Monday, April 30, 2012


Dear Friends,

What a wonderful journey we've shared with our Progressive Poem! I have enjoyed so much watching this poem grow little by little, all the bold strokes and gentle touches, how each line adds a new layer, a new voice.

One of you commented about how it's been a lovely way to experience delayed gratification in our current sound-byte, instantaneous, rapid-fire world. I love that!

I don't know what exactly I was expecting, but I think I imagined a more haphazard result, a poem less cohesive. And now I read it, and I think, OF COURSE. Because that's the kind of community this is: loving, inspiring, supportive. Thank you, all of you, for sharing in this experience. I totally want to do it again next year!

And now for what I've done with the poem, as a way to wind up our adventure. I've used a technique that works for me again and again as I try to find the heart of my own poems. I've gone line by line and pulled out one word or one phrase and recrafted them, in order, to kind of distill the essence of the poem.  And then I've added my own bit at the end to provide some closure.

You can use this technique on your own poems, or on famous poems. In a way, it's a form of "found" poetry. It's also just an excellent self-editing exercise. And what's interesting here is that if each of us was to address this particular poem, we'd wind up with 29 similar but different poems, as we each are drawn to different words and phrases for different reasons.

Here's my take:

Note to Self

If you are hungry,
kick off a spell.
Dry your glass

secrets. Spill
out, breathe in.
Now, wish:

unfold a waltz.
How do broken veils

feed your heart?
Soul of coriander
and moonshine,

beware of too much
cushion. Trust
silver-tipped poetry.

Here: speckle
your life. Feast
on dream-dust.

And here's the uncut version, still title-less (suggestions, anyone?), but with a few adjustments to punctuation. Also, I tried the poem in triplets, and I really like the result:

ETA: Title courtesy of Kate Coombs!

Advice for a Dark Day

If you are reading this,                                                            
you must be hungry.
Kick off your silver slippers,

come sit with us a spell.
A hanky, here, now dry your tears
and fill your glass with wine.

Now, pour. The parchment has secrets,
smells of a Moroccan market spill-out.
You have come to the right place, just breathe in.

Honey, mint, cinnamon, sorrow. Now, breathe out
last week’s dreams. Take a wish from the jar.
Inside, deep inside, is the answer…

Unfold it, and let us riddle it together,
…Strains of a waltz. How do frozen fingers play?
How do fennel, ginger, saffron blend in the tagine?

Like broken strangers bound by time, they sisterdance…
their veils of sorrow encircle, embrace.
Feed your heart with waltzes and spices.

Feed your soul with wine and dreams.
Humble dust of coriander scents your feet, coaxing
seascapes, crystal sighs and moonshine from your melody.

Beware of dangers along the path of truth
and beware, my friend, of too much bewaring–
strong hands cushion you, sweet scents surround you—now leap

without looking, guided by trust. And when you land
on silver-tipped toes, buoyed by joy– you’ll know
you are amazing, you are love, you are poetry—

here, you rest.
Muse. Up ahead, stepping stones speckle the stream, sturdy now.
May your words roar against the banks, your life a flood of dreams.

1 Irene at Live Your Poem
2 Doraine at Dori Reads
4 Robyn at Read, Write, Howl
5 Susan at Susan Taylor Brown
6 Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
7 Penny at A Penny and her Jots
8 Jone at Deo Writer
9 Gina at Swagger Writer's
10 Julie at The Drift Record
11 Kate at Book Aunt
12 Anastasia Suen at Booktalking
14 Diane at Random Noodling
16 Natalie at Wading Through Words
17 Tara at A Teaching Life
18 Amy at The Poem Farm
19 Lori at Habitual Rhymer
21 Myra at Gathering Books
23 Miranda at Miranda Paul Books
24 Linda at TeacherDance
25 Greg at Gotta Book
26 Renee at No Water River
27 Linda at Write Time
28 Caroline at Caroline by Line
29 Sheri at Sheri Doyle
30 Irene at Live Your Poem

Oh, and if you get a chance, I'm a guest over at Katie Davis's blog, talking about 5 reasons why you should write poetry. Stop by!


  1. Thanks Irene for allowing me to be a part of this project... it was fun to watch it grow

    1. It was a pleasure to have you on board, Pat! Thanks for pushing yourself out of comfort zone. Or was that ME pushing you?? xo

  2. Hi Irene,

    Great job with the poem! Regina loved the experience so much she posted about it on Swagger again today. Hope you do it again.

    1. Thanks, Kim! We loved having Regina on board! And y'all should totally do some more progressive poetry at Swagger. What fun!

  3. The words you added move joyfully into the future, Irene, just as we all are going to do. Thank you for inviting me to join your adventure. Every day it was the first thing I did, look for that next line. Awesome! And the way you cleared the poem is interesting, to push it into that essential thought of support. Thanks for all!

    1. Linda, it was the first thing I did too! I love how the practice opened my day. Wonderful. Thank you so much for being a part of it!

  4. Beautiful final line! I also enjoyed the 'found' poem you created from it. So interesting to see some of the words in a
    new context.
    Thanks for everything, Irene. And thanks to everyone who participated.

    1. Sheri, thank you for inserting those stone and stream and speckle! Love!

  5. Irene, this has been such a fun project, and I like seeing how you ended the poem, with power and with water in the desert. Off the top of my head, my title suggestion is "Advice for a Sad Day."

