Friday, November 6, 2015

Poetry Friday: Growth Spurt

The Poetry Seven's assignment this month was simple: Write a poem inspired by an image.  (Technically, it's called ekphrastic poetry.) We all used the same image, plucked specially for us from the magpie-marvelous collection of Tanita Davis.


(Source: lowpresssure, via baikuken
Sculpture by Danish artist Susanne Ussing

Growth Spurt

Hold your tongue, they said.
Unable to grasp how such a
delicate hand as my own could
hold such a large and dextrous muscle,
I laughed.

First discovery:
Laughter is mighty exercise
for the tongue.

Have a care, they said.
But I could not nibble at care—at the metallic whiff
of the bit approaching, my tongue bucked
words, flinging them upright and uncleft
into the wild.

Second discovery:
Language multiplies the reach
of the tongue.

Quit jawboning, they said.
But, by now, my head—enlarged by the excavations
of my tongue—was naught but a bony bloom;
the world, whispering back,

Third discovery:
I was not alone
but one of many tongues.

Hush now, they said. Hear our prayers.
Their too-small devotions brushed my skin,
worms turning dirt. I shot to the sky,
a hot-house flower, all of me muscled as
         my tongue.

Together, we made the

Fourth discovery:
        I knelt; they held
        my heart, thrumming.

                      ---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

I tried not to look at what my poetry sisters wrote for the same image until I was done with mine, but OH! Wow. Go look now:

Tricia (Happy 9th blog anniversary!)

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Katya at Write. Sketch. Repeat.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Poetry Friday: Etheree

When I first heard the word etheree, I thought it was an old-fashioned name, the kind given to a girl who shucks peas on a weathered porch, with a Bowie knife strapped to her ankle, in case a rattlesnake gets to rattlin', or a rancher gets to raunchin'. Surely it wasn't a form of poetry, as my Poetry Sisters claimed?

I found out it was, indeed, both. Turns out that the Arkansas poet, Etheree Taylor Armstrong, invented a poetic shape in which each line has one more syllable than the one before, and while she was hardly famous, the form named after her has a growing following.  Apparently, many people like it for its simplicity.

I kind of hate simplicity. It's darn hard to pull off.  In fact, I couldn't pull it off. I had to resort to word play.  Lots and lots of word play. (Old ee cummings may still have a grip on me.)

Anyhow, the poem was inspired by my mint tea, informed by some judicious Googling of the astonishing varieties of mint, and ultimately, built around this simple admonition to would-be mint growers that was stark in its advice:

Different varieties of mint should be planted far away from each other. On opposite sides of the garden,  if possible.

Now there was a simple fact I could use.


tendrils left
can crosspollispear
til, oh! calaminty--
scharp-scented, increeping vaders
brandnewishing fresh varietrials
demand mint conditions: no leaf unturned.

---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

Please see Miss Rumphius' blog for a much more considered definition of the form.

My Poetry Sisters' etherees are here:

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Poetry Friday: Wiseguy (A Found Poem)

Athlete of cross work

Lover of up-and-down

Word wonder 2 briefly

Not Done

My source for this found poem was Merl Reagle's last crossword for the Washington Post. I solved it with a heavy heart:

Read the Post's nicely done obituary. And don't miss the movie they mention, Word Play.  Bonus points if you can find the Simpsons episode Reagle starred in, as himself. 

All of my Poetry Sisters are in with Found Poetry today, too. Maybe we should call ourselves the Salvage Sisters this month:

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Linda at Teacher Dance.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Poetry Friday: ISO Haiku

Once, my son found a "help wanted" ad:

Remove nest of baby copperheads
from under porch. Will pay $20.

I always wondered if anyone was desperate enough to answer.  I mean, come on---they're BABY copperheads, right?

That's the thing about classifieds. They suggest (perhaps willfully) that if only you answer them, the full story will be revealed. More likely, the truth is that if you answer the ad, you become part of the story, too.

