Friday, June 25, 2021

Poetry Friday: Zentangle-ish Poems

Have you heard of Zentangles?  I had not, before this challenge.  It's a form of meditative drawing, explained better here

It's also, I learned, a way to enhance a found poem. (A found poem is one drawn from words "found" in existing texts.) The idea is to use Zentangle patterns to block out unneeded words, and also, to accentuate the shape and flow of the poem itself.  Here's a lovely explanation and several examples. 

Well, readers, I did not exactly "un-tangle" my thoughts about this challenge before I Zoomed with my Poetry Sisters, so I had questions. LOTS of questions.  And fears.  Found poetry, while fun, is frustrating because while you can select your words, you cannot re-order them.  Worse, I'm not great with precise patterns or lines or drawing in general.  The idea of using large sections of small marks to block out most of a perfectly good page was frightening. Plus, working in pen---so no going back! 

But, like most things, She Who Whines the Loudest...Falls the Hardest, and I wound up loving this challenge, once I made it my own. I gave myself the grace of working on multiple copies of a piece of text until I was more sure of the words I picked.  I learned that I didn't have to cover every inch of a page, nor did I have to use established patterns.  I could make my poems Zen-tangle-ISH.  

In the end, I created three poems in two days.  I'll share them in the order I created them.

First, a poem I created from a text in Michael Sims' book, Adam's Navel, A Natural and Cultural History of the Human Form. I chose this text for its juicy words (too juicy, it turns out, because I kept being distracted by sentences like "The tongue is seldom noteworthy in birds, but the flamingo is cursed with one so muscularly tasty that Roman emperors served them by the bowlful."  Yeah, try competing with THAT.) 

 Anyway, I found a poem fairly easily, but was unhappy with my initial attempt to connect the words with lines. I wound up finding a better answer in one of the found words: encodes.  What if I simply encoded (or over-coded?) the rest of the text in a binary "ones and zeros" pattern?  

Language encodes
 a diverse sweetness
providing the throat
and peaches

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

Not bad.  I liked the poem. The drawing---eh.  Not much.  I tried again.  This time, I used a page from a Food52 catalog, and I left most of the underlying text intact, using graphics to show the reader how to read it.  

A well-balanced summer:
Start with sun.
Add wild flowers.
When in doubt,
bring friends...
and read. 

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

Better.  And as a bonus, I discovered a trick of word selection. I didn't have to select an entire word; I could truncate it.  In that last line, "read" was "bread."  I also liked how the poem and the visuals and underlying text interacted.  (Relating the background text to the found poem is not part of the challenge, but I liked the extra layer. You could even create a poem that strongly contrasts with your background text---a poem about peace taken from a war declaration, for example.) 

Finally, I created a third poem from an article in the Hill Rag (a local paper here in DC.) The text was about a Little Free Library, something I plan to put out front of our house now that we've stopped moving and I can tend it. Capitol Hill is home to many Little Free Libraries (and even one Little Free Art Gallery) and they fascinate me---the unique designs and the people who dig through them, and often, the quotes that the owners will affix to the side. Truly, they are small wonders. 

However, my poem turned out to be about something more elusive:  the magic of making things.  

You'll probably have to zoom in to read the poem as the original text was quite small and printed on newspaper. 


a recursive
 natural thing

a precise 

a chance to 
obsessively build 
the unbelievable. 

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

Maybe I overdid it on the bricks (we recently had the bricks in our 1880s house repointed so I'm hyper-aware of their shapes) ....or maybe I didn't go far enough....could I cover more of the page to make the words of the poem stand out?  Perhaps it doesn't matter because I loved making this one.  It felt meditative. Zen-ish. As if my mind un-tangled for a brief time. Magic.  

See how my Poetry Sisters tangled this challenge below (a few of us are taking a break)


Poetry Friday is hosted today by Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise.  (BONUS:  Linda is offering a fun "Clunker Exchange" where you can exchange one of your poetry lines for one of hers.)  


  1. Sara, I LOVE what you have done with these! My favorite is the first one: how language is peaches and chocolate. YES! I am so proud of your bravery and the beauty you created.

  2. Fun! For visuals, I pick #2. For stunning poem, I pick #3. And while it is quite busy, I pick #1 for visuals that add another layer of meaning to the poem (the coding!!!). Thanks for the challenge! It was great fun!

  3. I'm still vexed that on your very first try you achieved INTERNAL RHYME. I mean, WHAT!? And on the first go!?!? ::envious sigh:: All three of these are gorgeous, and I love your skyscraper! You truly did get into these, and well done to you!!

  4. Sara, for a first-timer, you struck gold with your meditative practice. I love the summer zentangle for its simplicity and fresh look at this season set against a foodie background. #1-how clever to find such tasty words to convey your meaning. #3-I love how you wove those words together with an intricate look at city life.

  5. I love each one, Sara, the variety and the connections made to your pages chosen. And I enjoyed reading all about the process. That final one, the way the bricks are building (creating) feels really good to me. I love that final lines of no. 1, "language as chocolate and peaches". The 2nd, that 'recipe' is another connection to the page, love it, too!

  6. Sara, what fun! Thank you for sharing all three of your poems, as well as the process you used to get to them. I went to the refrigerator and took out a peach and a little piece of milk chocolate I'd forgotten about. That will be my evening snack, thanks to Poem #1. I love how you found a well-balanced summer on that page, and such great advice! As Mary Lee said, #3 is stunning!

  7. I love that you fell for this form. My mind and heart were not in it this week, but I'm so glad yours were. Number 2 gets my vote.

  8. These are really fun Sara, I especially like your MAGIC poem and its last stanza. The bricks work well with the poem and I like how your poem moves diagonally down the page and the additional images there too. I'll take your "well-balanced summer," thanks for all!

  9. These are great, Sara! Love reading your poems and process. #2 especially resonates with me right now, likely because it feels so calm and relaxed--unlike my own summer so far :>)

  10. So fun! I love each of these, and also your commentary.

  11. Ahhhhhhh ha! I had seen zentangle before. But, I had not seen the original "rules." Now that I have gone to the website and seen the zentangle boundaries I'm even more excited about giving this a try. Your questions would be my questions. So, I appreciate your discovery of what and how to approach your poems...which are great! I love the summer poem best. Thanks for this well as your patience with me getting to it after my weekend away! I hope you picked a clunker. I'd love one of yours....wait...I'll bet you don't have clunkers. sigh.


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