Poetry Friday – Mary Oliver

Today is Poetry Friday. Thank you to Christie Wyman for hosting us today at her Wondering and Wandering blog. Be sure to read the community poem she compiled called “Poetry Is…”

This week I’ve been reading Mary Oliver.

I’m finding that poets are among those I want to keep company with. You, Poetry Friday friends, “who say, ‘Look!’ and laugh in astonishment and bow your heads.” Thank you for helping me see the wonder.

I love that poem, “Mysteries, Yes” by Mary Oliver in her book Evidence (2009). This week, I read her collection, Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver.

I’m not two weeks late for the #theSealyChallenge to read a poetry book a day in August. I didn’t even try to do the challenge. However, Margaret Simon has been inspiring me this month, so I thought I would read at least a couple of poetry books in August. I have 3-4 that idly and open-heartedly wait for me on my Kindle. This week it was Mary Oliver. Her collection is filled with beautiful hope, faith, love and nature. What could be better?

I went through my notes and wrote out some of the highlighted lines in my favorite poems. (I didn’t get very far into my favorite lines because of the sheer volume of them). I chose about twenty, cut them apart, and then arranged them in order until I was pleased. The results are a cento poem exclusively made with Mary Oliver’s words.

A Cento of Gratitude for Mary Oliver

Joy is not made to be a crumb.
Love yourself. Then forget it. Then love the world.
It’s giving until the giving feels like receiving

Is this the place?
What would do for you?
And have you changed your life?

You have a life–just imagine that.
That the gift has been given–
Yes, yes, we are the lucky ones

to dance for the world,
all that glorious, temporary stuff
of this gritty earth gift.

You don’t hear such voices in an hour a day
Sometimes I want to sum up and give thanks,
and so, no doubt, can you, and you.

Sources for each line (in order)

      1. Don’t Hesitate
      2. To Begin With, the Sweet Grass
      3. To Begin With, the Sweet Grass
      4. I Wake Close to Morning
      5. Evidence
      6. Swan
      7. To Begin With, the Sweet Grass
      8. The Gift (from Felicity, 2014)
      9. I Know Someone
      10. Prayer
      11. On Meditating, Sort Of
      12. To Begin With, the Sweet Grass
      13. At the River Clarion
      14. That Little Beast
      15. The Poet Compares Human Nature to the Ocean From Which We Came

Oliver, Mary. Devotions. Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.


Thank you, Mary Lee, for hosting today’s Poetry Friday Round Up. She wrote a powerful villanelle about her retirement. You can visit her at her new blog, A(nother) Year of Reading.

Image by Please Don’t sell My Artwork AS IS from Pixabay

The Poem-a-Day on 31 July 2021 was “Life” by Carrie Law Morgan Figgs.

A moment of pleasure,
    An hour of pain,
A day of sunshine,
    A week of rain,
A fortnight of peace,
  A month of strife,
These taken together
  Make up life. 

One real friend
    To a dozen foes,
Two open gates,
  ’Gainst twenty that’s closed,
Prosperity’s chair,
    Then adversity’s knife;
These my friends
    Make up life.

At daybreak a blossom,
    At noontime a rose,
At twilight ’tis withered,
    At evening ’tis closed.
The din of confusion,
    The strain of the fife,
These with other things
    Make up life.

A smile, then a tear,
    Like a mystic pearl,
A pause, then a rush
    Into the mad whirl,
A kiss, then a stab
  From a traitor’s knife;
I think that you’ll agree with me, 
    That this life.

I wrote a summary poem about Figgs’ “Life” poem. I’m not sure why! I wrote two lines about each of her four stanzas.

About Life
After Carrie Law Morgan Figgs

Moments to months
The joy and the pain
Friends and prosperity
Adversity’s disdain

From daybreak to night
Whole lifetimes pass by
Life’s mystic, varied flurry
Days of storm and blue sky

On Losing and 1/6

Today is Poetry Friday. Our host is Becky Herzog. She blogs at Sloth Reads. Thank you for hosting, Becky. Becky was the first to mention that today was going to be International Friendship Day, so I wrote the poem above. I also wrote a friendship villanelle and gave it to my dear friend for her birthday. She framed it and sent the picture below to me.

I wrote a different villanelle this week for the #PoetryPals challenge that Tanita described last month:

We’re writing villanelles on the topic of dichotomy – or, true opposites, if you will. Bifurcations. Incongruities. Paradoxes. Contradictions. We’re talking Luke/Darth (or is that a false dichotomy, and they’re two sides of the same coin??? Discuss), real or imagined, civilized v. savage, winter v. summer, function v. dysfunction. Interested? Good! You’ve got a month to craft your creation(s), then share your offering (or someone else’s) with the rest of us on July 30th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.

