Poetry Friday — What Do You Know?

The Poetry Sisters’ challenge for August was to write a What the ____ Knows poem either after the style of Jane Yolen’s eight line, rhyming poem, “What the Bear Knows,” a poem written in honor of her 400th bookBear Outside, or after the style of Joyce Sidman’s “Higher Power” poems which she introduced in Michelle Barnes’ Today’s Little Ditty Spotlight.Jane’s poem has short lines that are complete sentences, and rhymes in lines 2&4, 6&8. Joyce’s poem has two stanzas with three lines each — a total of six truths. The line, “What do/does the ___ know?” is repeated at the beginning of each stanza, and rhyming the final word in line is optional.

For me, strict adherence to form can yield surprising results. But it’s just plain FUN to fiddle with form, and these What the ____ Knows poems were all kinds of fun!

Now that I have a little more free time, I have found my way back to embroidery, and I was inspired by the needle going in and out of the fabric. This one is Sidman-ish. It has six lines, but not in groups of three. It has rhyme, but in pairs. The question is not repeated. My biggest fun was with enjambment.

photo via Unsplash

These next two were inspired by my garden. Zinnias (hello again!) comes closest to following Sidman’s form. Crickets is similar to Needle, but its rhymes are 1/3/5 and 2/4/6. Like I said, the operative word this month was PLAY!

I’m still working on a pair that explores WHAT THE POOL KNOWS. One has long lines and is very conversational in tone; the variation is terse.

Check out what the other Poetry Sisters came up with, and join in if you want!


Elizabeth has this week’s Poetry Friday roundup at Unexpected Intersections.

photo via Unsplash

If you want to plan ahead for the Poetry Sisters’ September challenge, we’re each choosing a poem by another Poetry Sister and writing a tanka in response or inspired by or in conversation with that poem. You can choose a poem by someone in the Poetry Friday universe and write a tanka in response or inspired by or in conversation with their poem.

Poetry Friday: Ode to the Hummingbird

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2021 (draft)

Happy Friday, Poetry Friends! In spite of but also because of all the dire and drastic news from around the world, I wish for you tiny moments of respite, such as the ones we’ve been blessed with recently when the hummingbird comes to the zinnias and sweet peas in our garden.

If you’re up for a challenge, here’s what the Poetry Peeps are working on for next Friday.

Carol has this week’s Poetry Friday roundup at The Apples In My Orchard.

Edited to add Sharon Olds’ poem for reference:

A #PoemPair for Poetry Friday

Ten Beautiful Things
by Molly Beth Griffin
illustrated by Maribel Lechuga
Charlesbridge, 2020
review copy via the public library

Lily doesn’t want to live in Iowa with her grandmother, but as they drive, they play a game where they try to find ten beautiful things, which brings them home. I love that this book doesn’t explain why Lily needs to live with her grandmother, and it doesn’t even get them inside the front door at the end, so we don’t know for sure what her new life will be like in Iowa. This is very much a book about focusing on the present, and mindfully finding beauty around us, in spite of what might be going on inside us.

This book with its list of ten beautiful things seemed to want a list poem as its pair. An excellent mentor text for list poems is, of course, FALLING DOWN THE PAGE: A BOOK OF LIST POEMS, ed. Georgia Heard. This poem was inspired by our recent drive from OH to CO and back.

Things To Do If You Are A Road Trip

Perch hawks on fence posts.
Pinwheel the wind farms.
Create curiosity with road cuts.
When a trailer tire ahead shreds
     let all who follow dodge the pieces.
Conveniently space rest stops and gas stations.
And as for destinations,
     if they do not include the open arms of family or friends,
     make every traveler feel welcome.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2021

It’s important to remember that the privilege of a road trip has not been/is not now equally accessible. After spending some time enjoying this book, make sure to explore the history of The Green Book, or The Negro Motorist Green Book. This guide was published (starting in 1936) during the Jim Crow era until just after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (in 1967) to give African American travelers a list of safe places to get gas or service, eat a meal, or spend a night. Jim Crow was a system of open and often legal discrimination against African Americans, who were frequently refused by white-owned businesses the selling, servicing, or repairing of their cars (often bought to eliminate the segregation experienced on public transportation). African American travelers were denied food or accommodation, and their safety was at risk in “sundown towns” where there was a possibility of physical violence. The Green Book gave Black travelers the same kind of safe path through the United States (and later abroad) that earlier publications provided for Jewish travelers.

Christie has this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup at Wondering and Wandering, along with a FANTASTIC crowd-sourced “Poetry Is” poem (facepalm…I forgot to submit a line).

Poetry Friday Roundup is Here!

Passing the Torch

I shake the flame out of my matchstick;
(one flame dies so another can grow)
cup my hand around the candle’s burning wick.

Nothing about this process is quick.
(light one, expect others to follow)
Again, I shake the flame out of my matchstick,

discard it with a flick,
(travel light, shed unnecessary cargo)
cup my trembling hand around the candle’s wick

and listen to the clock tick-tick-tick.
(there’s no stopping time, I know, I know)
I shake and the flame goes out of my matchstick.

This is no magician’s trick --
(it’s a hard pill to swallow)
the cup of hand around the candle’s burning wick

is merely the arithmetic
of love caught and held in a minute glow.
And so I shake the flame out of my matchstick; 
cup my hand around the candle’s burning wick.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2021

It’s August, and retirement is getting real. My brain is not filled with thoughts of classroom organization, community building, lesson planning, or safety mandates. And that’s okay. Time to move on to new adventures.

This poem was the first villanelle I attempted in July as I prepared for the Poetry Sisters’ challenge. I used my clunker line from Linda Mitchell (I shake the flame out of my matchstick) but I never intended for it to be a poem about retirement. The best poems are the ones that surprise even the poet, right?

Christie, who has next week’s roundup, is gathering lines for a community “Poetry Is…” poem she’ll post next week. Be sure to check out her post and contribute a line!

Add your link to the roundup here!

Poetry Friday: Villanelle

image via Unsplash
Don’t Just Stand There, Open Your Umbrella

Before me in the east,
wrapped in a billowing headdress,
sun peeks.

Without turning, I can hear
grumbles of unrest,
while before me in the east,

with a well-practiced technique,
coyly half-dressed,
sun peeks

at the growling purple beast
storming in from the west.
Before me in the east

she begins to disappear
behind clouds that fume and crest.
Sun peeks

one last time. Then the storm releases
all the rage it had suppressed.
Before me in the east,
sun no longer peeks.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2021

The Poetry Sisters’ challenge for this month was to write a villanelle on the theme of dichotomy. Have you ever noticed that villanelle begins with villain (almost)? This is a doozie of a form and the added challenge of a dichotomy…whew! I started one with the repeating lines

In early May, on a whim, I chose
zinnia seeds to plant in rows.

I managed to make it all the way through a villanelle with those lines, but it fell apart in revision. Luckily, I wrote several villanelles in July! I’m not sure there’s any clear dichotomy in this one (stormy/sunny?), and I definitely bent the rules a bit with my last line, but I had fun with enjambment!

Check out what the rest of the Poetry Sisters came up with:


Rebecca has this week’s Poetry Friday roundup at Sloth Reads.

Poetry Friday: RIP Uncle Bob

A jumble of memories

Uncle Bob was not my uncle. He was my dad’s cousin, but the closest thing to family we had. He also was not a cowboy, but if you saw his slow, bow-legged saunter, his cowboy hat, his blue jeans and western snap-fasten shirts, that’s what you might think. You wouldn’t know by looking that he was the canniest dry-land farmer in the Great Plains of Eastern Colorado. He was born and raised in the part of Colorado without mountain peaks and rich soil. His landscape was wide and flat and dry. Dirt roads with thistle in the ditches marked the edges of native grassland pasture and wheat fields. Uncle Bob had a deep understanding of the land he farmed, never succumbing to “the grass is greener” mentality of irrigation. He was a dry-land farmer whose harvest depended on the land and the weather. There were good years with enough moisture, and plenty of years with dust devils and tumbleweeds before the rain came…or didn’t come. In the summer, many a cumulonimbus cloud appeared on the horizon, only to take its rain elsewhere, but perhaps also its hail. A winter blizzard was a mixed blessing of wind that carried topsoil away and brought moisture that did or didn’t cover the fields to nourish the winter wheat. Uncle Bob secured his success by collaborating with the land and the climate, but he allied with another of the vast natural resources of Eastern Colorado for his final venture — harvesting the wind with graceful lines of enormous turbines.

In my mind, it is night. I stand in the dusty yard where I played as a child, rusty tractors along the fence, the Milky Way a bright smear across the impossibly dark sky. Uncle Bob is in it all — land, sky, and wind.

This prose poem was written in 2019 using cards from “Paint Chip Poetry.” I learned yesterday that Uncle Bob passed away last weekend. I was looking forward to seeing him next week when we’re back home. We’ll drive past the home place and I’ll savor my memories.

Kat has this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup at her blog, Kathryn Apel: Children’s Author & Poet.

Poetry Friday: Surprise!

Back in May, I learned that one of my poems on YDP (Your Daily Poem) made the cut for 100 chosen as “the best of YDP!”

The collection is titled POEMS TO LIFT YOU UP AND MAKE YOU SMILE. It’s not up on Amazon yet, but can be found at Parson’s Porch & Company. Here’s that poem, which I wrote back in 2012. It kind of describes my day yesterday!

photo via Unsplash


fire wire

charger cord

fresh air
out of the

© Mary Lee Hahn

Molly has this week’s Poetry Friday roundup at Nix the Comfort Zone.

Poetry Friday: There’s a Village for Sale in Scotland

There’s a Village for Sale in Scotland

There’s a village for sale in Scotland.
Only $173,000 and that includes mossy ruins
and a beach on the loch.

In Scotland, thunderclouds won’t stall overhead
dumping inches of rain at a time, flooding the yard.

In Scotland, the yard waste is always picked up on time
and the neighbors don’t build smoky fires with wet wood.

In Scotland, Democracy is not failing,
racism is not systemic, and police are always helpful.

Though there’s a village for sale in Scotland
I’m not buying it.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2021

Laura Shovan takes us to the Black Lagoon for this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup.