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Sara Lewis Holmes, author of Letters From Rapunzel
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1. Poetry Friday: A Terza Rima for the Poetry Seven

The assignment? A terza rima, the interlocking poetic form made famous by Dante's Inferno.

The theme? Gratitude.

For once, I knew instantly how this theme would inform my poem: There was no doubt its subject would be my poetry sisters, without whom I would not have explored poetry's "Here Be Dragons" waters. Without them, I'd still be stuck in my safe, shallow, shoals. (Or perhaps, if Dante were my guide, be marooned in poetry purgatory.) The only trick was putting all that into iambic pentameter in the rhyme scheme of a terza rima:

a
b
a

b
c
b

(repeat as necessary, and end with a couplet, if desired.)


In the end, my poem became a tribute to the poems The Poetry Seven tackled this year. Usually, I try to write to a wider audience, but this one is different. I know I'm a better writer when I write with friends---and I needed to say thank you, loud and clear.


(Links to my sister's Terza Rimas today can be found inside the poem.)


A Terza Rima for the Poetry Seven

Sisters do not let sisters ode alone
Nor do they, solo, rondeau redoublé
If raccontino calls, they hold the phone,

And bellow for some muse-y muscle; they
deep six, by stanza, surly sestinas
and dig a common grave for dross cliché.

Don’t bother asking for their subpoenas
To brashly bait expanding etheree
Nothing stops these pen-slinging tsarinas.

Once snagged, they let no villanelle go free;
Mouthy haiku in operating rooms
are re-lined and re-stitched, repeatedly;

So do not question who wears the pantoums
here; it’s seven sonnet-crowned, brave harpies:
Laura, Kel, Trish, Liz, Andi, T. : nom de plumes

who together with laptops (or Sharpies)
have danced the sedoka and triolet;
and ekprasticated art farandwee.

I’m grateful to wield words with this septet:
Friends, forever. Poetesses, well-met.

---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)


Poetry Friday is hosted today by Laura at Writing the World for Kids.

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2. Poetry Friday: Arlequin


Arlequin by by René de Saint-Marceaux
 photographed at the Musée des Beaux Arts in Lyon, France,
by Kelly Ramsdell


Who is that masked man? I thought I knew. I'd seen him before. Replicas of this statue are all over Amazon, ebay, and auction sites. A version even appeared on The Antique Roadshow.

If you get a chance to watch that video, it gives some background on the original marble sculpture---which I cannot find images of online-- as well as info about the various bronze and plaster casts (in various sizes) that have been made from it, such as the one Kelly snapped a photo of in Lyon.

What I didn't know was how complicated the history of the Arlequin (Harlequin) character was. For one thing, he began as a dark-faced devil character in French passion plays--yes, sadly, as another portrayal of a black man as a demon. His clothes were a slave's rags and patches before they evolved into a more orderly diamond pattern, and he was part of the tradition of blackface clowning in minstrel theater. I think his half mask may be the last remnant of that.

Much of that history is obscured, however, because the Harlequin also became a popular member of the zanni or comic servant characters in the Italian Commedia dell’Arte. There, his trope became one of a clever servant who thwarts his master...and courts his lady love with wit and panache. We might recognize bits of him today in our modern romantic hero.

So. That's a lot of stuff packed into one stock character. More than I could handle in one poem. In the end, I wrote what I saw reflected back in his eyes --- but I'm curious: how would you describe what YOU see in him?



Arlequin

A stock character 
takes stock of his life:
always tasked

by the master 
always masked
from his true love

always asked
to repeat
the same lines.

—-and yet—
We never master
our taste for sharp

laughter; 
we are unmasked 
by it, we ask

with applause
for Love in tricked
out plaster, cast

marble to actor;
same lines;
new disaster.

       ----Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

My poetry sisters all wrote about what they saw in our masked man. Find their poems here:

Tricia
Andi (sitting this one out. See you next time, Andi!)

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Violet


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3. Poetry Friday: Cake and Clogyrnach

We got married in August, 1984. The heat it was hot, even for a ceremony at 8 PM. But we didn't melt, and neither did the cake:

Carrot cake, my husband's favorite


I'm sure there was a toast given, too. Which brings me to this month's poetry challenge: the clogyrnach, a traditional Welsh ode with a decreasing syllable count and a simple rhyme scheme:

8 syllables - x x x x x x x a
8 syllables - x x x x x x x a
5 syllables - x x x x b
5 syllables - x x x x b
3 syllables - x x b 
3 syllables - x x a 
(you may combine last two lines into one line)

When I did a light Googling of the form, I learned it's used at weddings and funerals (I haven't confirmed this beyond the Internets, however.) I also gleaned that you may repeat the rhyme scheme for as many stanzas as you like, creating a longer story--or perhaps, an ornate toast to a happy couple. Something sweetly humorous, perhaps dolloped with archaic language---and yet filled with well-wishes. Something a Bard (or Bardess) might compose to earn his/her supper--or a slice of cake.



A Clogyrnach to be recited before Cake

Dearly beloved, gathered here,
witness this cake, built tier by tier:
may layers of sponge
shallacked with mauve gunge
flaws expunge, and endear

bride to bridegroom; bridegroom to bride;
grant stomachs for swallowing pride
and spleens to filter
rivals’ false philter;
Ne’er jilt her—but abide;

ne’er salt his cutting grief, but fold
each into each; thus love raids old
age of bitter rhyme;
cake dissolves in time;
naught left fine; but behold:

Dearly beloved, gathered here,
witness these lives, built tear by tear:
pray layers of sponge
give strength for the plunge;
fear expunge; knots tie dear.

