Friday, July 5, 2019

Poetry Friday: A Triolet for the Heat

Triolets began as devotionals.  So for July's poetry challenge, I looked to my prayers (and to heat, as Liz suggested) for my inspiration.

Please don't summon the demon

Oh, mercy, I prayed for these days
Summer-long, blood-hot, even in shade;
When winter leeched me to pale beige,
Oh, mercy! I prayed for these days:
For gnats, for sweat, for turned mayonnaise,
For blighted tomatoes, burned legs, soured lemonade.
Oh, mercy. I prayed for these days.
Summer-long, blood-hot, even in shade...

----Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

More heated triolets can be found here:


Poetry Friday is hosted today by our own Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect. 

Friday, May 3, 2019

Poetry Friday: Squaring up the Dizain

The May challenge (chosen by me) is a French Dizain:

One 10-line stanza
10 syllables per line
Uses the following rhyme scheme: ababbccdcd

Bonus points for using the word “square” somehow (since the form IS a square)

For once, my mind went somewhere literal to begin my poem. I immediately thought of a builders square (or steel square) and quickly Googled it to see what that tool actually DOES.  I thought it was for drawing right angles. 

 Ha!  It's so, so much more.  A craftsmen wrote a whole book about it, and then condensed that book down to a booklet, which is now available as part of Google's Project Gutenberg.  And boy, is he opinionated about how to use it:

"I will not attempt in this small treatise, to give an historical account of the origin, growth and development of the square, as the subject has been treated of at length in my larger works, as I do not care to pad out these pages with matter that is not of a severely practical nature." ----ABC of the Steel Square and its Uses by Fred T. Hodgson

Severely practical...okay then.'s the thing...he then can't resist this bit: 

"It is no sin not to know much, though it is a great one not to know all we can, and put it all to good use."

And he goes on to chastise those too lazy to learn what to do with their tools. Not only practical, but MORAL severity.   It's enough to chill a poet facing a new form....

Am I using my tools well? 
Have I learned all I can? 
What if I'm only "padding out pages"?? 

Thankfully, I also discovered that beneath Mr. Hodgson's gruff exterior is a heart for making things of beauty and use.  And, I'm happy to say, his trade...a builder's trade... is filled with poetic language. 

That steel square?  The two arms are called the blade and the tongue.  

Building a roof?  The rafters might need to be "cheek-cut." 

Plus carpenters use all sorts of solid, juicy words like "run and rise" and "pitch" and "joist." 

I can get behind that. 

A Builder's Creed

Stair math: rise and run (or how high? how long?)
Roof math: pitch and width (or how steep? how spanned?)
Each step, each rafter, sawn true, and laid strong
by tools wiped of sweat, kept square and at hand.
So, too a poem is constructed and planned;
words measured by tongue, syllables cheek-cut
into blade-sharp lines which open and shut,
rhyme-fit like a bloodied paw to a snare;
a poem, a cathedral, both framed out of what
is redoubted, joisted, strung to mid-air.

                                 ---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

Participating poetry sisters can be found here:


Poetry Friday is hosted today by the incomparable Jama Rattigan at Alphabet Soup.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Poetry Friday: Anagram Poems

Anagram poems are wily.  They seem easy, but run you ragged. Also, they come in a myriad of forms, but for this challenge, we'll stick to the variations below (Each is linked to an example.)

1. lines or stanzas with word pairs that are anagrams (composed of the same letters), or
2. lines made up of all the same set of words, or
3. when end words all use at least four letters from words in the title.

I'm also going to add this definition (found by Tanita Davis):

4. a poem which anagrams the poet's name to find a title...and any poem you can create out of said title (usually humorous.)

All that to say:  I didn't really follow these rules.  (No one is surprised, right?)

Anyway, I landed instead, on a form that combines variations #1 and #3. (Honestly, #1 was fine, but I got tired of trying to find multiple pairs. #2 seemed too hard....and not really anagram-y. And #3 seemed more like a word search game.) 

So...  instead of multiple pairs, I decided to use only ONE set of anagrams, a list of six words which all use the same letters, and I used them all as end words, too.

Oh, AND I learned a new word.

From Creative Joys

Forgive me, I never knew your name

Unsung, sepal
props bud as it leaps
to bloom after long lapse,

sturdily bells to full calyx, but pleas
for love are unheard peals.
Beside blossoms, all pales.

----Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

More about sepals here (one of the four basic parts of a flower, how could I not know?)

And for more beautiful pictures of sepals by one who obviously DOES appreciate them, please see here.

