Thursday, July 29, 2021

villanelles: bishop, thomas, mordhorst and the 7 sisters

What a pretty word, villanelle, musical and delicate!  And then you try to write one.  Maybe they should be called villainelles.  

But they are as lovable and impressive as they are fiendish. So we can't help ourselves when a Poetry Sister like Tanita says "Write!"  We say, "How hard?" and then get on with our "dichotomy villanelle."


Like a probable many, I turned to Elizabeth Bishop's famous One Art (1976) to get me going.  I also love Do not go gentle into that good night by Dylan Thomas (1947).  I love each of their repeated lines, which give a villanelle its particular flavor and rhythm.

Thomas's are repeated exactly throughout his poem:

Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Bishop plays more with hers and in fact both lines do not appear in the initial stanza as prescribed by the form.  The second repeated line is also really more a repetition of the word disaster.

the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

So a villanelle is plenty challenging in its own right, but then a second challenge was layered on: to include or address a dichotomy of some sort. Np, ladies *snort*.

Here's my effort.


Honestly, I enjoyed this challenge and yet another chance to address a dichotomy or paradox I've labeled One Difficult Truth. Can't wait to see what the Sisters and our poetry playmates have for us this week!

Thanks to Rebecca at Sloth Reads for hosting our Poetry Friday today (learn all about PoFri here) and I'll see you at the Villanelles!


Thursday, July 15, 2021

it's climate friday

Happy Poetry Friday, friends, where we all digress as needed when there are burning, flooding, subsiding, melting issues at hand...At least each third Friday I'll be posting a climate action PSA along with the poetry.Today's action has to do with keeping cool at home  while making the least contribution to greenhouse gases.  

I'm sure you know the basics:

1) Every refrigerator and air conditioner contains chemical refrigerants that absorb and release heat to enable chilling. Refrigerants, specifically CFCs and HCFCs, were once culprits in depleting the ozone layer. HFCs, the primary replacement, spare the ozone layer, but have 1,000 to 9,000 times greater capacity to warm the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. YIKES.  Don't let your refrigerants leak into the atmosphere!

2) More manageable for most of us at home is to look at electricity usage.  Here's a little comparison: 

  • A small table fan uses about 10-25 watts per hour.
  • A ceiling fan uses about 40-50 watts per hour.
  • Your central air unit uses between 2000 and 5000 watts per hour!

3) So here's your home climate solution: run your AC if you must, at no cooler than 78*.  Then use fans to help circulate that gently cooled air in exactly the spot you need it. This reduces the load on your AC and reduces emissions at the power plant that feeds it; uses electricity much more efficiently; and is cheaper for you! (at least after you buy--or find/thrift/inherit--the fans 😊)

This information comes from a surprisingly authoritative article at eHow, and is corroborated by information from Project Drawdown.  You can read more about how building-based solutions are an important contributor to reducing CO2 emissions fast here.  Now pass this info on!


Let's find some steamy cooling breezy poems to pair today....

Are We There Yet? Dobby Gibson (from Skirmish, Graywolf Press 2009)
You only have to make her one grilled cheese
in the suffocating heat of summer
while still wearing your wet swim trunks
to know what it’s like to be in love.
And you only have to sit once
for a haircut in the air conditioning
with the lovely stylist to forget all about it,
and to forget that anything in the universe
ever existed prior to the small, pink sweater
now brushing softly against your neck.
In this world, every birth is premature.
How else to explain all of this silence,
all of this screaming,
all of those Christmas card letters
about how well the kids are doing in school?
We’re all struggling to say the same old things
in new and different ways.
And so we must praise the new and different ways.
I don’t like Christmas.
I miss you that much.
For I, too, have heard the screaming,
and I, too, have tried to let it pass,
and still I’ve been up half the night
as if I were half this old,
and like you, I hate this kind of poetry
just as much as my life depends upon it.
They’re giving away tiny phones for free these days,
but they’ve only made
a decent conversation more precious.
One medicine stops the swelling,
another medicine stops the first medicine.
Just like you, I entered this world
mad and kicking, and without you,
it’s precisely how I intend to go.
Oh, serendipity--look what I found in FIREFLY JULY (ed. Paul B. Janeczko, Candlewick Press 2014).
 In Passing | Gerald Jonas

Open-backed dumpy junktruck
stacked full of old floor-fans,
unplugged, unsteady, undone,
free whirling like kids' pinwheels
in a last fresh breeze--
What a way to go!
I do hope you can feel the air circulating around those companion poems, one for adults and one for kids, and around you! Our host today is Molly over at Nix the Comfort Zone--enjoy summer ten times with her!

Friday, July 9, 2021

slps 7: Shovan and Bramer

Last week I wrote about responding to a writing challenge that "I get good mileage from putting two poems side by side and aiming for the overlaps in between." This week I return to that practice as a reader, continuing my self-led poetry study, which I unintentionally abandoned when National Poetry Month struck back in April. So many items of the moment (progressive poems, climate emergencies, retirements, cicadas, challenges, Juneteenths) to distract a person from her studies!