                       ---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved, but hey, yeah, sure---I'll let you recite it at a wedding, no charge. Just email me a picture of your cake.)


My Poetry Sisters attempted the clogyrnach, too, both in short and long forms. As usual with this brave crowd, after a tad of griping and floundering, some fine poems stepped onto the page.  Here's a toast to that!
Liz
Tanita
Kelly
Laura
Andi
Tricia

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Penny at Penny and her Jots.

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4. Poetry Friday: WONDER

It was an Instagram darling during its run. People couldn't stop posting pictures of themselves with the re-constructed trees, walls of bugs, glass marble-encrusted waterways, index card mountains, and hobbit-ish nests that had been installed inside the newly-renovated Renwick Gallery in DC.


Me, wondering


Each artist had a whole room to work with. No other art was displayed. It was a playground for both creators and viewers alike.





No wonder the exhibit was called WONDER.  I was lucky enough to catch it before it closed in June, and shared a few photos with my Poetry Sisters to inspire our poems this month.

For my poem, I chose to be look closer at In the Midnight Garden, created by installation artist Jennifer Angus. She works entirely with bugs.



Yes, bugs. (Her fascinating website is here.)

The Renwick Gallery puts it this way: "By altering the context in which we encounter such species, Angus startles us into recognition of what has always been a part of our world."

And that is exactly what I'm interested in: that moment of being startled by art.
Because as much as I love art, I love watching people interact with art even more. I love eavesdropping on their comments and watching them tilt their heads and contort their limbs as the art invades their head space.

I mean, look at this guy...he really, really wants to take it all in, but the room is too small, and soon, he'll figure this out and walk through that next door and look back, but at the moment, he's doing what we do when we're trying to take art home in our pocket.



Okay. After I took that photo of him taking a photo, I slipped through the archway and and took these two photos, trying to take some piece of the experience home in my pocket, too.


Viewing In the Midnight Garden
by Jennifer Angus







Then I wrote a poem about them. To extend the wonder, of course.



Wonder

Are they real? a child
asks. In answer, a woman looks
through the eyes of her cell phone.


Above her, a hot but bloodless red
backs death, the pixilated-eyed
watcher over her shoulder.


What do we capture of art, to port
tidily home in our pockets? Do mandalas
like t-shirt designs, fit into our hive


of possibilities? Look! A compass
rose points the way, as bugs flock
over other bugs, posed for family portraits—


or are they circled in therapy, masticating
unhealed hurts? In an aerial photo, I’ve seen
twenty-five thousand human bodies form


a blurry-edged Liberty Bell, but these flat-backed
bugs, so perfectly symmetrical, so aptly suited
for display, with their fine-wire legs and boldly


faceted bodies, could be fastidiously sewn
to a contessa’s dress. Snap. Snap. Snap.
The woman takes pictures. The child asks


again: Are they real? Yes. They are real—-
and clean, and desiccated, repulsion
removed so we can wonder


at wonder, at a museum within
a museum, at a body of bodies,
wing to wing, our mandibles open.

----Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)



NOTE:

If you're curious about that fantastic magenta color of the walls, according to the Renwick website, "The pink wash is derived from the cochineal insect living on cacti in Mexico, where it has long been prized as the best source of the color red."

And that Liberty Bell made by 25,000 human bodies? Here.


See how my Poetry Sisters wondered and wandered through the exhibit with their poems:

Liz
Tanita
Laura
Andi
Kelly
Tricia

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Tara at A Teaching Life.


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5. Poetry Friday: In the style of Kay Ryan

     Our last "in the style of" challenge was e.e. cummings, a poet of invented words and experimental forms, a writer who easily charms me, and often transports me. This time, our poet model is Kay Ryan, U.S. Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner, who says in this Paris Review interview:

     "Prose is practical language. Conversation is practical language. Let them handle the usefulness jobs. But of course, poetry has its balms. It makes us less lonely by one. It makes us have more room inside ourselves. But it’s paralyzing to think of usefulness and poetry in the same breath."

     And yet, I find it amusing that when I read Kay Ryan's poetry, she seems to be playing with this idea of usefulness. Her poems are often skirmishes with well-worn phrases---she calls herself "a rehabilitator of clichés"---and she deploys flatly-voiced "advice" so wryly you have to read her poems over to see where the joke is. It's like she's saying: why, here's a good (useful) idea---whatever the haha hell that is. 

In the same interview, in fact, she says:


 "what interests me is so remote and fine that I have to blow it way up cartoonishly just to get it up to visible range."

Yes. I see that. And I found reading the entire Paris Review interview a pleasure and a learning experience and very welcoming. Climbing inside a poem of hers, in order to "echo" it, however, was damn hard. 


The first fear
being drowning, the
ship’s first shape
was a raft, which
was hard to unflatten
after that didn’t
happen.

There is slant, internal rhyme there---unflatten and happen---and repetition of words---first fear, first shape---and of course, that arresting phrase "the first fear being drowning."  Okay, I could work with that. Or so I thought.

To begin, I tried to riff off that opening phrase, and immediately foundered on the rocks of "drowning." Every kind of "-ing" that meant death seemed to already be a form of drowning---asphyxiating, choking, strangling---because breathing is the foundation of life, and anything that stops it is death. So...drowning seemed the plainest, most Ryan-like word to use, and death, obviously was the "first fear" and I had no interest in writing about second or third ones, and yet---I couldn't use her opening exactly, could I? She had laid her planks so precisely that if I did, I didn't know where I would stop copying and start riffing, and I might just end up with the same poem, word for word. Upon reading---and re-reading---her poem, it just didn't seem like it could be written any other way. (Read it here, now, and see if you agree.)