But first have you taken the chance lately to read this classic villanelle about the art of losing, “One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop:

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
Continued here…

Here is my poem, about something I’ve been following breathlessly this week. I know that, though it is in its third century of experimentation, a republic is not a hard thing to lose. I’m praying we don’t lose it on our watch.


Commission underway–All facts, the prize
If left to some, our land may never know
Will Truth and Justice win? Or bloodied lies?

Afraid to learn who knew and helped devise
Perverse the plan to halt and overthrow
Commission underway–All facts, the prize

Bipartisan committee will reprise
This doubtful nation’s faith. Will Congress grow?
Will Truth and Justice win? Or bloodied lies?

Already testimony will advise
The Light of truth bears us out of shadows
Commission underway–All facts, the prize

Do leaders fear being duly scrutinized?
Our hope’s in newness — not the status quo
Will Truth and Justice win? Or bloodied lies?

Choosing to fight lies should not polarize
Awake to honor, revived faith bestowed
Commission underway–All facts, the prize
Will Truth and Justice win? Or bloodied lies?

~Draft by Denise Krebs (@mrsdkrebs)

Poetry Friday – A Striving Spanish Sonnet

It’s Friday! Time for Poetry Friday. Thank you to Kat Apel, who is hosting. You will be rewarded with goodness if you stop by and read her sweet snail and clever cat poems. She even started a new hashtag #petpicpoem. Alas, there are no pets in my house, but I may consider a snail pet.

This week I had to go back to last September’s Google Classroom archive and watch a first quarter sixth grade lesson at my school. I was doing research to see what pre-skills I need to include in my summer tutoring for a student going into grade 6 at our school next year. In the first and only lesson so far that I’ve watched, the students were writing a sonnet! There were my former fifth grade babies. Yikes! I know for a fact some of them were struggling quietly with that assignment, but as I looked around the Zoom room, I realized that many of them were also flourishing in this experience.

What was the hardest form I asked my students to write last year? I wondered. We wrote free verse, haikus, acrostics, metaphor poems, Fibonacci poems, and couplets. Some others too, but nothing as scary as a sonnet. I thought about my own sonnet experience. Can I even write a sonnet, I wondered? The last one I remember writing was in ninth grade. So, after watching that lesson, I wrote this sonnet. (If it even is! Haha! I didn’t even consider meter.)

Learning Spanish on Duolingo
Language learning is not easy
Duolingo helps me realize
Just how much my brain is breezy
True expression, my fancied prize
Even when I spend hours in study
I only make a pinch of progress
What’s missing is talking with a buddy
For now, Duo is the one I impress
I can buy a red dress: barato or caro
I can find a baño and get a table for dos
But could I help in one’s sorrow?
Would I ever speak to get close?
But like the tortoise, steady and slow,
I’ll build a foundation on which to grow

Today’s Poetry Friday host is Kathryn Apel at her blog, Thank you, Kat!

Poetry Friday – Earth’s Crammed with Heaven

Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God,
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware.

~Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Aurora Lee, seventh book

Earth is crammed with summer heaven in Maine, as Molly so beautifully shows us in her Poetry Friday post today. Be sure to read her “Summer, Ten Times.”

I’ve been reading Elizabeth Barrett Browning this week. The quote above is taken from the seventh of nine books in her epic poem Aurora Lee. I love that passage so much, and I’ve been inspired by it for years. However, before this week, I never remember learning about Aurora Lee (1856), one of the first ever English novels in verse. I wasn’t sure I would be able to get into it, but after reading the first few lines, I was mesmerized:

Of writing many books there is no end;
And I who have written much in prose and verse
For others’ uses, will write now for mine,—

Will write my story for my better self,

As when you paint your portrait for a friend,

Who keeps it in a drawer and looks at it

Long after he has ceased to love you, just

To hold together what he was and is.
I, writing thus, am still what men call young;
I have not so far left the coasts of life

To travel inland, that I cannot hear

That murmur of the outer Infinite

Which unweaned babies smile at in their sleep

When wondered at for smiling; not so far…

Continued here

You can read or download the whole epic poem as a Kindle or EPUB or other format free at Project Gutenburg.

A Golden Shovelful of Heaven

the mystery of sweet earth’s

bliss and beauty is still crammed

full of crude confusion, with

scandalous prayers to heaven

Tomorrow the monthly Ethical ELA Open Write begins. Have you considered joining in, checking out the five prompts for poetry writing each month? On this site, you can listen to an encouraging and welcoming video from teacher-poet Stacey Joy. The prompts will be posted here starting at 7:00 a.m. Central time on Saturday, 17 July and proceeding through Wednesday. See poster below.

Did you remember we’ve been invited to join the dichotomy villanelle challenge with #PoetryPals. It happens in two weeks. Read about it here on Tanita’s blog. I also wanted to share this useful tool again that helps you keep track of all those lines: Villanelle Village – I find it helpful!