Readers, I confess: the temptation to go silly was strong.  I made myself attempt a "serious" poem first.  Then I indulged in Variation #4.  Yes, I anagrammed my own name.  Found a title.  Wrote a poem to match.

 by Sara Lewis Holmes

For sale! For sale!
A simar or two….modest shifts for you and you!
Or is it better hawked as “wispy” dress?
Or say, a trailing scarf? Brought in at yonder wharf?
Or maybe it’s actually a jacket? With fur-lined placket?
Definitions diverge. Still, prices low. Splurge!

I'm saving you from my other anagram title:  "I am Showerless, Al."

My poetry sisters anagram poems (of all variations) can be found here:


Poetry Friday is hosted today by the delightful Karen Edmisten.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Poetry Friday: Mask Poems (or How to Hide Behind Everyday Objects)

The challenge this month (courtesy of Laura Purdie Salas) was to compose a mask poem from the point of view of an everyday object. After briefly reading about mask poems, and discovering they have almost no rules (yay!) I chose to be inspired by an everyday book I keep on my desk.  


I’m an open book,
an orderly muse;
I’m easy to dip into 
rifle  peruse

Need style? I’ve got
svelte   hip   rad
Lack range? Go ahead: 
roam  wander  gad 

Need an RSVP? Choose
overwhelmed  busy  engaged
Feeling mad? Upgrade to
furious  irate  enraged

Am I rich? Hardly.
Not a bit; in a word: no.
But if you're at a loss,
I’m overflowing with bon mot

I’m a depository, a nest egg,
A dragon’s lair of words;
A treasure house for all:
seekers writers nerds.

---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)


I was reminded of the richness of my thesaurus not only because it's on my desk in easy view, but because I recently discovered a delightful picture book biography of Dr. Peter Roget. From it, I learned that Thesaurus means "treasure house" in Greek.  Find it if you can.

The Right Word
 by Jen  Bryant,
 illustrated by Melissa Sweet

My poetry sisters have written an amazing array of mask poems.  You may find them here:

Rebecca (welcome!)

Poetry Friday is hosted today by TeacherDance

Friday, February 1, 2019

Poetry Friday: Minor Miracle (in the style of Marilyn Nelson)

Writing "in the style of" poems is lovely because you have a guide to follow. It can also make you wonder exactly which parts of the mentor poem to imitate, and which to let slide. The shape of the whole thing....or only the beginning and ending?  Something as small and as potent as the word choices? Or something as large and as nebulous as the theme?

All of those options were there in Marilyn Nelson's poem, "Minor Miracle," which Tanita suggested as our inspiration.  Go ahead, read it now, if you haven't already. 

Here's what this poem illuminated for me:  

how narrative it was, reading like lean unself-conscious prose, until at points, it broke into enjambment or poetic description.  

how matter-of-fact it was, too, letting the reader provide the emotion (brilliantly making us terrified for the characters in the poem, for example)

and, finally, how it began in medias res with the provoking words “which reminds me.”

I tried to use all of these things.  

Minor Miracle

Which reminds me 
of the day my baby boy was tucked
in a borrowed room. I’d left him, nestled in his Pack-n-Play,
next to a twin daybed, while I ate Tennessee turkey,
which is what he would later call bar-b-que, and in the closet
was a jumble of toys: a sturdy shopping cart, and plastic food
to put inside it; harmless Tonka trucks, and above that, a squashed line
of church dresses, hanging around, waiting. Of course, I knew

there were needles and pins in that room, and other sharp sewing
things, and a ironing board that unfolded from the backside
of the closet door. No room in that house was for one purpose
only. But after lunch, I thought we could nap together, me on the daybed,
and baby boy in his unfolded crib. I didn’t fit, though. A bolster,
the daybed’s length, made it serve as a couch. In the dim
light behind drawn blinds, I lifted that lumbering noodle of a pillow
into the air, making space for myself. But it struck
the etched square of glass—that thing, you know—that covers
the lightbulb—that thing on the ceiling! the shade, 
yes, that’s what it’s called. And it shattered. 

A rain of shards, each a needle, each a pin
fell into my baby boy’s nest. In the dark, he didn’t cry out. 
I threw open the closet door, the ironing board banging 
down. Dresses, covered in plastic, swayed. I yanked 
the tail of metal chain that ran to the weak bulb no one
much used except if they were ironing. Light.
A blurred circle of light. A holy-hand-me-down-halo of light.
My boy’s eyes were closed. A dagger of glass, five inches long,
lay beside his ear. No blood. No sound.
He napped on, as if nothing
had happened. I’m sorry, I said.
I’m sorry, I’m sorry.

