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.