Friday, August 27, 2021

Poetry Friday: Deeper Wisdom Poems

August's poetry challenge is so simple that it beckons you to come play: Write a poem in the style of Jane Yolen's What the Bear Knows.  

If you click on the link, you'll see that Jane's poem is direct and profound. It features short lines that rhyme, every other one. Lovely. 

Alternatively, Joyce Sidman offers us another model for this kind of poem. In hers, she asks: What Does the _______ Know? before each of two stanzas, answering the question in three rhyming lines. She calls these Deeper Wisdom poems.  

I decided to try both models, and opted out of rhyme for the first one. Each is based on my experience last weekend helping a refugee family who had fled with nothing but each other. Our group offered them what we had brought by U-Haul, SUV, and small cars: a sturdy brown couch, Disney-themed sheets for the three girls, a first-aid kit, trash cans, a laptop, kitchen chairs, a roasting pan, Tupperware, cell phones, a tool kit, and much more. One woman brought a child-sized umbrella, which the littlest girl popped over her head immediately, making us all smile. Another woman brought orange roses. And why not?

What do orange roses know?
     Not everything needs assembly. 
     Roses aren't just for lovers.
     A bloom is a seed, shared. 

What do orange roses know? 
     Saying tangerine makes you smile. 
     A stem is sturdiest near the thorns.
     Flames of friendship start small.
                    ---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved) 

My own daughter, long ago, with her umbrella

What the Umbrella Knows 

You can’t stop the rain.
Open gifts now.
Nothing falls in vain.
The world needs little yellow ducks,
brave in a hurricane.
                ---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

If you have interest in sponsoring a family,  Lutheran Family Services offers support, as well as many other organizations. 

My sister poets are having fun with this form, too:


P.S. If you'd like to play along for September's challenge, here it is:  

Choose a poem by someone in the Poetry Friday universe and write a tanka in response or inspired by or in conversation with that poem.  Kelly offers a great introduction to the tanka here. 

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Elizabeth at Unexpected Intersections. 

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.)