                ---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved) 

I'll admit, what I found most difficult about this style was making myself not condense it, or stuff it with extra emotion...but just to let the story be, and have power on its own, as Minor Miracle does. Thank you for the illumination, Ms. Nelson. 

I'm excited for you to see what my poetry sisters have created for this challenge, too. (Kelly had some tech issues this month.) 


Poetry Friday is hosted today by Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference. 

Friday, January 4, 2019

Poetry Friday: Alphabet Portfolio

The post in which I learn a thing or two about typefaces.

One of the 26 typefaces in "Alphabet Portfolio"

Tricia challenged us to start the new year by writing a poem to one of several images she took at a University of Richmond art show.  I chose the one below,  "Alphabet Portfolio" by James Stroud and Matthew Carter.

According to the Center Street Gallery site, "This portfolio of prints by type designer Matthew Carter contains the 26 letters of the alphabet, all lowercase, etched into copper plates with aquatint. They were printed by master printer James Stroud. The 26 letters are Carter’s own favorites from typefaces designed by him in a wide variety of styles, both historically-derived and contemporary."

Turns out Matthew Carter is a typeface celebrity.  He created Verdana. And Georgia.  And he's won a MacArthur Fellowship. But what hooked me was that he started out in a type foundry,  working with metal "punches" to make letters cast into type.  The idea of letters as objects, to be "made" was fascinating to me.  And it got me started down the path of laying out my poem as precisely as his fonts are displayed on that wall. That is to say, in pairs...or couplets.  (Turns out couplet comes from the old French for "hinge." Metalwork, again.)

One of the 26 typefaces in "Alphabet Portfolio"

Below, I've mimicked the University of Richmond's gallery arrangement of his vertical pairs (A N,  B O,  C P,  etc.) And incorporated the lovely language of typography. And learned a thing or two about letters.

Love Letters

A face, captured, is a portrait
Not loved for itself, but born of it.

Better yet, a face, framed
Open to many, can be famed

Coveted, even, like no other part—
Pancreas, elbow, knee, heart—

Damned right. So if we elevate letters,
Quell not galleries for fancying font and typesetters;

Exclaim this: These are typefaces
Renowned for clarity, and fit to interstices,

Foundry-forged, digitally handmade:
Snell Roundhand, Walker, Cascade,

Georgia, Skia, Galliard: 
Trustworthy, energetic, suited for bards!

Hinged, yet on this: we write. We read.
Unsteady alphabet, sunken lede

Invites no lover to linger, nor kiss her;
Verses need steady lines, un-fissured.

Joy, then, in crisp and sturdy glyph,
Whistle-clean sans serif,

Kerned pairs, neatly-tucked descenders,
X-height finely-measured, graceful ascenders;

Luxuriate, at last, in the pomp and tosh:
Youthful stroke, stem, shoulder, swash;

 Mind each flip of curlicue, each gad—
 Zook. Love letters; all else is mad.

----Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

A fun graphic of typography terms can be found here.  (Gadzooks are a thing)

More about Matthew Carter here. 

And for a different arrangement of his letters (I'd have to change my poem!) see here.

You can find my fellow poets responses to their choice of image here:


Poetry Friday is hosted today by Poetry for Children.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Poetry Friday: A Rum of a List

December's challenge is a list poem, using at least three of these words:

paper, stars, messages, promises, dirt, flour, rum, hope

Good words, those (thanks, Liz!) However, I got side-tracked by rum. I don't even like rum that much. But it's a fun word with a fun history, and yeah...I guess it went to my head.

SarapulSar38/ Getty Images

Rum, clouded
with ginger beer and lime:
Dark and Stormy.

Rum, sluiced
with sugar and nutmeg (or cinnamon):
Bumbo, hope of pirates.

Rum, dirtied
with water ’til Black Tot Day:
Grog, a naval ration.

Rum, crushed
with biscuits, cocoa, pecans:
High-proof bites on wax paper.

Rum, promised
to raisins, to butter, to no-flour
puddings: On message…but…

Rum, besotted
by two-mocha cake:
Starred Recipe, below.

Double-chocolate Rum Cake

1 (18.5 oz.) Package Chocolate Cake Mix
1 (3.5 oz) Package Chocolate Instant Pudding Mix
4 Eggs
1 Cup Black Rum
3/4 Cup Water
1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil
1 (12 oz.) Package Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips, divided
1 Cup Raspberry Preserves (Seedless saves time, or strain, as below.)
2 Tbsp. Shortening
1 oz. White Chocolate

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 12-cup bundt pan, 10 inch tube pan or a 10 inch springform pan. Combine cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, 1/2 cup rum, water and oil in a large mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat on low speed until moistened. Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. Stir in 1 cup of the chocolate chips. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean. Cool in pan for 15 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool on a rack.

