Friday, March 31, 2023

Poetry Friday: The Etheree (once more)

The March challenge was the etheree, an expanding syllable-based form we've attempted before (back in 2015, and also in 2020, although it looks like I skipped that one.) The first line has one syllable, the second, two, and so on until you reach the tenth line with ten syllables. 

Easy, right?  Well, except for picking the right one-syllable word to begin...and choosing a subject..and possibly sprinkling in some internal rhyme (if you want to.)  In truth, no challenge is ever "hard" or "easy," which makes our continual expectation that we know what we're up against each month hilariously foolish. And yet...we label our challenges anyway. Groan or gloat. Dread or delight. Until the actual writing begins, and then we have to jump in, ready or not, and see what words come. 

At least the inherent steady growth of this form lends itself well to our 2023 theme, which is transformation (conversion, alteration, metamorphosis,  mutation, growth, evolution, revision, modulation, change.. )

But, with all that, I still didn't have a subject in hand until I visited the National Cherry Blossom Kite Festival last Sunday. One event was labeled "Kite Ballet," which turned out to be kite-flying to music. But the more I listened (and watched the multitude of kites in the sky) the more I doubted that one dance form could hold what I saw. Instead, I tried to transform, over and over and over again, the initial "definition" of this event.  That led to Take #1, below.  

Kite ballet is...

but hip-hop,
kites pop and lock,
embattled X-wings; 
spring-drunk sky-flower blooms;
current-cranked deep sea creatures;
gust-lifted ghosts, soundless, spinning; 
love-floaty newlywed dragonflies; 
fly-boy flotillas in sky high beat boats.

           ---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved) 

I liked it.  But the next day, I set out to make those syllables dance harder.  So here's Take #2:


Kite  ballet is...

but bopping;
X-wing twerking; 
hip-hop high locking;
spring-drunk sky-blooms larking;
sea creatures current-cruising;
gust-lifted ghosts, soundless, meeting; 
dragonflies, newlywed love-woozy; 
brash boasting fly-boys, beat-beat-beat-beating.

                ---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

My poetry sisters' etherees can be found here:

***For next month, we're writing poems in the style of Pablo Neruda.  So pick any of his poems, and see where it leads you! 


  1. Your syllables definitely "danced harder" in your second version! Love all the hyphenated bits and DANG! end rhymes for the win! Wowsa! (I am a little sad that "fly-boy flotillas" didn't make the cut! :-)

    1. I can see keeping the last line from Take #1 and using it to finish off Take #2. Something like: "fly-boy flotilla, beat-beat-beat-beating." I kind of liked sky-high beat boats, too, but then I used "sky " and "high" elsewhere and didn't want to repeat. Poetry---so many choices!

  2. This feels like a rap song--the most beautiful one ever! It's jsut delicious to read aloud. Love the x-wings, the high locking, the spring-drunk...kinda cummings. Gorgeous, Sara!

  3. Ooh, I am spring-drunk and completely here for it. Love how these turned out, both versions. I love the flyboys, especially, but twerking, pop-and-locking just is so evocative of the juke-and-jive, sidestep-and-spin motion of kites in the sky. You NAILED the end rhyme; I wish I'd had more time this month. Ah, well. Next time.

    PS - I checked our city's calendar and we have a kite show coming up. It's on my calendar now.

  4. Sara, yes, that Take 2 does dance and move. Ballet it is definitely not! I like "newlywed love-woozy" and "hip-hop high locking." Your poem makes me wish I had been there to see it!

  5. Always enjoy an etheree, Sara and your poem also possesses some glorious alliterative elements which is like icing on the top for me. The imagery of sky blooms larking is most powerful. This is an excellent etheree!

  6. I'm a huge fan of poems about what is NOT, and this one is way up there in my collection! Reminds me of Gerard Manley Hopkins as well as Cummings and there is no way to pick out a favorite line. Tip-top.

  7. Bravo! I agree...that first word is so important. It's a challenge to start with an unexpected one syllable. Well done. Those beat, beat-beating kites are happy you saw them, I'm sure!

  8. Sara, I always love reading what you write for the end of the month Poetry Princesses challenge. Not one but two poems sing their songs right up to the sky and back. I read about the Cherry Blossom Festival but we never had time to get into D.C. Thanks for sharing the fun and your Kite Ballet thoughts.

  9. This poem was music to my ears.

  10. Sara -- this is ingenious! I really love both versions -- the language is so rhythmic and onomatopoeiac!!

  11. Gosh! A lot of joy packed into this poem. "spring-drunk sky-blooms" says it all!

  12. Ah yes! The second one packs more alive punch & I'm enriched also by getting to see your process/the poem's transformation. Thank you, Sara! -Ann Swanberg

  13. Oh, the alliteration here is phenomenal. I think my favorite phrase is spring-drunk.


R-E-S-P-E-C-T (or you will be deleted)

You can receive followup comments to this conversation by checking the "notify me" box below the comment window.