Friday, April 30, 2021

Poetry Friday: In the Style of Linda Hogan's "Innocence"

I love our "in the style of" poetry challenges.  It's a chance to dive into a poet's work, to find themes, observe structure, play with new techniques. It can also be intimidating.  It's hard to shake the desire to live up to the perfection of the original. That's not possible, of course. Not really the point. We imitate by intention,  sure, but not to exactly copy; we allow for our own experience to color things. Still, YIKES.  

The best way to banish my fear is to study the poem we're striving to mimic as deeply as I can. Luckily, I also have my poetry sisters, who see things that I don't. This month, our chosen poetry model was  Innocence by Linda Hogan.  A beauty of a poem, it slowly unfurls in a descending set of stanzas, beginning like this:

There is nothing more innocent

than the still-unformed creature I find beneath soil,

neither of us knowing what it will become

in the abundance of the planet.

Wow.  So incredibly profound already.  But as we discussed the poem as a group, we were able to pinpoint more of the ordinary.  Kelly observed that the line count is 10-6-4.  I noted that the poet uses a thematic structure of observation,  question, challenge. (Or you could call that discovery, wonder, growth.) Liz pointed out that we could model our poems after just the first line, and see what flowed from there. "There is nothing more _____ than _____. "  (Or go Mad Lib style by stripping more lines down to their underlying structure, as Andi offered.)  We could also, Tanita quietly said, continue to play with the fertile theme of innocence by mining our earliest memories.

Well, reader, what would you do?  So many choices. If you want to try the challenge before you read my response, first read the rest of Linda Hogan's poem here.  Think about what you find of essence in it.  And then give it a go.  Or you could check out all of our takes, and make yours an answer to ours.  Wherever you end up, it's all good. 

In the end, I decided to follow quite a bit of the poem's structure: the line count, the thematic three stanzas, and even a bit of the specific grammar of a few lines.  I learned so much about the original poem, and loved where it took me.  

And what do you know? After this challenge, I feel both less innocent (oh, so that's how she did it) and more (wow, it's still a wonder of a poem.) 


There is nothing more candid

than a tree. Its limbs record what it pushed

aside to find the sun. Every twist and jink splayed 

open, arms caught reaching for light. Below, 

more honesty: thread-thin roots break concrete

with their greed; knots, fat as elephant knees, 

swell to dead ends. Yet, the tree bears pruning

as if shears were but tweezers, growing heavy 

afterwards with the furry nubs of leaves.

It blooms furiously. 

I take picture after picture, 

wondering: how does

this tree admit 

the fullness of each day,

let all be marked, 

tell the beauty in the bent?

The same confession must be my own,

to stagger in pursuit of light,  

be witness to all,  

allow what is.  

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

See how my fellow poets played with Linda Hogan's poem here:






Poetry Friday is hosted today by Radio, Rhythm and Rhyme.