 2. In a small saucepan, heat preserves and remaining 1/2 cup rum. Strain through a sieve to remove seeds. Place cake on a serving plate. Prick surface of cake with fork. Brush raspberry glaze evenly over cake, allowing cake to absorb glaze. Repeat until all the glaze has been absorbed.

3. In a glass bowl, combine remaining chocolate chips and shortening. Microwave on medium-high heat until melted, about 1 minute. Stir until smooth. Spoon chocolate icing over cake. Let stand 10 minutes. Melt white chocolate and drizzle on top of chocolate icing. Let stand 10 more minutes.

Also, I'll be checking out these 10 Unusual Ways to Cook with Rum.

See what my fellow poets made of their lists:


Poetry Friday is hosted today by Elizabeth Steinglass.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Poetry Friday: A Raven, the Shade of Shadow

Photo Credit: Wallpaper Abyss

A raven,
the shade of shadow,
robs the roofline of its clean edges,
each caustic call a spike in morning's throat. 

                                       ---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

I usually introduce the challenge before the poem, but this month, it was so short, I thought I'd switch it up. The challenge (from Laura) was to compose a short poem (six lines or less) describing an animal of your choice using all three of these words: spike, roof, shadow.  What would YOU describe with these words?

My Poetry Sisters' poems are here:


Poetry Friday is hosted today by Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Poetry Friday: Before You (a cento)

The Tattered Cover, Denver, CO

Ever take something that wasn't yours? Did it haunt you?

What about a memory?  Can you borrow another person's eyes and see what they've seen? (Isn't that what fiction does?)

 And how about all the words you've consumed in the course of a reading don't ever give them back, of course, but how many can you reuse in a row without giving the original author credit?

None of these questions are really addressed by this month's challenge, in which the Poetry Sisters "borrow" lines from other poets to make new poems, an art form known as the cento. Still, in creating one, the poet has to decide what the limits of appropriation well as how to make something fresh out of "used" material.

To top it off, there really aren't a lot of rules.

To help with that last point, I threw down two additional guidelines for our centos, mostly to unify them. 

1)  We would each chose a different word from this common stanza to begin:

“This dream of water—what does it harbor?
I see Argentina and Paraguay
under a curfew of glass, their colors
breaking, like oil. The night in Uruguay”
---- "I See Chile in My Rearview Mirror" by Agha Shahid Ali

And then...

2)  Using our chosen word, we would each search the database at for other poems which also had lines containing that word. The lines we found would be the building blocks of our new poems. (All lines are credited to the original poets at the end of our centos.)

I chose the word "see" from Ali's stanza and found it to be the perfect doorway to other poems and poets.  Turns out poets "see" a lot.  Or they think they do.  I could work with that.

Before you

My childhood home I see again, and sadden with the view;
Is this a dream?—I see my grandpa milking,
I see the quilted mountains

I see my mother over the hot oil in the fryers
Are those my brothers, down there, those I see evacuating?
Because I see a part and not the whole,

I see us everywhere. On occasions of fancyness,
I see the lilacs crackling like static
I see it as music, I hear it as light;

I see how our lives have unfolded:
I see her hitchhiking the stars’ tar road—
And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.

Speak, and I see the side-lie of a truth:
I see Argentina and Paraguay
I can see the flaws in the glass

I see the whole morning before you.

            ----A Cento, compiled by Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

Line Credits:

1) My Childhood Home I See Again by Abraham Lincoln
2) One A.M. by David Young
3) Balance, onslaught by Khadijah Queen
4) The Red Sweater by Joseph O. Legaspi
5) Alamogordo 1945 by Adriano Spatola
6) I Know My Soul by Claude McKay
7) Never Ever by Branda Shaughnessy
8) Combustion by Sara Eliza Johnson
9 ) Roads by Amy Lowell
10) White Sands by Arthur Sze
11) The Last Kingdom by Jennifer Foerster
12) My Shadow by Robert Louis Stevenson
13) Modern Love: XXVI by George Meredith
14)  I See Chile in My Rearview Mirror by Agha Shahid Ali
15) Morning in the Burned House by Margaret Atwood
16) For You by Maureen N. McLane

Please find my Poetry Sisters' links to their centos below.  To a word, they are gorgeous.