Thank you, Molly Hogan, for hosting us today on Poetry Friday. She blogs over at Nix the Comfort Zone.

Poetry Friday – Caelestis Ars Poetica

This week I visited the website of teacher-poet-author Cristy Watson in British Columbia. On Wednesday I noticed she was busily writing comments on The Poetry Marathon site, so I stopped to read her bio. She is a poet and an author of hi-lo books for reluctant readers and English language learners — books I never get enough of in my context. I went to her blog to read more. She also likes poetry contests. The annual “2-Day Poem Contest” was one she entered in April. It’s one poem in two days using 10 assigned words.

I decided to try this poem challenge for fun because Poetry Friday was coming. The words for 2021’s contest were: palm, embank, sheer, wrest, lacuna, whizzed, runny, mustard, balter, and nubivagant. After spending some time with the dictionary, I decided to write an ars poetica (the art of poetry) poem. I used this poem by A. MacLeish for inspiration:

Ars Poetica

By Archibald MacLeish

A poem should be palpable and mute
As a globed fruit,

As old medallions to the thumb,
continue reading…

Caelestis Ars Poetica

By Denise Krebs
After Archibald MacLeish

A poem should be still
with sheer force, until
that lacuna of hope
is filled within a frenzied soul.

A poem should embank the heart
with love and joy to impart,
to wrest the indignant and bitter
from the toxic tank of hate.

A poem should be a seed–
a mustard seed of faith to plead–
held in a child’s palm,
so easy to lose,
but so much to gain.

A poem should be slow and steady.
Not whizzed through like a tempest
taking out a swamped ship–
Instead a calm, nubivagant journey,
a shelter from the stormy blast.

A poem should be license to balter,
open, unchecked, dancing at the altar.
Dulcet and dauntless,
liberating to Wholeness.

A poem should be free-flowing,
without fear of knowing,
Molten, melted and runny
in all the right places.

A poem should just be
and let the heavens decide.



Allusions and Inspirations:
Stanza 1 – Mark 5:1-20
Stanza 2 – Acts 9:1-19
Stanza 3 – Mark 4:30-32; Matthew 18:5-7
Stanza 4 – Mark 4:35-41; “O God, Our Help in Ages Past”
Stanza 5 – 2 Samuel 6:14-16
Stanza 6 – Luke 10:38-42

Thank you, Margaret Simon, our host for today’s Poetry Friday at Reflections on the Teche.

Poetry Friday – Recap of the Poetry Marathon

Today is Poetry Friday. Thank you to Laura Shovan for hosting us today.

Last Saturday and Sunday I participated in the Poetry Marathon. It was rewarding to complete, and fun to try to keep up with drafting a poem, posting it on a WordPress blog at their site, and then doing a little living the rest of the hour, including trying to squeeze in sleep sometimes. It was suggested we wait until after the marathon to comment on others’ poems, which was good; I’m sure there wouldn’t have been time. I did manage to write 28 poems in 24 hours.

I always keep a list of poetry prompts and mentor poems handy, so I came with that list to the 24-hour event. That was a good idea because sometimes I didn’t feel inspired with the optional prompts they provided. Here are a few of the poems I wrote, these ones inspired by this Poetry Friday community:

First there is a Zentangle, like so many of you wrote last week based on this post by Kat Apel.

After, write a chapter,
words and lines use summary.
Words describing a story,
a visual, a communicator
ready to ready thinking,
parroting powers of description
in writing.

It doesn’t mean much, haha! It was from a page in a booklet of After Reading Comprehension Activities I put together for undergrad education students one year, but the process was fun.

Next, I wrote a nonet about hunger inspired by the post Laura Shovan wrote a couple of weeks ago. It was a call for poems about World Food Day with inspiring, forward-looking messages against hunger. You can read more about this call for poems on Laura’s blog if you are interested. The deadline is September 10. 

Quivering, savage, ravaging pain
Intolerable, mean, and fierce
Hunger hollowing inside–
But…a just full world can
drive off hunger’s pangs
food for all;

I had been wanting to write a poem like Buffy Silverman’s “Rainbow-Colored Springtime.” I decided to use a Poetry Marathon photo prompt to write about taking a bath, which sounded great at 10:00 p.m. I have revised this poem since trying to make it sound better than the first attempt by using assonance and rhythm.

Photo by Olena Sergienko on Unsplash

Wet bath
Laze bath
End of the day bath

Rest bath
Loaf bath
Soft and pruny soak bath

Praise bath
Peace bath
All cares decrease bath

Calm bath
Moon bath
Lolling, lazy tunes bath

Warm bath
Free bath
Fears absentee bath

Release bath
Embrace bath
Tensions down the drain bath

Then, I wrote a definito poem because the Dictionary.com word of the day for Saturday was paucity. Learn more about definito poems here by Heidi Mordhorst.

