choose words from that list
  • write a poem in which each line ends with one of those words

Easy, right?

Not quite. I immediately began fiddling around with the form in my notebook. Initially, I got stuck on step one: Choose a word. It was hard! I wanted to choose the perfect word. But what was that? Did I want a word that annoyed me or one that was personally meaningful or one that held surprising words within it? Then, though I can word scramble with the best of them, constructing a meaningful poem from the resulting words added yet another layer of difficulty. Eventually, I put the form to the side for a while.

When I was faced with writing a Summer Poetry Swap poem in August for the mighty Tabatha Yeatts, I turned to this form again. This time the one word choice was easy: Imperfect

Within Imperfect

If you forever seek perfect,
you may instead discover a recipe
for dissatisfaction–a price
too high to remit.

But within imperfect is a permit
to take risks, light a fire
of creativity, to be bold and fierce.

When you embrace imperfect,
you set yourself free.

Β©Molly Hogan

Then, this month Catherine Flynn suggested writing an “In One Word” poem for our challenge. Sharing the poem I wrote for Tabatha felt a bit like cheating, so I fiddled a bit more. Ultimately I decided to work with the word “gardens”, as mine have been such a source of comfort for me this summer.

Within my garden

A spider darns,
repairs its web, an intricate snare
for unwitting victims who dare
to cross the sea
of leaves and blossoms, to rend
those delicate threads, drag
them with feet and wings, and end
web-caught amidst the fragrant sage
bordering the garden.

Β©Molly Hogan

Hmmmm…..Sometimes a poem moves in a different direction than you anticipate. So much for solace in the garden!

To see other “In One Word” poems, check out these blogs:
Linda Mitchell
Catherine Flynn
Margaret Simon
Heidi Mordhorst

This week Carol Varsalona is hosting the Roundup at her blog, Beyond Literacy Link. Carol is a tireless poetry ambassador and nature enthusiast who, among other things, creates fabulous virtual seasonal galleries of photographs and poetry to share. She’s unveiling her Embraceable Summer Gallery with a few sensational highlights in her post and a link to the full gallery. Make sure to stop by and check it out!

47 thoughts on ““In One Word” Poems

  1. I love that! I will actually try it with one of the Word of the Day Challenges, that way I don’t have to decide on a word!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. […] just read this blog, https://nixthecomfortzone.com/2020/09/04/in-one-word-poems/, and read about this type of writing. I want to try it with some of the Word of the Day […]

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  3. Tabatha says:

    Such a potent mix of fragrant delicacy and danger in your spider poem, Molly! (I saw a spider eating a butterfly on my local naturalist Facebook group this morning…so disturbing!!) As you know, I love your poem for me! Thanks πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  4. These are both wonderful, Molly! I’m adopting “when you embrace imperfect,/you set yourself free” as my new motto. I’m astonished at how many great words are hiding within “garden.” You have spun them together masterfully!

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      It was such fun finding hidden words (though I did have to make garden plural to expand my word possibilities). There are a lot of negative words I didn’t use: danger, anger, rage. Wow! Who knew? Perhaps knowing that influenced the direction of my poem…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. maryleehahn says:

    Wow. Both of these are fabulous! I’m with Catherine in taking the lines from IMPERFECT as my new motto!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. lindabaie says:

    I love them both, Molly, and as for your ‘solace’, even spiders need to eat! You’ve given us food for thought in both!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Embracing the imperfect is quite liberating, isn’t it? If I didn’t I couldn’t write my blog. πŸ˜‰ The word “garden” does contain some evocative words, like snare, drag and sage. I could feel what it might be like to be “web-caught amidst the fragrant sage.”

