Having a great fondness for Heidi Mordhorst’s definito form, last month I tucked away a mental note to write one for the Poetry Pal’s shared challenge for today. In Heidi’s words, “the definito is a free verse poem of 8-12 lines (aimed at readers 8-12 years old) that highlights wordplay as it demonstrates the meaning of a less common word, which always ends the poem. I’ve written definitos before (here), but it had been quite a while since I’d played with the form. As usual, I wish I’d had more time!
Half the fun of writing a definito is choosing the word you want to highlight. With butterflies on the mind in my classroom this week, emerge was an easy win.
A scuba diver bubbles up from turbulent seas. A skyline materializes as coastal fog fades. From a too-tight chrysalis a butterfly steps and spreads its crumpled wings. To move out or away from To come into view To emerge.
Make sure to visit The Opposite of Indifference where Tabatha Yeatts is hosting this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup. There are sure to be other definitos for you to enjoy, along with an assortment of other poetry.
This month it was my turn to pick the writing challenge for the Inklings. Spring arrives a bit later up here in Maine, so my thoughts turned to the much vaunted “spring cleaning.” Anyone who knows me well, knows that cleaning is not my forte. Still, here was the challenge I posed (perhaps with procrastination in mind): “Spring is finally arriving in Maine, and though, year after year, I turn my back on spring cleaning, I thought it might be fun to write a poem about some sort of domestic task. (Writing a poem = way more fun than cleaning!) “
I also shared a link to a possible mentor poem called, aptly, “Spring Cleaning”.
Spring Cleaning by Ellen M. Taylor
Why are there no poems of the joy of vacuum cleaning after a long
winter? Of the pleasure of pulling the couch back, sucking up cobwebs, dead
flies, candy cane wrappers, cookie crumbs? The sun rises earlier now, flooding
the room with daffodil light, enough to see long unseen clumps of dog hair,…
Once I’d shared the challenge, I realized that I really didn’t know what I wanted to write. All my best intentions to clean and organize scatter every weekend morning when I awake to a vibrant, changing world. How could I write about cleaning? Perhaps more to the point, how can you stay inside when there’s something to exclaim over around each corner?! The bees are buzzing! The alewives are running and the osprey are fishing! There’s a pair of wrens nesting in the tree out back! Lilacs perfume the air! Dandelions transform lawns to wishing field overnight! Spring showers bauble the garden! The warblers are warbling! There’s just so much going on! In Spring the world is on permanent exclamation point! It’s a time of year that invites, almost demands, celebration. I kept thinking of the hymn, “How Can I Keep from Singing?” Finally, I decided to use that song as a sort of parody base for my poem.
You can find different versions of the lyrics, but here’s a choral rendition of the the version I prefer which is more inclusive:
So, as you read, feel free to sing along with my poem. To be honest, I do not know how well the rhythm and the poem itself works without the hymn in mind, because I sang as I wrote this and can’t divorce the melody from the words!
As Winter fades and Spring arrives abrim with new creations the virtuous are locked inside obsessed with dirt predation
But robin’s rockin’ on the lawn an oriole is singing wisteria drips down the vines while they’re inside mop-wringing
I tarry in the shower stall where grout is grim and greening I make one desultory swipe then flee away from cleaning
Although the corner cobwebs grow in silent protestation I can not yield the duster more without loud lamentation
The grass is green, the skies are blue the vernal pools are teeming What foolish person would I be, if I just kept on cleaning?
The meadows burst with newfound life sweet blossoms resurrected Each day unfolds with new delights Spring cleaning is neglected
When flowers tremble in the breeze and birds are hover-gleaning I will not yield to tyrant dirt I will not keep on cleaning
I will not scour, dust and mop and waste these hours, fleeting Spring’s miracles will soon be gone. There’s time enough for cleaning.
Karen Edmisten is hosting this week’s Poetry Friday Round up at her blog. Be sure to stop by and enjoy a wonderful poem by Yeats and while you’re there, check out some other posts as well. If you want to check out what the other Inklings did with this challenge, click on the links below:
My mind is focusing more and more on school lately, and I’m locked into a repeat ride on an emotional roller coaster. I veer without warning from corkscrewing anxiety into a butterfly loop of excitement at being back in the classroom then bank around a corner to spiral into feeling overwhelmed then zoom up the next hill feeling energized until I lose momentum and tip over the top, then dive, practically free-falling, down that mountain of anxiety again. And that all can happen within a span of one minute. Over and over and over.
in Anxiety River.
Forecast is calling
for unrelenting rain
with the potential
for severe thunderstorms.
There’s bound to be flooding.