Then, thank goodness, I recalled the part of the interview in which Ryan talks about her time working with prisoners at San Quentin.  She says:

"I’m rather shocked to look back at the way I thought of the prisoners at that time—as people with a lot of experience. Just because they’re killers and robbers and whatnot doesn’t mean they’ve had a lot of experience. It doesn’t take very long to kill somebody."

Well, I thought, the same could be true of my foundering effort: it doesn't take very long to kill a draft, either. Especially when the well-experienced Ryan has drowned every word you could possibly use. Haha. 

That did it. I decided to go another way to echo this poem: fear of emotional death, or to put it plainly, shame, or fear of failing. 

This is a very long lead up to a very short poem. But echoing Kay Ryan will do that to you. No wonder she chooses to only write poetry. It is usefully sharp and murderous. 


"It doesn't take very long to kill somebody"

The first fear
being shaming, 
the poet’s first line
was a circle, which 
was hard to deflate
after that didn’t 
take. It’s cumbersome 
to have to scrub one’s blood
from words, so hard to
hide later, 
drubbing one’s thumb
into a nose—
making things
more lovable.

---Sara Lewis Holmes, all rights reserved

My Poetry Sisters each chose other Kay Ryan poems to "echo"---and pulled the challenge off much better than I did. Go see:




Poetry Friday is hosted today by Tabatha Yeatts




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6. Poetry Friday: A Pantoum Fit for a Harpy

This month's image comes from Tanita Davis, who photographed this magnificent sculpture of a harpy at the Kelvingrove Museum in Scotland.



"The Harpy Celaeno," by Mary Pownall Bromet*


Her name is Celaeno, which means "storm-cloud," as the harpies were originally that: female weather spirits. Later, they became known as agents of justice and revenge, often with an ugly streak and potent stench, but I see no foulness here---only focused power. Power that challenged me to do it justice.

It took me several tries to meet her challenge. At first, I wrote this creature a free verse poem, but she was having none of that. Choose a form! she cried. Let me breathe my fury into a known shape, like wind into sails!  Chastised, I began again, this time with the repeating, swirling lines of a pantoum to guide me.  I got lost, several times, but she steered me true to the end.

I'm particularly happy with the title. Women, unlike winds, are "nor fair, nor foul" as legends try to make us. Why not just be magnificent?


Nor fair nor foul
(a Pantoum for Harpies everywhere)

In her naked marbleness she’s stern knots,
 even to her stomach’s creases—She’s a woman
-tall instrument, stroking a blood tune from
wrong-doers. Celaeno wrings life from life;

Even to her stomach’s creases—she’s a woman.
With wings close to her ears, furiously beating
wrong-doers, Celaeno wrings life; from life she
tears justice; squeezes her breast until it cries milk;

With wings close to her ears, furiously beating
clouds, fingernails like tractor screws, she harps
tears. Justice squeezes her breast until it cries. Milk
and honey people the earth but women are storm

clouds. Fingernails like tractor screws, they harp
at naked marble. They’re stern, not
honey, they people the earth. Women are storm
instruments, stroking a blood tune.

----Sara Lewis Holmes


My poetry sisters also wrote to this image, and yowza! We stirred up some powerful poems:

Laura
Liz
Tanita
Andi
Tricia
Kelly


Poetry Friday is hosted today by Jone at Check It Out.


*Tanita passed along the following information about the artist:
 Mary Pownall Bromet was an English-born Lancashire lass, b. 1890, d. 1937. She was a pupil of the great Rodin, and studied with him for four years around 1900... Much of her work ended up in private collections, or smaller British galleries so there's not much record online. She was known for her technical prowess (which netted her the Watford War Memorial job) and was commissioned to do a great many bodies/faces.

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7. Poetry Friday: A Tritina for Dickey Chapelle

The challenge this month was to write a tritina. It's a form with no end rhyme; instead the last words in each line repeat in a compact, cyclical way.  All three words appear again in the last, stand-alone line. Like this:

A
B
C

C
A
B

B
C
A

A B C (in any order)

The only restriction was that we had to draw our three end words from this common pool: stone, cold, mouth, hope, thread, sweet. 

Other than that, the poem could be about anything. (Which, frankly, only makes things harder. Where to begin? What to say in such a short form?)

Fortunately, I was being haunted by an idea already. It was a story I'd read in the Washington Post about Dickey Chapelle, the first American female photographer killed in action.  She covered Algerian rebels, Fidel Castro, the Vietnam war, and WWII, including Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and Guam. She died in Vietnam, accompanying a Marine patrol.

I could've written a poem inspired by any one of her photographs in the Post article, but the picture of men digging a grave on Guam sparked an opening line first. It made me think of how she lived, photographing death over and over.

I'm honoring Chapelle's copyright by not posting the photo on my blog without permission. So...

Please go look at the photo here before reading the poem. (Thanks.)



A Tritina

There’s nothing cold
on Guam, even the mouth
of a grave sweats, my sweet

boys; shutter the body, tout suite;
Dip the film in chemicals, cold;
It’s death to fill LIFE’s glossy mouth

but do not swear, when your mouth
burns mine, caramel sweet,
that it’s easier to die from a cold

than sweet rot, cold fame, war’s mouth.


---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)



Here's the full piece in the Washington Post.

Many more photos are here in the archives of the Wisconsin Historical Society.

And this story--which rings true, but lists only two books as source material-- reveals what a complicated person she was.  

***One note on the poem: as far as I can tell, Chapelle may never have sold a photo to LIFE. Still, I believe the use of the magazine's name here is accurate because she submitted her work to them (and was rejected) several times.

My poetry sisters wrote tritinas pulled from the same set of words. Wow. The interlinking themes and images and ideas are as good as the stark differences in how we each used those words.

