Poetry Friday: My Cabinet of Curiosities

Inspired by the Poetry Sisters, my critique group decided to set monthly challenges for one another. After much debate, we christened ourselves the Sunday Night Swaggers and premiered in August with a challenge from Heidi to write definitos, a form she invented. 

This month it was my turn to come up with the challenge. I remembered an old post from Lee Ann Spillane about a Highlights Workshop she attended with Suzanne Bloom  a few years ago. Lee Ann wrote:

“Suzanne had an assortment of mystery packed into tiny boxes: metal boxes, cardboard boxes, long boxes, jewelry boxes, cloth boxes, wooden boxes, soap boxes and small boxes. We had two questions to guide our group talk:

Who was the owner of the box?
How did what is inside the box transform him or her?”

I tried this activity with teachers at my school and it sparked many interesting conversations and inspired some amazing writing. My challenge this month was more open-ended: write a poem inspired by a box.

Since I first read Lee Ann’s post, I’ve accumulated quite a collection of boxes, with lots of help from my friend Colette, who is always on the lookout for cool stuff. I shared a photo of my boxes with my writing partners, but also encouraged everyone to pick their own box if they wanted. 

So which box did I choose? Not the one I thought I would. As you may know, we’ve been renovating our house (for way too long) and I’ve been sorting through closets and cabinets.  One day after I posed this challenge, I found an assortment of tea similar to this:

My mind immediately started racing, and my box has now been transformed into a mini cabinet of curiosities. (Read more about them here.)

Now that I had an idea, all I had to do was write the poem, right? Yeah, not so much. The start of school and an ongoing medical issue with my husband (nothing too serious, but stressful and frustrating) kept distracting me from writing this poem. 

My Cabinet of Curiosities 

This box is full of treasure
I found scattered on the ground:

A fallen feather
Fragment of forgotten flight
Now grounded.

An empty marvel
Seashell or angel wing
Who’s to say?

A butterfly
Orange, brown, and blue
Resting her wings

A baby hawk’s
Snow-blue mottled egg
Expertly unzipped.

Gum tree seed pod,
barbed, brown orb
An earth-bound star

Coins from the sea
Not silver or gold

Baubles, relics, rarities,
Each one holds a memory
carried in my heart.

Draft, © 2019, Catherine Flynn

What did my fellow swaggers come up with? Visit them to find out!

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

Then don’t forget to stop by and say hello to Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong at Poetry for Children for the Poetry Friday Roundup!

Poetry Friday: Our Yard

This month’s Ditty Challenge made me smile. Jesse Anna Bornemann challenged readers of Michelle Heidenrich Barnes‘s lovely blog to

Write a poem inspired by song lyrics…Pick a Beatles song (or, if you’re not a Beatles fan, a song by your favorite band), write down as many words from the song as you can, then compose a poem that uses at least three words from your list. Don’t tell us the song that inspired your poem—see if we can guess!”

I am a huge Beatles fan, so lyrics started flowing through my mind immediately. So many tunes were tumbling around in my head, I quickly realized it would be really hard to pick a song! Another challenge that was soon apparent is that many Beatles songs are long on repetition, meaning that word choice could be limited. Then, one afternoon in the grocery store, a Beatles song began. Bingo! This was the song to use.

Repetition isn’t a technique I use often enough, so I took my inspiration a step further and used a repeating line throughout this draft.

“Our Yard”

Our yard is teeming with life.
Each evening, deer wander through,
Happy to forage on grass
And golden apples that have fallen,
A ring of sweets under the tree.

Our yard is teeming with life.
Each evening, a band of crickets
And other insects
Sing their summer song.

Each evening, a hawk
perches high in the pine tree,
waiting to spot a mouse
Running home to his burrow.

Our yard is teeming with life.

Catherine Flynn, Draft © 2019

I count eight words from the song I chose. Can you guess what it is?

The hawk on the lookout for supper.

An update: The Beatles song that inspired this poem is Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da. The words from the song are: band, life, ring, sing, home, yard, happy, and golden. Thank you to Jesse and Michelle for this fun challenge!

Please be sure to visit Kathryn Apel at her blog for the Poetry Friday Roundup!

Poetry Friday: Definitos

What is a definito, you ask? Created by our brilliant Poetry Friday host, Heidi Mordhorst, a definito is

“…a free verse poem of 8-12 lines (aimed at readers 8-12 years old) that highlights wordplay as it demonstrates the meaning of a less common word, which always ends the poem.”

Heidi is a member of my fabulous critique group, The Sunday Poetry Swaggers, and she challenged us to join her this week in writing definitos. This was definitely a challenge for me! I had no trouble coming up with word possibilities, but once I’d settled on haste, well, let’s just say this poem was NOT written in haste!


