Poetry Friday: A Terza Rima for the Stars

Last summer, my critique group, aka “The Sunday Night Swaggers,” decided to set a monthly challenge for ourselves. This month it was my turn to come up with our challenge. In a moment of insanity, I thought writing a poem using terza rima would be fun.

Terza rima, which was popularized by Dante in The Divine Comedy, consists of tercets with a rhyme scheme of aba, bcb, cdc, and so on. There is no set number of stanzas, and some poems using a terza rima structure end in a couplet that rhymes with the middle line of the previous stanza. The meter is iambic pentameter or tetrameter. (Read more about this form and several examples here.)

This all sounds fairly straightforward. Unless, of course, iambs are your arch-enemy. Even if they are, you still need a topic. Luckily, Betelgeuse, the red giant in the constellation Orion, has become noticeably dimmer in recent months. I’d been reading about this phenomenon, and decided to write my poem about this.

As often happens when writing, this turned out only to be a starting point. My poem morphed into more of a tour of a few constellations. I’m not entirely happy with this draft, and have now officially given up on iambic pentameter, but this was my idea, so here is my terza rima.


On clear nights, when the sky is ablaze
with fireworks from the Milky Way,
step out into the universe and gaze.

Affixed to a path from which he won’t stray,
bold Orion marches on through the night
holding his foe, wily scorpion, at bay.

Cygnus the swan, in perpetual flight
Through vast distant clouds of brilliant stardust
In search of lost love; his passion burns bright.

Polaris, the star all travelers trust,
Illumines the way to your heart’s true home,
constant ally of those with wanderlust.

Listen. Stars tell stories of those who roam
Under the vault of sky’s glittering dome.

Draft, © 2020 by Catherine Flynn

The constellation Orion. Mouser [CC BY-SA (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D via Wikipedia
Please visit my fellow Swaggers to read their terza rimas!

Molly Hogan at Nix the Comfort Zone
Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise
Heidi Mordhorst at My Juicy Little Universe
Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche

And don’t forget to stop by Laura Purdie Salas’s blog for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: A Hat for Hazel

My husband and I became grandparents this week! My son and his wife welcomed their daughter, Hazel, to the world on Wednesday afternoon. It’s been an incredible journey, and I can’t quite believe it’s real. I’ve spent most of the past 48 hours staring at the pictures they’ve sent. (Thank goodness for that miracle!) She arrived a week ahead of schedule, so I was still knitting a hat for her. As I finished the final stitches, the shape of the crown set words whirling through my head. This draft is the result of a very happy, but very tired mind.

A Hat for Hazel

On the night you were born,
I knit you a hat.
At the top, stitches disappeared,
whirling, whorling,
spiraling into a singularity:
A galaxy of wool.

Outside, a billion stars whirled
overhead, glittering in celebration.

You stretched ten perfect fingers,
tipped with spiraling whorls
high above your head,
beginning your dance with the world.

Draft © 2020 Catherine Flynn


Please be sure to visit Jone MacCulloch at DeoWriter for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Welcome to the Poetry Friday Roundup!

“The writer should never be ashamed of staring.
There is nothing that does not require his attention.”
~ Flannery O’Connor ~

Welcome to the Poetry Friday Roundup! I’m so glad you stopped by.
(Learn more about Poetry Friday here.)

I had big plans for hosting today. Alas, I’ve been under the weather this week, doing a lot of staring. Birds, stars, the moon, you name it, I’ve stared at it. But nothing has come together. So I decided to roundup some haiku I shared on Twitter in December for #haikuforhope.

feathery snow angel
reminds me
birds were here first

the moon does not
discriminate; its beauty
is free for all

after the solstice
bluejays and chickadees feast
for a minute more

pen meets page
portal to another world
reveals itself

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Now on to the Roundup!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter


Poetry Friday: One Little Word

Happy New Year! My Sunday Night Swaggers group challenge for January (thank you, Heidi, for this particular challenge) is to write about our One Little Word for 2020. I have been on the fence about even choosing a word. But over the past week, I’ve encountered the idea of perspective so often, I took it as a sign to consider this word. Without getting too political, it seems like perspective is in short supply these days. While I can’t change the willingness of others to see issues from a viewpoint other than their own, I can be more vigilant about being open to other perspectives myself.

To chose one word to guide my life over the coming year feels somewhat limiting, so it seems important that this word help me face challenges that will inevitably present themselves in the year ahead. Keeping these events in perspective may not be easy, but it will help me navigate them.

My mother once asked me why I write poetry. She thinks I have enough to do already. I thought about this as I tried to figure out how to write a poem about perspective. How on earth could I do this? The answer presented itself, as it usually does, while I was reading. In her essay, “The Mercies,” (which you can read in This is the Story of a Happy Marriage) Ann Patchett contemplates the life of the nun who taught her to read.  She writes “…when I can manage to see outside the limitations of my own life.” The perfect strike line for a golden shovel.

Be sure to see how my fellow Swaggers tackled this challenge by visiting their blogs.

Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe
Linda at A Word Edgewise
Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
Molly at Nix the Comfort Zone

And don’t forget to visit Carol at Carol’s Corner for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: Finding Beauty

It’s the first Friday of the month, so it’s time for another Sunday Night Swaggers challenge. This month, Molly Hogan challenged us to “find beauty in the ugly” by reinventing “the world around you (or one aspect of it) by shifting your lens to see the beauty in what at first seems to be ugly or unnoteworthy.”

I had a few ideas, but hadn’t gotten far with any of them before I went to NCTE in Baltimore a few weeks ago. There, I attended Georgia Heard, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Ralph Fletcher, and Lester Laminack‘s session, “Seeing the World Like a Poet.” During her part of the presentation, Georgia explained that the job of the poet is to take “the film of ordinary off of everyday objects.”

These words were in my mind the next morning while I was waiting in line to check my coat. My eyes were drawn to a building across the street that was glowing in the bright morning sun. Then, as I turned to give my coat to the attendant, I noticed this:

At first glance, this jumble of hangars is decidedly everyday and unnoteworthy. But take a closer look…

A Wedge of Hangers

Like pinioned swans,
captives on a pond,
a wedge of hangers
wait, silent and still.

Soon each will rise,
basking in the embrace
of coats, grateful
for the support
of their plastic wings.

© Catherine Flynn, 2019

During the same session, Ralph Fletcher shared that “photography uncovers surprises” and that we should “follow where they lead.” As I was writing this poem, I was surprised to learn that a wedge is in fact a collective noun for swans. So even though these hangers aren’t exactly wedge-shaped, I think wedge is the perfect word to describe a group of hangers.

Please be sure to visit my fellow swaggers to see where they found beauty this month:

Molly Hogan @ Nix the Comfort Zone 
Linda Mitchell @ A Word Edgewise
Heidi Mordhorst @ My Juicy Little Universe
Margaret Simon @ Reflections on the Teche

Then be sure to visit Tanita at fiction, instead of lies for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: National Author’s Day

“Memories are like a fountain no writer can live without.”
~ Ralph Fletcher ~

It’s the first Friday of the month, so that means it’s time for another Sunday Night Swaggers challenge. This month, Linda challenged us to

Find prose text or poetry you love from a published author and use it as a mentor text to write your poem. The poem doesn’t have to be about an author or authorship…but it could.

How could I possibly choose one piece of text that I love? That would be like picking a single shell out of the sea and declaring it to be the best shell. I also misunderstood exactly what I was supposed to do, so I did something a little different.

Patricia Polacco is one of my favorite authors, and I’ve used her books in my classroom for years. The loving grandmothers, the kids who, despite their good intentions, always find themselves in a muddle, the cats…I could go on and on. What’s not to love? I’ve written more than one picture book manuscript under the influence of Patricia’s warm and gentle style.

If I could write like Patricia Polacco,
I’d write a story about a girl and her grandmother
on a hot summer day.
A dog named Buster would lie
in the shade of big maple tree,
while a black cat named Inky
sat on the back step giving
himself a bath.

After lunch, the grandmother would
bring out an old basket filled with shells.
She and the girl would marvel over
the whorls and spirals,
the spikes and ridges.
The girl would run her finger
along the cool rim of
her favorite shimmering shell,
smooth as glass.
She’d hold it to her ear,
listen to the distant roar
of the pounding surf.
“How does it do that?”
the girl would ask.
Her grandmother would smile and say,

© Catherine Flynn, 2019

Read how my marvelous writing partners responded to this challenge at their blogs:

Molly  @ https://nixthecomfortzone.com/
Heidi @ https://myjuicylittleuniverse.blogspot.com/
Linda @ https://awordedgewiselindamitchell.blogspot.com/
Margaret @ https://reflectionsontheteche.com/

Also, please be sure to visit Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: My Library

I have been visiting the library in my town for over 54 years! My weekly visits began when I was in Kindergarten and lasted until I left home for college. Several years later, I moved back to the town where I grew up and began bringing my own children to Story Hour. Now I’m honored to serve on the Board of Trustees, which is truly a labor of love.

A major renovation to the Children’s library was recently completed, and we’ll soon be celebrating with a ribbon cutting ceremony. What would a library celebration be without a poem? We invited the children at the elementary school next door to write a “My Library” acrostic. Once we have all the poems, we’re going to choose lines to create a crowdsourced poem, similar to Kwame Alexander and NPR’s “Where I’m From” project. To give the kids a springboard, I wrote my own version. The kid’s poems aren’t finished yet, but here’s my version of “My Library.”

My Library

Magical books for
Young readers to share.

Long-ago tales
Invite readers to dream.
Books about planets,
Rhinos, and more
Await curious minds.
Ready when you are,
Your imagination’s the limit!

© Catherine Flynn, 2019

Mrs. Rothschild reading to my class during our weekly visit to the library, circa 1969. I’m pretty sure I’m the second back from the left on the bench in the foreground.

Please be sure to visit Karen Edmisten for the Poetry Friday Roundup.