Friday, January 8, 2021

nest & nestlings, à la Irene

My short two-Friday break from blogging has turned out to be both the least and most eventful period you could imagine, for me personally and for our democracy.  There are so many posts I could write today, and yet I'm sticking with the Sunday Swaggers challenge that was set for January, and perhaps it can become a bigger metaphor along the way....

although it seems that at this time, we don't have need of any metaphor.  We have just had the most powerfully honest and revealing story of US play out (yet again, but this was maybe finally loud enough for the people in the back) just 12 miles from my house at the Capitol. May we now move forward from our imagined Garden of Eden in commitment to naked truth and brave change.

I set the poetry challenge for today, knowing that we all were captivated by the concept of Irene Latham's 2020 collection THIS POEM IS A NEST (Wordsong, illustrated by Johanna Wright).  In it Irene uses a longer, 4-part poem organized by season to hatch many, many "Nestlings," found poems constructed by taking words from the longer poem.  

Irene's book includes a direct invitation for readers and writers of all ages to try Nest & Nestlings themselves, and even includes a guide at the end--and who are we to decline such a generous invitation? The main rule is that the words must be kept in the order they are found, and most of us realized quickly that this challenge was trickier than it looks!  

In addition, it really matters what nest poem you choose to begin with, and somewhere I'm sure someone has interviewed Irene about how her Nest came to be and in what relation to her Nestlings. Luckily, there is freedom in being able to use any words for each nestling's title, and in grabbing an s or several to tidy up tenses.

For my experiment, I chose a 2011 poem about a rug.  Not just any rug, of course; the rug I bought for my then-new full-time classroom remains one of the best purchases I have ever made.  The careful reader will notice that the version below used as my Nest is slightly revised, which happened in order to give some of my Nestlings stronger wings.

Here is my Nest, followed by the best of my many, many attempted Nestlings.

As you can see, it was quite difficult to get the Nestlings different enough! But taking PLENTY of time helps, and nest time 😉 I think I might try writing the Nest and the Nestlings simultaneously and see what develops...

Here's where to find the Nests of my fellow Swaggers:

-Catherine at Reading to the Core -Margaret at Reflections on the Teche -Molly at Nix the Comfort Zone
-Linda at A Word Edgewise

A huge thanks to Irene Latham, who Lives Her Poem in so many ways, including her continued commitment to our Poetry Friday community throughout her years of busy publishing success.  

And thanks to the Poetry Sisters, whose monthly challenge inspired our group--I don't think we've ever acknowledged that sufficiently--and to Sylvia Vardell, who is our host today at Poetry for Children, performing her annual service of listing forthcoming poetry books for 2021. Just looking at all the covers has my mouth watering!  HAPPY NEW YEAR OF POETRY to all!


  1. Heidi, I am in love with your 24 door carpet! And the nestlings... SWOON! I adore the spacing in "Summer." "Turtle" as a verb is BRILLIANT. "soilflakes" and "sunside" - love! And "Evening" is simply perfect. I will think of those "gold toes" when we watch the beach sunset tonight. THANK YOU. xo

  2. Ha! Yes, plenty of time is the trick. These are wonderful. I love how you give yourself the extra challenge of categories! I'll never keep up with you. And, I love your thanks at the end of your post. The Poetry Sisters are inspiring!

  3. I'm sure these are a challenge to write, but they are a delight to read. I love the Sky's gold toes tickle/sunroomm doors

  4. Hi, Heidi, thanks for joining our Poetry Friday party and for leading the "Nestlings" group. I've loved seeing how each of you have created your nest poems-- so fun!

  5. These are so wonderful. It's hard to play favorites, but I think of my grandboys in Scary as Leo is learning what scary is and Thomas can say the word turtle. I also love Evening and how it reminds me of our sunroom in my childhood home. I don't see the problem you speak of. With the categories you have totally made a new set of poems. I think nestlings are so much fun that I did them with my kiddos yesterday for our Poetry Friday.

  6. I love this rug with the 24 rooms. So bright. This is such a great challenge and to come up with so many nestlings is remarkable.

  7. We always had a living area, too, Heidi, but I never had such a wondrous carpet. Your idea to have everyone write their own 'nestlings' was awesome & I've loved every one, now yours, that 'rug of sky/rainbow blue/birds of bloom' makes me yearn for tomorrow! Thanks for every one!

  8. Well done, Heidi! You rocked this challenge! Describing anger as "layers of lightning leaves my head"is brilliant, and I love the spring soil bursting "out wild." Of course you're correct about having more time. As I was writing, Andrew Marvell kept whispering in my ear, "Had we but world enough and time..."

  9. You 'swept nothing under the rug' in your brilliant nest/nestling poems, Heidi. I agree with those who commented above, Turtle as a verb is inspired. :)

  10. Oh, Heidi, these are wonderful! I love how you went with emotions as categories in many of them--that has me wanting to revisit my nest. I'm especially fond of Winter, Spring, Sad and Scary. But when I say that, I'm leaving out other favorites. Such a beautiful flock of nestlings you've hatched!

  11. These really are challenging! You did a great job, and I love your rug!

  12. I felt "sad"'s "shower of blue gravity" this week, but didn't have the words for it until now. Lovely.


Thanks for joining in the wild rumpus!