Go see:



Poetry Friday is hosted today by Sylvia at Poetry for Children. 

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8. Poetry Friday: Drs. Sora and Swallow






This month's inspiration was provided by Poetry Sister Laura Purdie Salas. She says "These are two parts of a 7-part ceiling fresco at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis. I spoke at a children's literature conference there a couple of weeks ago and loved huge, colorful ceiling in Terrence Murphy Hall. The art is by Mark Balma (markbalma.com) and is called The Seven Virtues (it's a Catholic university). I loved the colors, the surrealness of the images, and the fairy tale oddness of them."

Yes, me too, Laura! I was also curious about frescos, so I read up on their construction at the University of St. Thomas website. Then I took a gander at the seven sins, and the seven virtues---especially, Temperance, which is the subject of this fresco, and in the end...

...my eyes were caught by those realistic birds in the corners of each fresco. WTH?

Turns out all the birds depicted in the seven frescos are species who take sustenance from the Mississippi River.



Analysis (expositors of sacred writ to the ignorant*)

Drs. Sora and Swallow
don’t know what to make of it

Neither does Herring Gull
called in to consult

nor Golden Plover
(a solid second opinion)

The birds need the river
to flow wrathfully 

slicing the land before snaking,
sloth-like into silty deltas

They envy those who consume
art; not shad or lice

They lust for full communion, 
not half-bodies, imploring

They cannot eat stones
glutton-fed paint by boar’s hair brushes

What of greed? they pick
at the edges. What of pride?

Every stroke is permanent
What is temperate about that?

---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)


*By the way, the title comes from the article on the University site, which explains that ancient fresco makers took their art very seriously, as they were the “expositors of sacred writ to the ignorant, who know not how to read.”


To see what my Poetry Sisters made of this fresco (or the other choice, a fresco about Hope), follow these links:

Liz
Laura
Tanita
Andi
Kelly
Tricia


Poetry Friday is hosted today by Amy at The Poetry Farm.


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9. Sedoka: Two Halves Make a Whole

Whirling head poem.  

That's how one site translates the ancient Japanese poetry form, the Sedoka  (旋頭歌)  

Don't you love that?

The idea of Sedoka is that two poems (each of the syllable count 5-7-7) are put together, and the whole is a more complete picture than either half.




Bowl of cherries, ripe.
Best to eat them, one by one
By oneself, with attention.


Bowl of cherries, ripe.
Best to pie them, all in all
Before you get too mind full.

----Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)


The Sedoka can also be used as a form of dialogue, with one poem talking to the other. That includes head-whirling joke-telling, right? (Please forgive me.)


Waiter, there’s a fly.
There! in my soup, back-stroking!
Put him back in the punch line.

Doctor! There’s a joke
There! In my coffee, sinking!
Milk it, my dear one. Milk it.

Mortician! There’s no
brevity in my wit; could
rigor mortis have set in?

Poet! There’s a eulogy.
There! In my stout thesaurus!
It’s dying a thousand deaths.

---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)




My Poetry Sisters all played with Sedoka today, too. Go see what wonderful wholes they made:

Liz
Laura
Tricia
Andi
Tanita
Kelly


Poetry Friday is hosted today by Linda at TeacherDance.

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10. Poetry Friday: Response to Picasso's Sculpture of a Cat







Response to Picasso’s sculpture of a Cat

She’s pregnant, this cat
or just given birth. She’s muddy;
her tail's been broken.
Look at her neck, stiff

as a stanchion. Look at her compact
head; so ill-made for big thoughts
you fear her tail is pulling
her backwards. She isn’t curled

by contentment, or preying
with merciless grace, or cagily
sinuous. Still—
she is Cat. She disdains

opinion. You can tell
by the vainglorious shine
of her ears, as if she is listening to
an undivided convent

of cats chanting her name
lapping up her blessing
as she passes them. She has lived
fully; they have been holy.

Picasso stretched time between
sculptures; using his brush to pry apart
skulls, turning to his hands only when the Muse
purred to him. He was never trained

to mold clay or pour bronze but
what he made, he kept
close. They fattened
his household. Did he speak

to Cat? Attempt to straighten
her tail, even as she hissed? How do
you feed a Muse who doesn’t need
you? She’s given birth; he stirs mud.

                        ----Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)


Thanks to Liz Garton Scanlon for discovering the intriguing Picasso sculptures, which provided the inspiration for this month's ekphrastic poetry challenge. (The Poetry Seven plans to respond to an image or piece of art every other month in 2016.  I'm already researching which artist to choose when it's my turn...)

Here are the links to my Poetry Sisters' poems (each of us chose a Picasso sculpture from a select group, so there's some overlap in the inspiration images, but glorious uniqueness in the response!)

Liz
Tanita
Tricia
Laura
Andi (taking a breather this month)
Kelly

More about Picasso's sculptures.

Poetry Friday is hosted today by one of the Poetry Seven's own, Tricia, at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

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11. Poetry Friday: The Period Table of Crown Sonnets


When people spark in each other's presence, and shine brighter than alone, we call that Chemistry. The ineffable, mysterious SOMETHING that arises between like souls. How fitting, then, that this Poetry Friday, the Poetry Sisters culminate our year-long poetry project with a Crown Sonnet about....

Chemistry.

The Periodic Table, to be precise. (You might've heard of it. Been in the news lately.)

If you've arrived here, you may have already read the first two sonnets, and the story of how we came to write about the seven rows of the Periodic Table. If not, here are the links to read before you hear about my contribution:

Laura: Row 1
 
Tricia: Row 2

And now, me.
Me and Row Three.
K-i-s-s-i-

Yes. That was about my level of comprehension of my task. Say what? I'm writing about WHAT?

