Friday, February 25, 2022

Poetry Friday: Exquisite Corpse

Me, circa 1st grade,
looking quizzical 

Hey, friends--this isn't a pop quiz, because I'm giving you the answer, but have you noticed that the Poetry Sisters have a sort-of theme for 2022?  Let me explain: 

Last month, we dipped into the sounds around us and borrowed overheard words to create our poems. This month, we're doing "exquisite corpse" poetry---which has nothing to do with a morgue and everything to do with sharing words as a community. In essence, we divvied up the task of writing a poem by each contributing one line. The twist was that we only saw the line before our own until we all viewed the whole thing on the day of our ZOOM meeting.

That was nervy of us. Would it hang together in any fashion? Would it veer into vagueness or get bogged down in unconnected detail? Would it even be a poem? 

Well, y'all---it worked. It was a poem--a somewhat unbalanced, but beautiful poem. We took time to marvel at it, and to talk about how each line inspired the next, and then....we pulled it apart. No holds barred. We each took the draft we'd created together and made something new from it, on the spot. From individual to community back to individual again. 

Have you guessed the theme now?  I've used the words "community" and "together." Not to mention "borrowed" and "sharing." Okay, and "individual," too, because being part of a community doesn't mean losing yourself as an independent person. Yup. I think you get it: in 2022, we're concentrating on forms that allow us to create in communal ways.  

Sure, the Poetry Sisters have focused on supporting each other and posting together (since April 2008!) but when we also lift the expectation that we must create drafts completely on our own, in our separate poet cubicles, well...the result is...


I hope you'll explore all the ways my Poetry Sisters took the following communal draft and created a poem that spoke to each of us. First, the draft, loosely based on the "exquisite corpse" ideas in this post, and then my take on it: 

Community Draft

This month, odd one out, running short on days and sleep,
This month, past meets pride, roots ripped from native soil still somehow grow.
The once-bright future dims. Shadows grow
but there, near canyon  rim, in  broken light
the yearling hawk shrieked in futile fury
and the steel-edged clouds looked away
trees bow and bend on a blustery day
that rattles old oak leaves down the street. 

                        -----The  Poetry Sisters

For my take, as I began to work with this poem, I was careful to leave lines intact, and to delicately prune here and there. It felt, after all, not like a corpse, but a body of work, vibrating with life. But the more I played, the more I saw ways this poem could evolve. Change wouldn't destroy it. Neither would curiosity. So...I grew bolder. I moved words around. Then, whole lines. I started looking at each word as a deep well of possibilities, and soon, I was even letting a verb be a noun (wild, huh?) The more I worked, the more empowering and exciting it felt to have these vivid and lovely words supplied to me, a gift that I could use in any way I chose. Thank you, Laura, Mary Lee, Tanita, Andi, Tricia, Liz, and Kelly.  

Still--as free as I felt, I did have a focus: that hawk. To me, he was the "odd one out" in all the best ways, and I wanted to write about him.    

My Poetry Sisters' creations are here:

Poetry Friday is hosted today by our own Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect


  1. Wild, indeed :>D Sara, this is kinda magical! I love your hawk, and I love spring's bow, which made me think of bow as in bow and arrow and a hawk shooting through the sky like an arrow--even though the next line with bend made me go back and reread it as bow as in bow and bend. The double possibilities made me ponder those lines a while :>)

    1. Laura, I did intend for it to be Spring's bow and arrow---and I love the image of the hawk (after he's stopped shrieking) launching himself!

  2. Oh, how I love this hawk! And I love catching glimpses of each line throughout. Huzzah!

  3. This is lovely! I'm so enjoying reading this individual pieces created out of a jointly-created pool of inspiration. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  4. Oooh. That's not a direction any of us expected, and yet it was a right one among other right ones. I think the hawk showed up for all of us. Your poem and imagery is simply majestic.

  5. This is so beautiful! I love how you shaped and reshaped the words and phrases to make a hawk and wind story. "Bends to none" indeed.

  6. "a greening branch"... "his fury rattles the sky"... "bends to none"?????
    SARA!! This is incredible. I love every word, and I even love that you've set it right-justified. Thank you for turning your attention to our hawk and breathing him alive....

  7. Sara,thank you for sharing your process and for keeping the hawk front and center. Your setting is a worthy background for the majesty of your words.

  8. Centering the hawk is so smart. I picture that green shoot as a bow ready to shoot the hawk skyward.


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