Friday, September 25, 2020

Poetry Friday: To an Image of a Hippo, or Ponderous, or Both

September's challenge pounced out of nowhere (where did the rest of the month GO?) so maybe that's why I laughed when I read our task: 

"write a poem using ponderous, or an image of a hippo, in whatever form we wish!"

Ok, I had to think quickly, about ponderous things! What to do? How to frame this? Where even to start? 

Well, that's always the question, no matter how much or how little time I have...right? So I leaned on my never-fail poetry approach: research. It's not something we discuss much when teaching poetic technique, as we focus on rhythm, imagery, word choice, and perhaps form, or even rhyme. But poetry must also be rooted before it can grow, and for me, that means digging into the connections my subject makes with the world. This time, that was two-fold:  the word origin of ponderous (and other pond words)...and hippos, of course. 

Research always saves the day. 


If a poet in a pond

were to ponder,

what ponderous

thoughts to weigh?

That “to pond” is to pool water; 

nothing to do with poundage,

still, arising from pound—

a place to hold livestock— so a water

version of that, to hold ducks, say.

Or carp. Or a poet floating

on her back to see what’s up

there, wondering who, in dialect, turned

pound into pond. So she can now write

about ponding, a hazard of low water 

at the dip of a path, or even make jokes

about pond scum, also called frog-spittle,

and joy! brook-silk….and yet, to ponder

is another thing, entirely: to think, to consider,

to weigh carefully. This she must do. 

Not simply float. Perhaps if she contemplates

the hippo. Now her thoughts bolt from her wet

coils of hair. To be a river-horse! To cry 

questions that carry through both water 

and air. To word-gallop as it can,

startling all, the terror of the mangroves, 

mating underwater, birthing crocodile

killers, not a ponderous bone

in its body of work. What then? 

What might pool in her ears? What might 

she say to her pod, her herd, her dale, 

her bloat? What if this pond weren’t 

all the world she knows? 

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

See what my poetry sisters did with this ponderous challenge here:








Poetry Friday is hosted today by Jone Rush MacCulloch


  1. Ha ha ha -- I LOVE this!! The meta pondering and OMG, brook-silk. Yes, please, and thank you.

  2. So many twists and turns and so much wordplay! I was smiling through this and then got gut-punched by that ending. "What if this pond weren’t all the world she knows?" What if, indeed.
    Love this.

  3. Now her thoughts bolt from her wet

    coils of hair. To be a river-horse! To cry

    questions that carry through both water

    and air. To word-gallop as it can,

    Oh, THIS is just fun. Sara, your wordplay gets a little wilder each time, and I love it.

  4. Because during this time I do find myself floating, I love your exhortation to do more, and more you certainly did, Sara. That research into the word both educated and entertained. Thanks for the fun!

  5. Yes! Research does always save the day! (Love your poem!)

  6. I love seeing your research unspool into art! And YOU managed to get a bloat of hippos into your poem. I so wanted to.

  7. Such floating from ponderous! Wondrous!

  8. "Now her thoughts bolt from her wet

    coils of hair." Love this. And word-galloping! And floating. You are so fleet of mind--never ponderous!

  9. Brook-silk...that is all. Brilliant!

  10. Oh my goodness! What a delightful pondering frolicking word play of a poem! From ducks to carp to a floating poet and then beyond. Such a masterful interweaving of all you learned. I also appreciate your thoughts on turning to research to root your poem. Fabulous!

  11. A process poem of the highest order, Sara, and my favorite kind of this-leads-to-that, and how yes! "Now her thoughts bolt from her wet coils of hair"! They don't call them hyperlinks for nothing. Thank you for this poem.


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