Friday, July 30, 2021

Poetry Friday: The Dichotomy of Villanelles

I wasn't sure about pairing villanelles with the theme of dichotomy. After all, the form is all about repetition, with the first and third lines echoing throughout the nineteen line poem. Didn't that make for an argument of accumulation rather than one of division?  

Of course, there are only two end rhymes---a and b---so maybe that could hold some opposites. Or not. I honestly was stumped, and had done zero prep for our ZOOM write-in. But when I opened my document to noodle around during our session, I found a gift---the "dud" line that Linda Mitchell had given me in last month's "clunker exchange:"  

"A year, or maybe a century ago"

Hey! That was, if not exactly a dichotomy, at least a contradiction. And as for the idea of time itself, that's also rife with paradoxical fact, my first laughable line to pair with the so-called "clunker" was a bona fide stinker:  

Does time fly, or does it flow?  

Didn't matter. I was headed somewhere. I had words on the page. And eventually, I wrote my way into a villanelle, and perhaps some delicious dichotomy. 

A year, or maybe a century ago

we were bitter young; we were freshly old

our hearts a creek in overflow

what we might do, where we might go

too weak to bear, if not be bold

a year, or maybe a century ago

the questions stung, but blow by blow

answers came, not one pre-told

our hearts a creek in overflow

broken neat, we mended calico

embraced by time’s sweet stranglehold

a year, or maybe a century ago

we brightly sunk to yawning low

crested yet in rivulets of shadow-fold

our hearts a creek in overflow

making of the rocky earth an archipelago 

unbounded yet, a swelling unconsoled 

a year, or maybe a century ago  

our hearts a creek in overflow.

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


My poetry sisters are here:

Mary Lee (welcome to the poetry sisters!)







Poetry Friday is hosted today by Becky at Sloth Reads

Friday, June 25, 2021

Poetry Friday: Zentangle-ish Poems

Have you heard of Zentangles?  I had not, before this challenge.  It's a form of meditative drawing, explained better here

It's also, I learned, a way to enhance a found poem. (A found poem is one drawn from words "found" in existing texts.) The idea is to use Zentangle patterns to block out unneeded words, and also, to accentuate the shape and flow of the poem itself.  Here's a lovely explanation and several examples. 

Well, readers, I did not exactly "un-tangle" my thoughts about this challenge before I Zoomed with my Poetry Sisters, so I had questions. LOTS of questions.  And fears.  Found poetry, while fun, is frustrating because while you can select your words, you cannot re-order them.  Worse, I'm not great with precise patterns or lines or drawing in general.  The idea of using large sections of small marks to block out most of a perfectly good page was frightening. Plus, working in pen---so no going back! 

But, like most things, She Who Whines the Loudest...Falls the Hardest, and I wound up loving this challenge, once I made it my own. I gave myself the grace of working on multiple copies of a piece of text until I was more sure of the words I picked.  I learned that I didn't have to cover every inch of a page, nor did I have to use established patterns.  I could make my poems Zen-tangle-ISH.  

In the end, I created three poems in two days.  I'll share them in the order I created them.

First, a poem I created from a text in Michael Sims' book, Adam's Navel, A Natural and Cultural History of the Human Form. I chose this text for its juicy words (too juicy, it turns out, because I kept being distracted by sentences like "The tongue is seldom noteworthy in birds, but the flamingo is cursed with one so muscularly tasty that Roman emperors served them by the bowlful."  Yeah, try competing with THAT.) 

 Anyway, I found a poem fairly easily, but was unhappy with my initial attempt to connect the words with lines. I wound up finding a better answer in one of the found words: encodes.  What if I simply encoded (or over-coded?) the rest of the text in a binary "ones and zeros" pattern?  

Language encodes
 a diverse sweetness
providing the throat
and peaches

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

Not bad.  I liked the poem. The drawing---eh.  Not much.  I tried again.  This time, I used a page from a Food52 catalog, and I left most of the underlying text intact, using graphics to show the reader how to read it.  

A well-balanced summer:
Start with sun.
Add wild flowers.
When in doubt,
bring friends...
and read. 

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

Better.  And as a bonus, I discovered a trick of word selection. I didn't have to select an entire word; I could truncate it.  In that last line, "read" was "bread."  I also liked how the poem and the visuals and underlying text interacted.  (Relating the background text to the found poem is not part of the challenge, but I liked the extra layer. You could even create a poem that strongly contrasts with your background text---a poem about peace taken from a war declaration, for example.) 

Finally, I created a third poem from an article in the Hill Rag (a local paper here in DC.) The text was about a Little Free Library, something I plan to put out front of our house now that we've stopped moving and I can tend it. Capitol Hill is home to many Little Free Libraries (and even one Little Free Art Gallery) and they fascinate me---the unique designs and the people who dig through them, and often, the quotes that the owners will affix to the side. Truly, they are small wonders. 