What are you doing
Still, I remain cautiously optimistic…
a golden shovel after Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road”
It’s a real s*!t show
out there these days, with a
barrage of bad news and little
to leaven the load. My faith
in community, in country, wobbles. There’s
no steady base. We don’t need magic,
but science, and compassion and a belief in
the power of “us” to alleviate the
burden and to shine a light out into the night.
In July, Mo Daley and Tracie McCormick shared a prompt at Ethical ELA to write a monotetra poem. This form, created by Michael Walker, was totally new to me. It’s composed of any number of quatrains (4-lined stanzas) with 8 syllables per line. Each line in a stanza has the same ending rhyme (mono-rhyme) and the final line of each stanza repeats the same four syllables. If that doesn’t make sense, check out the link to the prompt where Mo and Tracie explain it much more ably than I!
Just before seeing this prompt, I had read about the likely impending demise of our sole 207 area code in Maine. I decided to use that topic to try a monotetra. I found this form really engaging to write, but also really challenging. I’ve been revising my poem up to the last minute and it still feels clunky. Please note that you need to read 207 as “two oh seven” to make the syllable count work.
Two Oh Seven: The end of an era
The news is stark, the outcome bleak
Is there some respite we can seek?
Some technological technique?
To stay unique. To stay unique.
Our code’s a relic from the past.
Too many numbers have amassed.
The unused ones are going fast.
One code can’t last. One code can’t last.
Our code–a unifying call
of “All for one and one for all!”
One number easy to recall.
Now doomed to fall. Now doomed to fall.
207 is depleted.
Our supply has been exceeded.
Numbers cannot be repeated.
Must concede it. Must concede it.
This month I was lucky enough to be paired with the great Tabatha Yeatts herself for a poetry swap! She created this beautiful poem with “a dash” of my blog theme in response to my photo of a snail. I love her word choice, like “buttersoft lit morning”, and the series of compelling questions at the end. (As a confirmed nervous spectator, they really hit home!) Thanks so much, Tabatha, for this lovely, thoughtful poem and for coordinating the swap.
Please add your link below to participate in this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup!
I caught part of Krista Tippett’s “On Being” interview with Marilyn Nelson last weekend. In the portion I heard, Marilyn Nelson shared part of her poem “Farm Garden,” inspired by the life of Venture Smith. I grabbed a strike line to write this golden shovel poem.
a golden shovel after Marilyn Nelson’s “Farm Garden”
These days gratitude
soothes my parched throat. It is
a balm in fevered days, a
source of comfort, never-emptying,
ever-present in life’s cup.
Recently, I’ve been actively working to foster a sense of gratitude. I’ve been focusing on positive moments throughout the day, then writing small poems and sharing them with the hashtag #poeticdiversion. (Please join in on Twitter if you’d like to do so.) Already, I can attest to the value of searching for and focusing on positive moments and gratitude every day!
Here are five small poems from this week:
some call it “weed”
I prefer “volunteer”
Laura Purdie Salas is hosting this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup at her blog . She’s sharing a delightful poem about a pufferfish (Be sure to take time to read this one aloud!) and encouragement for dealing with poetry writing anxiety. Thanks, Laura!
I’ve been dabbling in this and that this month, but mostly I’ve found a lot of inspiration in the recent posts of different Poetry Friday participants. I can’t say how thankful I am for this community. It enriches my life in so many ways!
First, I was inspired to respond to the Poetry Princess invitation to write an etheree. An etheree is a 10 line poem, beginning with a one syllable line and working its way up to 10 syllables in the tenth line.
of fragrant blooms
to welcome July,
who unleashes her heat
and temper in thundrous bursts.
She cedes lush gardens to August
who blankets them in humidity
and the faintest whiff of autumnal spice.
Matt Esenwine’s post last week reminded me of the power of a cherita. Cheritas tell a story in 6 lines, separated into one, two and three lines. Better yet, they don’t typically have titles and wow, do I struggle with titles!
At the shore
the waves curl and unfurl
in endless repetitions.
Two young lovers, sun-lit and carefree,
construct a castle of sand,
beautiful and doomed.
Finally, after reading Mary Lee Hahn’s post last week, I was inspired to create a daily challenge for myself and anyone who wants to join . Rather than spinning in circles trying to figure out what’s going to happen with school, I’m trying to focus on something small and positive each day, enjoying fleeting moments as they happen. Join in if you’d like!
in the garden
summer sun comes on strong
This month’s round of Ethical ELA prompts was a welcome distraction in the midst of increasingly distressing news and looming decisions about the start of the school year. Mo Daley and Tracie McCormick started participants off with a rondeau prompt. As they explained, “The rondeau is a French poetic form composed of a rhyming quintet, quatrain, and sestet. The rentrement, or refrain, is a repeating line throughout. A rondeau usually has 8 syllables per line and refrains of 4 syllables. The rhyme scheme is AABBA AABR AABBAR. ”
I’m not big on name-calling, but these days my temper is fraying. I’m so tired of being angry and working to remain civil with people who simply make me crazy. I’m also heartily sick of people not wearing masks.
