January Challenge: Finding Nestlings

The New Year begins with a new challenge from Heidi Mordhorst. She suggested that we: “Write or find a nest poem: a longer poem of a dozen lines within which you find at least half a dozen nestlings, à la Irene Latham.”

If you haven’t encountered Irene’s latest book, “This Poem is a Nest”, you are probably not familiar with the concept of nestlings, a version of found poems. True to her brilliant, innovative style, Irene has written a poem and then used that poem as the source for smaller found poems, or nestlings. The only hard-and-fast rule is to use the words in the order in which they appear in the original source poem. Titles do not need to come from the poem. It’s far more challenging than it sounds, but it’s also a lot of fun!

Initially, I thought I was going to work with a poem I’d written that was inspired by Robert Frost. I ended up changing my mind and choosing a piece by Frost for my nest. This might be cheating, but I prefer to call it improvising. I chose Frost’s poem, “A Prayer in Spring.”

A Prayer in Spring

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfill.

No photo description available.

Here are my nestlings (though I didn’t quite make it to the requisite half dozen):

Oh, spring!
pleasure by day
by night

And then hummingbird departs

darting meteor
off a blossom

In this second year of the pandemic…

far away
uncertain harvest
need, loss

A Sudden Haunting of Memories

ghosts swarm
make us 
stand still

A Heartfelt Plea

oh, not to think!
uncertain by day
ghosts by night

To see what other Swaggers have done with this challenge, visit their blogs:
Linda Mitchell: A Word Edgewise
Catherine Flynn: Reading to the Core
Margaret Simon: Reflections on the Teche
Heidi Mordhorst: My Juicy Little Universe

Then be sure to stop by Sylvia Vardell’s blog, Poetry for Children. She’s hosting the Poetry Friday Roundup there this week and she’s sharing a sneak peek of 2021 poetry for young people. What a resource!

32 thoughts on “January Challenge: Finding Nestlings

  1. […] Heidi Mordhorst: My Juicy Little UniverseLinda Mitchell: A Word EdgewiseMargaret Simon: Reflections on the TecheMolly Hogan: Nix the Comfort Zone […]


  2. margaretsmn says:

    For someone who feels daunted by titles, you have made titles work for you here. “In this second year of pandemic” hits me in my gut as teachers drop like flies at our school. On a happier note, I love the image of the hummer departing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kay Mcgriff says:

    I like your improvisation! That heartfelt plea in you last poem gets me right where I am today.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Molly, I agree that this was quite a challenge! And there are so many possibilities. I absolutely LOVE “And Then Hummingbird Departs.” “Darting meteor” is exactly right!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. katswhiskers says:

    I am loving the joy in your first nestling. And that photo, too! Which I can only assume is yours? (Is that a berry in a beak? Lovely pop of colour – and straining energy.) And there is so much mood in your titles – especially, ‘A Sudden Haunting of Memories’.

    I’m wishing you springtime!

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      Thanks, Kat. It is my photo. I had a delightful encounter with a nest full of cedar waxwings about a year ago. I’m glad you liked the titles. I had a lot of fun with them (which is NOT typically what happens when I’m trying to title things!) Spring’s still a while away here.


  6. Gail Aldous says:

    Oh, Molly, I love these! I have Irene’s book, but I’ve been savoring it reading some other novels that are not as special as her book. Forget that. One of my favorite nestlings is darting meteor/ thrusts/ off a blossom because it’s such an awesome image! Love how you arranged the words. My other favorite is ghosts swarm/ make us /suddenly /stand still because it’s a spooky, scarier image! Reading the nestling aloud, it becomes more spooky because you here the /s/ assonance and the /s/ alliteration. Great arrangement of words. Thank you for the treats.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Molly, how lovely to create these sweet nestlings! I love Irene’s concept and how it’s catching on too! Thanks for joining the Poetry Friday fray today too!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Gail Aldous says:

    PS I also love your photo. Love how the pinks and reds pop against the greens and brown! Were you in a tree stand? Oops, on my “here” that should be (hear) in my previous reply.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Sally Murphy says:

    Molly this is a wonderful collection of nests. I especially savoured:
    ghosts swarm
    make us
    stand still

    The juxtaposition of swarm and still made me, too, stand still and ponder the poem.
    Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. lindabaie says:

    This is my first post to read, Molly, & you’ve set a high bar for your group. Using Frost feels wonderfully right. He keeps words for our inspiration as you’ve shown in your nestlings. “Ghosts swarm” feels especially poignant. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      I also love Frost’s words, Linda. I’d started reading a poem of his every day and was really enjoying it. Unfortunately, I’ve had a bit of a time crunch and haven’t been able to enjoy my “mornings with Frost” recently. I’m hoping to start back soon!


  11. Golly, (oops) Molly! Here you are first out of the gate, and blazing. As I say in my post, it really matters what nest you start with, and you DID NOT cheat by “finding” a poem like Frost’s. “Sudden Haunting” is exquisite.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Molly! I love your improvisation here… and your titles!! Wonderful way you’ve used them as a tool to add meaning and power… “Sudden Haunting” is my favorite at this particular moment, but I’m also in love with that “darting meteor” – BEAUTIFUL! Thank you. xo

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I think it’s wonderful that you chose Frost’s A Prayer in Spring. It creates a lovely respite as I gaze out the window at snow-covered yards. Your nestlings are terrific. I especially like the hummingbird–I can just see that darting meteor. Nicely done!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. haitiruth says:

    It IS a lot harder than it looks (I’ve tried), but you did great! And I love your source material, too! Ruth, thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com

    Liked by 1 person

  15. janicescully says:

    Molly, I love the Frost poem and the nestlings you discovered. My favorite tonight is the first that begins with “Oh, Spring!” because it conjured the loveliness of spring and I found that comforting. My head hurts from the news, so you post with all the image of nature was just right.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. laurashovan222 says:

    “darting meteor” — what a fitting image for a hummingbird!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Molly, I love the original poem you chose and the nestlings that sprouted from it. They are all lovely. I’m enjoying reading all of the posts from the nestling challenge.


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