Luckily, I was fortunate to have Tricia's lovely last line, "What other treasures will the chart reveal?" to launch my sonnet. Still, I had to make choices. Write about the entire third row? Feature three elements, one in each stanza? Throw up my hands and say: WHO picked this topic anyway???? (Answer: Laura)

In the end, I was seduced by one element: Argon.

I'm not going to lie. I picked it mostly because I liked the word itself. It sounded noble. Regal. Important. This was confirmed when I waded through cool Argon related trivia on the Internet...

Argon is: (according to the Internets)

a prince from very late writings of Tolkien

a defunct British automobile (1908)

a codename used for the KH-5 Argon reconnaissance satellite (At least 12 missions were attempted, but at least 7 resulted in failure)

a family of Soviet computers (“military real-time computers”)

the fourth ruler of the Mongol empire's Ilkhanate (although it was spelled Arghun.) According to Wikipedia, Arghun "requested a new bride from his great-uncle Kublai Khan. The mission to escort the young Kökötchin across Asia to Arghun was reportedly taken by Marco Polo. Arghun died before Kökötchin arrived, so she instead married Arghun's son, Ghazan."  (Well! There's a whole book of sonnets there, don't you think? )


Sadly, most of this didn't have much to do with the periodic table.

Happily, I found many more facts about Argon that did.  I allowed myself one literary reference (to Portia, choosing suitors from "caskets" or decorated boxes in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice) and then I stuck to science.

Because, really, science and poetry are sisters. They allow us to look closely, to challenge our assumptions, and to boldly go where we haven't before. As sisters should.  (Here's looking at you, Laura, Kelly, Liz, Tanita, Tricia, and Andi.)



A Sonnet Inspired by Row Three 
of the Periodic Table of Elements
and AR (Argon) in particular

What other treasures will the chart reveal,
in double-lettered gilded boxes, fine
as Portia faced? AR has sex appeal,
I think, and choose my fate by noble shine.

A lilac glow when placed in voltage fields!
A barrier, so wine may age sans air!
Unseen, from dust, our Constitution, shields!
Argon, you worthy prince! you mighty heir—

You cheat. Hypoxic in the blood, you dope
to win; and ew! you asphyxiate, too—
a “kinder” end to fowl. “Inactive”? NOPE.
Those who search for matter (dark) target you.

Still, even the unstable can excite
A science lover, choosing in the night.


Thankfully, Kelly was inspired by that last line, and picked up with Row Four.  (Go! Read on!)


Poetry Friday is hosted today by Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference.




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12. Poetry Friday: Growth Spurt

The Poetry Seven's assignment this month was simple: Write a poem inspired by an image.  (Technically, it's called ekphrastic poetry.) We all used the same image, plucked specially for us from the magpie-marvelous collection of Tanita Davis.

tumblr_lai4gwaH301qapjeno1_1280.jpg

(Source: lowpresssure, via baikuken)

Growth Spurt

Hold your tongue, they said.
Unable to grasp how such a
delicate hand as my own could
hold such a large and dextrous muscle,
I laughed.

First discovery:
Laughter is mighty exercise
for the tongue.

Have a care, they said.
But I could not nibble at care—at the metallic whiff
of the bit approaching, my tongue bucked
words, flinging them upright and uncleft
into the wild.

Second discovery:
Language multiplies the reach
of the tongue.

Quit jawboning, they said.
But, by now, my head—enlarged by the excavations
of my tongue—was naught but a bony bloom;
the world, whispering back,
unquittable.

Third discovery:
I was not alone
but one of many tongues.

Hush now, they said. Hear our prayers.
Their too-small devotions brushed my skin,
worms turning dirt. I shot to the sky,
a hot-house flower, all of me muscled as
         my tongue.

Together, we made the

Fourth discovery:
        I knelt; they held
        my heart, thrumming.

                      ---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

I tried not to look at what my poetry sisters wrote for the same image until I was done with mine, but OH! Wow. Go look now:

Liz
Kelly
Tanita
Tricia (Happy 9th blog anniversary!)
Laura
Andi

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Katya at Write. Sketch. Repeat.

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13. Poetry Friday: Etheree



When I first heard the word etheree, I thought it was an old-fashioned name, the kind given to a girl who shucks peas on a weathered porch, with a Bowie knife strapped to her ankle, in case a rattlesnake gets to rattlin', or a rancher gets to raunchin'. Surely it wasn't a form of poetry, as my Poetry Sisters claimed?

I found out it was, indeed, both. Turns out that the Arkansas poet, Etheree Taylor Armstrong, invented a poetic shape in which each line has one more syllable than the one before, and while she was hardly famous, the form named after her has a growing following.  Apparently, many people like it for its simplicity.

I kind of hate simplicity. It's darn hard to pull off.  In fact, I couldn't pull it off. I had to resort to word play.  Lots and lots of word play. (Old ee cummings may still have a grip on me.)

Anyhow, the poem was inspired by my mint tea, informed by some judicious Googling of the astonishing varieties of mint, and ultimately, built around this simple admonition to would-be mint growers that was stark in its advice:

Different varieties of mint should be planted far away from each other. On opposite sides of the garden,  if possible.

Now there was a simple fact I could use.



Sedition

Mint
warning:
tendrils left
un-quarantwined
can crosspollispear
til, oh! calaminty--
licoricebasilpepper!
scharp-scented, increeping vaders
brandnewishing fresh varietrials
demand mint conditions: no leaf unturned.

---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)


Please see Miss Rumphius' blog for a much more considered definition of the form.

