Friday, April 6, 2018

Poetry Friday: She is Dead to Us, inspired by Elizabeth Bishop

Happy April, and Happy National Poetry Month!  I've decided that the best way to celebrate is to lose.

Yup. Lose your fears about poetry. Lose your way exploring new poets.  Lose your heart to words.

In that spirit, this month's challenge is to write a poem inspired by a line from Elizabeth Bishop's "One Art." It is a stunning villanelle about loss, and you must read it whole, if you haven't.

I can't compete with Bishop, but I did love using her poem as a launching pad for creating something new. I chose this line:

 "I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,"

Then I played (just a bit) with the order, so that "lovely ones" refers to not cities, but people.

She is dead to us

Lovely ones, I lost two cities,
and vaster, six branches of
the family tree, all the sewers
beneath, and yet—not the one day
you proposed we flee

lovely ones. I lost three bones,
and vaster, a splintered
windshield, and the courage
beneath, and yet—not the one day
you proposed we flee

lovely ones. I lost sixty dollars
and vaster, every photograph pinned
to a page, and my taste for milk
and yet—not the one day
you proposed we flee

lovely ones. I lost all reason,
and vaster, why one doesn’t do that,
and mile after mile of what if, what if,
where do we go now, and yet—not you,
that one day. You proposed. We flee.

---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

My Poetry Sisters are each taking a different line from Bishop's poem. See what they've created here:


Poetry Friday is hosted today by Amy at The Poem Farm. 


  1. This is so, so lyrical and melodic -- I had to read it aloud 3 times. Also, the line "I lost all reason" -- yes yes yes yes yes.

  2. I loved the clever way the lines of each verse led to differing meanings of that final line. It feels good to read it aloud with a strong voice.

  3. Sara! This is stunning both as a love poem and a celebration of loss. I love the repetition of "lovely ones." And that ending!

  4. You proposed. We flee.
    There is such a story in this, and depending on one's cadence when one reads it, it is a happy story or a tragic one, or... a scary one. And the title!

    I love everything about this, and I need to read it five more times!

  5. A beautiful taking and making. The original is so playful, and yet your journey is the deeper.

  6. Your inversion of lovely ones is lovely! And I love the repetition and change as the loss/poem progresses.

  7. I love how you turned your words around from the original line you borrowed–it really brings home the loss in the poem–deep and beautiful, thanks!

  8. It's kind of hypnotic, rhythmic....this is a poem that is told in a quiet voice or a whisper. The meaning doesn't need sound so much as an ear. And, that word vaster....I didn't know it but, now I do because of how it comes up on the shore in each stanza. Sarah, this poem is really, really lovely. Thank you for sharing it. You sure you cannot compete with Bishop? I'm not.

  9. It takes bravery to flee when bidden (especially when you leave behind lovely ones). It takes trust to follow. The adventure is great, but there is a grace in knowing and naming what you've lost in the process.

  10. What a lovely, heartbreaking poem. I love the idea of losing--by getting lost in poetry and letting go of fears. Yes!

  11. I'm at a conference, and can't reply individually, but to have readers with such open hearts and minds respond to my words is a gift. I wanted to tell a story of loss and joy, and even I'm not sure exactly what happened that day...or in the days after...but the poem's narrator knows, and this is what she can share with me about what she lost and gained. I'm okay with letting that not wholly add up to a clean balance sheet because life never works that way anyway, right? Thank you.

  12. Such loss and joy. What a story. Thank you for sharing this with us, Sara. -- Christie @

  13. My writing group used this poem as a prompt recently, too. There's so much richness in it. It's one of my very favorites - and I love yours, too!

  14. Oooh, I adore this poem and what you did with it. And too, the way each of you chose one line. Peace.

  15. Oh, now I must prioritize the Poetry Sisters. I recently used this poem also as a launching pad for poems about losses, using a whole different form (if it is a form) that asserted itself. You can see most of them here:

    I love a poem that is so personal that we can barely follow any of the logic but all of the emotion. Do you still flee?

  16. Lovely images. I am inspired to go and write one myself. I loved that a line was borrowed and re purposed.


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