Liz (with breaking)
Tanita (with like)
Laura (with glass)
Tricia (with under)

Andi and Kelly are on break.

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Beyond LiteracyLink.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Poetry Friday: What's to Be Done? (A Sestina)

Sestinas are not usually end rhymed. But they can have rhythm--- and when I write one,* I find myself moving into the cadence of spoken language, riffing in jagged jumps of words. I think it's to disguise the fact that I'm supposed to use the same six words, over and over and over, and we're more likely to do that in conversation, right? I also stave off boredom by embellishing the repeating pattern with internal rhyme. Whatever it takes, because this form is six stanzas long, with an additional closing envoi. I don't think I'd attempt one, except...

Tricia made me. And she made each of us throw two words into the "pot" so we'd have a common pool of words to choose from. That helped. Thanks, Tricia! (And thank you, Tanita, for turning me on to this handy Sestina-o-matic, which puts the chosen six words in the correct order.)

Beyond that, I only needed a starting place, and for me, that was one of our words:  Prism. It made me think of Miss Prism,** who is both rigid and pivotal in Oscar Wilde's play, The Importance of Being Earnest. And it made me remember the exhibit from WONDER, at the Renwick Gallery.  (Pictured above and left)  And, most of all, it got me thinking that a simple shape like a prism can be a powerful tool to see things in a new way. We all need that from time to time, especially when the world seems stuck in blindness.

What’s To Be Done?

The wildest of plays turns on Miss Prism
splitting folly from farce, her words like a blade
sharpening our ears until we bend
to her tale of a handbag and a baby, the string
of events so earnestly told we beam
at the deception and hastily about face

from laughter to love and on the face
of it, isn’t that, exactly, what prisms
are for? To righteously come abeam
our whitest thoughts; like a climber belayed
with pale rope suddenly seeing it is but string
if split into colored strands, and if history bends

towards justice, it’s like a river at the bend,
hooking an elbow punch to dirt’s face,
breaking time’s hands; if only we could string
together a new day as bright as a prism,
as long on light as a lithe blade,
as sure as feet balanced to a beam

without splintering the past, we'd remove the beam
from our eyes. Refracting is not only the bend
of light, but the shape of shade, like a sheath for a blade;
a polished block of glass has more than one face
we are prism after prism after prism after prism
a mighty hexagonal light-shattering string

of life-changing breaths, as light as silly string,
but together, a bulwark as broad as ark’s beam;
each a camera, each a chance to flip, like a prism,
the image, until by end and by end and by end,
with far folly and fierce farce, we face
what we see; so get out the pen blade

ready both handbag, and baby, and yes, like blade
braided from broad grass, cut deep; like string
on a finger, loop the past so we don’t forget to face
forward, and up to, what lies off beam
of the right course; and if we bend
light, no one will cry praise for our prism

There’s no daring blade; no super hero laser beam;
we are but search string; making maps that will bend
one face to one face, and unlock our prism.

                                               ---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

Check out what my poetry sisters have done with their six words:


*I've written only one other sestina. It's chaotic, too.  Here it is.

** Miss Prism spouts judgments like: "I am not in favour of this modern mania for turning bad people into good people at a moment's notice. As a man sows so let him reap."

Poetry Friday is hosted today by the amazing Mary Lee of A Year of Reading.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Poetry Friday: Independence, reported

Sometimes, the days before and after a key historical event are worth celebrating as much as the event itself.  Today, July 6th, is one of those days.

The Continental Congress voted for independence on July 2, 1776, but the text of the Declaration of Independence was not approved until the 4th, which wound up being the date printed on the broadsides sent to the states to be read. One of the most famous of those readings was on July 8th, in Independence Square in Philadelphia, by Col. John Nixon, next to what would be called "the Liberty Bell." A close second might be July 9th, which is the date on which Gen. George Washington directed the Declaration be read to his troops.

But what of people not within hearing range of these readings? When did they first encounter the words of the Declaration? It seems the answer is:  as soon as their local newspaper printed it.

In fact, days before some of those public readings, the full text of the Declaration appeared in the Pennsylvania Evening Post on July 6th, 1776. Other newspapers, including those in London and around the world, followed.

So, for today's poetry challenge, I choose to honor July 6th, the day the Declaration made it to the rest of us.  Here's to newspapers, and independence, and words that matter.

The Sixth

The sixth, a day unwreathed in stars—
Not yet eighth; when broadsides were read

To mothers of boys not yet dead
And ere the ninth, to troops war scarred— 

And yet, the sixth a salvo sent
Of spotty ink to stripe the white
Unsteady page, declaring rent

A union; dead a peace; by right

A nation born; and though no trumpets blew
By word by word by word, the Fourth was news.

