Friday, October 29, 2021

Poetry Friday: Word Play Poems

October's challenge was inspired by Nikki Grimes' invitation to create word play poems. And by that, she means:

"studying a word from top to bottom, and inside out, considering every aspect of the word:  What it looks like, sounds like, feels like. What it does, how it's used, etc.  The idea is to bring all of your senses into the act."   

I love word play, so this challenge wasn't intimidating for me.  The only truly hard part was picking a word, because there are so many wonderful ones (just look at this wall from Planet Word!) 


At Planet Word,
a great new museum
 for word play in Washington, DC

In the end, Laura saved me by rolling her metaphor dice during our Zoom writing session and gifting me with three choices. I recommend the same, if you have such dice, or pointing to a page in a book, or having someone else give you words. (Or visit the Planet Word wall!) 

The idea is to look at the word in a deeper way, so beginning with a word you're not overly invested in helps. So does Nikki's instruction to write a full paragraph (or two or three) about the word before you start to compose a poem. If you'd like to see the free-write paragraph about my word, it's posted at the end. And Michelle Barnes has a lovely post about Nikki and word play poems here.  


Memory is
a melodic word,
a murmur of stream word,
waiting to be fished.
Memory is 
a secret door word,
a round hobbit hole word,
a peephole to the past.

Memory is
a tell me mmmmore word,
a long-tailed word, 
ending with a squeal. 

Memory is a loaded word,
a step carefully word,
a word you might have to
make yourself forget.

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

My fellow poets' word play poems are found here:

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Linda at TeacherDance

My free write paragraph is below. I find it funny that my line lengths grew as I dove deeper into the word.  You can see that I pulled images and lines from my free-write, and then re-ordered and refined them to make a poem. The free-write was done on one afternoon, the poem creation on another. 

Memory is a word
with a long tail. But it starts with a
mmmmmmm  of pleasure…or is that just
the sound you make when you think? 
There’s a more in the middle, as in:
more, tell me more! Meme means the same
or even in  French….meme pas is not even 
la meme chose is one of the few phrases I remember from
high school French.  Three syllables, Mem-or-y…
That “o” is like door in  the word, like a hobbit door,
inviting you to peep through,  to see what you can find.
OR…yes, the word also has Or in it…you can remember me OR
you can forget.  Or is it more like ore….something to  dig for, something of value,
but  something that  needs refining?  We dig for memories, we “treasure” them…
we “value” them.  Memorial service. Remember. Memorandum. Memo.
Memento. Memory is  melodic, a word without harsh sounds….
everything is hushed, soft, almost like fog or soft water bubbling in a stream...
a stream of memories, waiting to be fished.  Mnemonic? Something to help you remember…
How funny there are so many meds/illegal things to help you forget but not many
to help you remember.  If you could remember ONE memory, what would it be? How would it change you? Would it be better to let it swim in the stream, uncaught?  Memories can be sorted by “bad” or “good” but is that just how we label them? Even good memories can be sad, or  remind us of what we don’t have now.  And bad memories are still ones that we survived. That long tail of the “y” is also a long tail of a sound at the end…..eeeeeeeee, going on and on and fading into the quiet,  But…eeeeeee also makes your mouth smile…. or squeal???


  1. How interesting to see how your free write became your poem! Such a fun poem to read aloud: murmur and hobbit hole and mmmmmore. And I love that bit of internal rhyme secret door/tell me more. I'm amused at the contrast between the ending of your poem ("make yourself forget") and the what-if-I-can't-remember twist my noun poem takes on memory!

  2. I love that fishing in the stream metaphor and the peephole, too. And then your ending...such a twist of mood! Thanks for sharing your free write, too!

  3. Oh, SUCH a good idea do just go -- stream of consciousness (see what I did there?) -- and then winnow it down. I tried a memory poem too -- it's full of implication and connotation and, well, memories, isn't it?

  4. Your free write is almost a shape poem of sorts, in and of itself. I love how similar/different your poem is to Liz's!

  5. Love how you shared your process and your free write. I did that two and it really helped me pull together different impressions. Your images match with the sound of the word so well; from the mmmm or to squeal. And the kick at the end, about needing to forget - that is so true!! Great poem.

  6. I LOVE that memory is... a rat.
    It hoards. It gets in everywhere. It nibbles. You might want to catch and caress it, or you might want to stop up all the holes in your head and make sure it STAYS. OUT.

    This is amazing! I know I'm going to do more of these poems.

  7. I love the idea of the stream, Sara, that memory "is waiting to be fished". And thanks for sharing the beginning process, going deep into a world brought you (& I imagine others) so many connections. "Memory is a loaded word" - whew, especially if those memories are not easy ones. The four stanzas covered the gamut of what's good, or what is not.

  8. I really love the subtlety of this one, Sara. Some of these poems work *because* they kind of clobber you with things you've never thought of about the word, but this one weasels in (or rats in--Tanita's right) with all its truths.
    "the murmur of stream word,
    waiting to be fished."

  9. And how did I--resident of the DMV--not know about Planet Word!?!? Making my reservation now...

  10. I love that you shared your free write. There are so many amazing observations in it. Your first and last stanzas really speak to me.

  11. Each one of your poems has a strong ending. I also like the following: like a hobbit door,
    inviting you to peep through, to see what you can find. There are many more interesting thoughts that make me think deeper about memory and how to craft a wordplay poem.

  12. It's fun to see that both you and Liz brought music into your poems. I love the portals you created in your second stanza, they draw you in—thanks also for sharing your free write!

  13. Memory is a great word choice. I loved seeing your process.


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