When something is lacking or
more is needed,
when there is only a bit
of any particular thing,
a deficit of dimes for the coin collector,
a scarcity of snakes for the snake lover,
a shortage of shoes for your tired feet
a dearth of earths for the whole hot world–
then we can say there is a paucity of that thing.

July is Parks and Recreation Month. Did you know Kwame Alexander is putting together a community poem about Parks and Recreation? I learned about it from Kim Johnson. Here’s more information from Kim. The deadline is July 9. Here is my draft:

Everything Around You

Everything around you is
a plaything
at the park–
a magical, generous, glorious,
windowful, open stream of joy.

Sitting in the tunnels,
worn smooth from years of
children sliding, crawling, playing,
imagining, creating, resting inside.
These concrete cylinders were painted in
bright primary colors–red, blue, yellow–
free, generous, worthwhile, relaxing,
Saved from an inelegant assignment of
stopping floods in a culvert somewhere.
Instead, they
serve as playthings.
Everything around you is a plaything
at the park.

Finally, one of the prompts at the Poetry Marathon was to write a self-portrait. The mentor text was by a Polish poet named Adam Zagajewski, “Self-Portrait”.  I found it to be a great skeleton for my own poem. Have you read his work before?


By Adam Jagajewski

Between the computer, a pencil, and a typewriter
half my day passes. One day it will be half a century.
I live in strange cities and sometimes talk
with strangers about matters strange to me.
I listen to music a lot: Bach, Mahler, Chopin, Shostakovich.
I see three elements in music: weakness, power, and pain.
The fourth has no name.
I read poets, living and dead, who teach me
tenacity, faith, and pride.

Continue reading here

Last week Linda hosted Poetry Friday and offered us a clunker exchange. This was my first time with a clunker exchange, so I wasn’t sure how to play along! I did love taking the line about Susan B. Anthony and doing research about her. I wrote a septercet sandwich poem about Anthony. 

Here is my whole chapbook’s worth of Poetry Marathon poems.

Today’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Laura Shovan. Head over there to see all the poetry others have shared today.

More Meter, Including Maria’s, for Poetry Friday

Thanks to Buffy Silverman for hosting today’s Poetry Friday at her blog. I love the sweet rhythm in her “Rainbow-Colored Springtime” poem. It is so fun to read aloud. I will add it to my mentors, Buffy!

Last week I was working on meter and rhyme, and Linda Baie recommended Renee LaTulippe to me. This week I watched some of Renee LaTulippe’s “Peek and Critique” series on her YouTube channel–Lyrical Language Lab. Very helpful!

As a result, I continued to consider rhythm and rhyme. I tried two more triolets, inspired by Buffy’s rhythmic cicada song poem she wrote last month: “At the Oak’s Brown Skirt.” I also tried a triolet last month, but in that one I just counted eight syllables per line. This time I tried to be intentional and write in a certain meter. First, I tried iambic tetrameter, which is the common meter for English triolets:

No Algorithm for Rhythm

Afraid to write a poem today
I learned too much about the art
But not enough to bloom away
Afraid to write a poem today
Oh, will I ever find my way?
Remember I just need to start
Afraid to write a poem today
I learned too much about the art

I tried another one in trochaic tetrameter with truncated feet at the end of each line (that’s a mouthful, which I had never heard of before!)

Believe in Science

Give us science, real and sound.
Fauci, during novel strain,
Follows facts for virus round.
Give us science, real and sound.
Study will control the crown–
Vaccinate so health will reign.
Give us science, real and sound–
Fauci during novel strain.

I’m not sure how successful I was, but I will keep trying!

On another note, this week I cleaned out all the old drafts on my blog. I happened on one that I wrote in December 2013 about an event that happened in 2002. It seemed somehow appropriate for this Poetry Friday since I’ve been working on meter. Here is the post I wrote, but didn’t publish eight years ago:

I was sorting through my children’s things, scanning and purging after years of saving everything that came home from school. I found poems Maria had written in eighth grade. This paper with two scribbled poems was different from most of the things in her keepsake box. It wasn’t an assignment I had saved, but a scrap of paper that I recovered after she did her homework.

Her class was attempting rhyming with various rhyme schemes and rhythm patterns. She was struggling with the assignment. She didn’t want to write poems, and this was one of her first attempts:

This is a dumb assignment.
It needs some refinement.
You should put it in confinement.
Or sell it on consignment.

I was so excited and said, “I think that’s amazing. I’m going to share it with your teacher.”

She was quiet and continued working. Very quickly she passed her next poem to me:

Do not! I’ll get in trouble.
Don’t burst my bubble.

Sadly, I don’t know what she ended up turning in that next day because this post is all the memory I have of this scene.

Do head over to Buffy Silverman’s blog and you can find Poetry Friday hosting post with links to all the participants.