My Poetry Sisters' etherees are here:
Liz
Tanita
Andi
Kelly
Tricia
Laura

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe.

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14. Poetry Friday: Wiseguy (A Found Poem)





Athlete of cross work

Lover of up-and-down

Word wonder 2 briefly


Not Done




My source for this found poem was Merl Reagle's last crossword for the Washington Post. I solved it with a heavy heart:




Read the Post's nicely done obituary. And don't miss the movie they mention, Word Play.  Bonus points if you can find the Simpsons episode Reagle starred in, as himself. 


All of my Poetry Sisters are in with Found Poetry today, too. Check them all out here:



Poetry Friday is hosted today by  

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15. Poetry Friday: ISO Haiku


Once, my son found a "help wanted" ad:

Remove nest of baby copperheads
from under porch. Will pay $20.

I always wondered if anyone was desperate enough to answer.  I mean, come on---they're BABY copperheads, right?

That's the thing about classifieds. They suggest (perhaps willfully) that if only you answer them, the full story will be revealed. More likely, the truth is that if you answer the ad, you become part of the story, too.



I think the same give and take applies to poetry. Which is good, because this month, the Poetry Sisters are playing with haiku/senryu in the form of classified ads. I wrote several because I couldn't help myself.



WANTED: rain, heavy
Must pelt/soak; no peevish squalls
Will pay in fresh corn.


LOST: my perspective
No reward; meet me for cake 
mountains>molehills>crumbs.


FREE: to a good home:
One book, never read, but loved.
#coverseducedme


POETS: Start today; 
word your way up; could capture
moon in fifty years.

----all poems by Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)


Read my Poetry Sisters efforts here: Liz, Tanita, Tricia, Laura, Kelly, Andi. 

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference.



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16. Poetry Friday: "In Just---" Echoes of ee cummings

The assignment for the Poetry Seven this month was to write a poem in the style of ee cummings, taking one of his works as inspiration. Although cummings is one of my favorite poets, and I've blogged about him before (in relation to Frank Cottrell Boyce's fabulous novel, Cosmic) I did a little research anyway. And discovered this:

Between the ages of eight and twenty-two, cummings wrote a poem a day.

Yeah. That.

And here I am, trying to follow in his pen strokes.

First of all, I had a hard time naming what I was attempting to do. What did "in the style of" mean?

imitating?
mimicking?
shadowing?
following?
tracing?

Then one of the Poetry Seven used a word I liked: echoing. Perhaps I could do that. (thanks, Andi!)


in Just-
dusk when the world is shadow-
mossed the one-winged lightningbug

blinks, incan/descent

and pillbugandmoth come
floating from screenshanks and 
scatterall and it’s
dusk

when the world is wing-wonderful

the lop-flighted
lighteningbug blinks
incan/descent
and beetleandroach come scalltering

from rot-hopping and stank-rope and

it’s dusk
and
the
single-oared 
lightningbug stutters

incan

/descent

---Sara Lewis Holmes, inspired by "in Just-" by ee cummings


One more thing: we also decided to record these poems, as ee often did. Click on the sound file below to hear me read my work aloud.





Other echoes of ee cummings can be found at each of the Poetry Seven's blogs today:

Liz, echoing "i like my body when it is"
Tricia, echoing "silence.is a looking"
Tanita, echoing "the Cambridge ladies who live in furnished souls"
Laura,  echoing "Spring is like a perhaps hand"
Kelly,  echoing "maggie and milly and molly and may"
Andi, echoing "a wind has blown the rain away"

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Katie at the Logonauts.





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17. Poetry Friday: An ode to...well, you'll see---I think

The Poetry Seven has a list: an agreed upon schedule of poetic forms we will attempt this year. And in which order.

But then, we get fancy. Throw around themes or a common word or two.

This month, we were due to tackle odes.  Free-verse odes, so no one had to wrestle with rhyme if they didn't want to.  The topic? Anything at all. The words? Up to us.

The only catch? They were supposed to be humorous.

Well.

It turns out that a funny ode---praising and pranking, both at once, you might say---is jolly hard.


An Ode to---well, you’ll see---I think


One wintry morn, waking to find
my snow shovel absconded with—
brazenly taken from under the front stairs
—and replaced by one with a cracked acrylic blade—
why oh why would you steal my shovel
and leave me your TRASH instead?—
I will make, to re-boot (re-foot? re-shoe?) the day
Frito waffles with mascarpone
and warm strawberry compote (!!!)
but today—having found this recipe
now am deeply depressed
for who can ode-alate
corn chips better than such a dish—certainly not
this poem, which is why
it is not about Fritos—

although, in a way, the first stanza touches
on but does not intersect
with the subject of this ode—
or should I say, the object of this ode—
for we use the term “object of my undying devotion”—
or perhaps the word is yet to be coined
 —the ode-ulatee? the ode-ified?—
or perhaps it is —like an old cell phone—in the clutches
of a different owner, and dialing it would yield
a word like odoriferous— which has nothing
to do with odes—

