The Creature Speaks in Poetry


Over at High Calling Blogs we are trying our hands at writing monster poetry. I mentioned this to my girls on the way to opera last night, and Sara took up the challenge this morning. Here is her pantoum, written from some unknown creature's point of view...

The Visit

We were standing in front of a slate-roofed
farmhouse, the rain falling down in cloaks,
the sky was wet and night-dark blue
was interrupted by yellow-window chunks

and the rain fell down like a cloak,
and the sounds were snow-fall soft,
'cause the sky was wet in night-dark-blue...
and the headlights of cars were gone

away, gone away like snowfall soft,
the trees were a dark friend standing high
the headlights were long gone,
and the rain kept slipping by...by...by...

the trees stood tall in dark and high
the wind was a small cold breath
while the rain went slipping by...by...by...
and his hands were cold as death,

so the wind breathed down one small cold breath
and he held his hand in mine,
and his hands felt cold as death,
and behind us snaked yellow-road line,

so he held his hand in mine,
his hair dripped down,
in front of the yellow road-line,
and his hair dripped down, brown,

his hair dripped down, down,
as he raised his face to mine,
and we stood two aligned
and his hair was brown, brown,

when he raised his face to mine,
when we stood together as the rain
dropped on us aligned
by one desire, one gain,

when we stood together as the rain,
washed away the night,
as by one desire, one gain,
the sky was grey, then light.

as the lights went out from the window,
as the rain was a mist on the slate roof,
and we walked away in the dawnlight low,
for the sky under trees that was nightdark blue.

Poem by Sara, 12. Used with permission. House photo by L.L. Barkat

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A Poem a Day

Sonia on Fence

With a few exceptions, we have actually been reading a poem a day for National Poetry Month. Everything from Shel Silverstein to Percy Bysshe Shelley. Somehow this sharing has been more interesting to me than all the poetry classes I ever took. There's a naturalness to the conversation. No agenda. No compulsion to "get" a poem or evaluate it.

Reading Shelley's "Adonais", for instance, started a whole conversation about myth. Because when I read a line about a Mother whose Son who lay pierced, I asked the girls who this might be.

I was thinking about Christ, of course, but Sara thought it was a mother and son from some myth she'd read (something about a boy who they tried to protect by getting rid of all kinds of dangerous plants... but they forgot about sharp holly and you can guess what happened).

We decided maybe the poem could refer to both Christ and the myth, as well as Keats, who the poem is actually elegizing. Such an unexpected conversation, and fun.

Anyway, here is Sara's Sunday poem (the girls have pretty much been writing a poem a day too... and I'm so pleased)...


Rain wipes
away scattered
leaves falling on
cold asphalt
white sky
behind trees.

— Sara B.

Sonia on the Fence photo, by L.L. Barkat. Sunday poem by Sara. Used with permission.

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Poetry Contest, Win a Feature at IAM

white tree

To commemorate National Poetry Month, International Arts Movement is asking for poetry submissions. Five winners will be featured on their site and receive one complimentary copy of Poetry Magazine.

White Tree at Rockwood Park, photo by L.L. Barkat.

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All Kinds of Unexpected Things

Sonia and the Boat

National Poetry Month is beginning to inspire, beyond the expected. My friend Jim Martin decided to write his very first poem. My dad sent me a sweet poem by email, which pictured me as a little girl hanging out of windows (and I told him I think that little girl still lives, in a way :)

And Sonia decided she is going to write a poem a day every day for a year. We shall see! She's off to a good start, having written about 8 poems a day since we started National Poetry Month.

Here are just a few...


Let me take
wing with you,
fly with elegant
wings, let me touch
you, hold you, turn
myself into a butterfly
like you. So you can
show me to be
a winged creature
like you and fly
me to the paradise of
flowers and streams
and sunshine you told
about, please take me
there. I left my life
to be with you.

Only Light

The candle in the darkness
shines a lonesome light in my
tall tower of cold stone.
I try to get through the bars,
but the candle drops. No light
left to live by.


