Thursday, August 1, 2019

(re)introducing the definito, and some SUNDAY POETRY SWAGGER

WELCOME! Poetry Friday is hosted here today--thanks for stopping by! To find out more about what Poetry Friday is and how it works, click here. To add your link, scroll to the bottom of the post and find the InLinkz button.

Climate Action PSA before we begin: 

Preparations for the September Global Climate Strike are gearing up. I like to think of it more as a demonstration, a chance for the world’s population (where privileged with the choice) to stand up for the future of the planet. Most people can’t and won’t walk out of work or school, but most people CAN and SHOULD take a stand somehow, somewhere--in front of Starbucks on the way to work for 15 minutes, at lunchtime outside their school or building, at a block party with the neighbors after dinner.

As for me, I’m already working on booking a substitute for that day to join the demonstration at the Capitol, and I will be using sick leave because the Earth is ailing. I urge you to lead, organize and plan to be out there and counted as concerned and ready to take #ClimateAction along with the youth who will inherit our mistakes. It only takes 3.5% of a population to make a difference in social movements, and YOU can be part of that powerful fraction!

Now, on to the poetry!

More than ten years ago when my family was living in France, I was raising young readers and thinking a lot about words and language. I wrote a little series of poems that attempted to define certain words (often abstract) and even thought of working on a book of them. They faded into the background as we returned to the States, but in 2009 when I was still quite new to Poetry Friday, I posted this: one of my many projects, where I toyed with the invention of a new poetry form.

That very first “definition” poem has now morphed into the "definito" below, and the form has become freer, looser, while maintaining its intent: the definito is a free verse poem of 8-12 lines (aimed at readers 8-12 years old) that highlights wordplay as it demonstrates the meaning of a less common word, which always ends the poem.


not a 
      smudge of mud
not a
      jot of rot
tulip leaves of clean green
tulip petals, pure sheen
mingling their
singular spotless hues

HM 2008 (revised 2019)

I’ve been playing with these again recently and sharing them with the members of my online teacher-poet critique group, and they got quite excited to try out some definitos for themselves. So, with fanfare,

I introduce you to our first group challenge (a la the Poetry Sisters, also posting as a group today) by the SUNDAY POETRY SWAGGERS (a name which we have struggled to settle on and which may change depending on your reaction to the slippery definitions of “swag” and “swagger”!) I'm grateful to them all for their contributions to refining the form and supporting my messing around with it! 

Catherine Flynn @ Reading to the Core 
Molly Hogan @ Nix the Comfort Zone 
Linda Mitchell @ A Word Edgewise 
Margaret Simon @ Reflections on the Teche

Also playing along today are two PF veterans who responded to my 2009 (omg TEN years ago) invitation to try a definito:

Mary Lee Hahn @ A Year of Reading 
Laura Purdie Salas @ Writing the World for Children

Here are a couple more recent definitos from me, and then a couple from Diane Mayr, who also participated in 2009 and has written a new (and very current) definito for 2019.


the game is done--
you’re on the bench
hot and mad and sticky
tears and sweat--
your face is drenched
the feeling of losing is icky

coach is handing you water--what does he think?
you’re thirsty, so thirsty, but not for a drink!
you’re cursed with a thirst that makes your teeth clench--
the thirst that only winning can quench


imagine a place

                   a lake perhaps
unruffled by ripples
untroubled by tides
                  a place of peace and quiet blue
stand and survey
                  the way that calm
skims over the surface--
                                that's placid.

©Heidi Mordhorst 2019

VISCERAL by Diane Mayr 2009

Don't panic--think it through
--the noise outside your
window is not, I repeat,
is not the boogeyman.

And yet, your heart still
pounds. Your breath comes
in gasps.  Your instinct is
to RUN!  And you do.

Your gut over your head.

DEBATE by Diane Mayr 2019

A clear difference of opinion.

He favors fresh-dug worms.
She likes fluorescent plastic.

He is armed with facts.
She with years of experience.

Each provides inspiration.

Back and forth the words fly.
Both of  them try to convince.

What I learned: fish take the bait.
What they don't care for is a debate.


Well, isn't that a caboodle of fun (especially for people who fish)?  Maybe you'll want to try out a definito too, after you click the blue button below to leave your link on for this first Poetry Friday of August.  

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!
Click here to enter

I assert the copyright to the poetic form called the “definito” ©Heidi Mordhorst 2009, 2019


  1. Oh my goodness, Heidi - a post that sparkles out in all directions like fireworks. Love these poems of yours and Diane's, and I look forward to jumping from link to link to read the others. What a talented, savvy, fun group up there! And thanks for the Climate words... not sure why EVERYone is not on the bandwagon; it's not like we have the Mars option yet and I would prefer to stay grounded on THIS terra firma anyway, thank you very much.

  2. You have such great energy, Heidi, and this post really reflects that. Thanks so much for the Climate PSA and the reminder to take a stand. Thanks also for sharing definitos and challenging us to write some. It was definitely challenging, but quite invigorating, too. The unintentional side-effect is seeing/hearing possibilities for more definitos all over the place (like when I just typed "invigorating")! Thanks so much for hosting this week!

  3. Heidi, thank you for a dazzling post full of your spunk. You make standing up sound so possible! I am inspired. And, wow! What fun definitos. I never really did understand visceral until tonight. A caboodle of fun, indeed! Oh! and you lived in France? We gotta talk about that.

