Friday, December 6, 2019

Poetry Friday: Gratitude

Our challenge this busy season was to write a poem on the theme of gratitude.  I am grateful, every December, for moments of stillness, so I wrote my poem about that.


is bustle
and jingle
and jolly.
Noise pricking
like holly. 

But I am 
Oh, little town!
How still, 
how still.
I crave dark. 
good will. 

So when
I steal,
in the black 
to the mute

Of each
day, this—
this light
before light,
this breadth

of time 
before time 
must peal 
forth, again—
this moment 
I kneel

to the nothing
we are called
From this 
is all 
the world
to come. 

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

Links to my fellow poets (as I have them at the moment) are here:


more to come!

Poetry Friday is hosted by our own Tanita Davis.  

Friday, November 1, 2019

Poetry Friday: A Villanelle to Winter's Chill

Tanita threw out this challenge:  A villanelle on a wintry topic, including a pair of words (or homonyms thereof) from the following: bleak, draft, gutter, chill, chime, glitter, gust, harsh, rime, nip, thaw.

Brrrrrr!  A chilling task...and yet...faced with this, I ended up with....

...a love poem. How'd that happen?

How close

How close are we to ice and avalanches?
Far! Far! These are but gusty jabs and powder stings;
for kiss of starling’s tail knocks snow from branches.

Landing there, in tree still quick with green, he stanches
this dusting of winter’s rime, and clears himself a seat.
How close are we to ice and avalanches

if tree, armed in white, shrugs? forgoes stern glances?
offers us, again, shelter for embraces sweet
while kiss of starling’s tail knocks snow from branches?

We laugh, walk on, our linked arms a pair of flanches
circling our summer hearts, which shudder and beat.
How close we are! To ice and avalanches,

we seal our eyes; instead, swear love. If then winter blanches
pale our days, rosy still our shielded heat.
How close we are to ice and avalanches!
Yet kisses knock snow from branches.

---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

My Poetry Sisters' glittering poems can be found here:


Poetry Friday is hosted today by Tabatha Yeats' The Opposite of Indifference.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Poetry Friday: Pastoral

A pastoral is a poem that idealizes rural life. You know: bucolic meadows, docile cows, sun-drenched fields of hay. 

I suppose it does sound nice... but even we city folk know better, don't we? (If you don't, well, then, Ken Burns' excellent film, Country Music, is waiting. Hard times and rural life go together.)

Perhaps that's why when I tried to write a simple pastoral about the wildlife in my backyard---I had recently seen foxes and falcons, after all---my poem refused to shine with dew.  

Falcon in my yard


Falcons rake the sky at first drumroll of light;
Foxes trot brashly into chill brag of night.

Squirrels scale windows, screen to screen;
Wasps daub bordellos fit for their queen.

Cranes patrol water’s fish-quickened edge;
Crows bully rooftop’s can’t-touch-me ledge.

It is only I who stumbles, by love undone
From rising to the setting of the merciless sun.

Only I who serves no time or place
But when you breathed and where you faced.

Nature knows not how to stop and pray;
It flames to a greatness, day after day.

Thus, your grave is tumbled to its knees
By brambled flowers and roots of trees.

Thus moss fills the slanted letters
Of your name, a raucous bird unfetters

Worms from soil to carry high to nest.
What fallacy to say: Here is Thy Rest

For nothing alive pauses to give guard;
It is only I who finds this stillness hard.

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

Note:   This sub-genre of the pastoral is known as the pastoral elegy.  It's supposed to be written in the "voice of a shepherd, mourning a friend." I don't know what a shepherd's voice sounds like, so this will have to do. 

Thanks, Rebecca, for the challenge!

My poetry sisters have turned out lovely pastorals, which you may find here:


Poetry Friday is hosted today at Library Matters

Friday, September 6, 2019

Poetry Friday: Snakes in Eight Lines or Less

Laura's challenge this month was to write a poem comparing a snake to something fresh---in eight lines or less. Since I'm currently evacuated due to Hurricane Dorian, I could see no other choice but this:

Hurricane slithers  
the coast, rain-venomed
tongue lashing inlets
and bays. A ruddy-banded
snake, it neither uncoils 
nor shutters an eye, yet crawls
the map, striking land, 
swallowing towns.

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

I can't wait to see how snakes inspired my poetry sisters!

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Poetry for Children

Friday, August 2, 2019

Poetry Friday: Drawn from Stone

Poetry Sisters are writing poems to images of rock/stones/walls today.  I provided three photographs taken during my trip to Israel last year, and each of us created poetry in response to one or more. 

Israel was beautiful in many ways, but for some reason, I'm always drawn to rough places, and even more so if someone's made art in them.

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

The diversity and joy my sisters find in the world never ceases to amaze me.  Revel in their poetry here:

Rebecca (on break this time) 

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Heidi Mordhorst, at My Juicy Little Universe.  

Friday, July 5, 2019

Poetry Friday: A Triolet for the Heat

Triolets began as devotionals.  So for July's poetry challenge, I looked to my prayers (and to heat, as Liz suggested) for my inspiration.

