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.  


  1. To me this TRULY met the challenge -- the obserservation, the wonder and the growth. I adore it. I adore it all, but that first, honest stanza is the best -- it is such an honoring of the tree and it's often unremarked upon miracles.

  2. "stagger in pursuit of light" Wow! and YES! You nailed it, girl.

  3. Definitely a challenge, and you met it head-on! Wonderfully done. I, too, love "stagger in pursuit of light."

  4. Oh, beautiful, Sara. You capture the pure essence of Hogan's ...tone, purpose, theme, everything.

  5. Lovely--especially that final stanza. Love the idea of a tree as witness.

  6. I so enjoyed reading about your process and what others added from their own thoughts, Sara. And then your own poem/philosophy how pondering about a tree (this one? all trees?) can help you (all of us?) live our lives. To me, as our thinking observations tell us, as your poem does, we are all one together, as you so beautifully have written.

  7. Wow. Trees seem so sturdy and forceful to me, but I love this view of them reflecting all that they impact. I extra loved " thread-thin roots break concrete / with their greed." This is just a beautiful, thought-provoking poem, Sara!

  8. THIS is a wonder of a poem, too. And you're right about trees and honesty. I never thought about it that way.

  9. Really beautiful...that record of pushings through the soil, to be a witness.

  10. Sara, there is a beautiful flow to your poem after a deep study of the Hogan poem. Lines that resonate with me: tell the beauty in the bent, to stagger in pursuit of light, and the entirety of the final stanza. There is simplicity yet wisdom in what you wrote. I am still working on my poem on innocence.

  11. As someone who leads environmental education workshops focused on trees, the first stanza is a gift. You have so clearly seen and described the miracle of trees. I love the entire poem, but the noticing and lyrical description in the first stanza is incredible.

  12. I confess I had to google "jink" but that and twist perfectly describe why I adore our Japanese Maple. My husband will tell you I often stand beneath it admiring the subtle turns it's slender branches take. Your poem is spot on and inspiring. Thank you for sharing the results of this wonderful challenge, Sara.


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