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“Cold doth not sting, the pretty birds do sing…”
Thomas Nashe
From “Spring, the Sweet Spring”

     You know how it is, you get excited about something and then you can only see through that filter.  Well, that’s how I am about National Poetry Writing Month, lovingly known as


 April 1 through 30, poets all over the world will write a poem a day and so will I, muse-willing.  But right now, with barely more than a week to go before taking the plunge on Fool’s Day, I can’t yank my mind off of poetry. Here’s the evidence:

  • In my wee writing cottage, I have surrounded myself with mountains of poem tomes: Neruda; Oliver; Stafford; Lorca’s Selected Poems; Ladinsky’s Love Poems from God; Hirsh’s Poet’s Choice; The Essential Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks; a tattered Dover Thrift edition of Shakespeare’s Complete Sonnets; and works by local poets, like Shannon Law’s Madronna Grove.
  • I dusted off the thick pile of Poets & Writers magazines that had bent their shelf into a mocking smile. I am reading from these nightly, by candlelight and an elephantine glass of Juan Gil.
  •  I tried reading The Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms’ The Making of a Poem (Strand and Boland), and Ron Padgett’s Handbook of Poetic Forms, but their density gave me a headache, so I gave up. Mary Oliver’s A Poetry Handbook and Rules for the Dance are way smaller and I like their turmeric and lobster colors, so maybe I’ll fare better with those.
  •  I wrote a clunky Villanelle, just to see if it was possible.

Spring Villanelle

A golden orb explodes across the sky!
Its rays a flickering cosmic chant do sing
Black crows repose on fir bough masts on high!

Whole swarms of squirrels come somersaulting by
Long buried peanut shells they flick and fling
A golden orb explodes across the sky!

Daft daffodils dance wildly, they’re not shy
To buttery skirts the bumblebee doth cling
Black crows repose on fir bough masts on high!

A dark gray cloud moves in, but who knows why?
Will Winter not recede, the frigid thing?
A golden orb explodes across the sky!

Oh, surely, Spring, this beast you shall defy
And melt its heart til cranes return on wing!
Black crows repose on fir bough masts on high!

A warm breeze whispers promise like a lie
As lightening knifes through pines and makes them sting
A golden orb explodes across the sky!
Black crows repose on fir bough masts on high!


And then today, as I was walking home from coffee with a delightful memoirist who writes of all things Butte, on the first day of spring, a day of blue sky, a blinding golden orb and, oh my God, what was that? WARMTH? the poetic filter kicked in and I wondered, stopping by a pine pregnant with cones, What do birds know of poems? And, as if questions have power, I looked up and was immediately answered by a fat crow enjoying the solar breath on his back, reciting from his chapbook most of the poems recorded by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  Take a listen.

So, the answer is “a lot,” but clearly crows prefer slamming a sizzling rap over whispering a perfectly patterned pantoum, or a clumsy clunking villanelle which, to a crow, is soooooo seventeenth century. And they won’t even bother with Arctic Rhyme-ster Robert Service who once twittered:

Why Do Birds Sing?

Let poets piece prismatic words,
Give me the jewelled joy of birds!

What ecstasy moves them to sing?
Is it the lyric glee of Spring,
The dewy rapture of the rose?
Is it the worship born in those
Who are of Nature’s self a part,
The adoration of the heart?

Is it the mating mood in them
That makes each crystal note a gem?
Oh mocking bird and nightingale,
Oh mavis, lark and robin – hail!
Tell me what perfect passion glows
In your inspired arpeggios?

A thrush is thrilling as I write
Its obligato of delight;
And in its fervour, as in mine,
I fathom tenderness divine,
And pity those of earthy ear
Who cannot hear . . . who cannot hear.

Let poets pattern pretty words:
For lovely largesse – bless you, Birds!


21 thoughts on “In the Name of the Pantoum, and of the Ode, and of the Holy Sonnet. Amen.

  1. S, I had no idea that you had a degree in math…at least you need one to figure out the pantoum…I think. I love the visuals in your poems and I felt the warmth of the “orb” on my back as I read. BTW that’s a photo of another handsome R. you have added to your blog; I’m spring-green with envy!! I know you’re gonna knock their socks off in April with your 30 poems. Love you! ❤


  2. Good rap you’re putting out there—super fun and place-based–visions and images dancing across my own personally sun-splashed scape–happy trills and whistles from the great beyond, which mirror that music from your within. As always, I’m loving how you pass on the cosmic muse–the worthy crow being a particle and a wave, wholly dependent upon your view–your supersized, sensitized view. And now I doff my poet’s cap, my loquacious beret–inspired to be part of this holy menage of sound and meaning, image and substance–this world you’ve created and will be re-creating over April’s 30 or so days.

    Rock on!!!!!!!!!!!


  3. Ah, a lovely start to this spring morning of birdsong and woodpecker drumming. Thanks Susan, well done! Love the jay photo. Have you looked at A Handbook of Prosody by Karl Shapiro (et al.)? One of my favorites.


  4. Hi, Victoria, aka Birdlovinlady, delighted that you’re enjoying the avian magic of the season, too. Thanks for stopping by and I will for sure check out A Handbook of Prosody. Happy writing!


  5. Hah! You’re so right, Kari. Poeming is a lot like chocolate for me, only less fattening. A villanelle is a old poem form, and not for the mathematically insecure, which I am. Thanks for stopping by.


  6. Hi Sandra! I’ll be posting my poems, yes, and hopefully daily. The bird is a Steller’s jay. They love to hang out in the many Douglas-firs that populate our Pacific Northwest. Aren’t they exquisite!


  7. “And, as if questions have power, I looked up and was immediately answered by a fat crow enjoying the solar breath on his back,…” you blow my mind with every blog susanissima! ty!


  8. I’m just now exploring your website, so I might find it, but I’d love a description of your writing cottage — in photo, still-life or words or poetry, even. In college English 101, poetry was my undoing. I might be the poster child for concrete thinking. Maybe following your production in April will open my mind — although it has been set in concrete for a looong time.

    BTW, having grown up in the US northeast (Philly), I’ve always considered the official first day of spring to be a cruel hoax.


  9. Suzanne, so good to have you stop by. Thanks!

    I know what you mean about poetry being your undoing. Having taught it to middle-schoolers for a zillion years, some poems just drove them nuts. On the other hand, one of our favorite projects was memorizing and performing Sonnet 18 by Billy Shakespeare. Kids would do it mid handstand, while blowing bubbles, in pig Latin and every weird way possible. One special kid seemed to levitate. Some even wore Elizabethan costumes and did it straight! That was weird! Most eventually learned to love writing and reading poems, but I had to work hard for that outcome.

    If you want to shoot me your email I’d be happy to send you a photo of my writing cottage. Or I could send it in a personal message on Facebook. All the best.


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