Tag Archives: poetry

We all know someone like this

“For today’s [poetry] prompt,” writes Robert Lee Brewer at Writer’s Digest, “write an auto poem. Auto could mean automobile, automatic, automaton, or any number of possibilities.”

My offering today is a senryu. A senryu, as Brewer defines it, is like a haiku with fewer restrictions and different subject matter. It’s a 3-line poem with a traditional 5/7/5 syllable (or sound) pattern, and the poem typically deals with the human condition. “In fact,” Brewer observes, “many people who claim to write haiku are already writing senryu.”

Guilty as charged.


In his rule of one
No one else has any say.
“My way or highway.”

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Poem for April 20

For today’s poem, my usual source at Writer’s Digest challenges us to write a beyond poem. “The poem could be beyond human comprehension,” Robert Lee Brewer writes. “It could be from the great beyond. It could be from beyond–another city, country, planet, solar system, dimension, etc. Don’t be afraid to go above and beyond with it.”

For my offering, I am reconstructing from memory a poem I wrote in third grade as a school assignment. My teacher was so impressed (I believe she used the word “precocious” several times), she had the principal read it over the loudspeaker. My mother was so unimpressed she immediately threw it away. I’ve tried to be faithful to the original as I wrote it; however, with the passage of time, some of the lines have faded from memory. I’ve had to reconstruct those as best I could. Others, however, are recorded here exactly as I wrote them.

A few people may wonder how a third-grade child could possibly possess such a vocabulary. Here’s the quick answer: I come from a long line of educators, I read constantly as a child while my classmates were busily developing their athletic and social skills, and I was always the classic bookworm: painfully shy, slightly nerdy, and infinitely more savvy about how to diagram a sentence than how to hang upside down by the knees on the monkey bars.

That’s how.

First, then, the assignment, which probably every school child in America has done at some point: First we read the famous poem “Nancy Hanks” by Rosemary Benet. Then we read the response by Julius Silberger. Our assignment was to write our own response to Nancy Hanks. Mine, titled “Beyond Your Wildest Dreams,” appears immediately below.

Nancy Hanks

Rosemary Benet

If Nancy Hanks
Came back as a ghost,
Seeking news
Of what she loved most,
She’d ask first
“Where’s my son?
What’s happened to Abe?
What’s he done?”
“Poor little Abe,
Left all alone
Except for Tom,
Who’s a rolling stone;
He was only nine
The year I died.
I remember still
How hard he cried.”
“Scraping along
In a little shack,
With hardly a shirt
To cover his back,
And a prairie wind
To blow him down,
Or pinching times
If he went to town.”
“You wouldn’t know
About my son?
Did he grow tall?
Did he have fun?
Did he learn to read?
Did he get to town?
Do you know his name?
Did he get on?”
*  *  *

A Reply to Nancy Hanks

Julius Silberger

Yes, Nancy Hanks,
The news we will tell
Of your Abe
Whom you loved so well.
You asked first,
“Where’s my son?”
He lives in the heart
Of everyone.
 *  *  *

And here was mine:


Beyond Your Wildest Dreams*

 Ann Louise Graham, age 8

If indeed Nancy Hanks were among us today,
What news would I give her? What words would I say?
That her son grew up tall, and he learned how to read,
And his work saw a nation’s oppressed people freed.
“What’s happened to Abe?” Nancy asks. “What’s he done?”
He’s a lasting example to most everyone.
With his words on our lips, in our minds and our hearts,
His ideal never falters, nor ever departs.
You questioned us, Nancy, for news of your son.
Yes, Abe Lincoln got on, Nancy Hanks. He got on.
*a reconstruction

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Filed under classroom, Essays, Poetry, Quick takes, writing

“Broken” poem for Friday, April 12

For today’s selection, I’m back to my source at Writer’s Digest. Robert Lee Brewer suggests writing a poem about something that’s broken. I’m finding that I like the compactness and natural cadence of haiku, so I’ll use that form again.


Tears that once flowed free
Fall back on my aching heart
And lie there, burning.

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Filed under crying, Poetry, Quick takes, tears, Uncategorized, writing

Poem for a cold, rainy day

I wasn’t inspired by today’s Poem-A-Day challenge from my usual source, so I decided to use my own idea. Because you can never have too many flower haikus.