Please don't summon the demon

Oh, mercy, I prayed for these days
Summer-long, blood-hot, even in shade;
When winter leeched me to pale beige,
Oh, mercy! I prayed for these days:
For gnats, for sweat, for turned mayonnaise,
For blighted tomatoes, burned legs, soured lemonade.
Oh, mercy. I prayed for these days.
Summer-long, blood-hot, even in shade...

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

More heated triolets can be found here:


Poetry Friday is hosted today by our own Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect. 

Friday, May 3, 2019

Poetry Friday: Squaring up the Dizain

The May challenge (chosen by me) is a French Dizain:

One 10-line stanza
10 syllables per line
Uses the following rhyme scheme: ababbccdcd

Bonus points for using the word “square” somehow (since the form IS a square)

For once, my mind went somewhere literal to begin my poem. I immediately thought of a builders square (or steel square) and quickly Googled it to see what that tool actually DOES.  I thought it was for drawing right angles. 

 Ha!  It's so, so much more.  A craftsmen wrote a whole book about it, and then condensed that book down to a booklet, which is now available as part of Google's Project Gutenberg.  And boy, is he opinionated about how to use it:

"I will not attempt in this small treatise, to give an historical account of the origin, growth and development of the square, as the subject has been treated of at length in my larger works, as I do not care to pad out these pages with matter that is not of a severely practical nature." ----ABC of the Steel Square and its Uses by Fred T. Hodgson

Severely practical...okay then.'s the thing...he then can't resist this bit: 

"It is no sin not to know much, though it is a great one not to know all we can, and put it all to good use."

And he goes on to chastise those too lazy to learn what to do with their tools. Not only practical, but MORAL severity.   It's enough to chill a poet facing a new form....

Am I using my tools well? 
Have I learned all I can? 
What if I'm only "padding out pages"?? 

Thankfully, I also discovered that beneath Mr. Hodgson's gruff exterior is a heart for making things of beauty and use.  And, I'm happy to say, his trade...a builder's trade... is filled with poetic language. 

That steel square?  The two arms are called the blade and the tongue.  

Building a roof?  The rafters might need to be "cheek-cut." 

Plus carpenters use all sorts of solid, juicy words like "run and rise" and "pitch" and "joist." 

I can get behind that. 

A Builder's Creed

Stair math: rise and run (or how high? how long?)
Roof math: pitch and width (or how steep? how spanned?)
Each step, each rafter, sawn true, and laid strong
by tools wiped of sweat, kept square and at hand.
So, too a poem is constructed and planned;
words measured by tongue, syllables cheek-cut
into blade-sharp lines which open and shut,
rhyme-fit like a bloodied paw to a snare;
a poem, a cathedral, both framed out of what
is redoubted, joisted, strung to mid-air.

                                 ---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

Participating poetry sisters can be found here:


Poetry Friday is hosted today by the incomparable Jama Rattigan at Alphabet Soup.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Poetry Friday: Anagram Poems

Anagram poems are wily.  They seem easy, but run you ragged. Also, they come in a myriad of forms, but for this challenge, we'll stick to the variations below (Each is linked to an example.)

1. lines or stanzas with word pairs that are anagrams (composed of the same letters), or
2. lines made up of all the same set of words, or
3. when end words all use at least four letters from words in the title.

I'm also going to add this definition (found by Tanita Davis):

4. a poem which anagrams the poet's name to find a title...and any poem you can create out of said title (usually humorous.)

All that to say:  I didn't really follow these rules.  (No one is surprised, right?)

Anyway, I landed instead, on a form that combines variations #1 and #3. (Honestly, #1 was fine, but I got tired of trying to find multiple pairs. #2 seemed too hard....and not really anagram-y. And #3 seemed more like a word search game.) 

So...  instead of multiple pairs, I decided to use only ONE set of anagrams, a list of six words which all use the same letters, and I used them all as end words, too.

Oh, AND I learned a new word.

From Creative Joys

Forgive me, I never knew your name

Unsung, sepal
props bud as it leaps
to bloom after long lapse,

sturdily bells to full calyx, but pleas
for love are unheard peals.
Beside blossoms, all pales.

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

More about sepals here (one of the four basic parts of a flower, how could I not know?)

And for more beautiful pictures of sepals by one who obviously DOES appreciate them, please see here.

Readers, I confess: the temptation to go silly was strong.  I made myself attempt a "serious" poem first.  Then I indulged in Variation #4.  Yes, I anagrammed my own name.  Found a title.  Wrote a poem to match.

 by Sara Lewis Holmes

For sale! For sale!
A simar or two….modest shifts for you and you!
Or is it better hawked as “wispy” dress?
Or say, a trailing scarf? Brought in at yonder wharf?
Or maybe it’s actually a jacket? With fur-lined placket?
Definitions diverge. Still, prices low. Splurge!

I'm saving you from my other anagram title:  "I am Showerless, Al."

My poetry sisters anagram poems (of all variations) can be found here:


Poetry Friday is hosted today by the delightful Karen Edmisten.

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.