    I also REALLY like the poem you made out of bits and pieces of the larger poem.

    Thanks so much!

    1. OOh, yes, and advice poem is really what it is. How 'bout Advice for a Black Cloud Day ?? Sounds dreamy... or some other way to say "sad" ?? Thank you, Kate!

    2. Hmm. Advice for a Gray Day? Advice for a Dark Day? That's better. I guess I like simple words. :)

    3. Yes, Advice for a Dark Day! I'm putting it up. :) Thank you, Kate!

  6. Irene, so beautiful!!!! Love your line, and I love Kate's idea for a title.

    The found poem is wonderful, and what a great exercise that is. Thank you so much for coming up with this idea. Like you, I expected a sort of Jabberwocky, but look what we got instead! It's been a joy to look for each new line.

    I'm in next year -- but why wait a year?? :)

    1. Renee! As if you don't have enough to do. :) But, I say GO FOR IT, should you want to host a progressive poem... I'm totally in. xo

  7. Well that was fun! Thank you again for organizing and overseeing this wandering bit of elegance! And I like the shortened version, too. The dreaminess makes me think of that in the title, Roundabout Dreams, Circling into Dreams, Wayward Dreams, Thirty Dreams, Weaving Dreams, but your wonderful last line ends on dreams, so I expect that's just the right amount of dreams.

    1. Ooh, Jeannine, I love all those words... roundabout, circling, wayward, weaving...I feel ill-equipped, like I can't do it justice... thank you for allowing me to twist your arm to participate. :)

  8. I am truly amazed at the result! Love what you did with the "found" poem version too! ;)

    1. Thank you, Natalie! You keep going with your secret like, 'kay? I'll be checking in on you.

    2. Ha! I will! Although I'm not sure how secret I can be as long as keep posting things all over the internet. :) What's beautiful though-- is that if people don't know to look for something, they never find it.... :)

  9. Wow! That was a lot of fun to follow, from start to finish. You were so right about delayed gratification. It can be very satisfying.

    1. One of the first questions my father-in-law asked me when my now-husband and I got engaged was, are you an instant gratification or delayed gratification kind of gal? You can guess what I said. :) Thanks for playing, Tabatha!

  10. That last line, Irene! Gorgeous. The whole poem builds toward those beautiful words.

    What a great idea to write a "found poem" version of this too! Such fun. Thank you for hosting this community party and poem. I'm so grateful to have been a part of it.


    1. And I'm grateful for YOU, Amy. Thanks for playing!

  11. Bravo, Irene! On a satisfying and inspiring last line, and on dreaming up this whole experience. Love Jeannine's description: "wandering bit of elegance... ."

    The snipped/found poem is delightful as well - what a great tip!

    Thank you for the opportunity to play along. This has been one of my very favorite things from Poetry Month. Sad to see it go but thankful to have the whole piece to enjoy now.

    1. Thank you, Robyn - it was a very good month. And yes to Jeannine's "wandering bit of elegance." Exactly!

  12. Irene- what a magical experience! I love this idea for a found poem. Thank you for allowing me to be in on the fun! I totally enjoyed the experience. Yes, please repeat this activity next year!

    1. Linda, it was a pleasure to have you along for the journey. Thank you!

  13. What a delightful poem. Loved the ending. The edited version was great to, but a totally different poem. It would be a fun exercise.

    1. Thank you, Donna. Try the exercise on your own poems! It's a great way to make unusual pairs of words.

  14. Beautiful ending, Irene! Thanks so much for organizing this! Same place -
    same time next year?

    1. Yes, Lori, I think same place same time next year! Although it would be great for someone else to do the first line... we'll have a sign up sometime in March. Thanks so much for playing!

  15. Ahh! Love the last line and the triplets, too. Thanks so much for putting this together. I can't wait to see next year's... though in advance, I have one thing to say: ninjas! That is all.

    1. :) I do love ninjas.... Thanks, Greg, for playing!

  16. This was wonderful! Thanks for organizing it, for the found poem, and for the final version. The whole experience was so much fun. And yes, Greg, ninjas!

    1. Ruth, I like the ninjas too. We'll see what happens next year. Thanks so much for your part in it!

  17. Oh, MY! Your pared-down version made me burst into tears! You captured the very essence of the poem so beautifully, so PERFECTLY!! (Thanks for the writing tip, too...)

    Of course, I love our collective, more rambling version, too.

    Thank you for inviting us to play together, to write together, to create TOGETHER...when so much of being a blogger is in isolation, this was a breath of fresh air. Brilliant.

    1. Thank you, Mary Lee! I hope the tip is something you can use as you continue to write more lovelies. I'm keeping my eye on you... don't want to miss a stanza!

  18. Oh my gosh. This is wonderful, and I DO prefer your edit of it. What a fun technique. I think most poems would come out stronger with this revision activity. Can't wait to try it. I condense and cut all the time, but I've never gone about it just that way.

    So much beauty in these lines, made even more beautiful because I know so many of the poets. Thank you for doing this!

    1. Laura, thanks so much for your part in it. And yes, I hope it's a technique you can use! I love how it creates all these unusual word pairings. Fun!

  19. Irene, I want to thank you for organizing the Progressive Poem. I had the best time! I love "your take"! Beautiful. I look forward to being a part of this next year, too.

  20. Love the poem and how you created a found poem. Thank you for organizing this.

  21. Your found poem is fabulous, Irene.


Your thoughts?