Stars glitter
in the sky.
Sometimes they
call people stars,
but why? Because they
shine? But there are
those things that
make them different.
Real stars live up in
the sky, real stars
don't shine in the day,
and are famous people
best friends with
the moon?

Poems by Sonia, 10. Used with permission. 'Sonia and Her Bark Boat' photo, by L.L. Barkat.

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How to Write a Poem

Ribboned Plant

The other day a good blogging friend told me he wants to write a poem, but he's afraid. As far as I know, he's never tried writing a poem before.

I understand his fear. Sometimes I cannot approach the empty page because I'm all tied up in knots with the thought of failure. What if my poem ends up being really terrible? Where do I start? What should I write about? It's like I'm writing a poem for the very first time again, and I stall.

In a way, I cannot explain how to write a poem. I told my friend, "Just write a sentence with a picture in it. Maybe use a memory or look at something that's near you. Break it into lines."

Would that be a poem?

My daughter asked me at the table yesterday, "What makes a poem a poem? Why isn't a book a poem? Or a movie a poem?"

We talked about the relative brevity of poems, but she interjected, "What about Beowulf?!" Okay, epic poems aren't short. But then she said, "Maybe Beowulf is a poem because it has 'form'." I liked that. Yes.

But we have to begin somewhere. Nobody wakes up and becomes Keats or Yeats, or the bard of Beowulf, in a day. Begin with a single sentence, or a phrase. Use a memory or something you see. Maybe pick up a few cool words from someone else's poems and play with them like a kid with a mudpie. Don't worry about what you're going to end up with.

Okay, I'm going to try it now. Just to see if it works. Of course I feel nervous doing this right here in front of you. But I want you to see that even poets feel afraid.

Here are my borrowed words, from the Yeats poem "The Wild Swans at Coole": scatter, wheeling, sore, passion.

Bananas soft curve
on counter, deep yellow
turning brown, sore with
wish to hang erect again,
green with passion
on the tree, scatter
sun to wheeling
birds, scatter
sun to wheeling

Fun. I had no intentions of writing a poem about bananas. Or wishes. Try it out, and if you do, drop your poem here in the comment box. I'd love to see what you found on your counter, your desk, or even in the bathroom. :)

Ribbon Plant photo, by L.L. Barkat.

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Making April Educational (and fun)

Sonia at Rockwood

She woke me early to say, "I made breakfast for you!"

What a treat on April Fool's Day. A perfectly guileless action: waffles with blueberry compote and syrup, compliments of my Littlest.

We smiled around the sunny breakfast table, and I announced my sudden idea. "Hey, did you know it's National Poetry Month?"

The girls admitted they'd never heard of such a thing.

We decided then and there that we'd read a poem a day for the month of April. And the girls would write a poem a day, and I would feature their poetry here (as much as possible).

My Littlest decided to write down the poem titles we've read, and their page numbers, so she can go back to them if she likes. We even had a discussion about how English poetry didn't used to rhyme (it used alliteration), but when it merged with French (a rhyming language) everything got mixed up... and now we think we should rhyme in English when, well... that's not natural (the third poem below might be struggling through that idea! :)

Happy National Poetry Month. And so we begin...

The First Day

It's the first day of April,
light shines in the window,
the National Poetry Month.
When people write poetry
whenever they can, it's
the first day of April,
National Poetry Month!

-- by Sonia, 10

Just for Me

Write one
poem every
day just
for me, me

Read one
poem every
day just
for me, me

Just in April,
just for me,
just for me,
me April.

-- by Sonia


Try to write a poem when
when you're thinking through
something different,
when you wonder
about things; then
you can't.

Your poem pursues the subject,
gets caught, and
never turns back.
Or you can order it back,
tell it to go,
force it.

You can do it,
you can...
but-- poems don't
work that way,
not naturally.

If this is your case,
then let it go, let it
write itself out--
it'll work.

-- by Sara, 12

Sonia in the Tree photo by L.L. Barkat. Poems by Sara and Sonia, used with permission.

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