Scurry, hurry
Rush, rush, rush
All the world’s a blur.

Hustle, bustle,
Race, race, race
Leave them in the dust.

Dash, dash, dash
At tip-top pace,
Not a minute to waste:

© Catherine Flynn, 2019

I wanted to play with the word placement to emphasize a sense of haste, but I was having trouble formatting in WordPress, so I created this on Canva:

Thank you to my fellow swaggers for all your help in getting this draft to where it is. Be sure to visit them for more definitos.

Molly Hogan @ Nix the Comfort Zone 
Linda Mitchell @ A Word Edgewise 
Margaret Simon @ Reflections on the Teche

Other Poetry Friday friends have written definitos today, too. Visit Mary Lee Hahn @ A Year of Reading and Laura Purdie Salas @ Writing the World for Children to read more. After reading all these definitos, you’ll want to write a few yourself!


Poetry Friday: July 20, 1969

When school ended in June, I had a difficult time getting back into a writing routine. I searched through some of my favorite resources looking for an idea that would jump start my writing. This prompt, from Laurel Snyder in The Creativity Projectedited by Colby Sharp, appealed to me:

“You can create anything you want, anything at all! The only catch is that you need to mention:

  1. A type of fruit
  2. An animal
  3. Something musical
  4. Some sort of machine
  5. A historical figure

Now, go crazy, but be sure to include them all.”

Here is what I created:

July 20, 1969

She sat in front of the TV
cross-legged on the living room rug
still wearing her shorts covered
in drips from watermelon
she’d eaten at the neighbor’s picnic
celebrating Apollo 11’s moon landing.

It was long past her bedtime.
Everyone had gone home to watch
this historic event in their own living rooms,
on their own TVs.

Suddenly, Neil Armstrong’s voice
crackled across a quarter million miles of space.
She was so nervous it was hard to sit still.
She hugged her cat close.

A ghostly image appeared on the screen.
There he was!
Coming down the ladder as easily
as if he were climbing out of her fort
in the maple tree out back.

She cheered, startling Luna,
who was named for the moon
because of her smoky gray fur.
She began to sing a song
she’d heard at the picnic,
“Good morning, starshine,”
hoping her voice would calm the cat.

But then she laughed out loud.
Maybe by now it was morning,
and a star was shining
and it was so bright she could see
men walking on the moon.

© Catherine Flynn, 2019

“That’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.” Neil Armstrong

Please be sure to visit Carol at Carol’s Corner for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: Found Haiku

My friend and critique group partner, Linda Mitchell, was in the “spotlight” at Michelle Heidenrich Barnes’s blog, Today’s Little Ditty, last week. Linda challenged Poetry Friday friends to “create a ‘found haiku’ from “an interesting article.” This challenge appealed to me immediately and I found two article in last weekend’s New York Times that had potential. The first article is “Kids Need a Digital Detox: A Ball,” by Nellie Bowles.

digital detox:
playing with blocks and painting
live fully present

Perfect advice, don’t you think?

The next article, “Letter of Recommendation: Dinghy Rowing,” by Heidi Julavits, made me want to go buy a dinghy. It was a joy to read and reread this exquisite piece of writing, finding just the right lines for this haiku.

Full confession: I did have to rearrange some phrases slightly to meet the 5-7-5 syllable count in both haiku.

Thank you, Linda and Michelle, for this fun challenge!

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

Poetry Friday: “Meditations of a Tortoise”

Last weekend, I found a beautiful box turtle while I was out for a walk. She was on the edge of the road, headed for a busy intersection, so I walked along beside her, ready to help her if needed. She found her way without my help, but I enjoyed our time together. Of course she was an inspiration but I haven’t had much writing time this week, so I “found” a poem by gathering lines (with a few minor alterations) from poems about turtles by a few of my favorite poets.

The turtle hides
Inside her bony dome; her mobile home
She trusts that shell.
She seems to relish solitude
In a world of glimmering green:
A turtle in July.

In order, these lines are from:

“The Turtle” in Flutter and Hum by Julie Paschkis
“The Box Turtle” in Lizards, Frogs, and Polliwogs, by Douglas Florian
“Desert Tortoise” by Byrd Baylor
“Three T’s” by Mary Ann Hoberman
A Bale of Turtles” by me
“Turtle in July” in Turtle in July by Marilyn Singer

During my search, I also came across “Meditations of a Tortoise” by E.V. Rieu.


So far as I can see
There is no one like me.

Please be on the lookout for turtles as you drive! Learn how to help them here. (Thank you, Margaret Simon!) Don’t forget to visit Michelle Kogan for the Poetry Friday Roundup.