  4. Thanks for this amazingly dynamic post with oodles of rich poetry Heidi! Love your "Placid" definito, I'll have to give this form a try… And thanks also for cueing us in on the next Climate Strike March date. And lastly thanks for being our hostess with the mostest for the Poetry Friday Roundup!

  5. I've never heard of a definito, but I love these - especially your first one, which simply sings! Thanks for sharing, and for hosting!

  6. I'm loving this "definito" form, Heidi! It appeals to me in a similar way to Nikki Grimes' free verse wordplay challenge on TLD a few years back. The ones you posted are great and I can't wait to read the others on my rounds! Thanks for hosting this week. :)

  7. I love this definito form! So fun. We are going to have to try some!

  8. Thanks for hosting! My form is acting up, so I'm posting my link here: For Teenage Girls by Clementine Von Radics Happy August!

  9. I had fun fooling around with a definito again after all this time, Heidi! Thanks for hosting and fr sharing all these awesome poems!

  10. I love your definito form. Thank-you for sharing. :) Having just posted the last of my CYA Conference summaries on my blog, I'm hoping for some time to play with poetry and be creative! (I'm looking at you, definito!)

    1. Looky-looky... Mary Lee's 'addlepated' had me thinking of 'snollygoster' - a silly word I read years ago, which prompted a poem which actually almost fits your definito form. (Except mine rhythm/rhymes - and mentions the word twice - though the second time IS at the end!)

  11. All wonderful, Heidi. I'm planning to do the march in Denver, hoping that we can be more than 3.5 %! It's an important thing to do right now, to show those candidates that we want to hear from them about climate change! The definito sounds like a big challenge and lots of fun. Your and the others' poems are clever & fun to see the varied approaches, too. Thanks for hosting!

  12. An illuminating post from top to bottom, Heidi! (Do you have that word on your list?) Thank you for keeping us up to date on ways to be vocal about climate change. Some of the news this week is truly terrifying. Diane's definitos are spot on, and you know I love yours. Placid is my favorite, I think. I want to be in that place "unruffled by ripples/untroubled by tides." Thank you for challenging us, and for hosting today!

  13. Thanks, Heidi, for reintroducing the definito and for inviting me to participate today. It was truly fun! I applaud you for your activism. I think we're about to see the youth rise up like they did in the Vietnam era. Their active involvement will make all the difference.

  14. What fun! I'm feeling "placid" today... and enjoying the fishing references, too. Thank you! xo

  15. Thanks for hosting AND for inspiring us to take action and to get creative!

  16. Oooh. That's a Dandy (a Darling? a Declaration?) of Defintos you've shared, yours and all the rest! "Immaculate" transfixed me---tulip sheen is sublime, and so is your poem. I'd heard rumors of this form (via Poetry Sister, Laura) but not experienced their playfulness and precision--two qualities I adore in any poetry. I will definito-ly be trying this. Thank you for hosting, sharing your fellow poets work, and Swagger on.

  17. I love these poems and the new form. I do want to try it out--and even have a word in mind for my first attempt. I love the name of the Sunday Poetry Swaggers. I'm looking forward to reading more definitos from them today. Thanks for hosting!

  18. I LOVE these poems and this form. Maybe Laura already told you, but we want to add a Definito to our 2020 calendar. THANK YOU for the inspiration, and for hosting today :)

  19. This is a really neat form -- we're going to definitely have to try this one, and I CLEARLY need to get to Lake Placid - what a gorgeous little ode to it!

  20. Such a fun new poetry form. I'm hooked. I have a number of google docs with just a word in the title, waiting to be a definito. I am definitely using this idea with my gifted kids. They are voracious readers and will enjoy teaching each other new words through poetry. Your poems are masterful in word play. I enjoyed Diane's additions as well. Thanks for hosting and for challenging the Poetry Swaggers this month.

  21. Heidi,
    Down to the wire with 15 minutes to go. I am hastily finishing my PF post. I have been at a state ed conference and my husband accompanied to celebrate our anniversary with an outing in Saratoga. I love your definito and may try one soon.

  22. I love your new poetic form. I'm definitely (pun intended!) going to try out a definito myself--but not this week. I really enjoyed your poems-and Diane's, too. I think Immaculate is my favorite.
    Thanks for sharing about the Global Climate Strike, too. I didn't know about it, but will try to participate.
    And finally, thanks for hosting this week.

  23. Here's a definito that breaks the rule length--perhaps I will come back and revise it later. Thank you for your climate-action passion and for inspiring a little writing this morning.


    Is it the pattern of weather--
    humid or dry, polar or tropical
    a place of transition?

    Or the mood of the public--
    one of hope and confidence,
    or fear and suspicion?

    Both can be changed.
    Let’s embrace as our mission
    a path for the future,

    that reverses our carbon emissions
    and conserves our homes and habitats--
    forests and deserts, oceans and icecaps,

    that stabilizes earth’s changing
    --Buffy Silverman

  24. Thank you, Buffy, and thanks to all you Poetry Friday contributors for your passion and participation this week! It's always fun to host and you all made it more fun with your leaping in. Happy August to all!

  25. Lively, lovely post! Definitoly got to try a definito!

  26. I never got my post up until late on Saturday, so I missed the party. Just in case anyone reads the comments, I'm here:

    Thanks for sharing this new-to-me form.
    I'm so glad the group of you are writing!


Thanks for joining in the wild rumpus!