                          ---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

Note: This form is modeled after a structure used by poet and playwright Aphra Behn, one of the first English women to earn her living by writing. (Essentially, it's a rhyme scheme of ABBACDCDEE in iambic tetrameter, with option of extra beats in the last lines. I tucked in a tribute to our flag, too!)  Thanks to Kelly for the challenge.

***Edited to add:  Okay, it turns out I messed up BOTH the rhyme scheme (should be CDDC in the middle) and the fact that only the last line (not the last two) get extra beats.  Um...I was being as subversive as Aphra Behn?  We'll go with that.

You can find my Poetry Sisters better efforts to echo Aphra Behn's rhythm and form here:


Poetry Friday is hosted today by one of our own, Tricia, at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Poetry Friday: A Trio of Limericks

For easy, breezy June, our poetry assignment was to write three limericks, all about birds/bees.  I chose no birds and all bees.  (And also, apparently, no depth and all funny. What can I say? This is my brain on Limericks.)


There once was a robust letter B
Who chafed at his spot next to C
So he cut back on his belly
And watched way less telly
And now he’s no more than a P.

Paul Gross
"Slings and Arrows"
 (best TV show about Shakespeare ever)


There once was a prince who said “To be”
But negated that thought immediately
Then he picked up a skull,
Asked if life was meaningful...
“For a few more scenes,” said Yorick, dryly.


There once wazzz a wood-crazzzy carpenter bee
Who vizzzited sawtooth clamzzz by the zzzea
But alazzz! that "log" had incizzzors
He wazzz a hammerhead’zzz appetizzzer
And that wazzz all the zzzea he would zzzee.

---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

You can find my fellow poets' limericks here, including some lovely and lyrical poems which prove this form can do more than twist words into grins.


Poetry Friday is hosted today at Buffy's Blog.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Poetry Friday: A toast! A toast!

I have only myself to blame for this month's challenge. I thought it would be fun to write a toast, in poetry form, to be recited for "any occasion, to someone or something." The only rule for the toast was that it had to begin and end with the same two words. So, as Kelly pointed out, technically, the poem could simply be:

A toast!
A toast!

Readers, I nearly had to fall back on that.

Who knew how hard thinking up a toast would be? There are so many occasions on which to toast---birthdays, and anniversaries, and weddings, and graduations---and so many wonderful people deserving of such a tribute, too (including my own mom, who turns 80 this month---Happy Birthday, Mom!)

Maybe that was the trouble...too many good choices.  I like it better when a poem forces me into a box and makes me scramble to build a way out.  Or, as some of my poetry sisters often say:  can't we have more rules?

A Toast to Rules

Rules instruct, they measure, they bind;
Rules tie the past to the future, families define;
Rules say who reigns, who serves, what’s mine.

Rules birth languages, start art schools, procreate paradigms;
Rules preserve form, marry reason to rhyme;
Rules say how to love, where to live, when war is really peacetime.

Rules lay the groundwork, they chalk mark the fence line;
Rules make vowels speak, name numbers as prime;
Rules say be this, not that, if you’ll be so kind.

Rules make straight the path, stamp out the serpentine;
Rules ink how long to care, how high to climb;
Rules say you’re out, you’re foul, you’re safe—this time.

Which is why poetry rudely rejects such designs;
It cavorts; it break dances; it steps light-years out of line;
For who says we must only be who the fine

rules instruct?

           ---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

Find my Poetry Sisters' toasts here:


Poetry Friday is hosted today by Friendly Fairy Tales.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Poetry Friday: She is Dead to Us, inspired by Elizabeth Bishop

Happy April, and Happy National Poetry Month!  I've decided that the best way to celebrate is to lose.

Yup. Lose your fears about poetry. Lose your way exploring new poets.  Lose your heart to words.

In that spirit, this month's challenge is to write a poem inspired by a line from Elizabeth Bishop's "One Art." It is a stunning villanelle about loss, and you must read it whole, if you haven't.

I can't compete with Bishop, but I did love using her poem as a launching pad for creating something new. I chose this line:

 "I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,"

Then I played (just a bit) with the order, so that "lovely ones" refers to not cities, but people.