Wear Your Mask!
Don’t listen when the asses bray
about their rights taken away.
Ignorant choices just prolong
the upward trend–dread Covid’s song.
A mask is a small price to pay.
There really is no other way
to stem the tide without delay.
So wash your hands, avoid the throng
and wear your mask.
My temper has begun to fray
when faced with mask-less fools each day.
The evidence is clear and strong:
Mask naysayers are deadly wrong.
Reject this toxic game they play–
and WEAR YOUR MASK!
Many who oppose masks refer to mask wearers as “sheep.” (I won’t tell you what I call them in the privacy of my home.) My recent non-verbal response to their derisive refrain of “Don’t be a sheep!” was to order masks made from this fabric:
These will probably be the first masks I’ll look forward to wearing!
This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by the talented and prolific Margaret Simon at her blog, Reflections on the Teche. Margaret dove into some poetry work last week and is sharing some quotes about what poetry is. She’s collecting ideas from participants and hoping to create a collaborative poem. Stop on by and add your thoughts about poetry to the comments.
Last week I opened up the mailbox, expecting the regular array of bills, advertisements and political flyers, and instead found a slim package addressed to me. Oooh! Intriguing. Already my day was looking brighter! Seeing a familiar name above the return address, I realized it must be my first Summer Poetry Swap gift! I brought it into the house and immediately opened it.
Sure enough, Margaret Simon of Reflections on the River Teche had received my name in the match up. She sent me a lovely note on a beautiful photo card she’d made, along with a cute and cheerful notebook from a student fundraiser. Inside the notebook, she’d copied some of my recent photos from my Facebook page and included a copy of her gorgeous poem, “Mbuntu.” As a bonus (and an encouraging nudge), she’d added Michelle Haseltine’s Notebooking Bingo page. Thanks for such a personal and thoughtful gift, Margaret!
The kayaker doesn’t look
to see me watching him,
seeing how his body,
the water are one.
Stroke right, stroke left
sends a ripple from the
water to the trees
where light dances
like fine feathers.
Branches spread from bald
to shade the grass,
hide the tree frog,
nest the swallow.
A bird calls
like maracas at a Spanish
The sun rises to the sound
You might not know this, but Margaret also offers up a weekly poetry prompt each Thursday morning titled “This Photo Wants To Be A Poem”. It’s fun to participate, sharing quick responses and commenting on those of others. This week she shared this photo from her friend, JoAnne Duncan:
feather-at-sea, by JoAnne Duncan
Here’s my response:
Amidst a melody
one single feather,
retains the memory
Much to my delight, Margaret has also featured a few of my photos. Here’s one from this past spring and my response:
Youth’s bloom a golden memory,
her heart aquiver,
releases her arrowed seeds
to lift and fly
to unknown destinations
in the wild spring breeze.
Molly Hogan, 2020
Thanks again, Margaret, for my Summer Swap gifts and for all the poetry goodness you spread!
This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Jan Annino at her blog, Bookseedstudio. She’s sharing memories of her mother and a tender, original poem about swimming with her mother in the sea. Be sure to stop by and check out her post. She’s rounding up the old school way.
Last month I experimented in my notebook with a couple of Ethical ELA prompts. The first was from Margaret Simon who, within her prompt, asked “Are you a marcher or a leaper?” I didn’t manage to meet all the guidelines of the prompt (like the use an echo line), but enjoyed playing around with some of my favorite words.
No Clear Destination
I’m neither a marcher
nor a leaper,
rather a rambler,
one who coddiwomples
no clear destination in sight,
the journey the reward.
Another Ethical ELA prompt last month came from Melanie Crowder. She suggested identifying your emotional state then brainstorming things in the physical world that are illustrative of it. She encouraged writers to look beyond the obvious and then write a poem that reveals one’s emotional state through a description of that chosen object. I did initially have an emotional state in mind, but I think the poem wandered a bit.
Beneath earth’s surface,
silted and soiled,
layers of mica rest.
Light, soft, flexible,
into glittering sheets,
transparent to opaque,
reflective and insulating,
resistant to heat.
by the whirring blades
of a mower,
into a dazzling constellation
of shimmering slivers
This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by the ever-ready-for-a-challenge Linda Mitchell. She’s written an “In One Word” poem, a form newly created by April Halprin Wayland. Check out her post for an explanation of the form and a powerful original poem.
I think these poems are like purgatives (or at least I hope so), an attempt to relieve some of the deep concerns I feel under the onslaught of horrible news. There are still many wonderful things going on in my life, but sometimes I need to focus on the darker stuff.