But this week things are settled (allow me to pause here in the moment and note that: THIS WEEK THINGS ARE SETTLED. There is an unrushed feeling of peace and refreshment. I needed it and I am getting it. Glory be and gratitude!), so I'm pulling books off my shelves and studying.

I have owned the chapbook MOUNTAIN, LOG, SALT AND STONE since its author, your friend and mine Laura Shovan, gifted it to me in 2011. It is my shame to admit that I never really read it--intimidated to find, I believe, that my new SCBWI friend also had adult chapbook chops! My loss, and apologies to you, Laura.

Today I find  this poem:

The Listening of Plants | Laura Shovan

On the buffet where she kept her celadon dishes,

Mother placed a vase of pussy willows

hurried out of their branches

The buds were cat toes walking up a mottled branch,

miniature koalas hanging on their eucalyptus

in a scattered line.

I snapped one off the twig and rolled the bud 

on the flats of my thumb and finger,

Its smoky grey coat how I imagined koala fur might feel.

I rubbed the willow bud along the bone of my jaw

wanting to know how a plant can wear animal skin.

It was too small, like touching nothing.

I splayed my hand along its curves, 

felt the hairs rise in the divot of my palm.

I would have needed a sweater of willow to be satisfied. 

Instead I slipped it into my ear. How did I know 

a pussy willow was the right shape for the foyer of my ear,

long hall leading to the eardrum and the bones behind?

The bud rested there and I listened,

wanting to hear what it had to say

which was quiet, which was the muted listening of plants.




I guess I chose this one because I am smack in the middle of BRAIDING SWEETGRASS: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer, a book which is speaking to me directly about why as a kid I was powerfully drawn to "playing Indians." That's a thought I'll come back to another day, but for now, see how that child reached out for a quiet conversation with a plant clad like an animal? 


Scanning the shelves for a children's book which might have a companion poem inside, I pull down CLIMBING SHADOWS by Shannon Bramer, which we included in our NCTE Poetry Notables List for 2020. I'm not is another quiet poem.




You Speak Violets | Shannon Bramer


sometimes you are     quiet as a trillium     yet your eyes speak


the language of wild basil     red butterflies     impatient


for a buzzing loud summer     you've got a young forest inside you


i see waterfalls     beyond tall     white     sleeping trees


birches     poplars     where everything is moving and alive




I see rushing water in your eyes when you get a new idea


sun through the branches making shadows inside you


when you find it hard        to say what you are feeling



                                                                                                    you speak violets




I'm not currently in thinking-about-school mode, but wow--all I can think right now is how much noisy TALKING I do in the classroom and how it might be a goal to let it be     just    quiet     sometimes, so that the children can hear what the plants, animals, shadows are speaking.


 Thanks to my pal Margaret over at Reflections on the Teche for hosting us today and bridging the distance online as we have become maybe too accustomed to doing. Wishing you plenty of SETTLED right now!

Friday, July 2, 2021

what you know and what you don't


Welcome to July! Here's where you can learn more about the Poetry Friday tradition...all are free to join in and link up.  What Is Poetry Friday?

This month I am the Challenger for our little critique group, who borrowed the monthly challenge idea from our Poetry Friday friends the Seven Poetry Sisters. This month I have also borrowed the challenge itself from Tabatha Yeatts, whose post last week featured a poem by Gail Martin and noted what a good mentor poem it could be.


 What Pain Doesn't Know About Me | Gail Martin

How I visualize him as a rooster.  How I nickname him Sparky.

My rabbit-heart. How it looks motionless in the bank of clover 

but secretly continues to nibble.

I can tell time underwater.  I sing hymns there.

He's not pocketed by vanity.

My history with onions.

(read the rest here at Willow Springs Magazine)


I had some other bits in my challenge about using throwing in either some invented/compounded words or some anthimeria, which is converting a noun into a verb, a verb into a noun, etc.--but then I got distracted by the prompt at Poets & Writers this week. (I get good mileage from putting two poems side by side and aiming for the overlaps in between.) Here's the poem it's based on, by Stephen Dunn, who died recently.

The Routine Things Around the House | Stephen Dunn

When Mother died

I thought: now I'll have a death poem.

That was unforgivable


yet I’ve since forgiven myself

as sons are able to do

who’ve been loved by their mothers.

I stared into the coffin

knowing how long she’d live,

how many lifetimes there are

in the sweet revisions of memory.

It’s hard to know exactly 

how we ease ourselves back from sadness,

but I remembered when I was twelve,

(read the rest here at


So now my response has more of those elements of uncommon or surprising memories and no invented words, no anthimeria. Here's what I came up with.



Be sure to go and see how the rest of us have tackled this challenge, and whether my partners in rhyme have been more obedient than I!  

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

Our host today is Laura Shovan at her homebase. See you there!