She is dead to us

Lovely ones, I lost two cities,
and vaster, six branches of
the family tree, all the sewers
beneath, and yet—not the one day
you proposed we flee

lovely ones. I lost three bones,
and vaster, a splintered
windshield, and the courage
beneath, and yet—not the one day
you proposed we flee

lovely ones. I lost sixty dollars
and vaster, every photograph pinned
to a page, and my taste for milk
and yet—not the one day
you proposed we flee

lovely ones. I lost all reason,
and vaster, why one doesn’t do that,
and mile after mile of what if, what if,
where do we go now, and yet—not you,
that one day. You proposed. We flee.

---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

My Poetry Sisters are each taking a different line from Bishop's poem. See what they've created here:


Poetry Friday is hosted today by Amy at The Poem Farm. 

Friday, March 2, 2018

Poetry Friday: Garden of the Gods

This month's poetry challenge takes place in The Garden of the Gods.  I've been there.

Mike and I, last fall

I just didn't see this:

Liz did, though.  And she asked us to write a poem about it this month.

Remember the etheree? (We wrote one back in 2015.)  Each line has one more syllable than the one before.  Steady as she goes, for as long as you like.

I thought it an appropriate form to talk about How Did This Happen?  and Best Laid Plans and possibly: Where Do We Go From Here?

stone was alive
until we saw it
dead still, licking its wounds.

---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

Find my poetry sisters here:


Poetry Friday is hosted today by No Water River.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Poetry Friday: The Poet, as seen by a squirrel (a tanka)

February is the shortest month, so it's fitting our poetry task is on the short side, too.  The tanka is a thirty-one syllable unrhymed poem, traditionally written (in Japanese) as one, unbroken line.

In English, however, it's usually divided into five lines. The first three lines are patterned by syllable count like a haiku---5-7-5---and the last two lines are a "couplet" of sorts----a 7-7 syllable pair.  In addition, the tanka should have a "turn"---or an image that bridges the two parts.  Quite a lot to pack into one poem!

And yet....there's more.  This month, each of the Poetry Sisters is responding to one of the other sister's poems from January. I've been given the lovely task of responding to Liz, who wrote a clever curtal sonnet about squirrels called "Kin and Plot."  You can read it here.   Hooray!

I love Liz's idea that in the face of frustration, we sometimes

"toss caution ‘cross the lawn and to the sky:
take what you need, take all that we have got!"

and yet...I can't help thinking that those squirrels would take our words, too, if they knew how much we writers hoarded them, and scrabbled for them, and spent our lives chasing them.

Thus, a tanka from the perspective of a squirrel encouraging a poet at work:

Oh, word-stuffed poet
on a limb. You weigh nothing—
chitter and chime! Leap
then! the glass world sways, may yet
break, and enter into verse.

      ----Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

Here are the other tanka responses:

Liz, writing to Tricia's poem (and steady breath)
Tanita, writing to Kelly's poem (and her cat, Kismet)
Tricia, writing to Laura's poem (and warm horses)
Laura, writing to Tanita's poem (and two-sided truth)
Kelly, writing to my poem (and cauliflower words)

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Mainely Write.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Poetry Friday: Boxing with A Curtal Sonnet

I'm not in a box, but a basket.
However, I am cute so I can do whatever I want.---Rebecca's cat, Neils

Sonnets are known as a "box form" because of their precise rules and tight appearance on the page.  Some poets, like Gerard Manley Hopkins, cried out inside those boxes, and made some of the most anguished, glorious sonnets I've read.

Hopkins, in particular, was known for counting hard stresses (punches?) rather than regular rhythms, and for compacting the Petrarchan fourteen-lined sonnet into a 3/4 sized poem, of 10 1/2 lines.  For what better way to squeeze out more anguish than with less room to cry?

I've tried one in his honor today.  (Thank you, Kelly, for the challenge.)

Hopkins foxed sonnets to 3/4 spare
    wire-whipped stresses til they wailed
      half-tocked feral hymns from sprung clocks

 Elbowing joy as birdsong from air,
     priested, pressed hard, he failed
       at 44, a life, curtailed and boxed

 Yet, cold-call his poems, and he swells,
     as slugger’s bandied cauliflower ear; rung,
       you clangor, near strangled, on far-hailed
 Words; carrion cry unlocked, he wells
                                      blood to tongue.

                                 ---Sara Lewis Holmes
                                    (all rights reserved)

My poetry sisters are writing sonnets today, too, some curtal, and some not.
Find them here:


Poetry Friday is hosted today by Reading to the Core.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Poetry Friday: Lai (A Forked Tree)

The last Poetry Challenge of 2017 was a lai on the subject of peace, light or hope.