However, my poem turned out to be about something more elusive:  the magic of making things.  

You'll probably have to zoom in to read the poem as the original text was quite small and printed on newspaper. 


a recursive
 natural thing

a precise 

a chance to 
obsessively build 
the unbelievable. 

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

Maybe I overdid it on the bricks (we recently had the bricks in our 1880s house repointed so I'm hyper-aware of their shapes) ....or maybe I didn't go far enough....could I cover more of the page to make the words of the poem stand out?  Perhaps it doesn't matter because I loved making this one.  It felt meditative. Zen-ish. As if my mind un-tangled for a brief time. Magic.  

See how my Poetry Sisters tangled this challenge below (a few of us are taking a break)


Poetry Friday is hosted today by Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise.  (BONUS:  Linda is offering a fun "Clunker Exchange" where you can exchange one of your poetry lines for one of hers.)  

Friday, May 28, 2021

Poetry Friday: Grief Cages Her

May's challenge was to respond to a work of art, using any poetic form---i.e. ekphrastic poetry.  Here is a lovely post about the many ways to do that.  

What the post doesn't mention is that choosing a piece of art can be complicated....and in this case, it also turned out to be a sleuthing adventure. Tanita tried to make it easy for me, and supplied some wonderful photos of paintings we could respond to, but since I'd helped set the challenge, I felt I also needed to provide at least one art source. So I dove into my photos from visits to DC museums, and shared this: 

Unfortunately, I couldn't find the photos of the accompanying information on the piece-- not the artist, not the name, not even the museum I was in.  I only had the date, gathered by my phone:  February 2017.  Oh, and these additional photos of the object being worn. Wowza.  

Too late. I'd already shared the thing with the other poets.  And I was obsessed. What WAS this thing I'd photographed?  All I had was another photograph taken at the same exhibit, of the artist playfully sliding down a rock face:

Too bad he doesn't have on a name tag. And too bad that repeated googling of "artist wire dress" and even "artist sliding down rock" and various combinations of those words only brought up a totally different female artist.  I was stuck.  So I decided to go with what I had: the date. Maybe if I could find out what shows had been on exhibit in DC in February 2017, I could find the information I needed.  After striking out at the archives of the National Gallery and the Hirshhorn (two places I visited regularly), I thought of the American Art Museum. I'd been there for a show in some special ground floor hall....hadn't I? 

Yes, yes I had!

 As soon as I saw the online archives of the exhibit "Isamu Noguchi, Archaic/Modern," I knew it was the one.  Noguchi was a remarkable artist who was born in L.A., but educated in both Japan and the United States. He was known as a bicultural ambassador, as well as a multi-faceted artist and inventor. (That's me with another of the artist's amazing works, "Sculpture to be Seen From Mars.")

Noguchi made it in collaboration with the famed American dancer, Martha Graham.  Noguchi had designed about twenty sets for Graham, and this piece was for The Cave of the Heart, which tells the Greek mythical story of the sorceress, Medea, who left her home (and her father, the Sun) to be with the human man, Jason (he of the Golden Fleece), bearing him two sons.  But Jason, faithless soul, left her for a princess, and all hell ensued---multiple murders, including Medea slaying her own children.  

For most of the dance, the dress broods on stage, sitting stop the other Noguchi piece in my first photo-- "The Serpent." Then, at the climatic ending, the wire "dress of transformation" (another term the artist used) is donned by the dancer playing Medea. She whirls about the stage, encased in metal quivering spikes, as Medea burns in revengeful glory on her ascent back to the Sun. *

Whew.  Now that I knew all this, what possible poem could contain such a tale?  

Tricia to the rescue.  In our monthly ZOOM meeting, she suggested a restrictive form known as a 4 x 4. Created by Denise Krebs as a varation of the French quatern, it has four stanzas, of four lines, with four syllables each.  In addition, one line repeats four times, once in each stanza, but moves down a line each time.  Enough structure to support such a potent story, right??

Medea burns

Grief cages her;

It binds her to

him, to them, blood

years spent, now gone.

She cuts at her

grief, cages her

love, becomes all

spines, a weapon.   

She will ascend

having broken

grief’s cage. Then her

heart will be brass.

She dances, a 

wheel of blades, yet

again again

Grief cages her. 

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

My Poetry Sisters responses (to this and/or other art) are found here:







*Do you want to see that cage dress actually on a dancer? Actually being moved in?  Yes, yes, you do. I did some sleuthing on that, too, and here it is, in a clip from this lecture from the Library of Congress. It's at the 40 minute mark.  And if you want to know what the dancers thought of wearing Noguchi's often painful designs, here's a story from the Washington Post.  You're welcome. 

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Michelle Kogan