—still, there was this Danish mathematician—I know!
I know! the Danes don’t stink, but they are often confused
with the Finns, so I rather think it’s nearly as confusing
as odiferous—so, this Dane—
he thought nothing of writing
a book called Geomietriae Rotundi,
which might be funny if there were a photo
of him, jolly and circular, eating waffles,
but the year was 1585 and it was Denmark,
so perhaps he was wan and thin, and mope-y
in a Hamlet sort of no-snow-shovel way and really
would’ve annoyed you
with his tons and tons of friends, despite his lack
of social graces—or waffles—
and this is when— it occurs to you,
that he is a mathematician—

not a writer—and yet, he has introduced—
as you wish to—although not for the
first time, as he did, but soon! yes, soon!
the term you are gallantly ode-ifying
if only you could stop thinking
about Fritos—an idea which should be by now
all but parenthetical (which means enclosed)
while the term you are praising is entirely
uncaged— like one of those European
vacays, where you ricochet off borders
like you were being Googled
by a middle-schooler who must—in twelve minutes—
crib an ethnic costume indicative
of her illustrious ancestors
or else forfeit the extra credit needed
to crawl across the
finish (Ha! the Finns, again!) line
of World History and yet—

you cannot believe that in all this—
not once—perhaps because you are certain
that this mathematician, this Thomas Fincke—-
does that name sound Danish to you?— that he
had a snow shovel AND friends, and—despite having
a son-in-law named Ole Worm—perhaps he had
a loving, round-ish wife who made him waffles
—so maybe you should’ve praised
geometry, with all its useful
angles—but instead…
Sorry, I’ve lost my train
of thought. What was I saying?
Oh!
Yes.

This is an ode to tangents.
I like them.

---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Buffy at Buffy's Blog.

Other humorous odes by the Poetry Seven can be found here:  Tricia, Liz, Kelly, Laura, Andi, Tanita.

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18. I would let in the moon (A Pantoum)


The last time I tried a pantoum, I was feeling mucky and complicated and my poem reflected that. This time, I resolved to write a small love song, and pare it down as much as possible.

A pantoum, it seems, can hold both moods---the rotating, repeating lines clarify the complicated and amplify the simple.



I would let in the moon
ere light floods
the room
and everything flies

ere light—flooding
fast the hole in my heart
where everything flies
into night; no keys lock

fast the hole in my heart
Dark as dusk, I swell
into night; no keys lock
you to me; only love,

dark as dusk. We swell
the room,
you to me, only. Love,
I would let in the moon.

           ----Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)


End notes:
Don't miss this magnificent post from Michael Rosen at Tricia's blog about form poetry.
And find all the Poetry Seven's pantoums here: Liz, Tricia, Andi, Tanita, Kelly, and Laura.

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Ellen at Space City Scribes.


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19. April is Poetry #30

 The orange truck moves from block to block.  Sometimes, kids watch.  A cat slinks by.  During the next storm, we'll be glad of the branches trimmed to limits.  But sometimes, I want to tear down the signs that go up overnight: No Parking. Tree Service. Monday 8-5.


Last day; last haiku
A tree dies in sawdust smoke
Who will I tell now?

---Sara Lewis Holmes


Thank you to all my friends who wrote beside me, and to those who commented here.  You made April poetry.

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20. Poetry Friday: Renku


Poetry ought to be taught in schools as a game.  I mean it. All the way up to high school and beyond.

We start this way---with hand clap rhymes, or raps, or silly jingles which we make even sillier, or perhaps, (gasp!) off-color.

And then...the bell rings and recess is over and poetry gets made "a subject."

PHOOEY on that!

In contrast, there's  an old Japanese game called renku* in which poets build a linked chain of haiku together on the spot. Apparently, in ancient times, it used to get quite rowdy---even a little PG-13 here and there, perhaps like some modern day bouts of Pictionary tend to do...

It was about pleasing the crowd with a sly twist on theme. Or throwing in a tricky word. Or slipping in an allusion that tickled your brain until you had time to look it up and say: Oh, right! I should've gotten that!

So, in the spirit of going back to poetry's roots, the Poetry Seven are at it again with a pickup game of renku.  Liz and Andi threw us the idea a week ago, and presto! by today, we have something that weaves and jinks and laces us all together.  We have a game. Play with us.

*Renku: alternating verses of three lines, two lines (could be 17, 14 syllables) with a linked theme and a shift. Below, the initials at the end of the lines indicate which of the poets wrote it. lps=Laura Purdie Salas, aj = Andi Jazmon (Sibley), tsh=Tricia Stohr-Hunt, kf=Kelly Fineman, sh=Sara Holmes, td=Tanita Davis, lgs=Liz Garton Scanlon




fall leaf in April
wearing last season's fashions--
shunned by the green crowd lps

nature’s first green is gold
progeny emerge in flame aj

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21. "Clear Thinking about Mixed Feelings": A Guest Post at Teachers Write

I'm guest posting about poetry and inspiration at Kate Messner's fabulous virtual writing camp, Teachers Write, today.

You may recognize some of the themes I talk about (and even the actual words!) as drawn from this blog---but then, I see this blog as a kind of notebook in which to gather my thoughts for both now and later.  It turns out there is a cumulative effect of reading, writing, and believing. 

 Come join me!


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22. Poetry Friday: Writing Pantoums with Friends

When Liz suggested reviving the dormant Poetry 7 Collaborative by writing pantoums around a common line, I said: "I'm in." 

Then I went to look up a pantoum.

Oh.

Hmmm.

Writing this was like turning myself inside out. 

The best part? Getting to read all my poetry sisters' beautiful efforts, which Laura Salas has collected here for Poetry Friday.  


A Pantoum

With thanks to Ani DiFranco for the line “I’ve got better things to do than survive"

I’ve got better things to do than survive
Like bread, I’m buttered to the edge
Slathered in riches, I’ve
congealed, a manicured hedge

Like bread, I’m buttered to the edge
I roll my socks in pairs; nothing should be
congealed; a manicured hedge
bitten back to nubs; still---wood, tree.   

I roll my socks; in pairs, nothing should be
alone in the dark; I reach for matches
bitten back to nubs; still! Wood! Tree!
I call out names, stick knives in latches

Alone, in the dark, I reach for matches
made in heaven; thus, a poem is braced, stave by stave
I call out! Names stick knives in latches;
Turning wood is soft as butter on the lathe

Made in heaven---thus, a poem is! Braced, stave by stave, 
Slathered in riches, I’ve 
turned. Wood is soft as butter. On the lathe,
I've got better things to do than survive.

