Friday, November 24, 2023

Poetry Friday: In the Style of Valerie Worth

One of my favorite small things: 
French green lentils

November's challenge is one of the most fun:  an invitation to write in the style of a well-known poet.  It's a chance to learn by imitation, and an opportunity to delve into the choices each poet makes when they create. This time it's Valerie Worth, who's best known for close observation, spare lines, attention to the "small things" (either in size or in importance) and an affinity for a child's viewpoint.  One of my favorite quotes about her work comes from Valerie herself: 

“It has always seemed to me that any tree or flower, any living creature, even any old board or brick or bottle possesses a mysterious poetry of its own, a poetry still wordless, formless, inaudible, but asking to be translated into words and images and sounds—to be expressed as a poem. Perhaps it could be said that written poetry is simply a way of revealing and celebrating the essentially poetic nature of the world itself.” ---as quoted in a profile of Valerie Worth, written by  Lee Bennett Hopkins for Language Arts, Vol. 68, October 1991 

I tried to honor that approach by  picking two small objects and finding the "mysterious poetry"  in them. 
The first poem was inspired by a soup I was making during our Sunday ZOOM meet-up, and by Worth's poem, "Safety Pin" in which she explores a pin both open and closed.  I did the same for a humble lentil, plucked from a bag, and examined both raw and cooked.  


they chatter
against the bowl,
a patch of pebbles
blotched as
turtle shells.

they fatten
to a chorus, sing 
of one hundred days 
in snug pods,
unspoiled sun.

---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

By the way, did you know there's a MasterClass in growing lentils?   I relied on that as I revised my poem, making it more specific with details like how long lentils take to grow, and how much sunlight they need. Research for the win! 

The second poem was a response to the most humble thing I could find in my office: the doorstop. At first, I thought: I can't write about that.  But then I thought: but Valerie Worth would.  So I did. 


an outstretched arm,
its white rubber tip
a gloved fist, dampens

the fling of an opening
door, the coiled spring
catching the energy

of the wild children
who enter. 

---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

Funny story:  the first picture I took of the doorstop showed me a dust bunny hiding behind the door.  Had to grab that and take another photo.  But maybe I should've written a Valerie Worth ode to the dust?? 

Find out more about Valerie Worth from my poetry sisters' explorations of her style and their wonderful poems.  Grateful to be writing all these years with these kind and talented poets:


Poetry Friday is hosted today by Ruth


  1. These are both lovely. I appreciate the last stanza of the second poem and can see the vibrations of the door stop so clearly.
    My favorite bit of the lentil poem is "a patch of pebbles/blotched as/turtle shells.
    You've embrace Worth well here.

  2. I love how you take the cooked and raw lentils and completely keep the focus ON THEM. They talk and they sing in The Inner Life of Lentils 101. And the doorstop!! What a great, tiny thing to notice - a fist dampening - briefly - the wild energy of children flinging through doors. Love them both.

  3. Wonderful captures of very common items. I also like the lentil the first word is raw and the last is sun.

  4. I love how seeing with Valerie Worth eyes exposes such grace in the ordinary. My dry lentils will now forever "chatter" in the bowl before they become soup, and I'll never look at a doorstop without seeing that "gloved fist!"

  5. Oh my oh my! You nailed VW's style for sure, especially in the two contrasting stanzas (The Raw & the Cooked, which album I just listened to yesterday!). Chatter vs chorus, patch of pebbles, unspoiled sun. Just perfect.

  6. I so enjoyed reading all of your post, Sara, and then the delight you expressed, and invited us to love, in the humble lentil, finally the doorstop. Those endings feel just right, too!

  7. Sara you did a fabulous job of research - research that really is living life up close. Can't wait to read of the dust bunny. :)

  8. Sara, such lovely Valerie Worth-worth poems you have created. I love that you chose the humble lentil and door stop and made them both come alive with fun images like--"they fatten / to a chorus" and "a gloved fist, dampens / the fling of an opening / door" Well done!

  9. That lentil poem is so great! I love her "safety pin" poem and its description of the two states of being for something. I thought of modeling my poem after that, but ended up going another direction. I also love that LBH quote--thank you--and the "wild children" in your doorstop poem. So much thoughtfulness and loveliness here.

  10. I can feel the boing of that door stop as the children bounce the door against it–terrific! And wonderful images in Lentils with
    blotched as
    turtle shells."
    And the chorus too, thanks Sara!

  11. Oh, the glory of the singing lentils and the *sproinggggg* of that door stop!! These are both absolutely spot on, Sara.

  12. I think you did a fine job in both poems! You brought two very humble things to life, giving us a fresh perspective. The lentils celebrate the pods they came from and I could almost hear a boing of that door stop. Great post!


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