I'd never heard of it, but when I followed Tricia's links, I found out that a lai is an old French poetry form with a rhyme scheme of aabaabaab, and even more challenging---each "a" line is five syllables long, and each "b" line, a mere two syllables.

This results in an oddly shaped poem, but according to one source this is intentional, as "the short line must not be indented, it must be left dressed to the poem. This is known as Arbre Fourchu (Forked Tree)..."

Okay. I was hooked.  Not only is that a loaded image, but I loved the French I took in high school and college, and had fun weaving some of it into this poem. (I hope most of the French is self-explanatory and correctly used. But I kind of doubt it. I've never tried to write a poem in two languages before.)

As for "peace, light, or hope," my poem talks about when those things fail.

The Storm

L’arbre fourchu cries
a cry in two sighs
Left! Right!
One root, forked, belies
how deep the divide
Oh! night!
Our split hearts likewise
cry riven! and rise!
We fight.

Branch set against twig
Little against big
Quelle sight!
Wind's jagged cruel jig
Sky scarred by zag! zig!
Oh, fright!
Feu cares not a fig
It’s a brazen pig.
Oh, bright

swords writhe sap from tree
twin arms flaming free
Left. Right.
Dieu, où est l’abri?*
We blaze cri to cri:
Dark! Light!
Come morning, oh, me.
L’arbre fourchu see:
Ashed might.

---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

*God, where is the shelter?

You can find my Poetry Sisters lai here:


Poetry Friday is hosted today by the marvelous Mary Lee at A Year of Reading.

Monday, October 9, 2017

The Wolf Hour Goes Roaming: Blog Tour, Stops #1 and #2

The Wolf Hour is prowling the blogosphere this month.  I hope you'll be brave enough to follow along. Here's a taste:

Stop #1

Finding Wonderland:

Despite their often bleak or violent content, fairytales are traditionally seen as stories intended for children. What's the optimum age of your target reader for THE WOLF HOUR? Who is this book for? Who, if anyone, is it not for?

Sara Lewis Holmes: 

Age and readership questions are hard. Do you like to shiver and chew your lip ragged as you read? Do you like a story that twists and turns and doesn’t go where you expect it to? Do you enjoy a story that KNOWS it’s a story, and might even challenge you to think about your own Story and whether you like your place in it? If you do, even if you aren’t in the 8-12 age range for this book…read on!

 More Q and A here:  Finding Wonderland, with Tanita Davis and Sarah Stevenson

Stop #2

Meanwhile, at Charlotte's Library, Charlotte had me respond to three quotes from the book, which was wonderfully fun.

She also had this to say about the main characters:

"Magia is one of the most lonely heroines I've read this year, and it was easy to sympathize and mentally encourage her as she pressed onward.  Not only does she have fight an evil, magical antagonist, she has to resist the expectations of ordinary human folk, making her very relatable.  Martin the wolf, with his penchant for a good book, and failed efforts to break the story of the three little pigs (not because he knew that's what he was doing, but because he simply was not interested in being a vicious killer), is one of my favorite wolf characters ever, and possibly even more relatable!" 

Thank you, Charlotte.  More of her insights here:  Charlotte, at Charlotte's library.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Poetry Friday: Autumn Hymns

Happy Fall, y'all.  (That might be the shortest hymn ever.)

And yet...this month, Tanita asked the Poetry Sisters to come up with more than a fall greeting.  She asked us to write a hymn to Autumn in hymn meter.  (More on hymn meter, here.)

I chose to write in "long meter" which is a form of hymn meter which has a rhyme scheme of ABAB  and equal lines of iambic tetrameter. (Eight beats each line, da DUM, da DUM, da DUM, da DUM.) I didn't stick exactly to that; a few beats are off here and there (consider them acorns that squirrels buried and forgot to dig up) but I did enjoy writing about autumn in a way that encouraged both joy and sorrow.

If Apples were Dappled and Sweet

If apples were dappled and sweet,
If orchards were bee-thick with smell,
If thickets drew lovers unmeet,
I’d beckon to you, dear, as well.

For autumn is all of goodbye
And faring thee well, and godspeed;
We redden, we crumble, we dry
In casting our lives into seed.

So snap the stem of my neck, dear;
Let nightfall steal daylight from field;
If leaves rake our cheeks with gold smear,
Is Autumn but naught what it yields?

Thus, be apples, dappled and sweet;
Thus, be orchards, bee-thick with smell;
Thus, be thickets of lovers: meet,
and meet and meet ’til last farewell.

                   ----Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

Go see what hymns my Poetry Sisters are humming today:


Poetry Friday is hosted today by Violet Nesdoly.