                  ----Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

Laura Purdie Salas has the Poetry Friday roundup today.

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23. Antidote: A Triolet for the New Year



The antidote to fear is honeyed in devotion
delivered deep, a draught of slow and barmy mead.
Else we dry to salt, fleeing night-depths of the ocean;
The antidote to fear is honeyed in devotion 

Why pillory our hearts, why gulp the unguent potion?
Why frack our veins to stir up courage quickly dead?
The antidote to fear is honey-slow devotion;
Yes, poetry, delivered deep, a draught of barmy mead.


This poem would not have been possible without the encouragement of the rest of the Poetry Seven:  Liz, Andi, Kelly, Laura, Tricia, and TanitaEach of these poets has a triolet posted today, so go and drink deeply.  

For more about triolets, see here.   For more about the Poetry Seven, read about our first gig together on this April day in 2008.

Poetry Friday is hosted today by one of the Poetry Seven, the amazing Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect 

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24. Chiral: a Poetry Friday Fling with a Villanelle





When I fall in love with a word, I go a bit mad.  It happened this week, when I belatedly began a draft of a villanelle so I could hang with the Poetry Seven today.

I'd written a villanelle with this Gang of Poets once before, and was pleased with my fairly traditional take on a feast. This time, I aimed to write about the "fulcrum of the day" (i.e. noon) but I made the fatal error of Googling rhymes on the Internet.

Specifically, I had a non-repeating line that ended with spiral and needed help.  Lo and behold! The rhyme search turned up

Chiral.

On to Wikipedia, where, along with some impenetrable diagrams of molecules, I found THIS:

"Human hands are perhaps the most universally recognized example of chirality: the left hand is a non-superposable mirror image of the right hand; no matter how the two hands are oriented, it is impossible for all the major features of both hands to coincide." 


Well, COOL. Our hands, although we think of them in pairs (like rhymes), they are, in reality, unmatchable. What a fitting subject for the villanelle, a poetic form built around the fiction that things can always be manipulated so they will line up, just so.

The only teeny problem with this lovely word, chiral, was that I could name but one other rhyme for it off the top of my head. (Besides spiral.)  Did that stop me? Did that stop me from making it the REPEATING LINE?

No, it made me fling myself further into the Internet to see what other unmatchable words were out there.

 See? MAD.

In truth, though, I've always been this way.

I admire other approaches to poetry, of course--  I adore a well-tempered line turn, a gorgeously formal word choice, an exquisitely correct rhyme---I really do.  I just don't know how to write that way.

To me, poetry is an excuse to play with words as hard as I possibly can.  A way to be madly in love with world, one cool fact at a time. A chance to gyre and gimble over the fundamental strangeness of my own hands.

My poetry sisters all know this, of course. What a veneration of villanelles they've made:  Tanita, Liz, Laura, Andi, Kelly, and Tricia.


No Matter

Our hands, no matter how we rotate them, are chiral
did you know that? they’re mirror images that never meet
Look at them! Look at them now! Don’t listen as I birle

(to cause a floating log to revolve by treading); I spiral
on the surface of the Inter-bog, layered rich as peat;
But my hands, no matter how I rotate them, are chiral

How did I find these facts? I was seeking rhymes more viral,
to conflagrate—OMG—there is such a thing as gleet?
Look at your hands! Look at them now! Don’t listen as I birle!

I blame Ogden Nash, who could precisely match eye roll
-ing end rhymes; no unruly corners on his fitted sheet!
Yet, my hands, no matter how I rotate them, are chiral

It’s like trying to tame the Jabberwock, most gyre-ral
but he’s one-off; no need for gamete to mate gamete
Look at your hands! Look at those doozies! Don’t listen as I birle!

But if you must Google these words, seek out too: gyral
(relating to the convolutions of the brain); how meet!
Yet, hands, no matter how we rotate them, are chiral;
Look at them! Look at them now! Don’t listen. I birle!

---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Liz at Elizabeth Steinglass.



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25. At the Fulcrum of the Day: A Raccontino


If you're like me, you had to look up a raccontino to know what it was. Or, more precisely, I had to scramble to Miss Rhumpius's blog to find out that it's a poem that is:

  • composed of couplets (any number)
  • even number lines share the same end rhyme
  • the title and last words of the odd numbered lines tell a story


The Poetry Seven had different approaches to this form. Some wrote their end line sentence first. Others came up with a theme first. Me? I wrote a non-rhyming poem, made it rhyme and then played with the odd numbered end words and line breaks to form a story sentence.  

As one of our group said of my method: Impossible. 

Heh. Well, I will admit that I didn't mind toying with the couplets or jiggering the rhyme scheme, but moving those end words around into a sentence was killer for me.  It felt wrong to be messing with how I shaped the poem originally.  I like my line breaks to be my line breaks!

But it all came right in the end. 



at the fulcrum of the day

I watch my children as the tides, escaping,
inch by inch, until they are fanned

out, too far out; I call to them: mind the time!  
Thin as a needle, I rise, slow to expand—

How closely sliced are the minutes, as onions shaved
to transparency; I see them, as near as my hand;

I have only seconds before noon slips into 
afternoon; blocks of hours eroded to sand.

Soon it is before supper; Beyond is the dusk
and the night; the tide I can withstand

But great God, let the sun balance, never-ending
Wait there, wait there! I call as l stand.

---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Amy at The Poem Farm. The other raccontinos--by each of the Poetry Seven--can be found here:


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