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.


  1. SIMPLEST IS HARDEST, I concur!! I don't know why this was more wrestling match than a sonnet would be, but it just... was. I like your wordplay and the idea of a mint edition, a mint condition, and no leaf left unturned... or unexplored. This poem has a freshness and a crispness to its, um, bite. ;)

  2. This word play KILLS me. Honestly I want to read it aloud 100 times. Homerun, Sara. Homerun.

  3. This one needs to be published in a gardening manual, with photos. Brilliant!

  4. Hear, hear, brilliant, as Andi says! I'm a sucker for wordplay. :)

  5. Minty fresh and full of cummins-like wordplay, as I mentioned earlier. LOVE this so much! (And yeah - mint is VERY invasive.)

  6. I'm sorry to be repetitive, but oh, MY! Your word play knocks my socks off! "increeping vaders" and "un-quarantwined" are my favorites. It's perfect how you warned the reader in the beginning. We thought we were being warned about the planting of mint, but we were also being warned that our brains would be tangled as well!

  7. This one takes the top of my head off, as Emily says, so I read it and think, "THIS is a poem." I think this is my favorite of our lot, even though cummings-like is not necessarily a quality of my favorite poems. But yours is so accessible and so dang much fun--that wordplay is magic.

  8. I echo the sentiments of others in saying that the word play here is terrific. I love the words hidden within words, like calaminty and increeping vaders. And your poem explains EXACTLY why I don't grow mint anymore! Wonderful poem.

  9. Clever! A fabulous play with words and form. (And ummm... a tip or two there for me and my mint-growing... #ihavebeenbreakingtheRULE)

  10. Break impossibly simple with complex possibilties--crosspolliwrite for freshness!

  11. Love this in so many ways, Sara! You word play is amazing and always fun to read!


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