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Your ‘imperfect’ poem is, in one word, perfect! And I love what grew out of your one word, ‘garden’. I plan to try this one word form, but I think settling on that one word might be as big of a challenge as writing the poem itself! Thanks for sharing your creativity, Molly! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  9. katswhiskers says:

    These are wonderful, Molly. You have made them so meaningful and beautiful! (Though for sure your garden poem was surprising – and yet also very true.) Thank-you for the wonder – and the inspiration.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Whoa-hoa! Both are (imperfectly) perfect, Molly! I am repeatedly stunned at how the words that fall forth from the set of starting letters seem effortlessly apt to the topic–but maybe we are just poets skilled at turning any words to our purpose. But see how different the words produced by Linda’s “futbol,” my “dismantle,” your “gardens”? Your small, harsh & beautiful webstory is so lovely, ending with the fragrant sage. ❀

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      The word generation aspect is such fun and, I agree, often surprising! As I noted in another comment, you can find “rage”, “danger” and “anger” in garden! :0 It’s fun to try to spin a poem from the resulting pot of words.

      Like

  11. Kay Mcgriff says:

    I missed April’s post, so am glad to discover this form from the Sunday Swaggers. I enjoyed both of your poems. Now to try one for mself.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Linda Mitchell says:

    Bravo, Molly! I really do love the literal and figurative of within my garden. And, when a poem takes its own direction I love it all the more. that fragrant sage. What a wonderful place to land. I want to be there…spiderweb and all.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. cvarsalona says:

    Molly, I thought I read your Imperfect poem before someplace? Did I imagine that? Anyways, it makes me think deeply as I read and reread your thoughtful lines: “But within imperfect is a permit/ to take risks, light a fire/ of creativity, to be bold and fierce.” Thanks for offering the set us free line when imperfect invites us in.
    As for your one word poem-congratulations on making the format seem easy with your flow while I know that you spent time trying to bring it all together (and that you did).
    PS: Thanks for the shoutout.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      Carol, Tabatha shared the poem at the Imperfect website, so you probably saw it there. πŸ™‚ Thanks again for hosting this week and for handling the technology glitch with aplomb!

      Like

  14. Molly, these are both wonderful. That Imperfect one says what I’ve always felt, but what I think so many people (especially kids) need to hear! Permission to create, to be free, to be imperfect. And I adore your gardens one, too: to cross the sea
    of leaves and blossoms — fantastic!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Karen Edmisten says:

    I can smell the sage from here and I’ve definitely been embracing imperfection for a long time. πŸ™‚ I love this form and want to give it a try. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      The form is a bit addictive! I think it could be a great warm up exercise when writing about a particular topic. When you can’t find the words you want, it helps you realize what you want to say! lol

      Like

  16. The “In One Word” poems seem to have the right amount of playfulness for these times. Your “Imperfect” was clever. Finding permit was brilliant. Your poem is a cautionary tale for those who value their “perfectionism.” – The focus is the A grade, the learning is fine. Just reverse those two thoughts, life looks pretty good and manageable. I was one of those focusing on the A for too long, until I reversed roles and became a teacher. At the university, my intent was take the grade out of the equation. Come committed with an open mind, ready to join the learning community, and the learning and the grades will all take care of themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      Well, I can certainly attest to your success at the university! Also, true confession–I enjoy trying to find the “within” words myself first, but then I resort to googling to make sure I’ve gotten all the “good” ones. I’m pretty sure I can’t take credit for finding “permit.”

      Like

  17. Molly! I am excited that you’ve embraced my In One Word form! And I love that your titles begin with “WITHIN”…I may imitate that from now on.

    I love “within imperfect is a permit/to take risks,”…as a teacher terrified of swimming in this complicated Zoom galaxy, I will take that as my mantra today.

    And you found ways to rhyme your garden poem: bonus points!

    I am flattered to be given the middle name “Pulley”…I love how often I’m mistaken for April Pulley Sayre, whose work I adore.

    Stay safe. And vote!
    Warmest,
    April Halprin Wayland

    Liked by 1 person

  18. […] this after Christine – Stine Writing posted about this interesting form. It’s called an “In One Word Poem” and it is an absolute delight to be challenged to create in this way! My husband supplied the […]

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  19. Two totally imperfect poems with embraceable perfection Molly, and I do love all the feet, wings, and sage in your garden poem, thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

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