I think the same give and take applies to poetry. Which is good, because this month, the Poetry Sisters are playing with haiku/senryu in the form of classified ads. I wrote several because I couldn't help myself.

WANTED: rain, heavy
Must pelt/soak; no peevish squalls
Will pay in fresh corn.

LOST: my perspective
No reward; meet me for cake 

FREE: to a good home:
One book, never read, but loved.

POETS: Start today; 
word your way up; could capture
moon in fifty years.

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

See what's LOST/FOUND/WANTED/FOR SALE from my Poetry Sisters here: Liz, Tanita, Tricia, Laura, Kelly, Andi

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

Friday, July 10, 2015

Poetry Friday: "In Just---" Echoes of ee cummings

The assignment for the Poetry Seven this month was to write a poem in the style of ee cummings, taking one of his works as inspiration. Although cummings is one of my favorite poets, and I've blogged about him before (in relation to Frank Cottrell Boyce's fabulous novel, Cosmic) I did a little research anyway. And discovered this:

Between the ages of eight and twenty-two, cummings wrote a poem a day.

Yeah. That.

And here I am, trying to follow in his pen strokes.

First of all, I had a hard time naming what I was attempting to do. What did "in the style of" mean?


Then one of the Poetry Seven used a word I liked: echoing. Perhaps I could do that. (thanks, Andi!)

in Just-
dusk when the world is shadow-
mossed the one-winged lightningbug

blinks, incan/descent

and pillbugandmoth come
floating from screenshanks and 
scatterall and it’s

when the world is wing-wonderful

the lop-flighted
lighteningbug blinks
and beetleandroach come scalltering

from rot-hopping and stank-rope and

it’s dusk
lightningbug stutters



---Sara Lewis Holmes, inspired by "in Just-" by ee cummings

One more thing: we also decided to record these poems. Click on the sound file below to hear me read my work aloud.

Other echoes of ee cummings can be found at each of the Poetry Seven's blogs today:

Liz, echoing "i like my body when it is"
Tricia, echoing " a looking"
Tanita, echoing "the Cambridge ladies who live in furnished souls"
Laura,  echoing "Spring is like a perhaps hand"
Kelly,  echoing "maggie and milly and molly and may"
Andi, echoing "a wind has blown the rain away"

As a bonus, we've gathered all our recordings in one place on Soundcloud. (Perhaps we'll continue to record our work? I, for one, love hearing work read aloud.)

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Katie at the Logonauts.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Poetry Friday: An ode to...well, you'll see---I think

The Poetry Seven has a list: an agreed upon schedule of poetic forms we will attempt this year. And in which order.

But then, we get fancy. Throw around themes or a common word or two.

This month, we were due to tackle odes.  Free-verse odes, so no one had to wrestle with rhyme if they didn't want to.  The topic? Anything at all. The words? Up to us.

The only catch? They were supposed to be humorous.


It turns out that a funny ode---praising and pranking, both at once, you might say---is jolly hard.

An Ode to---well, you’ll see---I think

One wintry morn, waking to find
my snow shovel absconded with—
brazenly taken from under the front stairs
—and replaced by one with a cracked acrylic blade—
why oh why would you steal my shovel
and leave me your TRASH instead?—
I will make, to re-boot (re-foot? re-shoe?) the day
Frito waffles with mascarpone
and warm strawberry compote (!!!)
but today—having found this recipe
now am deeply depressed
for who can ode-alate
corn chips better than such a dish—certainly not
this poem, which is why
it is not about Fritos—

although, in a way, the first stanza touches
on but does not intersect
with the subject of this ode—
or should I say, the object of this ode—
for we use the term “object of my undying devotion”—
or perhaps the word is yet to be coined
 —the ode-ulatee? the ode-ified?—
or perhaps it is —like an old cell phone—in the clutches
of a different owner, and dialing it would yield
a word like odoriferous— which has nothing
to do with odes—