Against the brick wall,
Bowing their luminous heads;
Cold rain stains the earth.

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Poem for April 10

For today’s prompt, Robert Lee Brewer at Writer’s Digest challenges readers to write a suffering poem. “A person or animal in the poem could be suffering,” Brewer writes. Or, he adds, “The poem itself could be suffering.”

Here’s my response:

Homework assignment

She came to class today, hat pulled low over her ears.
He pulled her hair out in clumps, she says.
She should never have gone out with him, she says,
When she had a paper due about global food injustice.
She should have known better.
This is not the first time it’s happened.
It’s been a pattern since her earliest days;
Men coming in and out of her life like so many jackals stalking their prey,
Waiting for some small unguarded moment that will allow them
To seize the opportunity.
She doesn’t say it, perhaps doesn’t see it,
Perhaps is hoping against hope that someone else, finally, will see it.
There is another kind of injustice playing out here;
Something else she could write a paper on,
That is much more pressing than the human-rights abuses
Committed by faceless corporations against nameless multitudes.
This is a tyranny that is hers alone to explore,
And I will be asking her to walk across a field of broken glass
That lies deep within her own soul,
To embark on a treacherous journey
That no one ever volunteers to undertake,
And whose destination is far from certain.
Write me a paper, I tell her,
In which you tell me what you already know,
But no one has been willing to hear you say.
Tell me, I say,
Because so many have said everything is all your fault,
And you know and I know that it’s not,
Tell me all the reasons why not.
I’m listening. I believe you.
And in her eyes, terror and hope.
Her journey begins.

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Filed under academia, compassion, crying, education, Poetry, Quick takes, Rape, student, tears, Uncategorized, writing

Poem for April 9

Today’s Poem-A-Day challenge for National Poetry Month is a Two-for-Tuesday prompt. Again, credit for the challenge goes to Robert Lee Brewer of Writer’s Digest. He challenges us to write one of the following (or both):

  • Write a hunter poem.
  • Write a hunted poem.

My offering for today is about both the hunter and the hunted:

The Vampire

He invades her dreams at night, cold and quiet as the grave.
Turning toward him, she sees those dark features transformed
Into the face she knows only too well — but no —
She turns away again, she closes her eyes against the thought.
She mustn’t know. She must forget.
He must remain a figure cloaked in mystery,
A nameless phantom from some morbid legend found in books,
Or else she could never face the dawn.
For if she has no hope that he will vanish with morning’s light,
Where then is she safe?  Where can she hide?
More than once she has thought how strange it is
To be haunted by a vampire with such sad eyes.
He comes, and stands there, and watches her in the dark
(As she has so often sensed him watching her in the day):
And he tells her, not in words but through grotesque pantomime,
How he will regenerate himself by degenerating her innocence.
But how can she tell him, as she shivers in pity and dread,
Trapped in a helpless limbo where sleep and wakefulness merge,
That she would gladly drive the stake through his heart herself,
If she did not fear breaking her own as well?

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Ways to skin a cat

Today’s National Poetry Month challenge comes from Robert Lee Brewer in Writer’s Digest:  write an instructional poem.

Here’s my Poem-A-Day offering for Monday, April 8:

How to skin a cat

There’s more than one way, I’m told.
One could, for instance,
Marry a cat.
Divorce said cat.
Take cat to court for all it’s worth in alimony.
Not the marrying kind?
Try challenging the cat to a game of strip poker,
And cheat your brains out
By using a stacked deck.
My favorite method requires considerable athletic prowess,
A high bar, and enough nerve to hang upside down
All the while threading your feet through your arms.
But why, of all possible metaphors, this one?
Why would it even occur to anyone
That such a skill might come in handy,
Let alone in multiple variations?
Why not “skin a snake” or “skin a big old warthog”?
For that matter, why not
“Skin a really obnoxious person who thinks it’s appropriate
To enact cruel and unusual punishment on a small house pet
That mostly just wants to cuddle in your lap”?
And if one is really pressed for a metaphor–
One that doesn’t incite violence against harmless domestic creatures–
There is always, simply,
Plain old Plan B.

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