—still, there was this Danish mathematician—I know!
I know! the Danes don’t stink, but they are often confused
with the Finns, so I rather think it’s nearly as confusing
as odiferous—so, this Dane—
he thought nothing of writing
a book called Geomietriae Rotundi,
which might be funny if there were a photo
of him, jolly and circular, eating waffles,
but the year was 1585 and it was Denmark,
so perhaps he was wan and thin, and mope-y
in a Hamlet sort of no-snow-shovel way and really
would’ve annoyed you
with his tons and tons of friends, despite his lack
of social graces—or waffles—
and this is when— it occurs to you,
that he is a mathematician—

not a writer—and yet, he has introduced—
as you wish to—although not for the
first time, as he did, but soon! yes, soon!
the term you are gallantly ode-ifying
if only you could stop thinking
about Fritos—an idea which should be by now
all but parenthetical (which means enclosed)
while the term you are praising is entirely
uncaged— like one of those European
vacays, where you ricochet off borders
like you were being Googled
by a middle-schooler who must—in twelve minutes—
crib an ethnic costume indicative
of her illustrious ancestors
or else forfeit the extra credit needed
to crawl across the
finish (Ha! the Finns, again!) line
of World History and yet—

you cannot believe that in all this—
not once—perhaps because you are certain
that this mathematician, this Thomas Fincke—-
does that name sound Danish to you?— that he
had a snow shovel AND friends, and—despite having
a son-in-law named Ole Worm—perhaps he had
a loving, round-ish wife who made him waffles
—so maybe you should’ve praised
geometry, with all its useful
angles—but instead…
Sorry, I’ve lost my train
of thought. What was I saying?

This is an ode to tangents.
I like them.

---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Buffy at Buffy's Blog.

Other humorous odes by the Poetry Seven can be found here:  Tricia, Liz, Kelly, Laura, Andi, Tanita.

Friday, May 1, 2015

I would let in the moon (A Pantoum)

The last time I tried a pantoum, I was feeling mucky and complicated and my poem reflected that. This time, I resolved to write a small love song, and pare it down as much as possible.

A pantoum, it seems, can hold both moods---the rotating, repeating lines clarify the complicated and amplify the simple.

I would let in the moon
ere light floods
the room
and everything flies

ere light—flooding
fast the hole in my heart
where everything flies
into night; no keys lock

fast the hole in my heart
Dark as dusk, I swell
into night; no keys lock
you to me; only love,

dark as dusk. We swell
the room,
you to me, only. Love,
I would let in the moon.

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

End notes:
Don't miss this magnificent post from Michael Rosen at Tricia's blog about form poetry.
And find all the Poetry Seven's pantoums here: Liz, Tricia, Andi, Tanita, Kelly, and Laura.

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Ellen at Space City Scribes.

Friday, April 3, 2015

At the Fulcrum of the Day: A Raccontino

If you're like me, you had to look up a raccontino to know what it was. Or, more precisely, I had to scramble to Miss Rhumpius's blog to find out that it's a poem that is:

  • composed of couplets (any number)
  • even number lines share the same end rhyme
  • the title and last words of the odd numbered lines tell a story

The Poetry Seven had different approaches to this form. Some wrote their end line sentence first. Others came up with a theme first. Me? I wrote a non-rhyming poem, made it rhyme and then played with the odd numbered end words and line breaks to form a story sentence.  

As one of our group said of my method: Impossible. 

Heh. Well, I will admit that I didn't mind toying with the couplets or jiggering the rhyme scheme, but moving those end words around into a sentence was killer for me.  It felt wrong to be messing with how I shaped the poem originally.  I like my line breaks to be my line breaks!

But it all came right in the end. 

at the fulcrum of the day

I watch my children as the tides, escaping,
inch by inch, until they are fanned

out, too far out; I call to them: mind the time!  
Thin as a needle, I rise, slow to expand—

How closely sliced are the minutes, as onions shaved
to transparency; I see them, as near as my hand;

I have only seconds before noon slips into 
afternoon; blocks of hours eroded to sand.

Soon it is before supper; Beyond is the dusk
and the night; the tide I can withstand

But great God, let the sun balance, never-ending
Wait there, wait there! I call as l stand.

---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Amy at The Poem Farm. The other raccontinos--by each of the Poetry Seven--can be found here:

Friday, February 6, 2015

Chiral: a Poetry Friday Fling with a Villanelle

When I fall in love with a word, I go a bit mad.  It happened this week, when I belatedly began a draft of a villanelle so I could hang with the Poetry Seven today.

I'd written a villanelle with this Gang of Poets once before, and was pleased with my fairly traditional take on a feast. This time, I aimed to write about the "fulcrum of the day" (i.e. noon) but I made the fatal error of Googling rhymes on the Internet.

Specifically, I had a non-repeating line that ended with spiral and needed help.  Lo and behold! The rhyme search turned up


On to Wikipedia, where, along with some impenetrable diagrams of molecules, I found THIS:

"Human hands are perhaps the most universally recognized example of chirality: the left hand is a non-superposable mirror image of the right hand; no matter how the two hands are oriented, it is impossible for all the major features of both hands to coincide." 

Well, COOL. Our hands, although we think of them in pairs (like rhymes), they are, in reality, unmatchable. What a fitting subject for the villanelle, a poetic form built around the fiction that things can always be manipulated so they will line up, just so.

The only teeny problem with this lovely word, chiral, was that I could name but one other rhyme for it off the top of my head. (Besides spiral.)  Did that stop me? Did that stop me from making it the REPEATING LINE?

No, it made me fling myself further into the Internet to see what other unmatchable words were out there.

 See? MAD.

In truth, though, I've always been this way.

I admire other approaches to poetry, of course--  I adore a well-tempered line turn, a gorgeously formal word choice, an exquisitely correct rhyme---I really do.  I just don't know how to write that way.

To me, poetry is an excuse to play with words as hard as I possibly can.  A way to be madly in love with world, one cool fact at a time. A chance to gyre and gimble over the fundamental strangeness of my own hands.

My poetry sisters all know this, of course. What a veneration of villanelles they've made:  Tanita, Liz, Laura, Andi, Kelly, and Tricia.

No Matter

Our hands, no matter how we rotate them, are chiral
did you know that? they’re mirror images that never meet
Look at them! Look at them now! Don’t listen as I birle

(to cause a floating log to revolve by treading); I spiral
on the surface of the Inter-bog, layered rich as peat;
But my hands, no matter how I rotate them, are chiral

How did I find these facts? I was seeking rhymes more viral,
to conflagrate—OMG—there is such a thing as gleet?
Look at your hands! Look at them now! Don’t listen as I birle!

I blame Ogden Nash, who could precisely match eye roll
-ing end rhymes; no unruly corners on his fitted sheet!
Yet, my hands, no matter how I rotate them, are chiral

It’s like trying to tame the Jabberwock, most gyre-ral
but he’s one-off; no need for gamete to mate gamete
Look at your hands! Look at those doozies! Don’t listen as I birle!

But if you must Google these words, seek out too: gyral
(relating to the convolutions of the brain); how meet!
Yet, hands, no matter how we rotate them, are chiral;
Look at them! Look at them now! Don’t listen. I birle!

---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Liz at Elizabeth Steinglass.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Antidote: A Triolet for the New Year

The antidote to fear is honeyed in devotion
delivered deep, a draught of slow and barmy mead.
Else we dry to salt, fleeing night-depths of the ocean;
The antidote to fear is honeyed in devotion 

Why pillory our hearts, why gulp the unguent potion?
Why frack our veins to stir up courage quickly dead?
The antidote to fear is honey-slow devotion;
Yes, poetry, delivered deep, a draught of barmy mead.

This poem would not have been possible without the encouragement of the rest of the Poetry Seven:  Liz, Andi, Kelly, Laura, Tricia, and TanitaEach of these poets has a triolet posted today, so go and drink deeply.  

For more about triolets, see here.   For more about the Poetry Seven, read about our first gig together on this April day in 2008.

Poetry Friday is hosted today by one of the Poetry Seven, the amazing Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect